POOR ELSIE

Hub and I went to visit another old acquaintance today. We had only known her for 4 years, 20 years ago when Hub was curate in her parish and I was doing my training.

Elsie has always suffered ill health: TB when she was young meant that she lost all of one lung and most of another, so she was limited in what she could do even then. She had a lovely husband, but as is so often in these cases, he died before she did.

She is now in a nursing home and permanently on oxygen. She isn’t happy at all, complaining about how impersonal the home was and how there weren’t enough staff and how she is getting worse all the time. She spoke rapidly but in a very low voice and we were both straining to hear, above the noise of the fan and the oxygen.

She confessed to us that this is the 5th nursing home she’s been in: we already knew that her longsuffering daughter had moved her from one to another, because none of them are good enough. Elsie was very negative – indeed, that’s how I remember her – but she does know it.

I think it’s what keeps her going, frankly. She said she just wanted to die, and really hadn’t wanted to live this long. She can’t go anywhere or do anything much. She is a woman of faith and hangs on to God, but doesn’t feel able to pray much because she always feels worn out.

We prayed with her before we left, but I felt so sad for her. How awful to finish up in a sort of expensive cage, where you’re fed and watered and medicated and looked after but where you have so little control over your life. 50 years ago nobody would have survived with her major health problems: sometimes I think that the huge advances we are making in medicine can be a mixed blessing.

I told her one of my favourite stories, of the woman who was incredibly busy with small children and lots going on. One day she went home, flung herself into a chair and said ‘Look at me, Lord! I AM a prayer!’

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29 thoughts on “POOR ELSIE

  1. Poor Elsie and poor everybody kept alive against their will by the marvels of medicine etc…. it really is a dilemma this keeping people alive.

    There are many people I see on my care round who really wish they could just die, and who feel they are a nuisance and a burden to their offspring etc. And so many offspring being dragged through the experience of watching their parent decline and be kept alive with little appreciation of it and it does make one wonder what it is all about….

    I wonder why they don’t just refuse to eat… that is what my dad tried to do because he realised the only way out of his mortal coil was to starve himself…. but I couldn’t bear to let that happen when he was so very depressed so asked if he could have anti-depressants…. and that got him eating again….! All such a strange dilemma…..

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  2. I have often thought the same sometimes to prolong life is not always a better option…..I love the I am a prayer… I often talk to Him throughout my day but I am terrible at actually taking time out to have deep conversation.

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      1. I don’t want to go…………… its fine for believers in heaven but recently I wrote a poem entitled ‘ Why I don’t want to go to heaven ‘. I am not so sure it would go down well with you ! David

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      2. Yes the prospect of singing praises eternally doesn’t go down well with me………….. in fact why would God want eternal praise ? He’d be more fed up and bored with it than I would.

        That’s why you need to make heaven here and now if possible. David.

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    1. Exactly. And we assume that extreme old age and debilitating illness means that quality of life is over and therefore not worth bothering with … which is why nursing homes and hospices are so important, because love and giving comfort makes all the difference.

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    1. We do, I’m afraid … and I note that the less pleasant characteristics, which maybe we had under greater control when we are younger, emerge in a much stronger form! :no:

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  3. I love how you ended on a positive note Gilly.

    Yes, I always think medical advances often merely deprive us of our dignity and sense of self. Too often the flesh is treated but the person and spirit ignored.

    Poor lady, it must be hard for her being in that prison with nothing to look forward to….xxxxx

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    1. I totally agree with you, PP – we need holistic caring, with all the disciplines involved. So many residential homes these days are excellent, where there are lots of activities put on for the residents so that life is as enjoyable as possible. I think the home Elsie is in, is for people in extreme old age and with chronic illnesses that can only have palliative care.

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  4. That can be the trouble now i suppose with all the things there are to keep us going now where we might have died years ago. Without my inhalers and blood pressure treatment i might not be hear now but thank god thanks to them i can live a normol life and i am not handycapped i dont think i would want to live like that poor woman i really feel for her.xx

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