Let Old People Go

The best case for the assisted suicide is a nursing home.

Every nursing home is filled with hundreds of people waiting to die. Zombies, undead, purgatory – you don’t have to rent a horror movie  to see them. Empty eyes, shuffling feet, lost hope – they used to be our strong-willed parents, cheerful aunts, wannabe-comedian uncles, and there they exist, two to a room, subjected to daily regret and humiliation.

There nothing dignified, “golden”, godly or humane about it. It’s hell where people wake up in the morning cursing their fate for not dying the night before; jealous of their slowly stiffening neighbor who did. Another dreaded day is ahead of them, a day of spending an hour getting into a wheelchair just to go to the bathroom ten feet away; a day of staring at the ceiling and eating pre-chewed food; a day of adult diapers, of no privacy, of embarrassment and helplessness. The ones who still can walk make it out to a TV room or drag their feet through the hallways pushing a walker. The unlucky ones stay in beds and slowly lose their minds. Memories, feelings, desires – all disappear in the fog of idleness and never-ending days.

Why do we do it? Why do we feed them pills and hook them up to oxygen tanks just so they can suffer longer? They don’t want to be seen like this – helpless and powerless, and we don’t want to see them robbed of their dignity. We visit, we bring the children, pictures, flowers, food, but that takes only 15 minutes out of their day. The other twenty three hours and change are spent waiting to die.

This is so unfair and cruel. People are going to die, no one can prevent it, but we’ve learned to delay it. Not to extend someone’s active enjoyable life, but just to delay death. That’s not the same thing. There are plenty of old people who love life, work, rest, travel, raise grand-kids, skydive, write books, have hobbies – everything that we dream about when we think about the “golden” years. These are the people not in the nursing home. These are the people we want to be when we grow up. We don’t get to chose, we can only wish.

I am sure there are people in nursing homes who ate healthy and exercised, consumed proper amounts of liquids, didn’t smoke and stayed away from the bars. They avoided venereal diseases, used sunscreen and didn’t run with scissors. No one knows exactly what road takes you to the senior citizen promised land and what puts you on the wheelchair ramp to a nursing home.

All I am saying is there needs to be a chicken exit. You shouldn’t have to beg for it, plot your own death, drive yourself off the cliff. It should be there for you as an option you can chose for yourself, with your own clear mind and almost steady hand.

If you find your nursing home prospects even remotely exciting, there is your bed, nightstand and a roommate whose oxygen tank clicks every 3 seconds. There is a chili day on Thursday, something to look forward to. Or maybe it’s against your religious beliefs and you will patiently wait for when the Lord takes you away. Not a problem, there is a prayer circle on Friday nights. Do you feel that this is just a temporary setback and you’ll be back home in no time? Don’t forget to play Bingo on Tuesday afternoons.

But what if entering the nursing home feels like you just died? What if you are not brave enough, strong enough, religious enough to endure what’s ahead?

Life shouldn’t be forced on people. Spare me the “all life is precious” bullshit. You haven’t been to a nursing home.

I’ll take a chicken exit every time.