Elderly Woman Decides It Is Her Time To Go
by Pohia Smith, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Early Sunday morning, Beulah Clougherty, 94, of East Liberty, got her wish and died -- at home and without any equipment artificially prolonging her life.
She told her daughter, Barbara Clougherty, 70, on Jan. 18 that she was ready to go and took to her bed in an apartment within Barbara and her husband's home.
"She's made her peace; she's not afraid," Ms. Clougherty said last week.
It's a moment Mrs. Clougherty had planned for about five years, from the time she drew up a living will saying she wanted no resuscitation or extraordinary means to keep her alive in the event of something like a stroke or heart attack. That's also when she first did end-of-life planning with her family.
"She's had the conversation with me on many occasions. She had it with her doctor. She had it with my brother, my son," Ms. Clougherty said.
She wanted "no tubes, no life support." She wanted to die at home, and the apartment and the availability of at-home hospice through Forbes Hospice made it possible.
The reasons Mrs. Clougherty decided it was time to die included the physical. Along with the declines of old age, she has had congestive heart failure, arthritis in her spine, compressed back discs and severe osteoporosis. She has had three open heart surgeries for valve replacements.
"A week ago she said, 'I can't get up ...' She was in horrible pain. She took to her bed last Tuesday," Ms. Clougherty said last Wednesday. "She's ready to go. She wants to see my dad, my brother. She said, 'This is my time.' " The doctor and then hospice were called.
She was put on enough pain medication to take "the edge off the pain from the horrible back pain of the compressed disc and spinal arthritis, so it's helped her relax."
Although she was sleeping more, she remained sharp. She watched President Barack Obama's State of the Union address and daily watched "Judge Judy."
A hospice nurse told Ms. Clougherty last week her heart could stop the next day or that she could live another week or two.
"She's not eating any more, but she's still taking liquids," her daughter said. "... It's hard to judge."
"She says, 'I have a right to do this and no one can tell me differently.' "
Barbara, who has a living will of her own, said her paternal grandfather did the same thing.
"He just didn't get out of bed," she said. "He said, 'This is what I want to do.' ... It took him nine days, and his mother had done the same thing. ...
"I think old people did this a long time ago before there were machines that kept people alive."
Pohla Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1228.
First published on January 31, 2011 at 12:00 am