Monday, 29 April 2013

A Living Death ....

I have not blogged for the last two weeks as I have been processing (in psychotherapy speak but otherwise better known as 'thinking about') events concerning my mother.

My sister and I have been concerned for around four years that our now 81 year old mother was developing Alzhiemers. We could see changes in her patterns of behaviour towards us and others close to her but as she is also highly intelligent we now believe she was able to manipulate the results of the written and other tests. We were told not to worry about our mother's increasing 'crankiness' and repetition of the same stories over and over it was simply 'old age'. The tests showed she did not have Alzhiemers.

My mother was well read, highly intelligent and back in the 70's and 80's she had helped run a WRVS program inconjuction with the local geriatric department looking at the problems of Alzhiemers for both sufferers and their carers. I now think she knew what was happening to her and reverted to her standard approach which has always been to shift the blame for any failure in her life to me, my sister, our relatives, her friends and neighbours. My mother's big weakness was her ability to take the plaudits when things were going well (even if she had no real input into the success) but responsibility ended when the shit hit the fan.

It has been confirmed today she has Alzhiemers of vascular origin. The blood supply to the parts of her brain that make her 'her' are shutting down and over the last six months this has changed her character to such an extent she is now hospitalised awaiting a place in a specialist care unit. At first the increasingly irrational anger and accusations hurt, her attempts to turn me against me sister, my sister against me, drive relatives away and even turn on her next door neighbour Pat with whom she has been friends for 30 years and does her weekly shop - claiming she was robbing my Mum by getting my Mum to sign a blank cheque. My sister and I have also been accused of only interested in her 'money'. The point came ten days ago when the solicitor who has been trustee of my mother's finances for five years received an earful when visiting her in hospital. He contacted my sister and myself and asked how long had this been going on and we told him it has been getting steadily worse since October 2012 where as prior to this it was an intermittant phenomenon. We are currently seeking to put my mother under the guardianship of the court on the solicitors suggestion as a result.

Where does that leave my mother? The horrible reality is she probably understands she is losing her mental faculties, is very frightened and her only response left is to lash out in 'anger' as she has always done when things go wrong.

My sister and myself now have to watch as over the next few months the person who was our mother will in all respects die. She may live on in body another five or more years but what was really 'her' will cease to exist. Just what sort of quality of life is she going to have as she increasingly becomes doubly incontitent and in a developing vegetative state, dribbling and mumbling her way to death's door?

If it was my dog or cat, rather than my mother, I would be considered callous and cruel to allow any animal to suffer in this way yet pro-life religious nutters consider this to be 'compassionate and caring', it makes no sense. Instead myself and my sister have to hope a stroke will take her, end her suffering and give her some dignity in death. In the meantime my mother continues to be forced to suffer a cerebral version of the Chinese Water Torture as her ability to think and 'be her' closes down around her.

As a Buddhist I have no connect to 'religion', I understand that I am the agent of and personally responsible for whatever happens around me by my action or inaction. My purpose is to act in a way to bring a benefit to all life and minimise hurtful actions. At this point UK law and medical practice leaves me powerless without any choice. At present the inability to bring my mother the peace she now deserves at the point she ceases being herself is hurtfull and is frustrating to me. It is time for Scots Law to recognise that amongst the great positive power for good that is in medicine the ability to prolong life, just because we can, has to be addressed - not just for me or my sister but all the others the breadth and length of Scotland watching the same destruction of loved ones no matter their disease. Maybe euthanisia is a now sensible option in the context of modern medicine - it is time to give our terminally ill loved ones the same care and compassion we have long given our pets.

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