Do we or do we not have free will~
I've spent the last two days with my mother at one of the best nursing homes in CT. Heart-breaking is an apt description of my emotional turmoil. This visit has stirred and agitated me in new ways. I'll try and explain while raising the questions that have awakened me in the middle of the night.
It was piano hour when I arrived on Tuesday. An old, hunched over man, played the piano for all the residents on the Alzheimer's floor. Wheelchairs lined up around the piano and beyond. Chairs filled with frail bodies that still could walk. My dad and I were with my mom, wheel chaired bound after her broken hip. Behind us a husband stood beside his wife, also wheel chair bound.
My emotional stream of consciousness...choking back tears knowing that my mom had no idea who I was, horrified at the slumped over bodies that filled the chairs, delighted when I saw some of the residents nodding, singing, and truly enjoying the music, angry at the frustrated husband behind me who was pushing his wife back into the wheel chair ever time she tried to stand, and valiantly squelching a wave of fear that threatened to overtake me; a sense of hopelessness.
What on earth are we doing with our elderly?
We treat our animals better than we do our elderly who are infirm, and unable to care for themselves. Alone, unable to walk, incontinent, demented, and totally dependent on health care professionals; some good and many who could care less about the person in the chair. What happened? When my dog was unable to get up off the floor at 14 years of age (81 human years), I took her to the vet. Cancer. I put her to sleep. I would never have let her suffer, put a diaper on her, built a doggie wheel chair, and fed her with a spoon. She would have been horrified.
And, yet this is what we are doing with our loved ones, and those forgotten and unloved. Why do they not have the choice to die before they are in this incapacitated state? In bygone years, and lost cultures, the elderly who were revered and respected, walked into the night when it was there time to return to spirit. They knew it was time. They chose. And, with dignity, they died. We have Hospice for those who have cancer and do not recover. The person is able to choose to some extent, and lessen their suffering.
Not so with our elderly, especially those whose minds have decided to take a detour. Bodies are able, minds are not. Slowly everything fails, until the last stages of incapacitation which I witnessed Tuesday and Wednesday. I am struggling with this unacceptable reality. Where is the line of demarcation that defines quality of life? Why do we not get to make that choice?
My mom is one of the few lucky ones. Doted upon by my father and sister who so lovingly care for her, feed her, massage her, and make her laugh, her days have some happiness. I love watching how her eyes light up when my dad walks into the room. It makes me cry. But, I know my mother, too. And if she had the choice, she would not chose this for herself. And, when she looks me in the eyes, and says "I'm tired and I want to go home." I tell her with my eyes, "I know mom." And, my heart breaks.