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Norma Sherry Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 01:26 PM
Original message
Is This All There Is?
Its a downcast day. The sky is a dismal grey, the breeze on the blustery side. Occasionally, a fine mist falls from the heavens as if the angels are overcome in their grief. Its a bit how I feel as I sit in the nursing home lobby watching the sea of elderly residents parade by in their wheelchairs and walkers congesting the hallways. I sit and try to busy myself while my husband visits his cantankerous mother.

I watch as patients roll by with tubes catching their urine and tubes giving them breath. The faces forlorn search each newcomer or visitor as if pleading for release. The caregivers no longer hear the cries for bathroom assistance or for a push down the hall. The sadness is all-encompassing and its all I can do to keep my emotions stilled.

As I sit in the contrived cheerfulness of the lobby that belies the true ambiance of hospital beds, bedpans, and doors without locks. I contemplate life under someone elses rules - rules intended to ease the burden of the nurses aides. Rules like restricted days for shower privilege and lights out. I think how culinary delights are replaced by food lacking all semblance of its natural state. Im overtaken with the realization that one day in the not too distant future, I too, could find myself dependant on strangers for my care. Unlike my mother-in-law, my husband and I are childless. There will be no beholden or guiltridden offspring to look out for us or protect us in our golden years.

For a brief moment I wonder if its not too late to adopt. But I quickly shake off that notion perhaps because there are not enough years to rack up the guilt.

So, here I sit contemplating the inevitable. Surely, one day I too will be in diapers unable to depend on my bladder and betrayed by my sphincter muscle. My eyes, which were never excellent, will fail me. My hearing, thanks to youthful exuberance, will leave me missing the nuances of a delightful conversation and no doubt, my bones will have shrunk my five-foot frame to childlike proportions. Fear will overtake me and my more courageous self will be but a far off memory. As to my memory, no doubt, it too will deceive me and I will find myself repeating the stories of my youth ad-nauseum.

So, as I sit her watching the sea of lifeless faces trapped in failing bodies, I feel the fear and sadness welling up within me. I wonder out loud, Is this all there is?

It is precisely for these reasons that I began an exploration of available choices for those of us who wish not to be dependant on others when our time comes to say adieu.
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rooney Donating Member (251 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 01:44 PM
Response to Original message
1. I thought you were describing me.
My husband of 43 years and I never wanted children so we have no immediate family. My husband will be 70 his next birthday and I will be 68. We have taken care of both sets of parents as they lived to be 86, - 93. Our Mothers were in the nursing home here and this is our hometown. We have money to do whatever we want, but at this time, we do not want to do much. We both have had great, enjoyable careers, we have traveled to just about every country in the world, had things that we wanted all of our lives. Neither of our parents were wealthy at all, so we have had the satisfaction of doing well. Today in the news, there was a story about a terminally ill couple, married 61 years) and the husband killed his wife and was going to kill himself, but the gun misfired. That is a shame, isn't it? That their lives had to end that way. Not good, in my opinion. I have some good friends who live in Oregon and they have a right to die act or whatever they call it and under some circumstances, I have no problems with it.
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godhatesrepublicans Donating Member (343 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 01:51 PM
Response to Original message
2. I've often thought that going back to communes would be an option.
I also have no interest in ending up in a nursing home. When I get past middle age, I'm considering doing what so many of us did right after college. Namely finding 5-6 like-minded people of the same age and go in for equal shares on a big house.

We can take turns driving each other to doctor's appointments, share the financial costs of housing and groceries, take turns doing chores. (Hopefully a house of senior citizens would be better at that than a house of 20-somethings were in my experience.)

And when my health fails past a certain point, I don't plan on jumping through too many hoops to drag out the end. As a very religious person, I don't think God requires us to hang on for every possible minute of painful misery that modern medicine can inflict.

I read once in a Reader's Digest that something like 90% of a person's lifetime medical costs in the US go into their last 30 days of life. (I wish I had that article now, I'm sure it had other pertinent information.) I see no reason to spend a dime just to endure a lingering death, complete with nasal tubes, colostomy bags and bed sores. A more appealing alternative can be found here: http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/meskimoicefloe.html

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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 02:04 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. That's an excellent idea. There will be alot of McMansions & Mansions
on the market in the coming years. Would be nice facilities to turn into Commune Nursing homes. Perhaps employing our own staff... Assisted Living Facilities were a hopeful sign...but even they are run by corporations and not really good models.

My great grandmother who was born in 1871 got together with three other friends whose husbands had died and moved in together in the 1950's. They had a great time helping each other into their 80s by cooking and gardening and having outside help come in to clean. Only one had to spend the last few years of her life with a son and she was never what one would call a "burden."

Finding folks one likes and going into a Commune kind of situation sure would be better than these institutions who are out to make a buck off Medicare and Medicaid. Still....are probably times when for some seriously ill folks that wouldn't work.
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 02:07 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. That's an excellent idea. There will be alot of McMansions & Mansions

on the market in the coming years. They could turned into Communes of Nursing homes. Perhaps employing our own staff. Having gardens and grounds to walk or wheel around in would be nice, too. Plus a kitchen that could be accessible for those who like to cook but need some help. Assisted Living Facilities were a hopeful sign...but even they are run by corporations and not really good models.

My great grandmother who was born in 1871 got together with three other friends whose husbands had died and moved in together in the 1950's. They had a great time helping each other into their 80s by cooking and gardening and having outside help come in to clean. Only one had to spend the last few years of her life with a son and she was never what one would call a "burden."

Finding folks one likes and going into a Commune kind of situation sure would be better than these institutions who are out to make a buck off Medicare and Medicaid. Still....are probably times when for some seriously ill folks that wouldn't work.
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-27-06 01:57 PM
Response to Original message
3. Is this all there is.....?
Don't know what choices you might explore. But, unless you believe in euthanasia you might want to consider that you will have to be dependent on someone if you live long enough to become infirm.

I had some trouble understanding your sadness, because you seem to be more worried about dependency and what will happen to you than the people who were once young and carefree who now are faced with this dependency that they might not have wanted themselves and are having to make the best of it.

It's very hard to visit a nursing home. It's very sad that no one wants to hear repeated stories of patients past lives (even though it may be their only way to keep themselves connected to some part of their lives when they like you and me had some "dignity" and something to look forward to.)

The impersonality of our times today means that rather than any of us having families who love us and are willing to take us in and help us we will end up dependent on "care givers" who are responsible for making money for the corporations who own the homes and who may have their own pressing needs financially and personally that outweigh them being able to give compassionate care over "institutionalized, robotic physical based care."

I think what bothers me is that you feel guilt is what motivates people to want to care for their ageing relatives. That folks are in nursing homes because they've played off the guilt of their children or other relatives. While some folks in nursing homes may have not inspired much love...I'm sure there are countless others who were loving caregivers themselves and should inspire some feeling of wanting to return the love that was so freely given in the hearts of their offspring and relatives.

Having had parents and in-laws at one time in nursing homes...I have to say I just can't look on it the way you do about "guilt." And, no matter how many times they told the same stories...I listened because it was so important to them to be recognized as still being human. An aunt who was also in a nursing home was so miserable, though that no one wanted to visit her after awhile. They just couldn't take the abuse. Maybe your husband is caught in the same situation. But not all there would be in the same category..one would have to believe.

I'm sorry you are having such a bad day. It is indeed hard to visit nursing homes and particularly on a gloomy day. I wish we all could do more in trying to visit these homes to bring some cheer and "outside" interaction to those who are trapped in bodies and places that they themselves never wanted but have no other choice because of circumstance and needs.
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newyawker99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-29-06 12:10 PM
Response to Original message
6. Hi Norma Sherry!!
Welcome to DU!! :toast:
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