My 100-year-old Grandma Martha may be nearing the end of her life. While she has lived a long life we are reminded that she is from a generation that really does not talk about death. Her generation had a life expectancy of age 75.
Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter wrote an article for The New York Times this month titled "First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed". She shares the statistic that 80% of Americans would prefer to die at home, but only 20% actually do. She notes that often people in intensive care units may be restrained and have no idea they are dying. You can read more of Dr. Zitter's articles on her website.
Grandma has a pacemaker which has extended her life. But she also has macular degeneration which has caused her to lose most of her vision. Losing your eyesight dramatically impacts your quality of life. Which lead her to tell her doctor to only give her a "2-year battery" for her pacemaker last year. How do we better plan for death?
How do we decide to say "no" to medical procedures which may extend our life but not improve a diminished quality of life caused by a health condition which cannot be cured?
My father, at age 79, is also living life right now by volunteering in Ecuador. He just shared his whitewater rafting photos.
That's Dad in the back seat of the raft, hanging with the 20-year-old's.
My Dad is still living life, for sure. He has mentioned more than a few times that the adventure travel company assigned him a 26-year old lady from Argentina to accompany him to be sure he could manage. See, not everything about aging is negative! There are no right answers to some questions. We have to find the best possible answer for ourselves. The spirit of life pulls us forward. My Grandma still has the fight in her and we can see that and are assisting her to keep on going in all ways possible.
She is still living life. With a whole lot of help from family members and doctors and nurses and nursing aides and caregivers and friends. She still has a very sharp mind and memory. But she also is living with pain each day, which we cannot take away.
Starting the conversation about how we would like to experience aging and what we would not want done to extend our life if the quality of life will not be there should become a part of our care plan for senior care. Medical technology has allowed us to do what could not be done before for physical care and we need to become modern enough to discuss the emotional components of aging and caregiving as well.
Senior care companies and senior caregivers can begin the conversation about death with adult children by sharing stories of scenarios of aging that are positive and negative. By talking about death we can spark new ideas and solutions to learn how to age in a way that truly allows someone to not only be alive but to be living life.