As I continue to mourn my father's death eight months ago and witness my mother's slow, seeping decline in her assisted living facility, I am becoming acutely aware of not only mortality, but of the gnarled and hazardous path you have to walk to get to the end of life. How many people get to die quietly, in their own beds, holding the hand of their beloved? The story below about an elderly couple facing separation from each other because of institutional regulations and efficiencies makes me very afraid.
Do you have stories to tell about this issue? What are your thoughts about your own mortality road? How do you want your end to be? These are questions we rarely say out loud, or write. They frighten me as I type them. But I am interested in your thoughts.
Here is an excerpt from the story by Max Harrold in the Montreal Gazette, June 25, 2010
The case highlights the difficult choices faced by long term care facilities and the often disorienting consequences for frail residents. The couple's son says separating them - both his parents have Alzheimer's - would be too traumatic. The nursing home says it is legally entitled to do what it feels is best, based on each resident's needs.
The Baschs, both age 90, have different stages of the illness that impairs memory, thought, speech and can lead to complete helplessness. The Montreal Jewish Eldercare Centre says Elena must be moved to a different ward as soon as possible because she needs a more advanced level of care, her son Max Basch, 59, told The Gazette this week.
"They cannot survive without one another," explained Max, from his home in Tenafly, N.J. His mother's more advanced condition makes the familiarity of her surroundings critical and her husband in the next room is a big part of that, he said.
"They always hold hands," Max said. "They kiss each other. They're this incredible, great couple in theirs 90s. When he went to the hospital for a few days, she said 'Maybe I can go to the hospital and check in on him and cook for him.' She doesn't realize exactly where she is but she knows they are together."