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Saying Goodbye

Adventures in Eldercare January 2014

I have written about my old dog Rocky a few times over the last couple of years. 14 year old Rocky is now reaching the end of his life; his physical body is deteriorating rapidly, especially his hind quarters. He has great difficulty getting up and down and going in and out of the 4 steps to our side yard. He has had a few accidents in the house and has lost his appetite. Rocky is a part of our family, a beloved pet and companion. I am sharing this not only because I am saddened by the fact that I will be losing my beloved pet soon but also to point out the ironic conversations that occur around this inevitable event. It seems like everybody and their sister has an opinion and shares it freely often with ferocious immediacy. ‘Put him out of his

misery’, ‘You are cruel to let him live like this!’ I am waiting for the post man and the newspaper delivery girl to chime in. In this situation, Rocky has no voice, I am his voice and I have to let him go and I will when I feel he is ready, this is a difficult decision.

Why share this? I work in Eldercare. I work with seniors every day, but very few people ever talk openly about these issues. End of life decisions are talked about in hushed tones. Even as I write this I type gingerly so as not to offend anyone. Death is inevitable, we all know this, but yet talking about death is still taboo. I think it is time that we all rethought death a bit and the only way to do this is to talk about it.

We have to stop viewing death as a failure and focus instead on a good life with a good death. André Picard

When I give talks at nursing homes or at senior centre’s it is inevitable that I will be asked if assisted suicide is legal in Canada. It is not. Suicide is legal in Canada; physician-assisted suicide is illegal. You have rights as a dying person, but not the right to end your life assisted by the medical team, at least not yet, but nothing will change without a national conversation on death and dying. As it is now, these are your rights as a dying patient;

You have the Right to: To be fully informed of your treatment options.

You have the Right to: Recognition of Pre-planned Treatment Directives

You have the Right to: Recognition of a Substitute decision maker

You have the Right to: A Second Opinion

You have the Right to: Pain and symptom management

You have the Right to: Refuse Treatment

You have the Right to: Discontinue Treatment (even if you agreed to it previously)

You have the Right to: Refuse CPR (Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR)

You have the Right to: Refuse food and drink (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking)

(Thank you to for this information)

Start with knowing your rights, talk to your physician, talk to your caregivers, write your directives down, and inform other of your wishes. Start talking! Let’s take this death and dying taboo out of the closet and put it on the kitchen table, chew on it a bit and move forward.

This conversation will never be as easy as opinions on a dying family pet, but not talking about it will never make the process better. You planned your life, start today to plan for good death.

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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