Entry 534: Mom Can’t Die

Sorry–I’m not going to be very funny today.

Let me say at the outset that, like most reasonably sane people, I have no desire to kill my mother.

However, I wish I could help her die.

Mom is in the no-man’s land of old age. She is not terminally ill. She does not have a heart condition, or a dangerous cancer, or anything else that might end her life in the near term.

But she falls a lot. Getting off the bed. Getting out of a car. Going to the bathroom. And her bones are very brittle, so every time she falls, she breaks something. Her pelvis. Her shoulder. Her wrist. Her pelvis again. Her hip. Her femur. Each fall and each break sends her to the hospital, often for some sort of surgery, and then to a rehab place, where she spends three weeks or more largely being ignored.

She has some degree of dementia, but it’s hard to tell how much, because she’s almost always on pain meds, and she’s frequently disoriented from having woken up in a different facility: two different hospitals and two different rehab places in the last four months.

She is in Florida. I am in Connecticut. I’ve had to be in Florida much more often than I would like. I can sense my own mental deterioration setting in whenever I’m there.

On those increasingly rare occasions when she’s not in the hospital or in rehab, we don’t know what to do with her.

We’ve tried home aids. Twenty-four hours a day for awhile, but then 12, because that’s all she’s covered for. I’ve toured six different assisted living places when I’ve been down there, but, really, short of somebody being literally attached to her, I don’t see how any arrangement can be helpful. After all, she fell and broke her femur while she was with the aid; she fell and broke her hip and her pelvis while she was in a rehab facility!

Mom is in near constant pain. She cannot do anything by herself. She lives in a fog. And she wants to die. She has said so repeatedly and sincerely. Who can blame her? I don’t. I wouldn’t want to live that way.

She has even stockpiled the pills she thinks will kill her: forty 5/325 Percocets. Percocet is a combination of Oxycodone (the 325 mg) and acetaminophen (the 5mg). It’s a weird drug. It’s as if they’re saying “What’s that? The heavy-duty narcotic isn’t dulling the pain for you? Take a couple of Tylenol.”

Anyway, I did some research, and the bottom line is, it’s not nearly as easy to commit suicide with pills as it used to be, because it’s much more difficult to get the right (or wrong) kinds of pills There’s a website, lostallhope.com, that lists the minimum lethal dose (MLD) for various drugs, and, for most of them, the MLD is a lot.

For Percocet, there’s an outside chance her 40 pills could be deadly, but there’s a much better chance of Trump becoming president. There’s probably even a better chance that he’d win a second term. She’d have to take something first to keep from vomiting (from the pills, not from Trump). And she’d have to grind up the 40 pills so she could take them all at once, preferably with an alcoholic beverage. And even then, she’d be much more likely to suffer non-lethal liver damage (from the acetaminophen), and then they would put her on a liver transplant waiting list, because the 88-year-old who wants to die absolutely should undergo life-prolonging transplant surgery.

Evidently, the drug of choice for suicide is Nembutal, which was one of the sleeping pills 209254_075803974[1]from the 1950’s that more easily enabled life-ending naps. Hardly anyone prescribes it anymore, so you have to purchase it online, from shady websites that don’t use very good grammar, many of which only accept Bitcoin.  They sell it in liquid or powder form, so there’s no mistaking what its purpose is.  But Mom is not about to order from such a site, not only because she doesn’t have any Bitcoin, but because she has never been online, except while waiting at the deli counter.

Alternatively, she could go to Mexico or Thailand, but since she can’t currently go to the bathroom by herself, that’s not happening. She can’t even get to a window to jump out of it.

I could order Nembutal for her, of course (although I don’t have any Bitcoin, either), but then I’d be an accessory, and I’m not going to risk going to prison so my mom can die. I am fairly certain I would not do well in prison. Interestingly, mom would not go to prison, not only because she’d be dead, but because suicide isn’t illegal in most states, only helping someone commit suicide is. How does that make sense? It’s like saying it’s a crime to plan a bank robbery but not to actually rob it. You go to jail for aiding and abetting, but not for doing.

And even if I wanted to buy the Nembutol, you have to worry about the potency of the stuff you buy online, which mostly comes from China, and we know how good the Chinese are when it comes to quality control. So I’d first have to spend $85 to subscribe to the electronic edition of The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which maintains a constantly updated list of reputable suppliers of death-inducing drugs. And I’d hate to see what sort of spam I get after I subscribe to something like that.

So mom can’t die. And meanwhile, hospitals are all too happy to provide surgical repairs (most recently, a screw for her hip) while billing Medicare ungodly amounts, and rehab places welcome her with open arms because there are beds to fill, and various solutions for senior housing are lining up to have her join their “communities”…at least until her money runs out.  It’s easy to find assisted living, but we need assisted dying.

One thing I’ve learned is that we’re not alone. Allowing the non-terminally-ill-but-miserably-existing elderly an easy way out is a serious need that is in no way being addressed except in the corners of the Internet. And make no mistake: it is a problem that affects everyone. Because the amount of money spent on caring for people who do not want care, who desire just to let go, is astronomical and getting larger all the time.

See you soon.

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4 Responses to Entry 534: Mom Can’t Die

  1. Vinny says:

    Horrible subject handled well. Great post Mark

  2. markhal says:

    Thank you, Vinny

  3. pmrshll says:

    Beautifully handled Mark
    I’ve been there too. My dad always said “never let them keep me alive,” and wanted me to pull the plug. Much easier said than done. He too kept ending up in the hospital, and I, as his medical proxy, got calls in the middle of the night – we need your permission to two this or that procedure. I’d ask if he’d walk out of the hospital after. Of course not they’d say, then I’d ask why do it at all? But we all knew why, more money for the docs and hospital, never much good for my dad.
    No one deserves to “live” like that. He was too ornery at that point to just let go, until he finally did. No dignity a the end, which he so deserved.
    As you pointed out, the sick but not quite dying elderly are mainly a source of income for the medical community, and there needs to be a way to let them go comfortably, with some dignity, and peace…

  4. Janice says:

    This happened to Andy with his mom. It is so sad,sorry for all of you

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