The woman had been receiving facility care for Alzheimer’s disease for the same amount of time as Barnes’s wife — they were checked into separate facilities in January.
But things should never get that far, said Carol Long, director of adult daycare at Onslow County Senior Center.
Long not only works with the elderly, she cared for her mother who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years before her death in 1999.
“No way would I ever consider euthanasia,” she said. “Alzheimer patients don’t know they have the disease. They are comfortable with their situation. Who is suffering the most is family and caregivers who cannot see past the need for 24 hour care.”
Long said with most ailments, a caregiver can take off a week or two off of work, look after the person in need and then go back to business as usual. But with an Alzheimer’s disease or any type of dementia, the care is for a lifetime.
“Today there are so many resources available to families with a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” she said, adding that the senior center offers caregiver classes and hosts seminars — the next one scheduled for April 6 — with legal and financial planning, how to become a stronger caregiver and information from Home Health and Hospice.
Barnes said he brought Faye from the facility where she was living to Britthaven on March 1 because of Britthaven’s reputation. She is one of around 25 Alzheimer patients at the facility.
“The people here are fantastic,” Barnes said. “I am really grateful for the level of care they give Faye.”
Barnes visits around four times a week and spends a long time with his wife when he comes, according to Britthaven staff.
Faye celebrated her 80th Birthday on Friday. Family and close friends had a party for her in Britthaven’s dinning room area.
When Barnes entered her room, Faye told him she was tired and wanted to “stretch out and get some rest.” Then a few minutes later, Faye began to look for her car keys and mumbling.
“I want to go home,” she said quietly and tried to leave her room. Barnes gently escorted her back to her bed where she fell asleep for a few moments in his arms before waking up and talking about going to her birthday party.
Patsy Demming, one of Faye’s teaching colleagues who was present Friday for Faye’s birthday party, said Faye has been talking about “going home” for the last few years, even when she was at her Hampstead home with Barnes.
“She looks good, a bit feeble, but good,” Demming said of her life-long friend.
Barnes said Friday was one of her better days.
“It breaks my heart to see her living in hell and I can do nothing to help,” he said.
Barnes writes a check for $5,480 every month to Britthaven. He said his motivations are not financial, that because of sound investments he could afford to write those checks for the next 10 years.
Financial hardship was listed only once by 25 people who took a survey last year after their loved one was legally euthanized in Oregon. All 25 listed loss of dignity as the main reason they chose euthanasia.
Recent Gallup polls suggest those who support euthanasia tend to be well educated. Barnes and his wife have college degrees from Campbell University where they met as students. Faye retired as a middle school teacher and Barnes retired as a state agricultural extension agent and then went into insurance. One of their sons is a veterinarian, the other is a realtor married to a dentist.
Religion is the number one reason people are opposed to euthanasia, according to studies published in The American Behavioral Scientist.
“I used to be a man of faith, but not anymore,” Barnes said, adding that he began to move away from regular church attendance with his retirement and took a large step back from traditional Christian beliefs with the onset of his wife’s disease.
“We talked about the end of life,” Barnes said of a sober conversation he had with his wife several years ago, adding that she asked to be “put to sleep” if she ever became mentally diminished.
Barnes said he doesn’t feel the laws in North Carolina will change in time to help him or his wife, but maybe the next generation could be spared the pain he has endured watching his wife die in increments.
Daily News columnist Mike McHugh contributed to this report
The Jacksonville Daily News, NC, : 25 Mar 10