People With Alzheimer’s Deserve to Be Treated with Dignity


NOTE:  First published on April 6, 2014.  I’ve had a long day.  This reflects a conversation I had with a friend. I’m too tired to go any farther other than the fact that something like this is going on with a person she knows.

Saturday evening I experienced something which sickened me on a personal level, so badly, I’m dealing with a migraine.  As I posted, Saturday morning, my mother is in ICU with numerous problems, primarily based on abject stress in dealing with my 90 year old father and Alzheimer’s Disease.  What I experienced today, in a hospital, by a nurse who had no compassion, has changed the way I think.  I suspect it has changed the way I will go about much of the rest of my life.

Without going into details, my father was subjected to treatment what was degrading.  The abject lack of compassion by someone who should know better has left me seething, to the point where I started an argument with my mother over it.  We live in a world where men and women, who are cogently impaired, due to age, are treated without compassion, with abject degradation, and robbed of their basic human rights and dignity.

There are so many times, recently, where I’ve read articles that we Baby Boomers are selfish and evil because we are going to destroy the world with our selfish demands.  Our society has this abjectly perverse attitude with the fixation of no work, no assistance.  The aged are to be shipped off somewhere, put in a home, and the possessions, the memories of a life-time stripped of them, warehoused until they finally do the right thing and die, no longer burdening society.  Every little thing is begrudged them, no matter how they have contributed to society, the taxes they have paid, the lives they have led, and the sum total of their worth, does not matter.  Our selfish, cruel, and compassion-less world would rather they not have lived to be old enough to become infirm, and be a ‘drain’ on their families and the national deficit.

Men and women who have spent a life-time caring for their families, contributing to humanity, serving in the military, donating their time money, and treasure to make the world a better place, are dumped into situations where they are treated like snotty little children in a filthy day-care.  Their days of being useful are over, never to be regained.  That doesn’t matter.  They are worthy of basic rights and dignity.  They are worthy of living out the remainder of their lives in a situation where they are treated decently and happy.  Animal rights activists demand this for non-human entities, but no one bothers with the elderly who aren’t quite firing on all thrusters.

A disease like Alzheimer’s is a drain on a family, emotionally and financially.  There is a profile of a person, especially an elderly male, who develops the disease when they are elderly.  Many were extremely high-achievers in life.  They were control junkies, business owners, attorneys, physicians, military, scientists, professionals – quite often having chosen careers which basically allowed them to pay a fortune in taxes.  I’ve calculated that my father  has received around $400,000 in Social Security and Medicare benefits since he turned 65.  He will be 90 on June 11.  Having worked in his office for years, and having experienced his rants and raves when the time came to pay  taxes, I know how much he paid in income taxes.  I know for a fact that what he has paid in taxes, over the years, is at least TWENTY TIMES what he has received in ‘benefits’ as a non-productive taker, drain on society.  It seems to me he should be treated with some gratitude and should be able to get a little bit back, for having spent a life-time as a successful business-man paying taxes.

Instead, we experience the Paul Ryan budget where people the age of my parents are considered useless sewage, worthy of being sacrificed down the libertarian view of life, where only the strong survive.  In their minimalistic view of the world, the elderly are exiled from the family group, or they are killed by the stronger young lion.  They are considered worthless, useless, and less than human.  They are no longer the Makers, they have become the Takers.  In the Ayn Rand world, the Takers deserve nothing but our contempt.

The elderly, like my father, who have developed Alzheimer’s Disease are treated with nothing but contempt.  My family live in fear that, during an altercation with someone in law enforcement, my father will say something and be shot dead, like a rabid animal, or an old dog who is not worthy of life.  Just put them out of our misery.

We are dealing with a family crises.  My mother is too exhausted to care for my father.  This entire week, I have been told, repeatedly, that my parents need to go into a home where someone can care for them.  My father needs to be put away, so that my mother can get a break.  I saw her, this evening, break down in tears over the fact that she has been away from my father since Thursday.  (Never mind the fact that he’s had a blast with friends taking care of him, giving him scads of ‘guy’ based attention).  I saw the hurt and the pain in her eyes.  I’ve heard her beg me, repeatedly, don’t put us in a home, don’t take our lives away, just because we can’t do for ourselves.

Aged animals are treated better than aging humans, if you live in this country.  They no longer have anything ‘viable’ to offer in the way of wringing every single dollar out of them, for taxes. They are not pretty.  They smell a little, have accidents, and don’t make it to the toilet in time.  They are annoying.  They forget things, and demand their own way.  They are as annoying as a spoiled three-year-old child.  The difference is that a three-year-old child is to be treated with love, kindness, as the world revolves around them.  When parents don’t treat a child well, when they don’t provide a loving, viable, and nurturing environment, when they dump their children, they are basically considered abusive.

Abusive is how society, even the well-meaning, treat the elderly who have cognitive problems.  I don’t know about you, but there are some individuals who deserve to be cursed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  They need to have their family go through the hell we are experiencing.  They need to see the contempt and the cruelty in the eyes of those who think that someone with a disease like Alzheimer’s needs to be disposed of like you would dispose of trash, of garbage.

Men and women who have Alzheimer’s Disease have souls.  They have feelings. They have hearts and minds.  They have a right to be treated with dignity, to be taken out into society, and not locked into an institution where some twit comes around to play stupid music, make them clap their hands, and force a diet of inedible food down their throats.  They are deserving of love and laughter.

I will admit that I have almost no patience when dealing with my father.  I am not a care-giver.  I never have been.  The reason I never had children is because I have no patience.  Early on in life I realized I lacked the capacity to nurture and raise children.  I lack the capacity to be a hand’s on caregiver.  But, I have compassion for the situation my parents are in.  I see the hurt in my mother’s eyes when long-time friends and family members refuse to visit with my father, won’t talk to him on the phone.  I see the gratitude when friends do treat him decently.

Our society needs to approach this horrible disease much differently than it does. If a person suffering from it is not violent, then they should be allowed to be ‘mainstreamed’ into society the way a person with Downs or someone who is cogently impaired does – if they are young.  Animals kill and destroy their elderly.  We should be better than they are.

Just because a person has Alzheimer’s Disease is no reason they are not treated like a normal human being.  If the person who had the disease were young, they’d be given all the love and compassion in the world.  Because they’re no longer young, they are worthless.

Just what sort of a world have we created?