There are two diagnosis that instill fear into the hearts of everyone. Cancer is the first, we know that strides are being made in the treatment of cancer but, we still see people succumb to variations of cancer all the time. In the news recently was John McCain and Aretha Franklin, they had different cancers but the outcome was the same. The second is dementia. These are so terrifying because there is no way to protect yourself from them. It isn't a matter of eating right, exercise and not smoking or drinking, instead it is random.
Cancer is treatable and sometimes, more and more often these days, people are treated and go into remission, and go on to a healthy life. Dementia, however, is not curable. It is progressive and it will take your life.
When we watch someone with dementia decline the loss is agonizing. Its not all at once, but slowly and torturously cruel. The loss of memory and the distortion of personality is an indignity none of us wants to face. In the end, people can no longer remember how to eat, a basic reflex that we are born with is lost.
Can you imagine the gift to family of, after watching such a decline, after mourning loss after loss, there was a vigil plan in place that was designed by the patient when they were healthy and still knew who they were? To, even as their life slips away, have them back and really say goodbye to the person you knew and loved instead of the shell left behind after the devastation dementia.
A vigil plan made when someone is healthy can really let their spirit flourish and personality shine. Their family will have exactly who they are back and all their quirks and idiosyncrasies alive and well for those last few days. After death when the family is reflecting on their loved ones life they have this little bit of time when, although they were dying and not able to communicate, they were healed. Their personality on full display can help heal the family.
A vigil plan is so much more than lighting and music at the death bed, its about giving family the gift of you, whole and healthy even as you take your last breaths. A vigil plan will be the part of dying that your family will remember and reflect on how they could give you all the things you loved and wanted. In the case of dementia so many of those things will be lost during the decline of life. To have one last chance to celebrate with you exactly who you are is the kindest thing you can do for your family.
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.