Prolonging suffering or enhancing life?
OK, I'll probably get flamed for introducing this topic, but here goes: Since her dx, Mom has expressed repeatedly that she wishes she could die, which I can understand. Faced with the same circumstances, I might feel the same. We (her family) brought Mom's depression to her MD's attention. Several antidepressants were tried, but side effects (nightmares when she wasn't experiencing sleeplessness) required the meds be discontinued before any real benefit could be realized. (I'm currently looking for a geropsychologist to address this and other related issues.) I've come to understand that depression and dementia tend to go hand-in-hand, especially during the early stages. With her dx of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's, Mom started the Aricept & Namenda combination which supposedly, at least for some, slows the progression of dementia, but only temporarily. OK. (Visualize me cowering and covering my head). My first thought was "Erm, why are we postponing the agony?"
What I've witnessed in Mom so far is social withdrawal to hide her condition, emotional distress, mental suffering, confusion, depression, etc. Things that used to give her pleasure no longer work. The few that do are those that reunite Mom with her past, and I've taken the cue by bringing them to her, as much as I can. But as visits go by, those pleasures more and more are stuck "in the moment." Mom is unable to recall and enjoy the memory of the book, the documentary, the photographs, or the museum. How very, very sad.
At MC Mom is on a low fat, low sugar, low salt diet, which is much healthier than the random snacking she was doing before she was placed in MC; however, she complains heartily that the food at MC is tasteless. For what it's worth, I've tried the food there and found it to be quite good, but I digress. The purpose of this healthy diet is supposedly to limit further advancement of hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and hyperglycemia, which makes sense, since all of these conditions are precursors to dementia. But all of this got me to thinking. I can sort of see the benefit of prolonging the early stages of dementia, but inevitably it's all downhill. (I'm cowering even lower). Why must life be preserved and prolonged regardless of its quality? At what point do we call it quits and allow nature to take our loved ones? Dementia is a horrible fate, a cruel joke I wouldn't wish on anyone. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but if some incurable suffering became my fate, I would not wish to prolong it, but allow nature to run it's course (with my suffering minimized as much as possible). Please don't misunderstand. I think dementia patients need a healthy diet (as do we all), and by all means, medicine administered to relieve suffering. But I'm having trouble with the concept of prolonging the agony, if only by a few months. There are many sweet aspects to life, as well as suffering. But I see death as a natural progression (yes, progression) of life. Death will hasten me to the arms of my creator where tears and suffering don't exist. But that's just me. Others make think differently, and that's okay.
I introduced this topic for the purpose of discussion, not to impose my ideas on anyone else. Every situation is different. We all have different values and a different outlook. Would welcome thoughts from others.