fall where they will
let them rest
of another age
when we were
my eyes blur over
stung by truth
too bitter to ignore
despite the cost
to our humanity
some are dispensable
Recent discussions about triaging elderly coronavirus patients are on my mind. Given my admirable age, it seems I’m in the endangered species category.
I don’t know what to make of this. I just reviewed my Living Will. No help there. It never heard of a pandemic like this.
Nor do I relish the idea of being involuntarily hooked to life support at the expense of someone who hasn’t lived as long as I.
Regardless of what I decide for myself, I’m troubled by the stark naked truth these conversations make painfully visible. Old age isn’t necessarily honored in this country, except in ethnic groups or tribes that actively honor their seniors. Not once a year, but daily. Whether they’re ill or not.
That’s what’s on my mind today. Meanwhile, identified coronavirus patient numbers skyrocket, and limited medical resources diminish daily.
Have you thought about your own wishes? What would you do/not do?
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com
I think that we keep ourselves isolated as much as possible and live day by day and enjoy day by day and communicate with our blog friends because that is as much social distancing as you can get.
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Hi, John! Indeed…though in our neighborhood getting out for a nice walk is one way to feel less isolated. Just so we stay 6 feet from anyone who doesn’t live with us.
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As a two-time cancer survivor, I have thought about these questions a lot. I have been staring at my Advanced Directive documents. If I get this, do I want to be intubated? Do I, as someone who has already cost hundreds of thousands of healthcare dollars deserve to survive something else? Of course I do, but what if someone younger doesn’t get care because I do? If I choose not to, how will my daughter deal with being abandoned by a mother, again? If I do….If I don’t…
These thoughts are endless and are seriously not helping with the anxiety. They are thoughts with which I wrestle for every new drug or treatment presented to me. There is never, for me, a clear answer.
Regarding honoring elders…Americans are horrible at honoring death, and thus those approaching it. We do anything and everything possible to extend life. Is putting an elderly patient on a respirator honoring their life lived? Is allowing them to die in peace abandoning them and making them dispensable? Another totally unanswerable question.
However, we need to keep asking the questions to stay in the moment and on the right path with our faith in our Creator.
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Thanks for this comment. I hear your dilemmas, some of them my own as well. I find myself clear about end of life decisions when we’re in our ‘normal’ mode (whatever that is!). If the issue is about doing “everything we can to extend life,” without any meaningful markers to let us know what we’re after, or when we’ve arrived, I have no desire to extend my life.
I watched one of my sisters die of ALS — according to her own clear markers. They had nothing to do with the ventilator that helped keep her alive for ten years. They had to do with a simple question only she could answer. Am I still able to communicate (by any means possible) with my family and friends? If not, give me comfort care and fluids, but no meds or liquid food through my feeding tube.
Nonetheless, this coronavirus pandemic has shaken my confidence in nearly all my carefully worded directives. Right now I’m thinking that, with regard to the current pandemic, the marker might be the need for a ventilator. Then again, I haven’t put it in writing, or communicated this to people who will need to speak with and for me. I don’t believe that fighting death at all costs is helpful or fair to others. As a Christian, I believe Jesus died ‘voluntarily.’ I do not, however, believe that decision was without angst or fear.
Your last line is so important: “However, we need to keep asking the questions to stay in the moment and on the right path with our faith in our Creator.” To that I can only say Amen! Not an easy path. I pray you’ll find some clarity for the present moment in history.
Have you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal? I found it incredibly helpful in general, especially when it comes to dealing with doctors and other medical personnel. It doesn’t, however, address the issues we face today with a pandemic that’s taken many of us by surprise.
Thanks again for your helpful comment and questions. I’m grateful.