I am known for talking about adapting to ‘living’ with dementia; emphasising the positives, living in the moment. However today I also want to talk about the end stages when I may not be able to talk about my feelings then, so what better time than to do it now while I’m still able. To express my views of the time when the blogging Wendy no longer exists and when dementia has won it’s cruel game of hide and seek.
This is in response to the article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian last week:
Polly Toynbee starts off her article about former Guardian journalist, Katharine Whitehorn, who is living in the late stages of dementia, by saying:
“Before Alzheimer’s claimed her, the legendary Observer writer made clear her view that the ban on assisted dying is cruel”
As someone diagnosed with dementia 4 years ago, I too am saying pre and post diagnosis that the ban on assisted dying is cruel.
I’m asking the question – is death better than allowing my brain to be claimed by dementia? I believe so.
Toynbee came under criticism on social media for her comments and I for one fell under the spell of retweeting these comments simply because I trusted the views of the person and not because I’d read the article for what is was – an honest, thought provoking article –
“That’s what her two loving sons say and they want it written the way she would have”
Would I want my daughters to be criticised for wanting to express my thoughts once I tip over the edge into someone I don’t know? The thought of that makes me so sad – So I’m stating that now for all to see and for those who do criticise, to refer to my writing in the future.
We must remember that everyone is entitled to their opinions of assisted dying. For some it will be totally against their beliefs, their desires, their religion even. For me personally it’s a conversation that needs to happen and I admire Toynbee for writing such an article as it certainly got the conversation going.
“Her old self would not recognise herself in this other being who sits in the care home dayroom. What or who she has become is a difficult philosophical question, but she is no longer Katharine Whitehorn as was.”
Yes, I do believe, as others do, that you should see the person, not the dementia. I just don’t want me as that person to be seen at all.
It is often said that once I’m gone over the edge it is my daughters who then ‘suffer’. When I’m no longer able to question the language used. When the word ‘suffering’ become an insignificance for the me that will be. The fight being over.
One of my 3 greatest fears is going over the edge into someone I wouldn’t recognise today.
Would I want to sit in a care home – No
Do I want to be dragged over the edge by dementia? No
Would I want to sit blissfully happy yet unrecognisable as the me that is currently – No
Would I now want my future self to fail to recognise the 2 most precious people in my life – of course not.
So why shouldn’t there be an alternative?
Some people have said, ‘You havn’t thought it through, what happens if your happy and content in your new self? You don’t know how you’ll feel’ …….I sigh at this point…..they’re missing my point. I don’t want to be that person……I’m making that decision now. Once again……..as I’ve said it before
I refer to Euthanasia in my book, Somebody I Used to Know.At the moment the only alternative is to fly to Dignitas. But I don’t want to fly to a strange land, to be in a building I don’t know, to be in a room I don’t know. To know now that my daughters would have to fly back alone. Even the proposed new laws in Guernsey refer to those terminally ill with a limited time left – but we’re never going to have that luxury of time defined end. Another prejudice against those with this cruel disease.
But why should dementia winning this battle be the only option open to us. I have signed the ‘DO NOT RESCUSCITATE’ forms, but often those with dementia have strong hearts that end up being the allay of dementia and keeps beating allowing it to turn the screws tighter.
We are in a catch 22 situation ……the law is on the side of animals not suffering but not humans ……..
Yes, it is an immensely complex moral, ethical and legal issue but should it also be considered as a simple matter, simply as a matter of choice? There will be those who fiercely negate such a thought – that is their choice – but shouldn’t those of us who believe in euthanasia also have the same right to choice?
Someone recently said ‘Very few of us experience a natural death’ – can’t for the life of me remember who or where I saw it…….but it is true – we die as a consequence of some event, some disease, some tragedy, some accident……but if dementia is our only way to death, it can be a long slow process if the rest of our organs are still functioning…..
All of this contentious, I know, but simply my views – please remember these words in the future if dementia sneaks up on the blind side and wins its game…..and especially if a journalist relays my thoughts as I’ve written them now, just as Polly Toynbee tried to do on behalf of Katharine Whitehorn and as I’d like my words to be told in the future, unless the law changes……..unless……..
I’m fighting for a Good Life with dementia, so surely I should have the Right to a Good Death too……and if you don’t agree with me, live in my shoes for a day……
In Toynbee’s final paragraph she writes:
“But even those who think carefully about how they definitely don’t want to end up find that rational plans, made in good health, usually slip away during a step-by-step medical decline, no longer in sound enough mind. Too late to say stop”
That ‘cliff edge’ is a very unpredictable precipice – no one knows when dementia will pull the mat from under you and let you fall. This is what makes assisted dying so contentious.
If we had cancer, medics could hazard a guess at the length of time left when near the end, but dementia doesn’t allow us that luxury.
I’ve said often before – I wish I had cancer, because then I could refuse treatment and I would have a legal way out of this world.
I applaud Toynbee for her writing. As her sons said, “……..without doubt, that if the real Katharine could see herself now she would be horrified” just as I would be horrified to see myself in such a situation when dementia makes its final move and I’m no longer capable of outmanoeuvring it – will people criticise me then for the thoughts I have now? Will they criticise a journalist for speaking my words for me?
The fighting dementia in the mind goes on long after it’s seeped deep into our brains, and when, for a moment we win, the screaming emerges, just as it would from me…
“Mostly, Katharine Whitehorn is placid, but in rare flashes of depressed lucidity, her sons say she asks for it to end, to stop now.”
Well you’ve heard my views from me now while I’m able and I hope journalist will take up my mantle and speak out for me if dementia is allowed to win me over…..on how I will hate the end result and want that choice of the final release…