Dying with Dignity: The Alzheimer’s-Dementia Enigma

Posted: July 17, 2016 by Ty in Canadian Politics, Current Events, Musings, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , ,

Okay up first is a disclaimer: I am over joyed with the passing of the dying with dignity law of the current Canadian Government. I do believe all living things should have the right to transition into the next life with dignity. But even though I am happy we have reached this ethical milestone, we shalt not plateau.

This brings up the next question, the  idea of an advance directive that the government shied away from, but the Supreme  Court of Canada laid out was necessary.

See, for the physiological entrapping diseases (Multiple Sclerosis; Parkinsons and the ilk) it is apparent that the brain is trapped within a body that does not function anymore and at some point when of sound mind the individual now has a route to maintaining their life with dignity.

The challenge is for the neurological diseases that do not fit the parameters of the law: Alzheimer’s; Dementia; and their kind.

First two statements as an ethicist and holistic psychologist:

1) I am not going to entertain the fallacy of the slippery slope argument around this.

2) There shalt be no reference to “holocaust” or “Nazi” or Murderer whether you support or not the position.

Read, process, sit with and craft a belief in yourself for what you believe around it and more importantly why you believe it. For myself, this understanding has come from the lived journey of chaplain, caregiver and family member.

I have walked with those in long-term/lock down care who have had these diseases slowly eating away their memories.

Some would say that is not a bad thing and how can we say they are not enjoying life. Simple, what we know is the person in the beginning is aware of the loss, and the confusion. We do not know as the journey progresses if the awareness stays, or not, or if shame drives the silence, but what is experienced:

  1. I have walked into lock down with adults in their 50-90’s crying and feeling that their families have abandoned them, or they have been kidnapped because they have regressed into their childhood.
  2. I have been in shelter’s with those who have been lost within the system or under a bridge or rough camp because they no longer know who they are, but paranoia has gripped them in the piece of their history they are living in and will not accept help.
  3. I have witnessed the self harm to break out as they try to compute why they are alone.
  4. I have slowly watched as a grandparent has lost the idea that their grandchildren exist and slowly enter into the reality that their children begin to fade.
  5. The conversations when you are not aware of which decade you are in with them, or which relative they believe you are.
  6. The most peaceful human being switching into a homicidal rage addict.
  7. The neurological regression that can cause physiological impediments as their muscle memories regress to younger years—even toddler years, then think of a senior falling like a toddler would learning to walk, or not knowing their own physical limitations and refusing to use the assist technology of cane, wheel chair or walker. Sadly with this regression, or a blessing the fall can lead to transition…and end to the psychological/emotional pain they are walking through.

So while we debate, and enter into the hard questions of life. Especially a life that can be unnaturally extended due to medical science keeping the physical life alive.

What happens when the very identity of you ceases to be? We are not independent entities whose self is crafted in a vacuum.

We are interdependent, communal beings with holistic life histories that are shared with others…so when you no longer have that connection/memory with the other are you still you?

That is, when the neurological illness has destroyed the identity, much like when the physical has left you only on life support; are you still a person? Are you still you?

Do you deserve the write to pre-state at what point you are no longer a you?

Dying with Dignity Canada Voice Your Choice click here.

I do not look for all to share my view, this has come through personal tears, pain and loss even before the medically signed off transition…in my mind the soul transitioned long ago within my family and friends that walked this path.

But the question is—what is your choice? Where will your voice be heard?


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