Australia has recently introduced plain packaging with very graphic images of the consequences of smoking in an endeavour to dissuade people from smoking. Perhaps we should introduce tours to care facilities for seniors as a deterrent in the same manner for those in the middle age category who refuse to take care of their health.
We received a call that Mum had taken another fall. It is as if her brain and feet no longer work in tandem, and even when we instruct her step by step it is a long and arduous task. I remember our Dad had the same difficulties towards the end of his life. One day he and I ended in quite a tangle when I could neither get him to sit nor stand, as he hovered between until we were rescued by nursing staff.
Nothing can stop the erosion of age, but in many ways my mother is responsible for some of what is happening to her. She was always resistant to going to the doctor for regular check-ups, was frequently difficult about, and in fact could not be trusted to take medication when she required it, and hid the true state of her physical and mental decline from the family. Before her collapse last year her doctor had asked her to return for a follow up and she did nothing about it.
She did tell one of her sisters, but swore her to secrecy Her sisters are just as resistant to maintaining their health, but if that sister had just phoned one of us, maybe our mother would not have become so ill, collapsed, or had the heart attack that followed. The sister she told has experienced two bouts of cancer; one breast, the other bowel cancer, and so surely she knows the value of medical help. Then again, she refused follow up treatment after surgery for the bowel cancer. It is if they would rather die than trust medical treatment.
A visit to a seniors’ care facility shows not only that the old become invisible and neglected by the government they supported all their lives, but is also a sharp and painful reminder that age comes to everyone, and not always pleasantly. We can’t stop getting older, however we can do a lot about how we age. Keeping our minds occupied, our bodies moving, maintaining relationships with family, friends and the community, assessing support and medical treatment and being honest with yourself and others, in my opinion will go a long way to improving the quality of an old age.
Well may my mother have argued that it was her life and she would do as she wished, but the truth is, her life wasn’t her own. She was dependent on my sister for so many things in the last few years, and was only able to live alone in the family home because of my sister’s diligent care; her sacrifices. Yet so many times my sister’s efforts were met with anger and hurtful words.
No on has the right to expect another person to give up their lives for them. Parenthood is not a reason to expect children to exhaust themselves caring for parents who don’t play fair by doing their best to maintain their own health and independence.
Most children, especially daughters, do the caring though. Year in and year out they worry, and feel guilt because they can never do enough to hold back time. They carry the burden of walking behind and taking care of the details when plans and decisions are neglected until it becomes an emergency. They go home and weep for what has been lost, and for what is approaching.
The cycle of life goes around, but we need to take responsibility and plan to have an old age of quality and one that not only we, but our families may enjoy too. Plan for it now, no matter your age for it comes tapping on the shoulder in the blink of time.