As you lay dying people will be compelled to examine your body and your spirit. If you are recovering from a fall, your family will gape at your body and wonder: should we try to build his strength back up? Maybe just a bit? He looks and seems to feel better, surely we can try to exercise his limbs in bed just a little bit with the goal of using the commode or getting into the wheelchair?
As it stands, right now, the official hospice answer is No. Don’t ask him to do anything, he is frail and all actions require oxygen to limbs that he lacks. If he wants to move, let him decide to move, but don’t ask him to do anything. He is, after all, on hydrocodone and a spectacular array of drugs. We are told to wait for you to give us a sign that you want to move around. If you don’t ask, we don’t suggest. Is this the way it should be?
I get it, the official reasoning, but I have questions. First off, as a yoga instructor I know that the body responds positively to motion. Motion is Medicine. For my dad, I’m not talking sit ups, so cool your jets. I’m talking about any motion one might do will lying in bed. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine horizontal tai chi or isometric exercises. Finger stretching exercises, simple range of motion exercises.
As I lie dying I imagine I might want to twist gently to aid my digestion and relief gas. I know a supine position makes my back ache so instead of another pillow I might want to draw my knees to my chest. If my brain needs oxygen I could hang it off the side of the bed. These are all actions I do every day, why would I stop as I start to die and diminish? Will some nurse tell me I can’t?
Right now they seem to say, he’s the boss. So remember, Future Me, you are the boss of you. I want to remember this especially if some doctor is telling me NOT to hang my head off the side of the bed.
Another thought: what if the official hospice answer is a way to keep people in hospice? Keep them bed bound? Sure it’s safer (less chance of falls) and easier on the caretakers (less strenuous, less chance of throwing your back out).
In my opinion, If you want to die within a six month time frame (the official length of hospice) then a great way to speed the process up is to not move. You will require more drugs (laxatives especially) and that supports the whole medical paradigm which is nice because this country needs the work, but is that what you want? Is that your goal? Maybe the goal is not to die with the dignity of effort, but to die by making everything easy on those who must care for you and live on. I say it flippantly, but I think this is also an important (unspoken) goal of medical caregivers.
Finally, this whole thing reminds me of something I heard about in a seminar with Aadil Palkhivala. It was about sugar and how sugar is the enemy of health and how sugar feds inflammation and cancer cells. A woman in the audience mentioned the abomination of her chemo ward where staff wheeled carts of ice cream and skittles around to chemo patients tempting them to eat by saying, “Eat, Eat Anything”. She questioned this logic, “We poison ourselves to kill the cancer, then we are told to eat crap. Why?” The official answer was, they are more worried about the weight loss and that any food is better than no food. Really? Seems that cancer wards should offer only the best and freshest food–apples, pears, wholesome crackers, simple delicate rice, sweet potatoes, nutty chewy breads, ginger teas…
When I hear stories like that I really wonder, do they (the illness professionals) really know anything? When I question them, their feathers get ruffled like I’m some kind of a nut trying to upset the delicate balance and make their life and work more difficult.
But I’m not a nut. I strive for balance every day. I believe in all things in moderation. So why can’t death be like that? If I want to move around as I lay dying, I better not get any shit about it. And if I want to lay in savasana all day I get to do that too. I heard it’s the last pose you get really good at.
Dear Future Me: Remember, you are the boss of you: if you want to exercise, tell them. They are waiting for your directions.