Sunday, 9 October 2011

A friend of mine died

on Thursday. She went peacefully in her sleep at the age of 103.
It is not an occasion for sadness. While mentally alert she was physically frail and had given strict instructions she was not to be revived if there was a medical episode.
She told me some weeks ago that she was "one of the lucky ones". I knew what she meant. She was surrounded by people, younger than her, who did not have the same level of mental alertness. They spend their days according to a timetable set by other people. They doze in chairs. Conversation is an effort, if they can manage it at all. Some of them are able to feed themselves but others need to be fed.
The nursing home she was in does the best it can. It provides some entertainment. There is "community singing" (accompanied by tapes). They have Christmas parties, a Melbourne Cup lunch, films, a craft group, cards and games. Those who are able to go out will sometimes go on a bus just for a ride and a change of scenery. The garden is nicely kept and most people spend some time in it when the weather is warm and dry.
But, the place smells of over-cooked vegetables and disinfectant. It is almost inevitable. The buildings are old - and currently being replaced by new buildings on the adjacent land. It is not somewhere most people would ever contemplate spending the last days of their lives. None of us want to think about something like that.
My cousin 'phoned last night. My uncle has been taken to hospital again. They have apparently revived him twice in the last week. My cousin has questioned this. The nursing home he is in claimed not to have any record of my uncle's wishes. They are legally required to keep him alive. We know they were advised when he first went there. He was still sufficiently alert to advise them of that himself. It is in his hospital notes at the three different hospitals he has been in. All these places have revived him, once doing so despite a very clear note at the head of his bed asking that he not be revived.
Now they want to do a range of tests and my cousin feels he is being considered cold and uncaring for questioning the need for these. He talked this over with my father and me last night. We all feel that my uncle should be given the care which will make him comfortable, not care that will unduly prolong his life. He no longer knows people. He is frightened and physically uncomfortable. My cousin is again invoking the Medical Power of Attorney and asking them not to do anything which will prolong his father's life. Will they listen? As I also have Medical Power of Attorney I will advise them the same way. I know it is what my uncle wants. He told me so himself when he granted me the power. It is not a responsibility I took on lightly. It is not a decision I have made lightly.
How much easier it would be to go peacefully in your sleep at the age of 103 having been mentally alert until the end. My uncle is not "one of the lucky ones".


Sarah Pearson said...

I send my condolences to you on the death of your friend. It's the best way she could have gone, but your world will not be quite the same without her, I suspect.

I do hope the hospital listens regarding your uncle. If it's what he wants then surely there has to come a time when they say enough is enough?

Anonymous said...

Oh too true Cat! Bob C-S

Miriam Drori said...

I had the same trouble with my mother. My impression was that it's in their interests to keep people alive, and they persuade you to agree by implying that if you don't, you're cold and uncaring.

dandeliongirl said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. What a horrible situation to be in with your uncle. Of course you didn't take that mantle on lightly. My father had the same thing with his mother. It was hard, she was very alert for periods of time and would tell me that she wished she didn't have to carry on. It was heartbreaking. I only hope it can be resolved soon. x

widdershins said...

I wonder what the trigger was that caused western 'civilisation' to become so fearful of Death?

Perhaps when 'sick' became profitable?

May your uncle die peacefully in his sleep and this tragedy end for you all.