Defining Extraordinary Measures

I remember a day when the toughest thing we discussed around this house was who had more advantages:  vampires or werewolves.  Now all we talk about is impending death and trying to figure out what is considered an extraordinary measure. I miss the vampires and werewolves!

We met with my mother-in-law’s case manager today. We found out that she is at the point in her Alzheimer’s where she no longer gets the message from her bladder to her brain that she needs to pee. Can you imagine that? You have a full bladder and you don’t know that you need to pee. I have trouble wrapping my brain around that one. Anyway, that results in a urinary tract infection which then makes the Alzheimer’s get worse. Yes, lovely little loop going on there.

The problem with all of that is the fact that she cannot metabolize oral antibiotics. She has to have IV antibiotics in order for them to work. That means that she will keep going in and out of the hospital. That also makes the Alzheimer’s worse. None of this is looking good for her. She also has this new thing where she suddenly has her blood pressure drop to about 80/30. Just out of the blue for no apparent reason. What do you do about that?!?

We have hit a point where we have made her go through more than what we promised not to put her through when the time came. The problem was we didn’t totally get that we were at the point where the time came. We know it now though. So how do we proceed now? Is giving her antibiotics considered extraordinary measures?

That has become the big new debate in our house.  We used to think that extraordinary measures meant things like tubes down your throat or pegs in your stomach. Now we are seeing that it is the little things like antibiotics. Alzheimer’s is evil. It robs so much from your brain that we take for granted. It robs you of things like the ability to swallow or to know when to pee. Will it cause physical pain to withhold the antibiotics? Will it be more painful than what she is going through by prolonging this whole process?

I think I know my position. I say she deserves the right to let things happen naturally like she requested we do. We thought we were simply helping her get over an infection. Now I think that we are getting in the way of her body shutting down. I think that we are robbing her of her right to have a natural death. People fight so hard against things like abortion so that you have the right to life.  Why aren’t there more people out there fighting for your right to death?

If you are currently sitting there reading this, you know there are two facts about you. You were born and you will one day die. No one can get around the death thing. Rather appropriate that I’m writing about death on Halloween! It’s true though. We will all die one day. Why is there such a stigma about death then? We have loved ones who are naturally advancing towards the next step of life and we have doctors and nurses hold them captive on the edge of life for what? So we can say that they are still here with us. How is that helping them any at all?

When I was a little girl, my biggest fear was that my parents would die. Now my biggest fear is that someone will force them to keep living when their bodies are ready to move on. It’s like a prison in your own body. I actually think that it is cruel. I have to say that I never thought I would get to this point in my life. I finally understand the cycle of life. I also understand that the most courageous thing that a person can do is to stop doing anything. My mother declined all cancer treatments. I think if my mother-in-law had more clarity, she would tell us to stop with all the antibiotics and heart medications. She can’t do it so it is up to us to do it for her.

All of this has made one thing extremely clear for me. Being an adult sucks! Oops, back to the vampires!

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