Worse Things Than Death

I made the 5.5 hour round trip today to see my father, who resides in a nursing home in the town where I once lived.  I moved him to that town after my mother died, so I could be closer to him.  He started out in an assisted living facility, but then dementia and other problems made it necessary to admit him into a nursing home.  He has been in a wheelchair for about 6-7 years.  I say he resides in this facility because basically he is just existing, day after day, until such time that he will cease to exist.  He has no quality of life; he cannot talk beyond a whisper, and it is almost impossible to understand a single word he attempts to say.  Other than dementia and legs that no longer work, he is in relatively good health for someone who is 94.  He takes no prescription medicine — only Tylenol.  Occasionally he gets agitated, which is not surprising, and the nurses give him a sedative, which seems to work.  Unfortunately, he has fallen a few times and has suffered lacerations bad enough for a trip to the ER for stitches.  Oddly enough, he hasn’t broken a single bone, and hardly complains about pain at all — ever.  He fought the staff tooth and nail (well, just nails, since he has no teeth anymore) when they removed his stitches last time, but I think that was from fear and confusion more than pain.

It is heartbreaking to see him linger in this state, and I told him today that I was sorry that he had to do so.  I wish what is left of his life could end.  I wish he could fall asleep forever.  Anyone who has lived too long, or is close to someone who has, knows all too well that there are worse things than death.  I will never wish for a long life — only a full one.