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LETTERS: In the end, on his own terms
We were just getting Dad ready for his walk around the fifth floor of the Peace Arch Hospital.
He had survived the night on a breathing machine for four hours, as I rubbed his back every 20 minutes, while praying the rosary.
The doctor told me to take him home, because he was dying.
Dad suffered with dementia, but said he wanted to stay in the hospital. He knew I would keep trying. The doctor said it was unusual for a dementia patient to participate in the discussion.
In the afternoon, he stopped eating and talking, but continued to walk to the window and use the washroom. He was sitting beside me in the hospital, when a nurse came in and told me he was dying and to notice the symptoms. She did not want Dad to hear this, but I said Dad was part of all decision making. She said this was unusual.
I told him to look up into the clouds, not down at his pain.
An hour before his death, he pointed to the clouds and smiled at me. Something pleasant was happening for him. As he was about to move to the walker, he fell forward and then backward and died immediately.
Dad was not religious, but did believe someone was watching over him. I told him to not hang around, and to go find his relatives. Dad finally had peace and no pain. He fought to the very end and entered death’s doorway with courage, as he met all challenges in his life.
For two long years, he helped us make decisions while he fought the aggressive symptoms of dementia.
My father, Mike Petrow.
A message to health-care staff: Dad’s life improved when Peace Arch Hospital placed him on a mild antidepressant. I believe it helped him fight off the sun-downing effects and the night terrors. With the right amount of anti-depressant, I believe dementia patients can be involved in their own life decisions. When there is too much medication, Dad said it was too hard to think and “screwed up” his brain.
Health-care workers need to find the fine line between managing these patients with meds and overmedicating them. It is a challenge that will help our dementia patients live more satisfying lives.
A special and grateful thank you to the amazing staff on the fifth, sixth and emergency floors at Peace Arch Hospital and the care workers at Harmony Health Care.
Joyce Sadlowski, Surrey