Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia
According to the Alzheimer’s associations, ” Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.” The organization’s website indicates that Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the elderly. Those afflicted with Alzheimer’s may live an average of another 8 years after initial diagnosis but it is not uncommon for patients to live another twenty years. (Alzheimer’s.org)
A marriage is between two sound minded people
It becomes a moral dilemma when the person you have been married to becomes in effect, a vegetable; incapable of thinking, remembering or caring for themselves. While many people take their marriage vows seriously and promise to be monogamous ‘until death do us part’, what happens when the person that you married ceases to exist?
Right to Die
It is the age-old debate about life-where does it begin, and where does it end? In the famous case of Roe vs. Wade, the law changed, breaking down the legality of abortion into stages that related to trimesters of pregnancy, state laws’ and other influences such as the mother’s health.
One of my first jobs was working in a nursing home, taking care of the dying as a nurse’s aide. Honestly, it was one of the best jobs I could have had at that age, because it impressed upon me where I didn’t want to end up, and it gave me insight into other people’s lives, their achievements and their regrets.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to watch the movie, You Don’t Know Jack, about the right to die, and the special work of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. What struck me in the movie was that Jack was not running around killing people. He has hundreds of people begging him to help them. These people know the road ahead of them will be worse, and they want the pain to end now.
Remember Terri Schiavo back in 2005? She was a woman whose brain injury led to a persistent vegetative state. In her case, a long and highly publicized legal battle between her husband and Schiavo’s family ended in the removal of her feeding tube and her subsequent death.
Living Wills and Advanced Medical Directives
In the United States, a living will or an advanced medical directive allows people to state their desires about prolonging their physical lives while their health and mental well being is in good order. See here for more info about living wills and a form source.
I am not an advocate of traditional marriage touting of monogamy because I think it places impossible expectations on people of our times. While science, advanced education and the medical industry have saved lives, they have created a new moral burden. Does a man or woman have sex with their demented partners and is this considered date rape? Or do they have an “affair” and find someone of sound mind that can meet not only their physical needs but emotional ones as well?
My 93- year-old grandmother has a friend named Tony. He and his wife shared countless hours of laughter with my grandmother and other friends at the senior center playing cards. Tony took care of his wife at home for almost a decade before it got to be too much for him. He recently had to put his wife in a facility, and although it broke his heart, he could not physically take care of her anymore. Now he sits at home and is lonely. My grandmother says she misses the laughter they used to share.
I told her to go out to dinner with him but she said she would never go out with another woman’s husband. She is of a different generation than I am I guess but I say, the woman, though loved dearly, is long gone and is only here in body. If the wife could talk rationally for but a minute, I bet she would tell her husband, go live your life, enjoy the days you have left.
At least, that is what I would tell my husband.
Marriage Contract Annulled
I can’t help but think that maybe we need a release form for the “mentally dead but still here”, relinquishing our spouses of their moral dilemma of monogamy, once our spirits and minds have left the building.