Sigrid

As soon as my husband Charles knew, several years ago, that he had Alzheimer’s, he let me know he would not die of it. In retirement he was a very private person who loved time to himself at home, puttering around the yard, carving something beautiful in his workshop, or sitting outside in his easy chair sipping dark black coffee, cigar in hand. The thought of being strapped into a wheelchair in the hallway of a care home seemed like an eventual probability if his disease continued to advance, as it inevitably does, and that prospect was horrifying for him.

At the time of his diagnosis, MAID was not yet legal in Canada so he hatched a plan to one day end his own life. I am so grateful that before he felt the need to carry out that plan, MAID became legal for those with dementia.

Charles asked me to help him apply as soon as we found out that MAID was an option. The application process was difficult and confusing for reasons beyond our control—we were shuttled from medical professional to medical professional because of retirements, staff shortages and miscommunications—but once we connected with his eventual MAID provider, she became a staunch advocate for him and it was a great relief when his application was finally accepted and he was given a six month window to pick a date. Because he was not ready to die by the end of that six-month period, he had to meet with yet another geriatric specialist for a new nerve-wracking capacity assessment. Luckily, the specialist decided Charles still had capacity, so he was granted a one-year extension.

A few months later, in November 2022, Charles had frightening hallucinations two afternoons in a row and decided that he never wanted another experience like that. Considering the fear he had of future hallucinations along with his diminished ability to enjoy the things he used to, he asked the MAID provider to come to end his life as quickly as possible. She said she could be at our home in two days. With the clock ticking, time took on a surreal quality—48 hours seemed both too short and too long—but it was so wonderful to have time to say goodbye, talk about all the love and adventures we’d shared, look at photos of children and grandchildren and have the luxury to hug and cry together. After saying everything we needed to, Charles enjoyed one last cigar along with a splash of red wine in preparation for the doctor’s arrival.

His death was so lovely and peaceful. He lay on the living room couch holding my hand surrounded by loving relatives of his choice as the compassionate young doctor talked about how brave he was and how happy she was for him that there was so much love in the room. After ensuring he wanted to proceed with MAID she administered the medication and he gently fell asleep.

I have no words to express how grateful I feel for his peaceful death. The process of getting there was emotionally very difficult and I think the fact that Charles had dementia meant there were particular challenges. As a volunteer with MAID Family Support Society, I hope to be a support for others going through a similar journey.