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The Right to Die?

Everyone says that my job at the nursing home is a hard job because I am dealing with old and sick people. My response is usually- ” No, it’s good. I have the fun job- I get to play games, do art, dance and run parties.” 

But every so often things happen that do make me sad and do make my job really difficult. Today was one of those days. I had four people speak to me about wanting to die and two complain about pain– and for all of them I had nothing I could do. It is hard to listen to a 90 year old woman, who happily says: “I’m 90 years old, I’ve lived long enough. So I am saying goodbye. B’ezrat HaShem I won’t be here in the morning.”

Or to hear from another woman (also in her early 90’s) telling me that she doesn’t think that it is fair that the government doesn’t allow for people to decide that they don’t want care. That after a certain age, they deem them incompetent and will force them to eat and have surgeries and to take medications, even if they don’t want to. She is fully aware of her body deteiorating, and is getting less and less capable of being at all independent. She is in a wheel chair and is basically blind. She needs help with most of her daily activities, and she knows that it will get worse. 

Or hear from a man whose birthday will be later this month, when he will turn 89. And hearing him say that he never thought he would end up in a place like this. But even if he lived at home getting old is hard and not worth it. One should live to a “good age” and then die, there shouldn’t be the pain associated with it. I asked him how old he thought that should be, and he said 70 or 75.

And there was the woman whose leg and butt hurt- and so matter what she asks for, she is given nothing. Or the woman who notices that she does nothing most of her day and finds her body working against her- but she is still there. 

It is days like today that I come home and I want to cry. I wish there was something that I could do to help them. Something that I could do to make them feel less pain or feel themselves leaving. It also makes me wonder and think about aging- what will it be like when I am old? What if I get ill and am stuck with my brain but knowing that my body is going away while my brain is still working? And why do we think that old age is something so great? Are we really doing something good in the world by keeping someone alive so they are basically a vegetable with a feeding tube? Are we really thinking about the person by doing surgery after surgery and pushing pills into people, just so they can live a bit longer stuck in a wheel chair in the basement of a building, wearing a diaper and relying on others for all of their basic needs?