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Doing the right thing

Adventures in Eldercare March 2014

My last Adventures in Eldercare article was about Winter Fire Safety in the home. I was surprised when I received a number of calls to my office after it was published. The surprising element was that the calls were not about what was in the article, they were about what was not included. People were calling to see how Rocky was doing because I had not mentioned him in the February article. I apologize. I was still very firmly in denial at that time and I honestly believed that Rocky was rallying and that he was going to somehow be OK.

The human brain has a way of noticing the good (what you want to see) and ignoring the bad (what you are afraid to see). Unfortunately on February 18, Rocky’s final chapter was written. He was just over 14 years old and all his vital organs were still functioning well, and like most

Golden’s his appetite never abated, he ate his kibble and had his treats every day. It was his hips, his arthritis was so bad that he could no longer get up and down. He could not walk without falling. His hinds, common in Goldens, were his weakest link.

There is a delusion that overtakes you when you love a being so much; you refuse to see what is right before you. I ran into Dr. Dave Horton at the Superstore one evening and he had read about Rocky in my articles and mentioned to me, that he had found in his many years of being a Veterinarian, the decision to Euthanize a family pet was one of the most painful decisions that people ever make. He had seen the anguish played over and over again. This is the same man who calmly helped me make the right decision over 25 years ago when I held my cat in my arms, scooped up from Highway 6 minutes before, skull crushed eyeball pushed out of the socket and I begged him to try to save her. At that time he simply said, ‘Bruce, it’s not right, it won’t help, she’s going to die.’ Fast forward to 2014 and my beloved Rocky was just as close to death and I refused to see the reality that was affronting me. Well Dr. Horton is a wise man and he was right again, making the appointment and then following through was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. My wife Susan and I held him. I felt his heart stop, his chest stopped heaving, and he was gone. I knew it was the right thing to do, at that moment I also knew that I had held on too long, that he had suffered at the end and I felt guilty for that. I put my needs over his. That was wrong. But I truly believed he would somehow be OK. My emotions had taken control of my rational mind. I had constructed blinders. Once Rocky was at peace, I knew it was the right decision. I had been trying to avoid the pain of losing him, but by doing that I was keeping him in pain. It was selfish, I was wrong.

The children of a dying parent often wear the same rose-coloured glasses that I have worn for the last six months. This situation plays out often in hospital with DNR orders (Do Not Resuscitate). A DNR order is put in place so that a dying person, as they are passing will not be given medical interventions to keep them alive. The dying person, if cognizant welcomes the DNR order; the children will often balk at this, insisting that the dying parent be kept alive at any measure. This is the same selfishness that I exhibited with Rocky, putting your emotional needs first when the right thing to do is try to see the situation as it really is and put the needs of the dying person first and foremost.

You might say a dying parent is not the same as a dying dog and you would be 100% correct, but try separating those emotions. Your emotional brain reacts in very much the same way and if there is any lesson to be learned here it is that you have to remove your needs from the situation and concentrate only on the one passing, what do they need, how can you comfort them. You will carry on and you will remember the vibrancy of their life. And when your loved one passes, you can be confident that you helped them in the transition with their needs being the priority, no matter how painful it is to you.

RIP Rocky. You were the best dog a man could have. I will hold you forever in my heart.

Dr. Bruce Veltri operates Victoria Eldercare, a non-medical home care agency matching exceptional care-givers with elderly seniors, to help them maintain independence and remain safely in their own home. Victoria Eldercare is conveniently located in the new Roulston’s Wellness Centre on Donly Drive in Simcoe. Call 519-429-2644 or visit our web-site, for more information about our services.

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