I had a call on Wednesday afternoon to tell that my father could no longer eat or drink and that I should see him to say goodbye.
We made the 2 hour journey and spent the evening with him. My mother, my children and my wife got to see him and we just chatted and spent time in the room in the hope that he could somehow sense that we were there.
The morphine has to be strong and so he just laid there staring at the ceiling, mouth open with no real life coming from what were once misty blue eyes. They were now ‘drugged up’ grey and the only sense of life was the occasional movement when the pain seeped through. We left and we waited.
He made it through the night and so the process was repeated until we returned home. We waited.
Yesterday I received a call early in the morning to say that he had again got through the night, but that the end was now imminent. The process was repeated and goodbyes were said. He has not eaten, had no liquid and shouldn’t still be here because there is technically no brain function left, his body is just breathing on its own.
I was called by the care home late last night to say that agitation had started to set in and so he was given a syringe driver to constantly deliver pain relief. In the conversation, it was specifically stated that this was it and so I eventually fell asleep with my phone next to the bed. And I waited.
This morning he is still hanging on and has now not had food or water for more than 4 days, just endless doses of pain relief that take away any sense of truly living. I can’t say goodbye again, I can’t repeat the endless tears, the constant warnings of death and the waiting.
It feels cruel to me for everyone concerned. He has battled Alzheimer’s for 8 years and steadily gotten worse to the point that for the past 2 years he hasn’t really been with us. We have had moments of lucidity, but they stopped happening many months ago and so the past few weeks have been simply watching someone die, ever so slowly.
If he was a dog he would have been put down. I know that sounds awfully harsh, but when you see your father lying there with no sense of living for so long, and especially over the past few days, it feels like we are keeping him alive for no other reason than we have to. He is not receiving any food or water, just drugs to stop pain and the conclusion is inevitable. He is not going to recover because this is Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease that leaves no emotion unturned and which, for people as fit as my father, can take many years to finally achieve its goal.
This process is repeated throughout the country and around the world, and it makes me question why we allow a life to continue when there is no living to be done. The last thing I would ever want is for my father to die, but it takes seeing him ‘living’ like this to make me almost want it to happen, for the pain to come in one big blow and for all of us to be able to let it out and grieve. Selfish? Yes, it is, but all logic inside of me knows that would be best for him as well.
Is human life really so important that we prolong it in the face of what could be classed as cruelty? I really don’t know. My father has always done what he wants to do and that now includes continuing to breathe when it makes no sense to do so.
We will just wait, we will cry, we will be with him and we will continue to love him.