Seniority in life is kinda the shits.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from working in an assisted living facility – and a fine four-star “resort” for the elderly it is:

Life is cruel.

By virtue of having been released from the confines of the kitchen into housekeeping, where entering apartments and interacting with the residents occur regularly, I’m exposed to the realities of aging.

And they are harsh!

Gone are the free use of legs. Compromised mobility. Walkers are a dime a dozen. Those fortunates who can get around without walkers move on brittle or creaking bones.

I think so often as I buzz down the long hallways at a brisk pace of the residents before me and behind me, negotiating the carpeted passageways at a laboriously slow and not infrequently pained pace. People who like me strode fitfully and in ease with no clue to the future of challenged mobility – or imoobility – that awaited them around the corners of a couple short decades.

Then there’s the loss of bodily functions; bladder and/or bowels degenerated by aging. Residents whose beds and chairs in their private high-end apartments must include protective pads.

Then there are the diapers, packages replacing the former boxes of tampons or pads for the ladies and an altogether new hygiene product for the men.

Then there’s state of mind, a far more complex topic than any single blog post can cover. Memory loss. Dementia. Some Alzheimer’s. Depression. The loss of will to live. Pain. Suffering. The loss of life, internally.

The other day, as I delivered laundered sheets to a resident whose name is Doris, I arrived just as she was struggling to undress and go to bed.

The hour: only 6 p.m.

And while I’m disinclined to share the details of that so-called simple act of disrobing a woman whose back is bent with age and skin as loose and wrinkled as grape skins shrunken and dried by the sun — because it was a holy and intimate act — truth is that it broke my heart.

It breaks the heart the grave that life digs for us when we get old.

Through it, some will rally onward, losing a little more ground with each step along the way.

Some will fight the alleged good fight.

Some will rage against the dying of the light, going not gently into that night.

Some will find their peace by succumbing to the slowdown, illness, immobility, depression, lassitude.

Some will sit waiting for Death to come knocking in his time when he will..

Some will beg, pray and plead for him to come early.

Some will beg, pray and plead for the medications just to stop the pain. The pain that living returns.

I understand them all and better than I did before I began working amongst the elderly.

And my job — not just my job but life experience — has only furthered and deepened my enduring sensibility and conviction:

Life for life’s sake ain’t it. It’s about quality of life.

And I for one have absolutely no problem with a plug being pulled, a fatal dose of morphine pumped into a vein, an overdose of sedatives or a bullet put through my skull to end a life when conditions merit, when marked deterioration trumps any chance, hope or reasoned possibility of life. getting. better.

Life shows no mercy. It is up to us, as human beings, to find it, extend it and share it.

Generally we exit much as we arrived: Small/shrunken, alone, dependent, perhaps diapered, perhaps with limited or no mobility, perhaps with limited or compromised communication abilities, perhaps with minds somewhere else, unrooted in reality.

Seniority in a company might be an achievement – some see it that way. Seniority in life is kinda the shits.

May the good Lord or Spirit or universe or whatever be your concept of the beyond or higher realms have mercy on you when your time comes.

Because from where I sit and what I see five days a week, we’re gonna need it!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cryinforthedyin
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 15:51:51

    Hello, A very true and unfortunate situation for some. You must know, far better than I do, the stats or chances of that happening. It comes to one thing at a time for me. One breath to be thankful for. There are no repeaters in life time here on this world. The things you are doing, what I believe, is they cannot be for any bad or foul purpose, rather they shine your soul and self worth. My aunts and Grandparents have taken a doseout..two in their eighties..two in their nineties. For you each morning.. ”The rain will wash your world clean. The sun is there to show beauty.’ Choosing your profession defines good. Sometimes in what I do reinforcing what I feel is necessity is important. I keep my mind on what I am doing. If I am tying my shoes that is where my intellect is.
    I totally agree on the quality of life perspective. I agree with most of what you say and obviously emapathise, still isn’t life a wonderful, priceless gift?..just so wonderful?..


  2. allycatadventures
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 16:15:37

    @cryinforthedyin – To be clear, this is not my profession, rather a job. A job I do extremely well but nonetheless a job that affords shelter so I don’t sleep under a bridge. I’m highly aware of my service there and the light I bring, or rather wish to bring, into their apartments and lives, if only for a moment; I hold and behold that service in great import.

    Even still, amid the service in goodness, the work can be very depressing. And illuminating — not unlike my prison job some years ago.

    I’m fortunate that my job is in a really nice facility and amongst good people who care. To work in one of those horrific facilities where the staff do all sorts of evil corrupt things to the residents, much as I’d want to help the helpless, I couldn’t take it, not for long. Life is hard enough without working amongst the darkest and the unkindest of our species, I say.

    Thanks for stopping in and commenting. Appreciate that.


  3. Flamingo Dancer
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 04:48:40

    Mr FD’s father said more than once that a person can live too long. I think he lived a good 12 months too long, no quality of life. It does make one more mindful of preserving what one has!


    • allycatadventures
      Apr 10, 2012 @ 10:13:08

      @FD – Here’s the rub and cruel irony: One can preserve only so much and so far. Inevitably life wins out. Nature’s aging process has the upper hand. BTW, FD’s father was correct. No small number of residents have said they can’t believe they’ve lived as long as they have. (P.S. And not all of ’em are pleased about it.)


  4. longeyesamurai
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 04:59:07

    I have been lucky so far not to have faced this so much, although the sight of my grandfather doped up on morphine as he lay all but dead (in the end, they give him a high enough dose that his heart finally gave out) will always be seared into my brain.

    I guess the important thing is that, when we reach the end, we should get to choose and not prolong the inevitable.


  5. fotografzahl
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 10:01:59

    Our pets have a huge privilege – they are not forced to suffer on a machine for months or even years.
    I only hope that in case things really go bad for me I still have the means to choose my own end…


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