I have heard people say that if they are ever diagnosed with Alzheimer's, they want to take a pill (or worse) and exit quickly rather than endure living with that quality of life. I nod that I understand that fear, but that I actually think having a stroke and being paralyzed may be worse.
My dear "Second Mom" growing up, Norma, had a stroke two years ago and is paralyzed and unable to do anything for herself-yet she's very aware of the hell she's trapped in. My other "Second Mom", Florence, was physically healthy to 90, but had Alzheimer's for numerous years-and for many of those years she didn't know and lived in her own little demented world.
Actually, it is a waste of time to compare ill health situations, as there will always be someone else suffering more. What is the same for everyone with ill health is the heartache their loved ones feel, as they watch those they love suffer and decline. What I have found to be most helpful is to consciously embrace whatever level of health your loved one is in right now-and stop focusing on what was, the loss, the decline, and to stop worrying about the future.
I remember when my cousin brought Aunt Dora to visit, who had early Alzheimer's but who was still quite with it. The whole time my cousin was so dismayed and cried, completely unable to live in the moment and savor the time. She just couldn't let go and enjoy that her mom was still very much alive and even enjoying herself with us.
I completely understand how difficult it is to do this re-framing of a heart-wrenching situation, as I was guilty of it myself. Whenever my elderly father would drive my ailing mother from San Francisco to Los Angeles to visit me, I spent the whole time focusing on how much they had aged and declined since their last visit. And then as their health did get worse, I was so upset with myself that I hadn't lived in the moment and just enjoyed them then-just as they were.
The lesson for all who are healthy is to savor your good fortune and to stop worrying about all the "what if's" that may never happen. And if you are coping with some health challenges, focus on what you can do-not on what you can't. And if you are a caregiver, be conscious about living in the moment and savoring the time that you have with your loved one-you'll be very glad you did.
You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at ElderRage.com