The International Writers Magazine: The Right to Uncare
One in Six
So the headline reads ‘One in Six in the UK’ will live to be 100 and I quickly felt a migraine coming on.
Having spent the last New Years Eve and New Years Day cleaning carpets and washing sheets and clothes and cleaning toilets, emptying bowls and buckets because two people visiting my house over 70 are having a ‘who can produce the most crap in 24 hours’ competition, I have resolved never to be available at Christmas or New Year ever again. I suspect that all those old dears, who are naturally someone’s mothers, are lonely for a reason. Spend any time with an old person and you will understand that they are utterly selfish, will not move a muscle, eat the wrong foods, watch repeats of the same programmes they hated the first six times they were on and always, always expect someone to clean up after their mess.
I reckon there are around four to five million people in the UK ‘forced’ to look after their ungrateful parents on a daily basis. Some may have alzheimers, some dementia, some, like my own mother, just trapped by years of inactivity and now utterly dependent on drugs and the kindness of family and strangers. Some, of course, will be genuinely ill, hate putting people through the process of them being ill and cannot help their situation. Yes they do deserve our sympathy.
However, if we were really kind we’d stop the drugs – and let nature take its course. If the government are serious about bringing down the deficit, let’s stop keeping anyone over 80 alive if they are too ill to look after and feed themselves.
Harsh? Cruel? What about when you are 80? You might say. Well if I had spent fifty years watching TV on a sofa like my Ma, I’d fully expect to be totally immobile and with luck will die of natural causes. I’m confident that before I get to that state I’d find a way to end it all without burdening anyone. Unfortunately we have around 20 million really old people now who can’t care for themselves and yes it has spawned a ‘care’ industry around it, all working to minimum wage and often without proper training. But what kind of life are these old people having? Why are we prolonging their lives? The absence of dignity for MS sufferers who get often get pretty indifferent care is truly terrible.
Absenting a debilitating disease however, if any 'senior citizen' is as downright grumpy as my family or a friends very bitter mother in France, it isn’t a pleasant duty caring for them. Perhaps we could organise some kind of armistice for family carers, - a day when you can walk away, leave them in the town square with a large DNR bracelet around their wrist and no one will criticise or blame. Once a year as a quartet plays nice tunes, perhaps on a Tuesday in June as the last of the blossom swirls about their swollen feet – take them, dump them and someone will come around and give them a nice pill to take them out of their misery. As long as it is out in the open I see no shame in this. Might even get a small incentive cheque for doing your duty. No trying to sneak anyone under 80 in there. Your turn will come soon enough.
If we know it’s going to happen, it just might sharpen up a few minds. If you don’t want to end it in the town square and you are fit enough, you’ll take a trip abroad for the remainder of your life and let your family get on with living. If you aren’t well, wear a nice suit or frock, go out in style. Watch Soylent Green before you go. I believe billions could be saved.
Families, in the main don't get paid for their services. The most you can get is a respite break and come back to find have your antiques stolen.
Looking after your parents is a soul eating job. Sure there must be some nice old folk out there, who tell non-racist jokes, who remember to say thank you once in a blue moon, but I’m guessing not that many really. If there were a union, I’d join it.
Human Rights should include the right to 'not' to care. Here are some ethics to ponder.
© M.Dacre Jan 2011 (revisited November 2014)