Planning A Good Death
Many of my friends are taking on the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. We all go through the same process of realizing our parents' limitations: their memories fade, their stride slows, their eyes weaken, they lose their hearing. We spend time helping them shop or visit doctors; we become their eyes and ears, their extra pair of hands, their walking sticks, their active memory.
Many of my friends are also losing their parents. Yes, death is inevitable, but the loss is no less palpable for knowing that. In my mind, it is not that they have left this earth that affects us most; it is that the death of our parents orphans us. Even with all the changes we witness in our parents' behavior and abilities, even when we become their de facto parents, even when their memories fade, they are still our elders, our primary source of life and love, the embodiment of our childhood. When they die, we stand alone.
When my friend Sarah called to tell me her mother had passed away, I felt her loss. I remember her mother as a lovely, vivacious woman. I also know what it's like to lose a parent. Not in the euphemistic use of the word that means death, but in the actual meaning. I've lost my mom, several times over. And here's the biggest difference in caring for a parent with Alzheimer's vs. a parent who is just, well, aging: Mom's disconnect from time means she has no recollection of me as a child, or of caring for me (or my brother). Additionally, she does not remember her grandchildren (or great grandchild). She is orphaned in time.
Today we met with the social worker at the home where my 100-year-old grandmother lives. She asked my dad, as my grandmother's guardian, to start thinking about the philosophical, physical, practical and emotional aspects of her inevitable death. The Israeli Palliative Care bill allows you the right to decide beforehand to refuse or agree to treatment depending on the circumstances. The social worker requested that we meet again with her, the doctor and nurse of the home to sign and legalize my grandmother's "Living Will." If you are 65 years or older, you should carefully consider signing such a document, especially while you are still compos mentis (of sound mind). And, as my father is also my mother's guardian, she recommended we think about Mom's inevitable death, too.
We should talk about it. We can't talk about it with Mom, but we should try to determine—to the extent we can—what type of treatment Mom can receive as the quality of her life declines. It will happen, sooner or later, whether we are prepared or not.
In memory of Sarah's mom, I made sure to give my mom extra hugs and kisses at nap time. I helped Mom under the covers, laid her glasses on the night stand, and then climbed into bed with her. It was wonderful to feel embraced by her, as if I were a little girl again. Unfortunately, the feeling didn't last too long.
"We should tell your mom that it's nice when you visit," she said. "Perhaps she'll let you come again."
Tell my mom? I kept the tears at bay as I untangled myself from her, blew a few more kisses, and headed out the door.
When in doubt, cook. That's one thing I do when I have an ache in my heart and need to keep myself busy. Here's sweet, low fat dessert that you can eat a lot of.
Skinny Mini Cupcakes
These cupcakes are sweet without the sugar. They satisfy that craving I have for sweets. Trust me.
1 large egg
1 cup rice cream (or other milk substitute)
2 Tbsp sugar
1½ tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients together. Line cupcake tin with no. 3 size cupcake liners. Spray each one with oil so that the paper doesn’t stick after baking. Pour a heaping table spoon of batter in each cupcake mold. Bake for 15 minutes. For variety, mix in one ripe banana and 1 tsp cinnamon. Makes 18 mini cupcakes.