Category Archives: Alzheimers

God has Bigger Plans

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Six years ago, my husband and I took at long car ride intending to make a decision.  Mollie had been home for China for six months and we were trying to decide whether or not to adopt another little girl from China.  When we had started the adoption process, we had thought God had two girls for us, but along the way, we had the miracle of Sophie’s birth.  So we had agreed to wait six months before even talking about the decision to adopt again and bring our final count to five.

A large part of our decision was whether or not we were going to be responsible to take care of our parents.  We didn’t want to be overwhelmed by so many responsibilities that we couldn’t do a good job raising our children.  That winter, Christopher’s parents had decided to move to our city, and had even bought a house.  However, just a few days after signing the contract, they had changed their mind and gone back to Arizona. 

Talking it all over while driving in the car, we decided that his parents would never move to be near us and would probably end up in some sort of assisted living in Tucson.  My parents were so much younger that we didn’t really worry about caring for them.

So we started the adoption process, and two years after I traveled to get Mollie, I brought home our dear Steffi.  Just two months after I got home from China, when we were still adjusting to sleep schedules, all of our ideas about our future in caring for our parents came crashing down.

I had gone to pick a friend up from the airport and was talking with her when the phone rang.  My dad had fallen and  was severely injured.  Right after this, my in-laws called and told us they had sold their house and were moving to our city (we hadn’t even heard they were planning to see their house!).  Bringing my friend back to Dallas the next day, I got a call from the neurologist who wanted to find out how I felt about taking my father off of life support.  As I came out of the bedroom I had gone in to take the call (at my friend’s co-worker’s house), I saw a wall of pictures.  The couple told me the pictures were from their 50th wedding anniversary.  I had been thinking about planning a party for my parents.  Suddenly, I realized there would be no 50th anniversary.  Driving the two hours home,  I started arranging flights to California for me and the kids, while Chris was arranging flights for his parents and  talking to real estate agents.  

I spent three weeks in California helping my mom with the three little ones in two.  Sophie and Mollie were three, Steffi was one.  Steffi fell down the stairs and hit her head at the mortuary when we were choosing caskets for my dad.  The girls had a great time running in the cemetery.  I bagged up all my dads clothes–almost 40 large trash sacks–and gave them away.  My mom couldn’t do it but wanted them out.  I fielded all the phone calls, realizing that it was a lot of emotional work taking care of the other mourners.  When I left, I told my mom I would call every day.  For the first year, I did.  Since then I have not been able to keep up that schedule, but we still talk several hours a week. 

While I was in California, Christopher’s parents came to buy a house.  They managed to arrange for the move, but then absolutely collapsed and seemed unable to do anything or find their way around town.  I spent two weeks unpacking everything and many hours arranging doctors and dentists for them, as well as trying to help them drive to the store.

For a very short time, everything seemed fine and they seemed grateful for all we had done.  Then suddenly, everything changed.  They hated Texas, they had moved here for our sakes and it wasn’t working out.   They started calling real estate agents and planning to move back to Arizona.  For two years, we lived through a crazy cycle of their vacillating decisions about whether to leave or stay, and their terrible arguments with each other and with us.  We were very overwhelmed.  So were the real estate agents who somehow managed to get my cell phone number.  “Who are these people?” they would complain, “they are calling me 20 times a day and in the middle of the night.  Somebody should do something about them!”  I guess that somebody was us, but we had no idea what to do.  It wasn’t until two years along this process when Christopher’s mom ended up in the hospital after a big fight (while we were in California visiting my mom) that we began to realize that both of his parents had Alzheimer’s. 

Had we known what was ahead for us, we would not have adopted Steffi.  We would have thought it would be too overwelming.  We would have been right.  Dealing with my dad’s death and Christopher’s parents has been very overwealming.  However, it has not crushed us, because what we would not have factored in to our decision was the grace of God, which gives us power to do all he has called us to do.   When we needed his strength, it was there.  When we needed wisdom, he provided. 

I feel our journey was a fulfillment of  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, in verses 2:18-20, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

Through the last four years our eyes have been enlightened to our hope, our inheritance and the power available to us by God’s grace.  And not just any power, it is the power that raised Christ from the grave. We needed that power as we faced the tragic lives my in-laws had lived together with no hope of God, no hope of heaven.

If I had known what was ahead, I would not only have missed out on being Steffi’s mom, I would also have missed out on the deep lessons God had to teach me through this journey.  Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  A good work God had prepared for us was taking care of Christopher’s parents in the last four years of their lives.  It was not easy mediating between them as they warred with one another.  It was not easy to take their abusive words.  It was not easy to take them to doctor’s and dentist’s appointments with three preschoolers trailing along behind.  It was not easy to tell Nicole every day for five months that Michael had died and that was why she hadn’t seen him.  But then again, God never told us things would be easy.  He told us He would be there.

Last Friday, we were told by the hospice nurse that Nicole had less than 72 hours to live.  As soon as I could, I went in to see her.  I recited verses.  I sang hymns.  I talked to her about who Christ was and how he loved her and wanted to save her from her sins.  I had done that for Michael the day before he died.  Neither of them would ever have allowed it when they were cognizant and able to speak.  Yet how could I let them die without giving them a last chance for hope?

After a while, Nicole started to open her eyes just a little.  Her breathing was labored.  I sang some more.  Then, needing a rest from the emotions, I stopped to water the plants I’d gotten for her birthday.  She started to make a noise.  I went over and started singing again.  She stopped moaning. Again she opened her eyes just a little to look at me.  For the rest of the time I was there, she tried to stay awake.  She seemed to want me to keep on singing.

Finally, I had to leave to take care of the children.  Christopher came and stayed with her for the next five hours.  He told her to look for Jesus where she was going.  At about one, he came home, thinking she was going to make it through the night.  In less than an hour, he got a call.  She had passed away.

Until I go to meet Jesus myself, I will not be able to say for certain what has happened with Nicole and Michael.  However, for the rest of my life I will know that I fulfilled the task God set before me in caring for them until their last breath.  God had bigger plans for me than I could have ever conceived.

72 Hours

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The last 72 hours will need to be blogged more in depth–but here are the highlights:

Friday:  8:00–Brendan forgot a paper and I promised to get it for him and bring it to school.  In the process of looking it up, I realize I have major computer problems,

9:00 got oil change and spoke comfort to woman dealing with mother in first stage of Alzheimer’s,

10:00: helped with Jumprope for Heart for Sophie and Mollie–had a good conversation with Angela afterwards,

11:30–delivered paper to Brendan at school,

12:00–got the dog’s medicine,

1:00-3:00 Waiting for the sofa man, who does not come.   

1:00 talked with Chris.  Then spoke with Leah, the hospice nurse.  Leah said Nicole was in last stages and would probably pass away within 72 hours.  Talked with Chris again at length.

2:00 working on computer problem

3:00 got to get girls, try to call sofa guys and can’t get through. 

4:00 Maggie and Brendan come home.  I get through to sofa guys.  They are coming at 6:30

5:00 dinner

6:00 take Brendan to swim practice

6:30  See Chris at the Y–was it OK to leave Maggie with the sofa guys?  We call.  The sofa has been released and landed in our bedroom.

7:30  Bring Brendan home then head over to see Nicole.

8:30 I come home and Chris goes to be with Nicole

9:00 Put everyone to bed and work on computer problem. 

11:00 Nicole is not doing well, Chris comes home to get some things, thinking he may spend the night

12:00 I bake a coffee cake and peanut butter bars.  Computer problem better.

1:00  Chris come home–thinks she is OK until morning.  We talk a bit, then get ready for bed.

1:46  We have just gotten in bed.  We get a call that Nicole has passed away.  Chris gets dressed and goes back to nursing home.

2:30  he comes back and we go to sleep (sort of)

Saturday

8:00 We get up.  I need to leave with Maggie and a friend to go to a swim meet that is 120 miles away. 

9:00 Friend comes over with grandparents, whom we like a lot.  We get in the car to go.

11:00-7:00 At swim meet.  I try to work a bit on the trial assignments I have from two publishers.  I’m hoping to get a paid assignment to write curriculum. Maggie does six races, including a 500 freestyle–by far the longest she’s swum in competition.  The chlorine in the air is killing my eyes.  Somewhere in the middle of the meet, I remember that we need to move out Nicole’s furniture from the nursing home.  Chris starts working on that.  While he is there, Sophie has a melt-down tantrum.  Brendan tries to lock her in the garage.  “That didn’t work,” he reports.  Chris comes home and turns on The Little Rascals and gives them chocolate.

6:00-9:30– I drive home, stopping for a terrible chicken dinner–should have gotten pizza like the kids.

9:30-11:00–Chris and I finally get a chance to talk about his mom’s death and our experiences with her towards the end.  Chris tells me about an amazing phone call he had this afternoon.  It was from France, but it was not his relatives.  Instead, it was the son-in-law and daughter of Christine, who was Nicole’s best friend from childhood.  Christine’s daughter, Elaine, had visited with Christopher’s family one summer when she was in high school.  He hadn’t talked to her since the 1970s, although his mother had called Christine regularly until about 3 years ago.  They told him that Christine had died just 5 days ago.  What a strange surprise that both of these friends died in the same week. 

11:30 sleep

Sunday

7:30 Get up and get everyone ready for church

9:00 Driving to church (which is 3 miles from our house) Chris takes a wrong turn and we get lost.  Although we are usually early, today we are late.  I guess that is OK  It helps to talk with the Sunday school class about Nicole’s death, but I don’t go out of my way to tell other people.  I just don’t have the energy.

11:30 Lunch with our good friends Leon and Jill (and their beautiful adopted daughters)–as always, it is wonderful to talk with them.  They’ve been on this road with us with my in-laws for a while.  I can feel their prayers.

1:0o Drive the kids home.

1:30 Meet with funeral director to make arrangements for direct cremation.  We will take her ashes to California to be buried next to her husband and son this summer.

2:30  Come home and take the seats out of both vans.  Drive over to nursing home.  Load up the vans with the furniture.  Since everyone in the nursing home was in the lobby visiting relatives, we ended up being quite the afternoon entertainment. 

“Martha, that’s the T.V.” 

 “Are they moving in?” 

 “No, that’s Nicole’s things.” 

“Martha, that’s the sofa.” 

“What?” 

 “THE SOFA!”

4:00 Come home.  Get Maggie and bring her to church.  Go back home and unload the two vans, vacuum them and then put the seats back in.

5:15  Get the kids together to take them to AWANAS at church

7:30 Back from AWANAS, food, brush teeth, stories for little ones, bedtime, story for big ones, bedtime. 

9:30 On the computer to blog.

It has been a long 72 hours.

Moaning

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   As I walked through the door of the nursing home, I heard a loud moaning.  Anxious, I looked over at my three youngest kids whom I’d brought with me.  They had already said they didn’t want to come, and now there was this scary sound, not to mention a number of scary looking old people in wheelchairs patrolling around the lobby.  I had offered to let my girls stay in the lobby and look at the fish and do puzzles, but noticing the elderly women leaning precariously sideways in their wheelchairs next to the puzzle table, I decided the girls might be better off in Nicole’s room.  At least there was a T.V. there they could look at. 

     The moaning grew louder as we turned the hall.  Who was making that sound?  I’d been in nursing homes before where there were people who sounded like that, but I’d never heard anything like it at this place.  I’d taken the kids here many times before and never felt this uncomfortable.  The sound continued, a deep and melancholy moan.  It was definitely on this hall.  Was it the new man across from Nicole?

      No, I finally realized as I reached her door.  It was Nicole.  Her mouth was open wide and the sound coming out was loud and deep and full of anguish.   Was she in pain or was she angry? 

    “She’s been that way all day,” said the med-tech, who was passing by as I walked in the room.   He was a big, black man that I’d seen helping  change her sheets last week.  He had a kind face and had been the one to explain what they were doing to me.  They’d drawn a curtain around her, but they hadn’t been able to cut off her noise then either.  She’d been cursing and shouting at them, angry and spiteful, finally sticking her tongue out at them as they left, telling them angrily, “I hate you!  I’m getting out of here!”

    “Is she in pain or is she upset?”  I asked  the man, thankful that when Nicole heard my voice she stopped moaning.

     “Both,” he said with a wry grin, “They gave her some medicine a few minutes ago.”

     “Medicine,” I knew meant Lorazepanor some other anti-depressant.  She takes a lot of those now, and took even more before she ended up in the nursing home.  In fact, it was a scene involving Lorazepan and Asti Spumonti which landed her here first place, two and a half years ago.  We never did find out exactly what happened between Nicole and her husband, Michael, but she had apparently fallen on the floor and lived there for four days unable to get up.  I cleaned up the mess later and discovered all the empty pill bottles, cookies and a freezer full of ice cream.  For my husband and I, it has been a long two and one half years. 

      The girls followed me into the room and immediately started watching the T.V..  I went over to Nicole’s bed.  She was moving around in an agitated manner and clutching a knitted blanket with her left hand, but she had stopped moaning.

      “Nicole, it’s me, Virginia.  I’m Christopher’s wife.”  Her eyes were closed, but she opened them briefly to look towards the girls.  I didn’t know if she was asking a question, but I decided to answer it anyway, “I’ve brought my girls with me.  There is Steffi, Sophie ,and Mollie.”  Steffi has spent a lot of time at the nursing home and going to the doctor with Nicole, so she is more used to this routine.  She came to stand next to me.  “This is Steffi, Nicole.”

      Steffi raised her hand to wave and said, “Hi Meme!” in her high little voice.  Nicole closed her eyes again.  I had been stroking her hand and moved over to stroke her hair.  My husband likes to have his hair stroked and I had found that Nicole liked it also.  I’ve thought a lot about how it must feel to be trapped in a bed without much contact with people during the day except for having them change your bed linens and feed you.  She calmed down and relaxed as I stroked her hair.  Every once in a while she opened her eyes and muttered something.  Some of the words seem to be in French.  Mostly, though, I don’t think she is saying anything coherently.

     After a while, I attempt to untangle her hand from the crocheted blanket.  Her gnarled fingers are twisted in the fibers and I’m afraid she will hurt herself.  She resists me.  When I finally get her fingers free, she immediately clutches fiercely at the rail of her bed.  I try to offer her some drink.  It is strawberry.  I think it is the same strawberry drink that was there the day before.  She has never liked strawberry, only chocolate.  She doesn’t want any.

     I water her plants.  The girls are contentedly watching the story of a mother preparing for a triathlon.  I think, what mother needs to do a triathlon?  And, what is a triathlon compared to caring for preschoolers and parents with Alzheimer’s?  Yet no one is coming with the T.V. cameras into the nursing home.   Perhaps there is too much reality here to show it on T.V.  Too much sadness.  Too much death.

     Michael, Nicole’s husband, was on hospice the whole time he was at this nursing home, yet he outlasted several room mates.  At first, I thought they had just moved the other men because Michael was too contentious.  Then,when I was visiting him with Nicole, he set us straight.  “What happened to your room mate?”  Nicole asked.

     “He died,” said Michael.

     “What?” said Nicole.  

    Michael leaned forward and spoke louder, “He DIED.”

   “Oh.” said Nicole.  “That’s too bad.”  There was a pause.  The T.V. was blaring and there was a sound of trays clanking as the kitchen help set out lunches.  “I guess it is lunchtime,” Nicole finally said.  “I’d better get back to my room.”

    That had been about a year ago.  Michael died in June.  Now it is February and Nicole is the one unable to leave her bed.  I wonder, what does she still remember?  Do fleeting moments of the past come upon her sometimes?  Is that why she is moaning, or is it something else?  Rage?  Pain? 

     Although she has told us she is ready for the end, I know her soul is not prepared for death.  She has no hope for a life beyond.  No faith in God.  Or so she has told us, when she could tell us.

     I pray for her.  I stroke her hair.  I kiss her forehead. Then, motioning to my girls, we leave.

When the End is Near

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may-2005-100    I could not believe the feeling of relief that flooded me after I hung up the phone.  That was the first time I realized how great a load of stress I’d felt about my mother-in-law and how responsible I had felt to take care of her needs.  I had noticed the last two days during my visits that she was being given some liquids which she was not supposed to have.  I had talked to the nurses about that and was supposed to attend a meeting with the social worker the afternoon of the phone call. 

      I’m not normally a confrontive person, but I am able to confront when it is important.  Still, it takes a fair amount of energy to build up my courage to do so.  All morning I’d been rehearsing what to say.  Then my husband called to tell me that the speech therapist had called to appologize about the incorrect foods and also to tell him she did not think that Nicole’s refusal to eat was a physical or behavioral issue.  She is not eating because her body is not able to take in food.  It was time for hospice care.

   We had gone through hospice care with Nicole’s husband, Michael.  The nurses were wonderful and supportive.  I’d read a lot about hospice and discovered that often people are not referred early enough to get as much help as is available.  Michael was in hospice for seven months, which was just about right.  He died very peacefully, with no pain.  He knew he was cared for and cared about by the hospice workers and nurses as well as the nursing home staff and the family.

    I was able to go to the meeting in peace.  I did tell my concerns to the social worker and was able to check the charts again.  The orders for foods had been corrected and I later saw the right foods in Nicole’s room.  That was a relief.  What was even more helpful was to find out that the hospice nurse for Michael was now working full-time at this nursing home and would be taking over Nicole’s care.  In fact, she had been checking on Nicole since Michael died.  I felt so re-assured to know that Leah would be caring for Nicole.  I was able to tell her a few things about what Nicole especially likes–ice cream and chocolate, for instance.  Later, I put a note on the T.V. asking them to play Nicole’s favorite DVDs (Mash and Hart to Hart–we bought a pirated version for her because it was the only one we could find and she loves it so much).

   There is so little that the person with advanced Alzheimer’s can understand and appreciate.   There is so little you can do to make things “better.”  Still, in attempting to show love through small details, I hope I can live out a sacred day, a day dedicated to knowing God and living in him and through him.  Lately, I’ve taken to stroking Nicole’s arm and kissing her forehead.   It feels strange since she was not a person who was much given to physical affection, but I feel her need for loving human touch.  So, perhaps in spite of myself, I reach out to her, hoping she will know she is not alone as the end draws near.

Not Remembering

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Not remembering can be a good thing sometimes.  My mother-in-law, Nicole is now in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.  She doesn’t seem to remember very much now.  I think she sees me as a familiar face, but she never calls me by name and I don’t know that she associates me as anyone different than the nurses who care for her.  She said my husband’s name, Christopher,to me this last week, but when he was actually visiting her, she didn’t know him, and in fact asked when Christopher was coming.   Looking back at my posts from August, I realize what a short time ago it was that she was calling me daily to talk to me about the death of her husband, or rather, to have me confirm again that Michael has died.  Those conversations were coherent, although her memory was faulty and she seemed to be having delusions of people attempting to get into her room.  Or were there other delusional residents actually trying to get into her room?  It is hard to say.

      Now, she usually can’t complete her thoughts, or if she does, she forgets what she says and repeats it again a few minutes later.  Today, her thought was, “I have arthritis.  It hurts.”  She said this while stroking her hands and pointing to a part of her thumb. 

           It isn’t easy to actually hold a conversation at this point, but I do my best, so I said, “Oh, your hand hurts.”

       She looked at me as if I didn’t know what I was saying.  So I tried again, “Your hand hurts because of the arthritis.”

     Something clicked this time, so she started stroking her hand and said again, “I hurt here.”

    She also noticed that Steffi was carrying a box, “You have something,” she said smiling.  She always smiles now.  It is so nice to see her smile.

     I’ve visited almost every day now for the last two weeks and every visit has been very pleasant.  She hasn’t really been able to say much, and so most of her communication is in smiles, nods and other words of assent like “O.K.,” “That’s all right” or “I think so.” 

     Such a dramatic change from the person she has always been, and the person I’ve spent so many hours with in doctor’s offices over the past four years.  That person was always complaining, always bitter about the past, always ready to find fault or tell me about the faults of her husband.  That was the person who complained about fat people in the presence of the not -quite-skinny nurse. Yet, there were also moments of sweetness.  Every once in a while she would urge me to pay myself money to buy a new dress from her account, or thank me for taking her places, or happy to see the children.

    Now her memory of the past is gone, and there is peace in her face.  God’s grace.  Perhaps for her.  Certainly for us.

In Sickness and In Health

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I’ve spent a lot of hours over the past few years listening to complaints by my mother-in-law about her husband.  As Alzheimer’s destroyed her mind, she focused her energy on her anger over the many times he had forced her to move.  Frequently, her rages against him ended in her demand for a divorce.  These demands became almost comical when they were both in a nursing home and he was completely bedridden by Alzheimer’s and cancer nevertheless, the anger she has displayed has very much colored our view of their relationship.

      Yesterday, I was looking through my photos and came across their wedding picture.  I was reminded that in spite of the many differences Michael and Nicole had in their marriage, they managed to stay together for over sixty years.  As the fog of Alzheimer’s descended over both of them, they started to pull apart; yet, they remained deeply “one” in mind, body and spirit.  Towards the end, the only thing that was sure to bring a smile to Michael’s face was Nicole’s name.  After his death, Nicole had only one question for me each day, “Where is Michael?” 

    Michael and Nicole’s anniversay was Jan. 25.  Each year, I would send a card and thank them for remaining true to one another.  I told them that their decision to remain married in spite of difficult circumstances was a legacy they left for us and our children.  I decided to make this scrapbook page in honor that legacy: a marriage which remained true and firm  “in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, til death do you part.”

Death with Dignity?

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     We’ve had to think a lot about end of life issues over the past four years.  Four years ago this week, my father died, and that same day my in-laws called out of the blue to tell us they had sold their house and were moving to Waco.  My father’s death was a terrible accident.  As a Type One diabetic, he suffered from dizzy spells and neuropathy (deadening of nerves in his extremities).  He frequently got dizzy after standing up and would hold on to a wall for a few minutes.  On the night of his accident, he was holding the wall and then suddenly blacked out, fell backwards (his knees locked because of the neuropathy) and crushed the back of his head. 

     His body did not die, but the neurologist said that his brain function probably ceased almost immediately.  My mother, my two brothers and I had no difficulty making the decision to pull the respiration tube and allow his body to go also.  My father had never wanted a lingering death, in fact, because his diabetes, he had always dreaded the likely possibility that he would deteriorate until he became completely dependent.  “Just put me away somewhere and don’t come visit,” he had always said.  A loving, honest man, he was also very proud.

    Although the shock of his death still stings and my mother, who witnessed the whole thing (she said he fell like someone in a cartoon), still is shaken by the experience (we had a long talk about it last week), my father’s death was relatively easy on us.  We knew my father had been feeling very poorly and had even expressed a desire separately to several of us that he not continue to live feeling as he did.

    My father-in-law’s death last June was different.  He had slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s and kidney cancer.  For a long time, he was physically fit but very contentious and angry.  Then he became docile, distracted and physically feeble.  Finally, he was bedridden and very sweet, but not quite able to follow any train of thought.  I spent a couple of hours with him the day before he died.  He was asleep and peaceful.  He died the same way.

    I was reminded of a conversation I had with him some six years earlier.  At the time, we were trying to get he and his wife to move to Waco so that we could take care of them.  They initially agreed, and bought a house, putting $2000 down, $1000 more than was necessary.  Then the next day they changed their mind, took the $2,000 loss and went back to Arizona.  It was crazy, but a sign of things to come, which will be matter for another post. 

   Anyway, I was trying to get Michael to talk about end of life matters.    I wanted to get some idea of what he wanted.  What I got rather startled me.  Michael told me the story of a friend of his who had gone hiking off in the wilderness and never returned.  “I think that is the best way to go.” he said emphatically.  Startled, I did not voice my thought that dying of starvation, exposure to the elements, or being eaten by a bear didn’t exactly seem to me to be ideal.

    Michael’s going was peaceful, and because of the wonderful hospice care, as pain-free and gentle as possible.  Now, six months later, we face end of life issues again with his wife, Nicole.  We were told she would die last Saturday from severe dehydration and infection.  That is typical of advanced Alzheimer’s patients whose damaged brains begin to shut down internal organs, make swallowing difficult and cause their bodies to be unable to resist infections.  However, Nicole did not die.  She slowly recovered over the week, and began to be able to speak a little although she still wasn’t eating much. They told us the CAT scan showed she had a stroke in the language centers of the brain.

     Christopher was told he should order a feeding tube put into her.  This was a decision we had not encountered before.  Should we order life-sustaining treatment when the natural processes of the body were starting to shut down?  We knew that neither his mother or his father had wanted to have their life prolonged if they were in a “comatose or vegetative state,” but did that apply to the slow mental degradation of Alzheimer’s?

      Everyone had a different opinion, usually voiced finally as, “What I would do if it were my mother.”  Most of the nurses said no feeding tube, and so did the doctors who had seen Nicole regularly over the past few years.  However, after giving their opinion, everyone said, “That is just my thoughts, it is really your decision to make.”  What a terrible thing to say.  How could we order something that would seem to cause her to starve to death?  Could we live with ourselves afterwards?   

     Christopher attempted to go and ask his mother whether she wanted a feeding tube.  After trying to explain the situation, he asked, “Do you want a feeding tube?”  She seemed to nod yes.  But when he said, “Or to have someone try to feed you?”  she also nodded yes.  After several tries at this, he gave up and realized she could not make the choice.

    Fortunately, the nursing home was able to help.  They were willing to try to feed her and give her therapy to help her to swallow.  The hospital, after seeing her recover somewhat over the week, was willing to release her.  So for now, our decision is delayed. 

    Last night, Christopher came back from visiting his mom at the nursing home.  He said that she now has that same blank, but pleasant stare his father had during the last couple of months of his life.  There is really no way for an Alzheimer’s patient to die with dignity, but we certainly hope we can help her die in peace, gentleness and God’s great grace.