Last week I advocated for quality of life versus quantity of years of life, but I never really defined that term – Quality of Life (QoL). And it could mean different things to different people, right?
It is important to note that there is no “correct” definition, which also implies that there is no “incorrect” definition. As we made end-of-life decisions for Carlton at our house, we kept several things in mind, which I have mentioned often. Our goals were to keep him comfortable, clean, and as content and calm as possible. (He would smile at the alliteration!)
But it also meant keeping ME from having to do more work and from having to learn new medical procedures and devices whenever possible. For instance, we decided on a Foley catheter during the final 18 months of his life to keep him from falling as he got up to hurry to the bathroom. That was something new for me to learn how to care for, and at first it was difficult to figure out. (YouTube videos were a big help!) But it kept him from falling so often and perhaps injuring himself.
We decided against a feeding tube for several reasons. He loved to eat food, even pureed food, and our mealtime together and with family was pleasurable for him. And I just hated the thought of having to learn to care for a new medical issue. That was a difficult decision, but I am convinced that we made the correct choice for us. There are those who truly NEED the feeding tube, and they are thankful it is an option.
Perhaps a key to the definition of QoL is also retaining as many of the pleasurable activities of life for as long as possible. These can be as simple as listening to music, watching birds, enjoying a good meal, watching movies, feeling the softness of a favorite blanket or pillow, petting a dog or cat (live or stuffed), and being in the presence of loved ones.
So, as our loved one’s condition deteriorates, let’s do everything in our power to preserve their quality of life by surrounding them with enjoyable experiences. We may find that these things lift our spirits as well.