reduce-reuse-recycle, or: soylent green is–looking better all the time!

in case that header didn’t give it away–SPOILER ALERT! and not the movie kind, the mood kind. this is going to be one of my cynical rants, so either cover your eyes, or whatever you do to avoid unpleasantness, or read on at your own risk. you’ve been forewarned!

from where i’m sitting, here are all the options available for the aging and dying:

1. quit while you’re ahead; conveniently die at a relatively young age, and spare yourself and everyone a lot of misery. be part of the solution!

2. get shoved into a facility, as long as funds hold out, and get parked in front of a loud tv until you croak from boredom. or spend down all your assets and savings to qualify for entitlements, leaving nothing you worked hard for to the next generation.

3. put up with a circus of revolving home care aides, again if even more funds are available, and give up any peace and privacy staying home should have afforded. spend all your savings on expensive medical intervention to extend dying. forget dignity, as your diaper is being changed.

4. become a burden on your aging child/ren, who don’t have enough stress and money problems already, by moving in with them.

5. insist on staying in your deteriorating home, and compel your aging child/ren to drop everything and come babysit you, since they must have nothing better to do than return the favor.

6. attempt to remain independent alone, and eventually starve or burn the house down or wander off into oblivion. that is, if you can afford to keep a roof over your head to starve under, burn down, or wander off from.

7. somehow make it barely alive to the point where you qualify for hospice/palliative care (6 months, give or take, to so-called live) and then just pop the opiates.

8. variations and permutations of all the above, depending on circumstances. a few creative alternatives are starting up, but are not accessible to the vast majority.

9. did i mention i’m cynical?

this is the point at which i’m supposed to indicate to whomever it may concern what my wishes would be concerning death-extending measures, beyond the one about just pulling the plug. to be honest, none of the above are very attractive, except for #1, over which i have limited control. currently i’m tied up in #5 mode, so dying of mental exhaustion and existential angst is probably not a good option right now. but hey, if it happens, it happens! and i’m sure i wouldn’t be the first.

this is also where i would normally launch back into my angry, contemptuous tirade blasting the death-extension industry that our system perpetuates, and reiterate that something is seriously wrong with this picture, but plenty of other, better writers are jumping on that bandwagon, and honestly—i’m too tired and depressed to expend the energy. and besides, i already did!

i’ll just say, at the risk of disillusioning those who think we caregivers must be some extraordinary, saintly, self-sacrificing individuals—which might explain our insanity—sorry, it’s not that simple. maybe some are, i can’t speak for them. maybe in some way it’s a rewarding endeavor, i just don’t experience that side of it. it’s a necessity that most of us will face in one way or another, and have to engage in, whether voluntarily or reluctantly. i hope for your sakes, by that time some better alternatives will have presented themselves.

i’m sorry if this rant is offensive to anyone, but it’s mainly intended as a built-in safety pressure release valve. if it also affords a glimpse into your possible future choices, on either side of the inevitable equation, then so be it. i’m only the messenger. don’t shoot me. oh—wait….!

one day i hope this will all be moot. death is a given, but the way society addresses and handles it needs to be revisited. as long as we’re in denial, we won’t come up with healthy, holistic alternatives. a start would be to visualize yourself in the above options, and imagine how you would feel to be consigned to humiliation, relentless discomfort and confusion, and isolation among strangers or resentful children, with all your peers dead and funds gone. no, not a pleasant prospect. but lucrative. and it will stay that way as long as we avoid it, or resign ourselves to it.

seriously, i welcome a proactive dialogue on this topic. so far all i’ve seen are the war casualty stories vs. the minority who somehow find this experience rewarding. i get a lot of: it’s so [baffling but] admirable that you gave up your life to do this! i could never do that! [iow, why would you?] yeah, if you have lots of money to throw at the problem, and absolve yourself of responsibility. i’m also hearing echoes of the refrain ‘just shoot me when the time comes’. it doesn’t seem all that original or far-fetched, anymore.

ok, i wasn’t going to do this rant. i never imagined in my wildest nightmares that i’d be so entangled in this phenomenon at this point in life, because i was never prepared for it by my elders, who weren’t either. things used to be simpler. people just died! now they just persist indefinitely, helpless and miserable, until mercifully released. and we get to maintain them, going broke in the process, until it’s our turn. not a sustainable way of life. i mean death.

the truth can be much more surreal than fantasy.

One thought on “reduce-reuse-recycle, or: soylent green is–looking better all the time!

  1. Seems like an accurate list. Further, it seems like a blog is one way to get a “proactive dialogue” going, but there are others. You should consider writing an op-ed piece so this can have a wider audience (which is to say a wider audience of people who can’t look away, since it would be right there on the printed page in front of them). And consider running for office; this stuff is important, and you have the right.

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