I always thought Dad would die from some form of cancer. If I had put a morbid bet on it, I would have picked lung cancer. My dad had smoked since he was 16, a two-pack a day habit for good deal of his adult years, then he slowly tapered off as he got older. He only stopped smoking when he was admitted to the hospital for his gallstone surgery, where they placed a nicotine patch on him. He never returned home after that, and continued to wear the nicotine patch at the care center. As far as I know, he never smoked another cigarette, though he continued to ask for them until he passed away. Despite the growing memory loss, he never forgot how he loved to smoke.
He also started having issues with his prostate, like many older men. However, Dad, like many men, hated going to the doctor, despite pleas to have tests done to rule out prostate cancer. With vague complaints of abdominal pain and growing issues with urination, I feared the worst. I even made special pleas directly to Dad, but he refused to go to the doctor.
There were of course concerns about the condition he actually had been diagnosed with, which was COPD (emphysema). This disease is what earned the top spot on Dad’s death certificate.
There’s quite a few studies that suggest smoking is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, so Dad’s lifelong vice probably did contribute to the crumbling of his mind. It was sadly ironic that his body, despite the abuse, kept going for as long as it did, despite the destruction that was taking place in his brain. If Dad had not had Alzheimer’s would he have ended up being one of those people carrying oxygen with them everywhere?
Perhaps. Dying is not about being pretty, whether a person suffers from a mental or physical condition. Even if I could go back in time and change things, I would not wish for Dad to have a clear mind but suffer from a physical condition long-term. One just has to learn to accept dying and death as it comes to us.