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LETTER: Health care future should involve end of life focus

'It is important that we stand up to the government to change the laws so it is accessible to those who want help,' wife of Alzheimer's patient urges
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Today everyone is asking for better health care, more buildings and better staffing. This is the easy way out (to) take the shortest route to just more problems. Perhaps if we thought a little longer on the problem and tried to fix the laws so people do not fall “through the cracks” but have a good life ending, this could be alleviated.

Allow me to share my story with you. My husband and I have been married over 30 years. We made provision in our wills that when it became necessary for the other to assume the power of attorney or “substitute decision maker” they would continue on with what we had in mind when we wrote the wills. I waited as this is a very hard decision to make.

He hasn’t known who I am exactly for the last two years but does know I fit with him somewhere in his life. He has been diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer’s which is terminal no matter what. When he became dependent on the nurses to dress him, shave him and show him where he sat at the table to eat, I started asking if this was the way I would want to exist. The answer was no.

When I asked myself if I were in his shoes would I be happy. No! I asked if I were in his shoes and knew there was something I could do to get him out of that position, would I be happy if he did nothing. My answer is that I would be very angry. What would your answer be?

So, I swallowed my pride and wrote to the doctor to ask for medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Two months later, as I had not heard a word from anyone at the home, I ran into the doctor and she said No. He is better than the other residents and happy, said the doctor. 

Well, I agree with her that he is better physically than the other residents, but mentally he keeps using his AKA riffle to shoot a lot of people. He has never held a gun, to my knowledge, in his life.

I went for my COVID test and when I came out she asked the nurse practitioner to speak with me. He explained to me why he couldn’t have MAiD and that my husband would just slip through the cracks. Is that what we want for the end of our lives?

I felt so useless! I first came home and researched what the doctor had said and it is true. Although the legal system in December 2021 made it so you do not have to consent on the day of your procedure, you still have to be able to consent to the procedure. Advanced directives/requests are not legal as of yet.

So when you enter a long term care home with Alzheimer’s it would be next to impossible to get MAiD because of your diagnosis.

The last blow is to find out that if you are named in their will you cannot ask for MAiD. Frustrated, I feel that the only thing I can do for my husband and people who haven’t had to deal with these problems and do not know what could be ahead for them is to advocate for the changes necessary for all these people slipping through the cracks.

There will always be people slip through the cracks until we change the laws and make it legal for the power of attorney to act on the wishes of the person and to legalize the advanced requests so it is stated in black and white what the person wants and to respect the wishes of most people.

A lot of seniors may be interested in knowing the pieces that aren’t talked about often but make a big difference in their lives.

It is important that we stand up to the government to change the laws so it is accessible to those who want help. I am one that doesn’t want to live in that state but until the laws change I will.

Ann Cox,