A good friend’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s and is in his final days in hospice. A good day is one where he manages to eat something – chocolate ice cream, yogurt, chocolate pudding. These past few days, a good day means he had a few sips of chocolate milk. My heart breaks for her; I understand the conflicting feelings of sadness and relief.
Alzheimer’s is a disease with no cure that makes it impossible for the patient to live alone. As the disease eats away at the mind of the patient, it leaves an empty body to live on. It’s utterly brutal and terrifying for the people who love that patient. For many, aside from the loss of the mind of their loved one, the worst things about Alzheimer’s are the possibilities – that the loved one will outlive you, the primary caregiver and/or the money.
Whether you care for your loved one at home or hire someone to help out, whether your loved one is in a care facility or senior day care, it’s a challenge. Although the person you know and love may be present for brief moments, most of the time you find yourself caring for a shell, the faint impression of someone who matters to you.
If your Alzheimer’s loved one shows signs of illness, what do you do? Do you take them for invasive tests that in their confused state they won’t understand and may not cooperate being unable to remember to stay still? If the results of the tests indicate a need for surgery or invasive procedures, what do you do? Surgery requires anesthesia, which often results in worsened confusion for a dementia patient and will usually set them back significantly. If they can be made comfortable with medicine, is that the better option?
Most of us never expect to be put into a position to make those decisions for another without input from the person. And most of us don’t know how to deal with the guilt that comes with whatever decision is made. I no longer feel compelled to do things to extend my Mom’s life; I just want to make the days that remain as happy and comfortable as possible.
I guess all any of us can really hope for is that our loved ones have as many chocolate milk days as we can give them.
Ciao for now,
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