A Minnesotan with Alzheimer's plans for death on her own terms

Dying at Home
A woman holds the hand of her ailing mother inside her home in Vermont in 2016.
Thomas Marrinson via AP Photo file

None of us knows how long we'll live. It's not something many of us like to think about.

Cheryl Hauser of Hopkins, Minn., also doesn't know how long her life will be, but she has a good idea of how she wants her exit to go.

Hauser, who is 75 years old, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about two years ago. Since then, she's made the decision to eventually end her life on her own terms before the worst of the disease takes effect.

When that time nears, Hauser plans to stop eating and drinking. It's a process known as VSED, or voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.

Hauser and her daughter, Wendy Longacre Brown, an end-of-life doula, joined host Cathy Wurzer to talk more about the decision.

Together, Hauser and Brown put together a list of things that are important to Hauser’s quality of life. When Hauser is no longer able to do those things or no longer wants to do them, that will indicate to Hauser and Brown that the time for VSED is approaching.

“When nothing matters anymore to me, then that’s when I know I’m ready to die,” Hauser explained. “I will know then I’m done, and I’m fine with it.”

“I’m so sad about the leaving and my people and my family,” Hauser said. But that isn’t changing her choice: “I think I’m ready for this.”

“I’m not afraid,” Hauser said.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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