How and when
My dad has been falling down for a while now--two or three months, maybe more. In the last week, he has been unable to get back up. He fell next to his bed, he fell in the bathroom, he fell in the living room.
The Parkinson's problems are piling up--swallowing, walking, talking--and the workarounds are getting more burdensome. He doesn't care for the soft foods he can manage to get down; he can't go downstairs to the washing machine, so he wears the same clothes for days at a time. His once-lively conversation is now so quiet and uninflected that he just gives up with a shaky wave of his good hand. My sister, the only one local, calls every night on her way home; my dad calls her every morning when he wakes up. If he doesn't answer at night or call in the morning, she goes to his house. Twice, she arrived to find that he had been down for hours.
He does not want live-in help. He doesn't want daily help. He does not want so much as someone to stop by and make him a bowl of soup. He wants to live in his house, by himself, until it is absolutely impossible for him to do so. We are taking the measures we can--a new specialist, a medical alert device, safety rails, a shower chair--but we know that these steps are mostly for our own peace of mind, an outlet for this need to do something.
When he was first diagnosed, my dad made some oblique references to his "stockpile" and asked if, when the time came, we would "want to know in advance." I told him that, yes, we would want to know, if only to try to talk him out of it. I thought at the time that he was being a bit melodramatic, and that, perhaps, his saying such things was a sideways plea for help. That, perhaps, he wanted us to talk him out of it, reassure him that he had many good years ahead of him. But when he repeated these questions to my sister on Saturday night, she said he seemed perfectly straightforward: he wants to know if we want to know, or whether he should surprise us instead.
I am his daughter, the one most like him, and yet I have no idea how to respond. It is his decision: his faculties are not in question. But I don't know if I can stand knowing. I'm not sure I'm strong enough for that.