Thursday, March 30, 2006

The trouble with old people (2)

The programme which I wrote about yesterday gave rise to several thoughts about my own care in the future, if a time comes when I can no longer live independently. I made notes and here is the message I want to leave for my sons:


If I become incapable of looking after myself:

I would not expect any of you to take care of me in your own home. You must be committed to the future, rather than the past; that is nature’s way, however hard.

But if I have to go into care, please don’t abandon me there. If I have not been able to arrange my own care, try to put me somewhere where you can visit me regularly, if not necessarily often.

Remember I am still the person you have known all your life and who has loved you all your life, and you are likely to be the most important thing in my life at this stage.

Don’t lie to me and say I will get better and come home if I won’t. The truth between us can be used positively, while lies are more likely to create suspicion than to reassure.

If I no longer have my wits:

DON’T let anyone leave me parked in front of a TV which is permanently on, and over which I have no control. The end of life needs to be faced with a quiet mind. The playing of good music on occasions may be a good thing however.

If you talk to others in my presence, do so as though I can hear what you say – who knows, maybe I can.

Just be content to be with me at times – you don’t have to talk all the time to be companionable and give comfort, and it will take so much of your energy if I cannot respond.

At the end:

If you possibly can, be there with me and hold my hand, so that I can feel your loving presence as I go.


Pam said...

What a good idea; I bet that was quite hard to do, but that it's given you a sense of relief that your last days will be how you all want them to be.

It's a lesson to us all; thank you for sharing it.

Lee said...

The tricky thing is getting the family to follow your wishes. Both my wife and I have said we don't want to become demented vegetables. How do you get agreement on things like euthanasia?

Judith said...

I've never contemplated euthanasia, though I might one day. But I do have a "living will" form in my pending tray, waiting for me to fill it in. You are right, the next generation is notably reluctant to contemplate their parents' going and discuss it sensibly and helpfully, and euthanasia is the most extreme contingency which will surely arouse resistance. Perhaps there is an option for saying nothing, (except perhaps to one's doctor) and just leaving instructions. Not nice though, to deceive your nearest and dearest, and that would create trouble for the professionals in charge of your care at the end too.
Also, I'm a few years ahead of you Lee, in age, and though far from being a demented vegetable as yet, am nevertheless beginning to be aware that one may go some way in that direction without wishing to put an end to it. I have a feeling that most of us will go on clinging to life in a way that the truly young seem unable to imagine. So I'm saying "don't make any irrevocable decisions yet!"

Helen said...

I've always admired the way you put things into words. You relate a story and paint a picture so beautifully. I have been working with disabled adults and one elderly person in a group house for a few months now who are totally dependent on me and other staff for everything. It has made me think about my possible later years and everything you have said here is exactly my thoughts. May I use your words? You have put it so well and so comprehensively and exactly what I need to say to my sons, also.

Maggie May said...

I think I'd better write one too!
Thank you for sharing.

Judith Shapiro said...

this is wonderful - what all children and caretakers should read. i held my mother's hand on her last day. i believe we were both nourished by it. thanks.

Judith Shapiro said...

I hope you don't mind - I posted a copy of your letter to your sons with a link to your blog to see it in in the original. I know that others will think it is wonderful. Thanks for your comments on my blog. What a pleasure to meet you.

Mage And George said...

Thank you for this. We are caring for an old friend with dementia now. He didn't have any important documents signed when we began this long road. He and we both do now.

We have discovered that you can't make friends and family his case, only we visit with any regularity. In the beginning, he asked about his friends. He doesn't now. His short term memory is gone, so we think it delightful when he remembers us. I write a bit about him every day on my blog.

Judith said...

Helen, you asked if you might use my words, and I see I never answered you - I am so sorry, and of course you may. It is wonderful for me to know when I have written something which is really meaningful for others. I think sharing is one of the most important aspects of blogging. I do hope you get to see this message eventually.