Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Catherine’s Biggest Fear

SPECIAL TO LIFE MATTERS MEDIA
Noreen Burke Coussens, Elder Guide, Ltd.

Catherine and I were discussing her health.

At 95+, she is fairly stable. Her vital organs are functioning, not like that of a 20 year old, but she is getting along. We proceeded to the topic of end of life. Catherine talked about her brother’s sudden and unexpected death. He ate a large meal and had a massive heart attack. Catherine said it was hard to accept, and yet the doctor was not very surprised based on Gus’ medical history.

“So, if you could choose, how do you hope your life plays out?”

“I want to just go in my sleep.”

Doesn’t everyone? Just not wake up seems to be a theme for the elderly, no fuss, no bother. And why not? They have lived longer than they ever thought and their goals have either been achieved or are no longer achievable.

What Catherine said next struck me.

“I am afraid that when the time comes, and the doctors know that I won’t live much longer, they’ll just put me in a room, alone, to die. This is my biggest fear.”

After reassuring Catherine that as her care manager, I would not allow this to happen; I began to describe what many of my clients have experienced at the end of life. She would not be left alone in a room. She would have care, probably care that would feel like pampering. She would be allowed to rest when she is tired and engage in life when she had energy. Catherine’s needs, however large or small, would be met.

“Thank you, I feel better that we talked about this. It has been something that has bothered me for quite a while. Now, can we plan a trip to the mall?”

Prior to working with Catherine, I was told by her family that she would never discuss her wishes regarding death and the care leading up to her death. She would simply change the subject. Was Catherine resistant to share this fear with loved ones because of their potential reaction? Was the fear so deep that she couldn’t verbalize it, adding further fear that it might become her reality? I do not know the answer to these questions.

“I am afraid that when the time comes, and the doctors know that I won’t live much longer, they’ll just put me in a room, alone, to die. This is my biggest fear.”

What I do know is that her fear is now known to me.

I will do everything possible to offer continued reassurance until the time comes, when my words become action so that Catherine will live her final days in comfort surrounded by those she loves and those who will care for her.

How many other Catherines are among us?

– Image courtesy Public Domain Pictures