Dead or Alive

Flowers-Pincushion-flower-300x300As an observant Jew, life is most precious. Even Jewish laws are allowed to be broken  if it has the potential to save a life.

So as one who struggles with depression and with the caregiving of my Dad, I often ponder about the quality of life.

My dad wants to die. He has openly expressed that and repeats it often.

He makes his choices on how to live his life and I can understand why he feels this way. He is a DNR.

Since my mother’s death almost 10 years ago, he really did not want to live without her and my brother and I expected he would die shortly after her death. And even though that was his wish, he manages to stay alive much to his frustration.

Dad is in a Nursing home, he has Parkinson’s  and diabetic neuropathy. He  is 88.

My dad chooses to spend the majority of his day in his room. He walks to breakfast and lunch and uses his wheelchair  to transport himself to dinner. He does not attend any programs or activities. He mostly watches TV and sleeps.

My visits and his interactions with the staff and his phone calls to his sisters and my brother are the only human interactions he has.  His only outings are to his doctor appointments.

Since I struggle with depression, I know what it is like to make one’s world so small. And yes, I know he is probably depressed but he chooses not to take any medication for it. He reluctantly sees a therapist.

So what is the quality of his life? He will tell you he exists. Not much more.  He looks forward to my visits. He will also tell  you that he prays every night that he does not wake up in the morning and every morning he is disappointed.

I have begun to ask myself should I be praying for him to die? It is a horrible thought. But yet this is what he wants. I love him dearly and over the past three years we have sorted out many of our issues, though there are always more to work on. If he were to die tomorrow, I would miss him but I think I would accept that he is  in a better place.

I wish  he would choose to live a life beyond existing. Then again I wish that for myself, too. For me I am doing better then him in that I go to yoga, I walk my dog, I interact with my spouse and neighbors and friends and family. My outings consist of going  to therapy, visiting Dad, seeing friends, food shopping.  I watch TV and read. I cook, clean, and do laundry.

Do I have a better quality of life then my Dad? I would say it is better but it is far from ideal.

So Dad wants to die, and I want to find a better way to live.

Categories: Caring for Parents,Ketzela's Blog

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6s Comments

  1. Profile photo of Sue

    I will admit that I have prayed that my dad be able to go and go peacefully and go soon. It just seems cruel. My dad is a bit worse off than yours – he can no longer communicate or seemingly recognize any of his family. He is confined to a hospital bed for the most part – can not feed himself, change his clothes, shave himself, anything. I totally understand that life is precious, but at this point it just seems cruel. My dad, when he could speak, has also told us he wanted to die. And he was in a MUCH better place then. So it is hard not to pray for what you know they would want and what is probably the best thing for them.

    On your side – maybe try to use this as an impetus to do the most with your life possible while you have the chance. It is cliche, but it also rings true…

  2. Profile photo of Denise

    Hi Ketzela–Your post is so beautifully written. I found myself amazed at the connection you created at the end of the post.

    In “A Bittersweet Season,” Jane Gross writes about caring for her mom, which includes when her mom decided to make the conscious decision to no longer eat or drink. (The medical term for an individual’s decision to end life by not eating or drinking is VSED (Voluntary Stopping Eating & Drinking).) I thought of her book as I read your post.

    It’s sooo difficult when another no longer has the will to live. And, to pray for his death seems so sad.

    Perhaps you could pray that each of your finds your own peace.

    I’m so glad you wrote today. Please keep us posted.

  3. Ketzela, my mother was blind the last decade of her life and she too, just didn’t want to live. And neither did my dad after Mom was gone. It is hard to see them this way. And I finally found comfort in just praying that God’s will would be done for them. Whether that meant living longer and dying, I just had to leave it in God’s hands. His timing, while not always seeming perfect to us, certainly must make sense on a grander scale, somewhere in the universe. I know it must be depressing to hear him on such a regular basis talk this way, but you being there to listen to him is the greatest gift you can give him. You too need someone to listen. Don’t forget that the Person most interested in you and your dad is God Himself. Leaving his care in the hands of the Almighty is what always gave me the most hope and comfort in those dark days.

  4. Profile photo of ejourneys

    Hi, Ketzela — I’m Jewish also, though non-observant. My father chose suicide at age 84, and I respect his decision. My partner is mostly housebound; I check in with her regularly about her quality of life. (I was thrilled when we found a couple of support groups she wants to attend.)

    I like the idea of praying for peace and for comfort, whatever happens. Being able to live in the moment is a blessing.

  5. Dear Ketzela:

    I can sooo relate to your story. Unfortunately, my husband is somewhat worse physically than your dad in that he is only 63 and is bedbound and incontentent from the stroke he suffered 16 years ago. He has been talking about his wish to die for the past 2 years. It was heartwrenching at first, to hear him, talk like this; but then I decided that if he needed to talk about this then at least I could show compassion and be in the moment with him by listening. My heart goes out to him as he is a prisoner in his own bed. Now, he is also prone to multiple infections and resultant hospitalizations. He has suffered so much through the years that I can understand his wanting an end. Sometimes, I want an end to the limbo, the protracted grieving, and to be societally recognized as the “widow” that I am. However, recently, I have found some relief from my emotional anguish by focusing on being grateful for the things I can still do and enjoy rather than focusing on the half empty glass. I choose to “let a joy catch up with me,” as C.S. Lewis said. I have decided to move forward on my own emotionally and this has allowed me to walk alongside him when needed with compassion but to detach once the visit is over and return to my “new normal.” It works for me. I hope you can find some reassurance in the fact that even though it is painful, that you are doing your father a great service by being there for him when he has to rail against his lot in life.

    Peace to You,


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