Saturday, May 18, 2013
How old is too old? Who knows?
My mother (for many years an AMAZING woman) is 90 years old and has dementia.
She's in an assisted-living facility with a 'round-the-clock aide and we're trying to find her a bed in a nursing home. She can't stand, walk, read, make a phone call, feed herself, wipe her behind or say more than a few words (often the wrong words). She sits in her wheel chair clutching her pocketbook and a hanky, and her fingers have to be pried off the handle of the pocketbook because she can't un-bend her own fingers.
Until about six months ago, when she was able to say more than a few words, she said some ridiculous things.
She told of the three mechanics who were working in her bedroom and left through the back door (there were no mechanics and no back door), and that my father climbed out of his grave and married another woman, and insisted that her name was written on the ceiling above her bed. She also told me that a noisy family had moved into her guest room.
Last year she had a lot trouble finding "the right words," and was obviously extremely frustrated by her limitations. She used to have an amazing vocabulary, but started to substitute almost any noun for another one, or use a general term like "device" for "seatbelt" or "clock." Sometimes she'd mix baby-talk and substitution, like "toidy sheets " for "toilet paper."
Some sentences were complete mysteries. It took a long time to figure out that "produce" meant a "bank check."
Mom often answered the phone but held it upside-down and yelled and neglected to hang up. (A few years ago, when my father was fading away in a nursing home, he often tried to use the bed control to adjust the TV. One time he ejected himself from the bed.)
Those were the good old days.
Now Mom is mostly silent. She smiles a lot, watches (or stares at) television, listens to conversations intently, and has occasional moments of surprising lucidity. She'll fill in words from old songs and seems to be happy despite her limitations.
I guess that's all anyone wants at any age or stage.
Would I want to end up like her, or would I prefer to be euthanized? I don't know.
The dividing line between life and death is usually obvious. The line between a crappy life and a good-enough life my be hard for observers to discern.
Life was so much simpler when most cavemen were killed by wild beasts before they had a chance to get old and ill.