Waiting for God

The Life of a PoA

I am tired.  It is a lot to ask of one person, to take over the responsibility for another’s life.  Even in a world filled with love, compassion and consideration for others, the end of a life of a loved one is hard for North Americans. 

It is frustrating to be responsible for somebody who has no clue what sacrifices must be made to ensure quality of life as their life is coming to an end.  Unless this has happened before, it is not possible to know the burden.  Like parenthood, one cannot understand until it happens to you.  And therein lies a major problem.  

A growing number of people are having this experience, and when it is over they are burned out.  Spent.  Exhausted.  They don’t have the wherewithal to help the next tranche through the process.  They just want to recover and move on with their own lives.  The lives they want back.  

Sadly most of us are retired when our parents begin the end of life process (which can take years). While they may have more time than a working aged person like me, they are also slowing down.  There is little energy lift, and many of the lessons they learn go unshared.  Society assumes their loss of weight and general fatigue is due to their genetic makeup, and because they are old. 

It boggles my mind at how we treat our seniors.  Our systems do nothing to help me. Why do we treat them so badly?  Are we annoyed at their slowness, their confusion, and their inability to take care of themselves? Is it inconvenience?  A reminder that we too will age?  Agism is real, and our systems are ripe with it. It is amazing to watch somebody treat a blond or brown haired person with great kindness and enthusiasm, only to see them turn to a white haired, wrinkly person and speak rudely and as if they had no brain cells at all. 

Is it that we live in a culture that focusses on the individual rights of all, without regard for the rights of the whole?  “What about me?”  “I have a life to live, don’t put me out?” 

I think there may be a case to be made that parents are seen as endless providers for their children.  It seems a North American cultural mantra.  Parents sacrifice when the child is young, then are expected to leave an inheritance to the child, who feels they deserve it simply because they are alive.   They didn’t ask to be born, so why should they help their parents? 

North American parents in return, do not want to burden their children.  In fact, it could be argued that our high quality of life was obtained because most parents will do almost anything to give their children a better life than they had.   It is the parents who protect. 

But then the paradigm switches. Sometimes slowly so the time of transition cannot be pinpointed.  Sometimes all too suddenly that it takes the entire community off guard.  Parents need the care.  Their brains are no longer capable of intellectual flexibility, or anything new.  Must less the value systems of the youth, or at least the younger than them. 

Their bodies slow down and their minds focus only on the basic elements of life; food, pain, bowels, and what they did that day.  The cerebral cortex does not have the ability to regulate the amygdala; they get angry fast, cry without notice, and say things that shock and stun.  Short term memory goes, leaving only past memories that they love to repeat over and over.  An old brain is not much different than a 5 year old brain, but without the ability to learn.  Five year olds bounce.  Old people break.  

These old brains also require a lot of processing time.  Too many things around them and they get confused.  Things happen too fast and they can trip into a dementia episode.  Their nerve endings no longer send fast signals to the mind.  Touch screens do not work for the those operating at end of life speed.   But, just like a 5 year old, they feel, they experience, they think and they care. 

Society does not treat 5 year olds very well.  We shove children in schools regardless of their readiness because parents have to work. We force them into a tight schedules to ensure they eventually can take care of their own economic needs.  However we treat our young, we treat the old worse.  In some cases it is understandable.  Taking over somebody’s care after a lifetime of parental abuse is not something any person should have to do.  But most of us did not live a lifetime of abuse.  

And here we are.  An aging population with poor treatment of the elderly; the ones who are at the end of their contribution to the evolution of humanity. Is it because they are at the end and will no longer directly contribute to the economy?  They are no longer part of supply and demand, but just demand.  Unless they have saved good sums of money (which most have not), their demand is a financial sink.  Perhaps we as suppliers see no point in losing money and time with no return on our investment.  We feel anger and disgust for old people.  They are slow, they drive badly, they cannot keep up with a conversation, and they are stuck in the past.  You can’t make money with that. 

Maybe it is time to rethink this.  Maybe we need to start teaching our children that it is not all about them and their future, but about “us” and “our future.”  They are only because we are.  And in that relationship between parent and child, there is a time when the roles will reverse, and it will become a child-parent relationship.  In the whole of a lifetime the roles are balanced. 

If we all took time to listen (slowly) and to seek understanding of where our end-of-life relations came from at the beginning of their life, there is room for incredible healing and growth.  Those who are dying have much wisdom to share.  Sometimes the wisdom is hard to decipher, but it is there. 

If, as a society, we valued our young, and our old, we may learn to value more than economic gain.  We may learn that life is a journey and that we grow and change along the way.  At the same time we are one of many.  And if we as individuals realized that all our relationship are just that, relationships, we many see that reciprocity is beneficial to all.  Parent-child and child-parent. 

Our aging people are the “!” at the end of that journey.  They have reached the finish line. I would like to live in a world that encourages them to pass the finish line of their own journey with all the enthusiasm of those finishing a marathon.  I don’t want to live in a world that does everything to discourage the end of the journey.  Where old people die alone, many abused and discarded because they are too slow to make a quick buck.  

But right now, I am just tired.  I have to coordinate the repair of a roof I do not own, and schedule a hearing aid appointment for a person who is no longer able to leave her house without at least two people assisting.  I have to make sure that the shifts of personal support workers do not leave her without food or going to the bathroom.  

I am worried for another fall.  I am worried that the next one will be really bad, and there are no beds in the hospital.  She fights all help anyway. 

I’d really like to spend time with my spouse, my children and other friends and relatives, but between my dying grandmother and my work, there is simply no time.  I miss them.

Right now, I am too tired to take on the world. I just want my life back.