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After a day visiting several seniors in the community, my last client really left me thinking, wondering and feeling a little unsettled.  Rose is a 94-year-old woman who was playing golf up until her 90’s. She was very articulate, engaged and was full of life until about a little over 8 months ago where she suffered a major stroke.  Her stroke left her with a severe right side weakness and an inability to walk.  While in hospital, she worked hard engaging in daily rehab with the hopes of being able to return to her home.  With time, she became stronger and was a candidate for more intense rehab at a local rehab center.  With little notice, she was transported to the rehab center.  After just a few weeks, Rose became to crumble. The light at the end of the tunnel of being able to return to her home was getting dimmer and darker with every passing day. She was then prescribed anti-depressants in hopes that this will help ‘changer her mood’. Despite the medication, she ultimately lost the will to live.  It was then, that the rehab center told her she is no longer a candidate for this intensive rehab program and that she must leave.  Within a week, she was back at home.  But home was really not a longer term solution…. She was put on a waitlist for a facility as she needed 24-hour care.  In the meantime, while she was at home, she started to walk again and regain her ‘joy de vivre’.  And then, the news came…She had to move to a facility. Rose was devastated as was I.  She was doing so well at home and yet the day had come where she had to move. A week after she moved, I went to visit her.  I asked her how she was doing and how she was managing.  Her only response to me was that she just wanted to lie down, close her eyes and hope that she doesn’t wake up anymore.  These words broke my heart.  I could feel her pain, her sorrow, her grief and her sense of hopelessness.  I left her place at the end of today wondering about her quality of life, where does she go from her?

It's estimated that 1 in 5 seniors like Rose are affected by depression. Is giving seniors anti-depressants the solution in hopes that this will help? Or is physician assisted suicide (PAS) an alternative? PAS involves a doctor knowingly and intentionally providing a person with a terminal or chronic illness with the knowledge or means or both required to commit suicide, including counseling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs.  To date, there are 18 countries around the world including Canada (Quebec) that have legalized PAS.

As I reflect back on today’s visit, I really don’t know what the right answer is or even if there is a right answer.  What I do know and what I heard from Rose today is that PAS could potentially bring her great relief. Unfortunately, this is not an option for her as it is not legal in the country where she resides.  

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Janice Hamel

Janice Hamel is a devoted social worker working in the health care field and proactively engaged in the international field.  She graduated from the University of British Colombia with her Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in International Social Work.

Over the last 20 years, Janice has taken on the role of advocate, researcher, counselor, group animator, guest speaker and manager. She has worked with adults and children living with mental health issues, woman and children affected by violence, seniors and those in palliative/hospice care. As well as in combatting to end human trafficking.