Friday, January 04, 2008

166 Hemlock Society

These bouts of sadness come on me suddenly, and often for no reason. This morning I was working on one of my other blogs, and my big ragdoll kitten (9 months old, 15 lbs) was sprawled on his back, his head on my wrist, eyes half open, purring. I started thinking about how much he's going to miss me when I'm away next week, and then I thought, what if I get killed on vacation? I'll never see my cats or birds or fish again. And that made me cry.
When I drive, I have too much time to think, and my thoughts turned down that awful road: what if I get Alzheimer's? I mean, obviously I'm going to kill myself, right? I can't put my husband through that, and we have no children, I have no siblings, there'd be no one at all to help him with me. And he is not very nurturing to begin with.
And the next thought is how? I had a friend who said if she got it, she'd take a bottle of sleeping pills, go sit in her car in the garage with it turned on, and drink a glass of wine and listen to her favorite music until she fell asleep. It sounded very peaceful. But would it work? (Not that I drink wine. I'd be out there with my diet caffeine free Pepsi.)
So I thought, I'd better go look into joining the Hemlock Society. And gasp, they don't exist anymore. WTF? I am not in favor of teenage angst suicide, but if you have a terminal disease, or you're old and past your sell-by date and have no one who cares about you anymore, you should be able to check yourself out.
Evidently their duties have been taken over by a group called "Compassion and Choices" which doesn't have quite the same ring to it. And there isn't even a Connecticut chapter; they just refer you to the corporate office.
I just feel so old, and I didn't even battle AD myself. I only watched my father do it. I'm not even 40, but in the past few months my temples have gone gray and my hair has thinned from stress. My mom aged about 10 years. I just wonder physically what it's done to us. I read somewhere that Alzheimer's caregivers have drastically shortened lifespans, in accordance to how long the caregiving went on. So this disease didn't just take my father. It's stolen part of my mother's life too, and probably mine.


Patty McNally Doherty said...

This disease claimed your father. Don't let it have any more than that. Fight back. Refuse to decline. Mourn as much as you need, but mourn your father, not you. You are alive. You are able to make choices. You are able to love those wonderful animals in your life. They deserve the best you have to offer them, for as long as you're able.

The future will come, none of us can outrun it. But the present, right now, this minute, you're here, you're alive, you breathe, cats purr, dogs bark, fish swim.

Please let time heal what it can, and turn to dust that which it can't heal. It will get better, it will feel better, it's just raw right now. Tender treatment of your mind and body is critical right now. Don't call the Hemlock Society, call a friend, go for a walk, think of all your father gave to you. Don't let Alzheimer's diminish your world by magnifying your loss, instead, enlarge your capacity to be aware of all you have. You have so much - one thing I'm thankful for is your ability to write, to explain, to express the hard emotions of living with a dying loved one.

Part of why I started The Unforgettable Fund was to burn off the anger and sadness I had accumulated over the eleven years of my father's illness. It took so much from us, for such a long time. Every time I work on TUF, I feel blessed there is an outlet for me. It has provided much healing and regrowing of the ties that bind us, one to the other, me to you. Reentry into the world of the living, the healthy, the strong.

I couldn't fight the disease for my father, I couldn't do anything that helped him. But I can fight the disease with money, and research, and hopefully a cure.

Hang in there, Bert. There is much to do and see. This is just a part of it.


e said...

Yes, well this is where I am too...

I am an only child as well, childless by choice and I-right now, anyway-cannot see putting my husband through what I (we both) am going through with my Mom. So hubby and I have discussed it. I am ordering a copy of Final Exit and plan to be prepared. I'm not sure that I will be able to go through with it when the time comes (I don't really believe in an afterlife so I am one of those when you are done you are done people) but I want the option, the choice.

And we are not alone. Not long after mom was diagnosed, I was at the home of a neighbor, whose MIL with AD lived with them for 7 years before she finally was moved into a AD care facility last May. We were talking out by his pool and he said "you know, for years her Mom & Dad talked of committing suicide together" (they both had AD) "and we always talked them out of it saying think how hard it would be for whichever of us finds you. Now I know it would have been best to let them do it. They could have gone with their dignity. I have learned that when the time comes, I plan to move to Oregon or another Death with Dignity state, have one last bash with my friends, go upstairs and just never wake up". Now I know that is somewhat romanticized, but THAT is what this disease makes you think about. Your dad wanted to kill himself. My mom-a devout Catholic-wants to kill herself (and if she could remember the steps to do it, I would not stop her).

I have no intention of doing this until such time as I am diagnosed with AD (and I will be... Now it makes sense what my short term memory loss over the past 7 or so years has been-and I am not yet 40 either) and only if there is still no cure or treatment.

It might be the most merciful, loving thing I can do for my husband. Now is the time to get the life insurance in place and make sure that suicide is not excluded. Don't get me wrong, I am still contributing to my Roth IRA--I have not given up. But I want the choice if and when I need it.

Marvel said...

A friend's grandfather-in-law diagnosed with AD shot and killed himself in his home. His family are convinced that it was the disease that "made" him do such a terrible thing, but I don't. When the friend asked me why, I told her that if the disease had reduced his reasoning to such a drastic state that he didn't know what he was doing, he would not have been able to commit suicide. I mean, it takes some planning to find your gun, find the bullets, load the gun and then remember what you wanted to do with it. Not to mention that he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, which sorta changes your perspective on suicide. However, I told her that it likely makes them feel better to think it was this awful disease.

I've told R (grandma's son and my daughter's father, he's an only child too) that he should make plans for a future of AD, and then relax. Either he'll get it or he won't but plexing now only robs himself of time with his daughter. I'm fully prepared to be his advocate but I've been honest that he will likely be institutionalized at any hint of RTC (Resistance To Care) or violence. He understands and agrees. After everything we're going through with his mother, I don't doubt that he's thought about eating a loaded gun if diagnosed.

Also, Bert and e, there is a condition called "Caregiver Dementia" which is not AD and is caused by the stress of caregiving. Self-care is the recommended treatment. :-) We're working very hard on that at the moment so that we can take our daughter to a Disney park before she enters the terrible teens! LOL Small steps, one day at a time Bert, you'll find your way.

Anonymous said...

I entered the words "Alzheimers Blogspot" and your blog came up.
I am so sorry for your loss.
I have never lost anyone close to Alzheimers but my husband is in the early stages and I am really scared. Any suggestions would be so very much appreciated.
Thank you.
Dianne L.

Mauigirl said...

It's natural you would be feeling these things. I know I worry about it myself even though my dad didn't get AD until he was in his 80's. I'm also worried about my husband since his mom and grandmother both have/had it.

I figure we have to live for today and enjoy the time we have, and hope that it skips us. We can't live in fear. As Patty says, treat yourself well.

Anonymous said...

The book 'Final Exit' incorporates everything the Hemlock Society (1980-2003) fought for, including the Oregon Law, including drug and helium methods of self-deliverance.
You can order the paperback or download digitally at

Anonymous said...

My mom was diagnosed with Ad about 8 yrs ago, her older brother had it, older sister and now her younger sister has it, it really runs in our family and i am very scared of getting it. My mom passed away from it in 2006 and thank god she went then because she was suffering so much. I was her care giver for all those years, moved her in with me, got a divorce over it and almost lost my sanity, but damn it, i took care of my mother, she was not going to die in a nursing home. To anyone who has a loved one with AD, i have much symphathy for you and my heart goes out to you.

Here is it 2008 and I miss my mother so much and will always wonder if i did enough or should i have done something else so she would not have suffered so. I dont think i could go thru it and would kick the bucket so to say. Its my choice. Mary

Anonymous said...

well even if you had an after life (which you do you) would have a bad one for taking your one life and would eternally suffer for this sin and a mortal one at that.

Anonymous said...

i also am bad at grammarr

Anonymous said...

dignity!!!! you don't have dignity commiting suicide