Wendy and Ruth

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My mother’s name was Ruth Hawkins and we finally celebrated her passing February this year.

We watched Ruth battle dementia for over ten years. Ten years ago support, assistance, knowledge was at a minimum and difficult to co ordinate for someone who did not want to accept their fate.

Ruth was affected by this disease at an early age; 68. Her health went downhill quickly as many changes happened in her life; separation from her husband (she disliked him immensely), and moving from her beloved family farm where her daughter and husband looked after her. It was apparent quickly that all the small observations of the past few years were getting worse. The ability to deal with money, short term memory failure, bathing habits, no longer able to drive (couldn’t remember how to start the car at times) and many more. 

Ruth required full time care and was lucky enough to find accommodation at a dementia specific hostel. Unfortunately the shock of moving and the depression of the disease saw Ruth decline rapidly; reassessed, the next level of care was required.

This lead to Ruth being in temporary accommodation while being assessed and waiting for an opening in a facility that would suit Ruth’s needs. The temporary accommodation was depressing, smelt of urine, was dark, old and made the situation worse. Again Ruth was very fortunate and after 6 months was placed in a new facility that had just been built, dementia specific with four different wings accommodating various levels of care.

Ruth spent the next 10 years at this facility.

Ruth had an accident approximately two years into her stay which affected her greatly, a broken knee and never to walk again. Her decline from the “real world” was rapid and for over eight years my mother was a “shell”; I was forgotten quickly (the youngest daughter) and conversation was a forgotten thing.  I remember her scratching ferociously, grinding her teeth and moaning, for the observer it was very unpleasant. As I am her daughter and knew my mother well I cannot tell you how much this last part of life would have distressed her.

My mother told me well before this disease set in never to put in her in a nursing home just “Shoot me”. This statement was said with passion and meaning.

Of course I was never able to assist her with her wish. There are two sides to dementia; yes let’s study this disease as it may affect many of us and has a huge impact on many, funding and research is a must.

The other is choice of life.

As someone who may suffer dementia and having watched my mother suffer this disease for so long I should have the choice to terminate my life; we don’t make our pets suffer. Euthanasia is my right while I can remember to make the choice.

Yes, slow the disease, but old age will always get us, I should be able to choose when to die.