(11/18/2014) I have never heard anyone say he wished to become a burden to his spouse or children. Yet many, if not most, of us do become a burden as we decline. People can't help the fact that they become frail, disabled, sick or addled, and their loved ones do in fact feel burdened by this, financially or emotionally or both. Many people's lives are ruined by the demands of caring for incapacitated loved ones. Other lives are ruined by the guilt of failing to do so.
I am drafting a health-care directive that I hope will prevent this from happening. Since it is a sincere document, reflecting my honest desires, I expect it to be implemented. I want to let everyone off the hook, and I think many of my peers would consider doing the same.
Do you ever feel the seed of dementia within yourself? I do. Maybe it's because I have spent so much time with those who have dementia, including my parents and those who are warehoused in "reminiscence" facilities (isn't that a funny name? no one in there is reminiscing!)
I feel the seed, and I sense the imminence of a slow dive into a gauzy consciousness, in which I will fail to grasp what is being said to me, leave burners turned on high, be unable to cope with grocery lists and tax returns, and lose interest in everything. I sense that my brain may be on the verge of closing up shop.
This may be due to depression, and maybe I'll feel better at some point, but I still believe the seed is there, and that it will germinate before very long.
Even if dementia doesn't get me, the depression may shut me down. Or the lupus may incapacitate me. Or who knows what other hell might emerge: Parkinson's, ALS, a paralyzing stroke, etc.
So here are my heartfelt wishes, and if you give a damn about me, please see to it that they are respected:
- If I reach a point where my disability or illness impinges upon my beloved partner's life, freedom and/or happiness, I wish to be placed in an assisted living facility. I have been in several of these places. I don't mind them. Please believe me when I say I would rather be there, where my beloved can visit whenever he feels like, than to remain at home and cast a pall over his day-to-day existence. Please feel NO GUILT, because this is my idea. My demand.
- If and when I reach a stage in which I lose all or even most of my pleasures, I want to be euthanized. If I don't recognize you, if I am lost in a tortured fantasyland, if I become agitated and abusive and irrational and inconsolable, please put an end to my pain, and yours. If I become catatonic, and sit or lie all day (in a poopy diaper) with glazed eyes, and if have to be spoon fed, and bathed and dressed by others, as so many poor souls do these days, JUST SHOOT ME.
You should not have to be terminally ill to commit suicide, and to have assistance in carrying it out. It is my right -- whether the law recognizes it or not -- to end my life whenever I please. Do we really believe that the hundreds of thousands of people who are vegetating in nursing homes are happy to be alive? If they are, their lives should be protected.
If we become miserable, or if we essentially lose our personhood, we should be permitted to have an enforceable Advanced Directive that provides for the humane termination of our lives.
That is my wish. Kindly give me the respect of honoring it.