I come whenever I can, a round trip of several hours. And although the care staff are always welcoming, I see the disappointment in their eyes when I leave. With a couple of short breaks, I can usually last three hours. It’s all I can take of the mumbled sentences that make no sense, watching television while he sleeps and swapping pleasantries with the staff, who always seem surprised by my presence.
They assure me that there is a steady stream of other family and friends who drop in. I try not to take it personally, although it feels like a criticism. I am thankful for the way the staff look after our relative but we all know he barely registers my presence. As far as I can tell, he is happier in the company of the people who care for him and clean and feed him.
Frankly, I feel like an inconvenience, a stranger interrupting his routine. I have thought about not coming any more and I secretly wonder how a civilised society can allow a person to subsist in his condition – not living, merely existing in a gradual, unstoppable decline.
He lies there bedridden, half-paralysed and hovering between worlds. I am in no doubt that he receives the very best palliative care, but I can’t help thinking that society shows him less compassion than it would an animal in making him endure this.
The whole experience has made me think about making a living will, and also about the wider issue of end-of-life care. I also question my own motives more now. Do other visitors wish their loved ones dead, to end their suffering and ours?
• Tell us what you’re really thinking at firstname.lastname@example.org