Sunday, 8 March 2009

Old and grey and full of sleep

This morning early, I read a story that told of the overweening burden of guilt felt by baby-boomers that compelled them to put their aged parents into a hostel, yet to insist that they have a single room with en-suite. I gather the economics-of-ageing mandate twin- or preferably quad- rooms with shared bathroom. It gets lonely by oneself, see ...

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book.
And slowly read and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
W. B. Yeats


Joan Elizabeth said...

My parents and parents-in-law passed away before we had to experience that particular guilt trip. When I heard the news report this morning I wondered what the real answer was. Dormitories were fun when we were young students but when old and frail?

A lovely photo and poetry selection to keep my mind mulling over the matter.

Julie said...

I intend to pass away before I bequeath this particular guilt trip.

I am not sure there is a "real answer". As I relate to my father, I am informed by what he said when he was the man with whom I grew up rather than the man he is at the moment. I remember the things he would say to me about his own mother in her closing years and his feeling of being trapped. I try to reconcile what he said then and where he finds himself today. I know that the-old-dad would be really annoyed with the situation of the-now-dad. I know that what he says now, is not what he thought then.

altadenahiker said...

We can all be quite stoic when the moment is not upon us. Your dad may have been more of a father to you back then, but maybe not more himself -- just different.

Easy for me to say, I guess. My dad was hale and hearty (or so it seemed) when he died.

Julie said...

I agree: until the moment arrives we have no concept of the courage required to either live through to a timely death or die at as time of our own chosing. Either way takes courage.

He is just different, neither more than less himself. He is a product of his own decisions. But often decisions are not made, rather they are slid into. The decision to die at a time of one's own choosing demands that the individual die earlier than necessary because otherwise the decision and the action elude one very quickly.

Petrea said...

My father endured some of this but wasn't conscious of it. My mother, mentally sharp, experienced "rest home" living while recovering from surgery, and expressed her horror of such a future. I visited her there. It was okay, as those places go. But private room or shared, it was no place for her, or for me. I know the horror she meant.

Ann said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.

This is something I still have to face. We are at the half way stage with my parents in an independent living unit in a retirement village with help on call if needed. I believe the elderly deserve the dignity of privacy. My uncle, at the end, was in a shared room but he had little notion of what was happening by then.

Julie said...

Thank you, folks. In case you are wondering, this was quite easy to set up. I had just cut his hair and had sent him off to have another shower and change his clothes. I arranged it to my liking and he was none the wiser. He was only concerned to ensure he no longer itched!!

Sally said...

Oh gosh. My aunt (my sister & I are her carers) has done the full progression from independent unit to hostel now to nursing home. The hostel was ok in the beginning, and middle, but towards the end, they just don't have the facility for her. She is now physically healthier than ever but has advanced dementia. She started in a 5-share room, now 2-share. She SEEMS contented, and I confident she is well cared for.

In our area there are very few single rooms at nursing home stage - I have been in quite a few, checking for her and dad, and apart from the revolting smell (disinfectant and decrepitude) I find them so depressing.

Dad was in a 4-share in his brief nursing home stay. Mum kept him alive for ages with her round the clock care, but eventually it became too much - she was going to die herself. He had multiple problems and received some in-home community nursing, but this in fact hastened his progress to nursing home when a mistake was made with his catheter and he had a massive haemorrage. Don't get me started on triage at the A&E Dept. He was bleeding all over the waiting room, and he had virtually no kidney function (they knew this, and still we waited and waited and waited - there wwre empty beds inside)

Anyway, the nursing home looked nice but was chaotic. He didn't last long there, and he HATED it. He had enough mental faculties left to be able to know he abhored it. I was so profoundly sad. Sister and I cried ourselves to sleep several nights. I still have guilt about that, and , bloody hell, guilt that when he did die we felt released from HIS pain. Gawd.


The "nice" retirement villages, with space, not a shoebox, and private ensuites,a nd internet connections - increasingly demanded - I know I would! - can cost $550 -$600 + a week. God knows who in the normal world can afford that if they are on pensions = even if they do own a house to sell.


Julie - lovely story about Marie Bashir. Her husband just sat on a plastic chair on the lawn, looking like he was soaking up the atmosphere. He was a very GOOD rugby player too!

Petrea said...

Sally, your story is heartbreaking. It tells me what my mother did for herself she also did for her kids. She had nursed my dad and didn't want to be that kind of burden on us. While she was young enough to afford it, she purchased long term health care that paid for in-home care. (The prices go up as you age. I don't know if it's available in Oz, she lived in Oregon.) When she could no longer take care of herself, she was able to hire help - even to choose from applicants.

At first I felt left out when she wouldn't let me stay with her, but I didn't have the skills these women had and my mother lived happily under their care for a long time. She even became close with them.

An idea, for those of us who have kids: If at all possible, provide for your own future. Because they'll be able to take care of themselves, but maybe not themselves and you. It may be impossible in these times, but these times will pass.

Julie said...

Sally some of the costs out there are astronomical. I had Dad in a home down at Miranda where he had been living for the previous 28 years, but because his wife had some savings his Gold Veterans card did not help him and they demanded $250K for a room. It was all modern and sterile and he hated it. The place he is in now is old and run down and smells but he is doing okay. He no longer asks when he is going home. He can no longer remember home. This one is in Paddington and only cost $56K plus some of his pension. He is actually saving money.

Petrea, what I would like to do for my own old age is set up a group home of between 3 and 5 women (?) who share either by owning or more likely by renting. Then employ a nurse to come in and look after everyone. I just cannot find anyone else who thinks this is at all a good idea. They are all hooked on independence and owning their own home. I simply think they have not looked into the future at all. The sad thing is that this move must be made early enough so that the mind can accommodate to it. Leave it too long and it simply will NOT work.
I persist though ...

Petrea said...

I like your idea, Julie. It seems sound.