Dying Gone Haywire

“Ask for help” and “Who’s on your team?” are two common phrases you’ll hear me say when it comes to caregiving, aging, or heck, just living. Taking my own advice, I called on my talented brother, Dak Gustal, who will offer fresh, humorous perspectives as an occasional guest blogger here at The Unexpected Caregiver. Please share this and other blogs. 

SteveBy Dak Gustal

The original story is called Woman Headed to Trial for Aiding Father’s Suicide.

That’s not that interesting.

Then it became: Boomers beware when caring for dying parents.
Now you got me.

This is my headline: Boomers! Bam! Pow! Yeah! Beware! Scary Parent! Run!

This has all the elements of a great story. I think there’s redemption coming.

A woman caring for her dying father does everything right:

She goes along the big path,
She observes what’s going on in her world,
She discusses it with the only people that matter,
She follows the wishes of her father.

This had to be unbelievably difficult. It involves the kind of compassion we wish for ourselves. It’s the kind of bravery we wonder if we have. It’s an intimate and personal relationship that is coming to its rightful, if unwanted, close.
If you could CHOOSE how you wanted to die, this way seems like it would poll pretty high:
Dying in your home calmly and peacefully with your beloveds at your side.

You see why something has to go haywire now? We’re going to need ‘special misfortune’ to happen to keep talking about this. We need the magic hand of bureaucracy.

Enter good-hearted, over-worked, hands-mostly-tied-behind-their-back helper, right through the front door. Action!

Now, it’s hard to blame the nurse.
Is this kind of thing in the Hospice Handbook?
She called for help.
Seriously though, is this really not in the manual?
Her supervisor called 911:

-Thank you for calling 911. Your call is important to us! Please hold until the next availa…brrring! 911 emergency, this is Lisa. How may I assist you today?
-I have a patient that is dying!
-Oh, wow! Were they shot?
-Oh, wow! That’s awesome, I mean, terrible!
-How’d this happen?
-Ok, so my Hospice nurse went to look in on her dying patient and found them dying.
Long pause.
-And what should we do?
-Wait, I thought hospice was only for people that were dying.
-Yes, but this patient has taken too much morphine and is dying on purpose.
-Oooh. What’s it say in the manual?
-I was hoping you had the manual.
-Well, I have A manual…
-Well, what’s it say?
-It says I need to send someone.
-Ok, well, then you should send someone. I don’t want to get into trouble.
-Oh yeah, no, I’m gonna send someone.

Now everyone’s gonna get into trouble.

We have such a fear about death. It seems to cause some really weird behaviors and laws. You can see why we want to protect Grampa Joe from being offed by the kids simply because it would make their lives so much easier, but we resist a system of checks and safeguards that would help define under what conditions a reasonable person with a fatal diagnosis could choose to let go before they were helpless and kept alive beyond their control. We don’t know what kind of anguish they could be in, lying there, drugged out of physical pain and all feeling.

Maybe that’s what Purgatory is.


Dak Gustal is a freelance writer and poet living in Randoph, VT. You may contact him at st.augustus@gmail.com

Categories: Caregiving Issues

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