My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the later years of his life. In 2005, I spent one final night with him, as life left his body. In the months and weeks preceding that night, I knew my dad was having increasing difficulties and worsening health.
I remember the day when my mother called and told me I needed to come home immediately.
When my mom called, I was at work about 3 and 1/2 hours away. For me, these were the early years of trying to establish myself in a new career, after moving to a new state and a new home. During these years, the frequency of visiting my parents had declined due to the responsibilities of living and working in another state. However, that day I dropped everything and went home immediately.
By the last night of my father’s life, he had already required full time nursing care for a few years. That night, I remember the long walk to his room and how I immediately needed to sit down when I finally saw him. At this point, he had passed beyond the ability to open his eyes and speak. However, I felt that I saw something in his face that made me believe he knew I was there. I stayed with him all that night and talked to him. He passed away the next morning.
On a related note, there is a booklet that I personally found to be helpful by Barbara Karnes, RN. The title of the booklet is, Gone From My Sight, The Dying Experience. I didn’t want to read it, but it helped me have a better and helpful understanding of the process of dying.
My Father’s Death
On my father’s death certificate, Part 1 of the Cause of Death was listed as, “respiratory failure” and “pneumonia“. Below this area was another section, Part 2 of the Cause of Death. This area was designated for listing “Other significant conditions contributing to death“. In the space provided here, they listed Parkinson’s Disease as a contributing factor.
My father struggled with and progressed through a number of the Parkinson’s symptoms shown here. Towards the end, when my dad lost the ability to communicate, eat or function to take care of himself, there were no steps taken to prolong his life. This was in accordance with his personal wishes and his living will. He was kept comfortable until he died.
While Parkinson’s disease was not the direct cause of my father’s death, it contributed greatly in the respiratory failure and pneumonia that took his life. He had progressed with Parkinson’s to the point that he had much difficulty with the task of swallowing. Because of the difficulty with swallowing, food and liquid would inadvertently get into his lungs when he was eating, which led to pneumonia. This is explained below with a quote from the Michael J. Fox Foundation website.
Will I die from Parkinson’s disease?
Most doctors say that Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal. You die with Parkinson’s disease, not from it. However, as symptoms worsen they can cause incidents that result in death. For example, in advanced cases, difficulty swallowing can cause Parkinson’s patients to aspirate food into the lungs, leading to pneumonia or other pulmonary conditions. Loss of balance can cause falls that result in serious injuries or death. The seriousness of these incidents depends greatly on the patient’s age, overall health and disease stage.
- Parkinson’s Disease Prognosis, The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research
Link to the web page quoted here.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
For information about Parkinson’s disease, click here.
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