Tuesday, October 25, 2005

To Be or Not To Be

Rest in peace--that's what Mom wants to do on an average morning, unless she has the option of going shopping or spending time with one of her children.
She wants to sit in her recliner in front of the television, watching videotapes of her earlier life. She also likes to push the pedals on her small bicycle machine or go out on a doctor visit.
She does not want to do exercises--leg lifts, arm raises, knee lifts like marching in a chair, or arm pushes up from her recliner to stand at her walker.
Can I blame her? I don't get to the gym too often; I should exercise much more than I do.
But in her case, lack of mobility puts her on a steep incline toward death. (Come to think of it, my lack of exercise does the same--it's just that I'm further away from that end, so my choices don't seem to matter so much.)
During each hospitalization--a year ago for her broken hip, last June for her near asphyxia, last September to get a pacemaker--she loses mobility but eventually regains some of the lost ground.
The net loss, however, has put her where she is today: in a wheelchair or chair all day along, unable to walk even with a walker and assistance. The physical therapist today said that walking again is not a realistic goal; the goal is simply standing and bearing her own weight in transfers from chair or toilet to wheelchair. Right now it takes two people, or one very strong person, to manage most of these maneuvers.
The moral issue, therefore, is this: should we cajole her into doing exercises to reach these very limited goals?
Or should we let her rest, and decline, in peace?

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