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Ch.116 Pat Still Gets to Choose

Ch.116 Pat Still Gets to Choose

          Pat and I were talking after lunch. I mentioned how nice it was just for us to be together. Her response: “Sometimes people who are together don’t need to be together.” I asked her if she meant that she wanted me to leave. The answer was a definite “yes.” And off I went, slightly shaken by her abrupt dismissal. But as I think about it, I feel glad that Pat can still make decisions and that she can communicate her wishes reasonably clearly.

          I believe that the ability to make choices is a hallmark of our basic human desire for autonomy. We define ourselves by the choices we made and make. I am Ron the chooser of marriage, quiet places, fiction, cinnamon raisin toast, etc. Pat is the chooser of rocks, abandoned calves, counseling, and interest in others. We are both defined by our choices past and present. Take away our ability to choose and you take away our personalities.

          Pat has Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that slowly eats away at a person’s ability to choose. However, Pat is not about to let Lewy Body destroy her autonomy. She insists upon her right to keep making choices. That’s why her telling me to leave felt good to me. Pat is still Pat.

          I have noticed one pattern, though, where Pat has difficulty making choices. Here’s an example. Tonight, I asked Pat if she would like me to read a chapter from a book tonight or tomorrow. I received no response. When I switched to a simpler format (“Pat, do you want me to read a chapter now?”) she immediately replied with a clear “Yes, I do.” So now I try to keep my questions immediate and clear.

          One thing I particularly appreciate about The Refuge is the effort of the staff to honor their residents’ right to choose. For example, recently one attendant I’ll call Margaret said this to Pat: “OK, on the count of three I will raise you higher on the bed, OK?” “No,” Pat replied. Margaret paused, took the time to explain what she wanted to do and why, and once again asked Pat’s permission. This time Pat said “ok.” Simple, yes, but in many institutions the question would not even have been asked and at others Pat’s response wouldn’t have mattered because they would already have raised her.

          So, tomorrow, if Pat once again tells me to leave, I shall. But I must admit I like it more when she chooses to want me to stay. After all, we’ve chosen each other most every day for the last 56 years. That’s over 20,000 times when we’ve each said yes, I want you in my life.

Pat’s comments on: Pat Still Gets to Choose.

          Ron to Pat: Do you think you still have the ability to make lots of choices around here?

          Pat: “Yes.”

          Ron to Pat: Do you still love me?

          Pat: “Yes, I will always love you. You’re my choice and I will always love you.”