Aging sucks!

For the last seven (it will soon be eight) years now, I have been working in an aged-care facility, and during that time, have had the opportunity to see what has now probably been a few hundred people pass through the place as residents. A lot of the things I have seen there have only helped confirm a belief that I (and probably something very close to 100% of the rest of the human race) have long had: namely, AGING SUCKS! Not only that, but a lot of the platitudes I hear uttered about it on a depressingly regular basis suck even more. Here are my main beefs with aging and a lot of the stupid things I have heard said about it.

First of all, I hate the way aging really fucks with a person’s appearance (I remember a “National Geographic” article on human beauty describing aging as “beauty’s archenemy”, and thinking how true that was). In my line of work, I have seen a lot of people who aging really has not been kind to in the looks department (one current resident, for example, seems to resemble nothing so much as a sexless sheep), and I find it particularly depressing when I see a picture of one of them when she (which is usually the case, as most of the residents are female) was younger, and discover that she was a real stunner in her youth. One of the platitudes uttered about this particular aspect of aging that always makes me want to puke (ideally over the face of the one spouting it) is that one of the “good” things about aging is that, as we get older, we all start to look the same. Well, if you’re someone fucking ugly, I’m sure that that’s a source of great consolation, but as someone who’s very comely himself, I think that that’s a philosophy for LOSERS!

Coming a close second in my list of hates about aging is ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE! (OK, so I ranked the loss of physical attractiveness as worse than that. I’m totally superficial; sue me.) Hell, if nothing else, any disease that makes cancer look like a more attractive way to leave this life has to suck, BIG FUCKING TIME! I’ve seen first-hand what this disease (the most revolting one ever to be inflicted upon the human race IMHO) does to people, and it’s absolutely vile. To give you just one example, there was a guy who came into the facility just over two years ago. When he did, we became quite friendly, and, during the many conversations we had at that time, he told me that the reason he’d moved into the home was that he had the beginnings of dementia. At the time, I thought, “No fucking way!” - he seemed in possession of all his faculties - but now, his affliction is only too obvious. He shits himself all the time, eats most of his meals with his fingers (no matter what gets served to him; yep, it’s messy), spends most of his time wandering aimlessly, and usually proves himself incapable of giving a coherent answer to even the simplest of questions. Another resident whose degradation at the hands of this loathsome disease (or something very much like it) I had the “pleasure” of witnessing over the course of several years was a woman who, as in the case of the aforementioned gentleman, seemed totally “with it” when I first met her. Now, however, she’s just a shrivelled-up old thing who can no longer speak or move, and who doesn’t bear much resemblance to a human being. (The mere fact that she’s still alive is, I think, just more proof that God/Life/the Universe/Whatever is a complete CUNT.) The cliches I’ve heard trotted out about this disease are that at least the person with it doesn’t suffer because they don’t know what’s going on (yeah, but does anybody want to be remembered as spending their final years in similar fashion to the people I’ve mentioned above?), and that euthanasia for these sorts of people is wrong because it’s an affront to human dignity. HOW THE FUCK CAN SHITTING YOURSELF, TALKING CONSTANT GIBBERISH (OR, IN ADVANCED CASES OF THE DISEASE, SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T EVEN SOUND LIKE HUMAN SPEECH), AND BEING COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF PERFORMING THE SIMPLEST TASK BE CONSIDERED DIGNIFYING?! People like that have obviously defined the term “human dignity” so broadly as to render it essentially meaningless (they’re probably the same sorts of people who consider it more dignified for a poor woman to starve to death than support herself through something like prostitution or smuggling condoms full of heroin through Customs for Nigerian drug cartels). Fuck I hate Alzheimer’s (if that wasn’t already obvious)! I hate the way it would make me choose cancer if I had to choose between one of those two diseases! I hate the way it seems to be becoming something like cancer ie a much-feared disease that occurs predominantly in old age, and which virtually everything, particularly everything fun, is going to give you! I hate the way that, thanks to fucking Alzheimer’s, I can’t even enjoy the simple pleasure of being absent-minded without worrying that that’s a sign that I’m coming down with the disease. (I’m thirty right now which means that I’m probably entering that stage of my life when dementia, while still extremely unlikely, is not completely beyond possibility.)

Well, I’ve gone on about that particular subject a lot more than I originally intended to, so I’ll try and be brief with those gripes I have still to mention. These last gripes relate to a couple more pieces of drivel I’ve heard about aging that really make me want to punch the stupid head off anyone who tries to insult my intelligence by uttering them. First of all, I detest the oft-made claim that old people shouldn’t complain about how much being old sucks; they should just be grateful that they’ve managed to live long enough to experience old age. I can just imagine the people who believe that sort of crap being real wellsprings of sympathy to any elderly person with a serious age-related problem. I can imagine a typical conversation they might have ie:
Old person: My terminal cancer/crippling arthritis/debilitating osteoporosis/paralyzing stroke is really making my shitty life hell!
Aforementioned wanker: Shut up, ungrateful old person! Just be grateful you’ve managed to live this long!
And besides, does living to old age really require spectacularly good luck these days?

Finally, I really hate that oft-uttered crap that famous women (and maybe men) spout about how they’re not going to get plastic surgery because they see their wrinkles as a record of their lives. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP! DOES ANYONE ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT?! What they’re probably really saying is that they can’t afford plastic surgery, or that they’re so far gone in the looks department that it probably wouldn’t do them any good anyway. Fuck, if you want a record of your life on your skin, get tattoos! Fuck, I can’t get over how ridiculous the above claim is; it makes me think of two old ladies comparing wrinkles over a cup of tea, and saying what part of their respective lives each line on their faces reminds them of! For example:
One lady: Now this one here, Mavis [nice stereotypical old woman’s name], this one reminds me of the time I let my first boyfriend give it to me up the arse. It hurt like a bitch, and I couldn’t sit down for a week afterwards, but I did it because I loved him! [Romantic sigh accompanied by dreamy look of TRUE LOVE] And this one here reminds me of the time I had my first hit of heroin. Of course, it was cut to buggery with baby powder - we didn’t have the quality control that we enjoy nowadays when it comes to hard drugs - but I still got a buzz from it! Ah, those were the days! And this one here (yes, that’s the one: that ugly motherfucker running right across my forehead that makes me look fifty fucking years older than I really am), this one reminds me of the time my husband (may his worthless soul be being torn apart and devoured endlessly by the greater demons of Hell even as we speak!) and I went hiking through the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, and got ourselves kidnapped by Islamic militants. Held hostage for six whole months we were, and forced to eat nothing but cockroaches, rats and worthless pieces of diseased pigs’ offal!

Of course, the above experiences would be sure to give you a wrinkle or two, I reckon! :wink:

Christ, reading that OP just gave me a wrinkle or two.

Yep.

What, you expect anyone to disagree?

Well, its not for weak. But keep in mind, you are likely seeing a sample of the unfortunate, persons inclined by genetics or experience to such of the foul indignities that we associate with aging, not any of which are mandatory, and most of which are sheer “luck of the draw”. (My father died of Alzheimer’s, and I am determined that I will check out long before I meet the same end in the same fashion. Mere existence is not living. Living is living. Accept it as the blessing it is, and surrender gracefully when comes The Time…)

As well, consider that those who are “old” now got there through a more harrowing process: they worked harder, lived harder, and had fewer of the advances in health we enjoy. I’m 56, and don’t feel significantly different than I did at 36. I do have a few cases of the “yustas”, as in “Those stairs didn’t yusta be so steep”, hot young sweeties didn’t yusta call me “sir”.

que sera, sera

Amen. Paragraph breaks, my friend…more paragraph breaks.

But, I kinda know where you are coming from, Pimp, …I used to do marketing for an adult day care center and got very close to some of the residents. Very sad a lot of times.

My grandparents wasted away in nursing homes . . . Debility and emphysema got my father, bit by bit . . . My mother is in assisted-living . . . My sister and I have a suicide pact: “Not just ‘unplug me,’ but put a pillow over my face!”

It is my theory that the reason that we suffer from all of these old-age symptoms is because we as a race (the human race), have never lived to be quite as old as we do now. Therefore, our brains, joints, tissues, etc., do not have any information on what to do now. It was not necessary in the past for our bodies to function efficiently in these areas because most folks died before the age of thirty. Now, what with all of the medical advances made in many fields, our bodies are surpassing their efficacy. Maybe all the human race has to do is hang in there. Hmmmm.

I worked for four years as an elder abuse social worker and met some of the coolest old folks you could imagine. I’m looking forward to being an old old man. (My aunt is a pretty impressive 90 year old, too, btw).

Wow–they paid you to go house-to-house and abuse the elderly?

My SO and I have a plan to recreate the end scene of Thelma and Louise :smiley:

You’re doing good work. My son has the same job and he has his days of being jaded and somewhat depressed, but overall he believes in what he is doing. The sad plight of some of them gets to him, but what gets to him even more is the callous manner in which they are treated by their relatives and by some of the people hired to care for them.

Be gentle, give them dignity, and continue to empathize.

My fiance is well aware of the fact, that if I ever get a debilitating, eroding disease such as Alzheimer’s, for which there is no cure, nor hope of recovery, that I will be ending it before I lose my faculties, and not only supports my decision, but says he feels rather the same way about it.

People who are against, and actively fight to keep voluntary euthanasia illegal in such cases, are really despicable bastards in my opinion. No one should be forced to suffer such an ignominious death, if they choose not to.

And frankly, I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to stop me, should I someday need to make that choice.

If I am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I plan on taking myself out while I’m still me, unless there’s a cure for it.

I really doubt that I’ll ever have plastic surgery simply for looks. I’ve had surgery a couple of times. I don’t heal well or quickly, and I’m prone to getting post-surgical infections because of my other health issues. And I’m allergic to at least three types of antibiotics. Plus, most surgery HURTS. Maybe plastic surgery doesn’t hurt as much as the type I’m used to (I’ve had several tumors removed, as well as my uterus and ovaries), or maybe the people who get cosmetic surgery figure the tradeoff is worth it. However, I have been blessed with good genes in this respect, at least…I was routinely carded up until just a few years ago, and I’m 46. Part of this is because none of my immediate ancestors are very wrinkled, and part of this is because I never really smoked and even as a teen, I never deliberately tanned, though it was regarded as quite healthy back when I was a child/teen/young adult.

I turned 33 Saturday, and while I’m not rushing to the cosmetic surgeon’s office for Botox just yet, I do have “visible signs of aging”. There are a few crow’s-feet next to my eyes, and my fiery-red hair is cooling off into a nice shade of white.

Fortunately, I’ve got those nice Russian Jewish peasant genes on my side. My family doesn’t usually develop dementia, although most of us are already crazy, so who can tell? :smiley: Mainly, we die of old age. Most of us get arthritis and heart disease and the usual old-age bubbemysehs. I’m looking forward to keeping up the tradition.

Robin

None of my business, maybe, but hey, it’s the Pit:

It sounds like you’ve burned out in your job. If you were new at it I’d say you were in the wrong field. But I see you’ve been at it for years … sounds like you’ve lost sight of the mission (supposedly), that is, to make these poor people as comfortable and happy as possible given their circumstances. I’m not suggesting you’re unkind to them, but your OP indicates you’ve lost empathy for them from sheer anger at what’s happened to them … and what will happen to all of us, if death doesn’t take us first.

I hope you can step back for a bit, look at your job, and ask yourself if you’re doing it as well as it can be done. Are you treating these people with dignity, even if they don’t have any themselves? Are you doing all you can to make an uncomfortable situation more comfortable? Do you like these people, or do you hate them because of what they’ve become (maybe, a reflection of what you fear you yourself will become?)

If you’re not helping these folks as much as you can, for whatever reason, you should change jobs. Really.

But I salute you for having served them for as long as you have, at any rate. It’s not a job I can see myself doing for a week, let alone for years.

I totally “feel your pain,” as Clinton would have said, and don’t condemn you for it in the least. But still, these people need your very best efforts and it sounds like you may have expended them (your best efforts) already.

Eve:

Yes, I was quite good at it and even got tips :stuck_out_tongue:

I reallllllly hate “me, too!” posts, but Lynn, ME TOO. I’ve often told my husband and kids, that if I ever am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I’m going to totally just cash my own check in right then. I cannot think of a worse death.

My own mother, while nowhere near dementia (depending on how long she keeps you on the phone) is physically breaking down. She doesn’t walk. She waddles. She refuses to bend her knees, except to sit down, but then it hurts to sit down. Oh, yeah, and she uses a flashlight to read everything (even to read a huge-print article or novel) because she’s going blind. Did I mention she has glaucoma and cataracts, and will roast on the spits in Hell before she sees a doctor?

Aging not only sucks, but I believe the denial of aging sucks worse. I am on that particular “river” right now, and there isn’t anything I can do until she really does lose her mind…which I don’t see happening any time soon. All I can (or will, or want to do) is catch her when she falls.

:smack: Worse life…not death. A senile life would be death, for me. You know what I mean.

The bolded portion is simply not true. Life expectancy figures from ages gone by include infant mortality, which was much higher than it is now. The life expectancy for adults has not changed all that much since death records have been kept, and there were lots of old people centuries ago.

I wish I’d never started reading this thread.

This is directed toward those Dopers who don’t know me through LJ.

My husband and I are primary caretakers for my mother, who has dementia. It might be Alzheimer’s, it might not be, but something’s definitely been there for awhile. Her younger brother has late stage Alzheimer’s. He’s in a VA hospital.

The thing about dementia is that those who have it don’t realize it. It’s all well and good for those of us who say “Kill me now!” if we’re still of sound body and mind IF, god forbid, we’re diagnosed with it. By the time of the diagnosis, you probably won’t realize you have it. That’s the tragedy.

My mother doesn’t realize, nor care, that her clothing choices are inappropriate. for the season. Nor does she care if her emotional outbursts affect family and strangers alike. She still thinks she can drive and take the dogs on walks. My husband, bless him, works from home; he almost always has to be with her so she won’t hurt herself or anyone else.

I can’t begin to describe my rage. Suffice to say that it’s in the same category as Cissy Pimp’s. Caregiving is exhausting. It also makes you incredibly selfish in that you, as the caregiver, no longer have a life of your own. Everything you do/say is tied to the patient. You cannot show your anger around them, for example, because they’ll become agitated. Same for sadness. I know part of my rage stems from the fact that my mother is no longer the dynamic woman she’s been all my life. Bit by bit she becomes more helpless, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

I’d love to have a brain transplant so that I could overcome all this and be the patient, kind, and loving caregiver she (and all others affected by dementia) deserve.

I’m going to stop here, lest I turn this into one huge hijack :slight_smile: