“Death at home” has become a societal priority, and the scene painted is idyllic. The patient is at home, in bed, surrounded by loved ones in a familiar environment. Yet, what was the underlying cost?
Most families cannot afford 24-hour care, which means that they become the caregivers -- feeding, bathing, toileting and, as the loved one gets weaker, more difficult tasks. The untold story is the caregiver’s emotional and physical stress. It is very difficult to change a loved one’s diaper, and it’s every bit as difficult for the patient to watch a loved one do it.
Further, as a patient gets sicker the symptoms escalate. There is more pain or shortness of breath. The caregiver can be at a loss as to what to do or how to do it. Even hospice has a difficult time managing escalating symptoms in a home setting.
Hospitals also have drawbacks; constant noise, talking and alarms wailing. There is no guarantee of a private room and loved ones might not live close by. On the other hand, people there are paid to change diapers, give baths and administer medication as symptoms get worse.
There is honor and love in caring for someone. In Mother’s last days it gave me great comfort to put lotion on her, comb her hair and play her favorite songs on the wireless speaker. Hospice had told us she was close to “leaving” but because she was in a nursing home, I didn’t have to wash or change her. She died at 1 a.m. in the morning. I would not have been at her side had she been at home; I would have simply found her.
When faced with the question of “where to die” think long and hard. How do you want to die? Personally, I’ve always had visions of me in a king-size bed with a gorgeous bed jacket holding court. I’d forgive those who asked forgiveness, espouse love for those whom I’ve always loved, and listen to everyone tell me how fabulous I am and what a great life I’ve lived! It would be very melodramatic – with tears and hugs and more tears and hugs. But in the end, I’d close my eyes (eyelashes resting on my cheeks) and take my last breath.
Nowhere in this scenario does anyone have to “bathe and toilet” me! But guess what? That must be done. Hence, when you begin this thought process, be selfish. It’s not about your kids or spouse. It’s about knowing all your options. Imagine where you want to take your last breath. If you need false eyelashes – buy them!
About H. Frances Reaves, Esq.
A graduate of University of Miami Law School, Frances spent ten years as a litigator/ lobbyist. She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad of pitfalls and options of "senior care". If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at email@example.com