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Monday, 4 July 2011

Caring for the Elderly - a thankless task?

They don't want to pay for care, though many of them can afford to. They don't like the way they are cared for. And they made their Wills years ago, leaving shed loads to the Donkey Sanctuary. Meanwhile, their money is rotting in low interest accounts.

First element of a sensible Government strategy: tax legacies to Donkey Sanctuaries and all the other "Animal Welfare" scams at 95%. We need less Animal Welfare not this exponentially burgeoning population of donkeys bred to be welfared.

Second element: offer inducements to elderly people to downsize when they are rattling around alone in large, unsuitable houses. No stamp duty if they purchase a flat in a Warden-assisted block. Reduced inheritance tax if they pass the equity they realise from the house sale to children or grandchildren while they are still alive.

Third, stop encouraging old people to think they can live as long as they like, as stupidly and stubbornly as they like, and still unconditionally expect Someone Else to foot the bills. Remind people as they are getting old that it is time to grow up!

This month I plan to be 64. If I continue in reasonably good health, physical and mental, I don't mind living until 84 which, according to the statistics, seems about par for the course. Otherwise I am not so sure. I am not convinced I want to become one of the elderly frail and far from convinced that I want to go lower down the scale of independence than "Warden assisted". I don't want to be a burden on my children and I would rather they got their money sooner rather than later.

So I find myself torn. On the one hand, I try to do my Exercises - thirty minutes brisk walking several times a week if I can't excuse myself out of it. I even manage three or four - maybe sometimes all five - of my Five a Day. On the other hand, there is a bit of me which thinks it would be better to go out with a massive coronary, so why don't I just tuck into the food and guzzle the wine which I like and fuck the five a day?

There is no Merit in living to a ripe old age, though it is often suggested that there is: very old people are often asked to what they attribute their longevity and they never answer "Luck" or "Genetic inheritance". Instead, they claim credit. Usually they Abstained from something, but I don't see much point to life if you are always Abstaining from it.

There is a very tricky issue for older people to navigate concerning their medical care. There is a balance to be struck between taking advantage of what modern medicine can offer to improve the quality of your life and, on the other hand, taking the medicine just to prolong life itself whatever the quality or lack of it.

I have met older people who have refused radical treatments for determined cancers and I understand their thinking. They will accept palliative care - no one wants to be in pain - but drastic intervention just to be kept alive a bit longer doesn't have any appeal to them.

None of these thoughts really helps with misfortune and a great deal of Old Age is about just that. It's quite possible that I do my Exercises, eat my Five a Day, have my blood pressure monitored, downsize to sensible accommodation - and still by some quirk of fate, suffer - let's say - a nasty stroke. It's then that I will want to be cared for. And I will want it done properly.

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