Episode 32 raises the question that is on the mind of almost every Baby Boomer, “Who’s going to look after me when I get old?” Our panelists share their insights on this interesting and important topic about who will care for them once they reach old age. Will it be their children? Will they enter an aged care facility?
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Booms Day Prepping, the Baby Boomer podcast. Today as normal, we’re joined by our panel. We have with us Glenn Capelli, Bron Williams, Amanda Lambros and Brian Hinselwood – Baby Boomers all – and your host Dr. Drew Dwyer and myself, Wayne Bucklar. Today, our topic is “Who’s going to look after me when I get old?” And is that going to be a really, really bad experience for them? Will there be anyone at all? To lead us off, Dr. Drew Dwyer, who’s going to look after you Drew?
Dr. Drew Dwyer: Good morning everybody. Well it’s morning where I am, but it’s a great question and it’s one that I raise on the table today because it’s a question that I deal with a lot specifically around single elderly, single older people, people who probably don’t have any children or have quite a disconnection from family per se – the family unit or the traditional family unit. So who will look after me when I’m old? I will look after me, the system will look after me, I’m very much entrenched in aged care of course. So I have great faith that by the time I am needing support, I will have my children of course but I don’t want my children looking after me. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone and I feel that I’m well-planned to execute my final stage into a nursing home. I will go into supportive care for that end stage. But I will try my hardest to live independently with home care services or services until I get there. But primarily, it’s a question for Boomers who, this question might be difficult to face or difficult to even have a conversation about. But of course, no one likes having to defend their own personal situation and it’s not a space that people like to talk about ad hocly, but it’s a good question to ask because do people and do Boomers and people in their Boomer years or retirement years actually give consideration to the fact that who will look after you when you’re old and what will that look like as a space for other people because we will be transferring or probably transferring a lot of responsibility on to somebody else? Not to mention that if you do have children and you’re in a space of having a family or close family, they will probably automatically want to take that responsibility or feel obliged to take the responsibility on and of course, what benefit or burden comes with those people for this? So there’s the opening question for the panel and who will take care of you when you’re old and gray? And have you discussed this and do you look at it and it is a question that you’ve given any thought to? So I’ll open up the floor and go to Glenn.
Glenn Capelli: Well it’s certainly something I’ve given thought to because I think this whole thing of how you live your life and who cares for you now, who cared for you then, who cares for you now, who cares for you in the future and along the way, there’s a wonderful book, “How To Raise an Adult.” My parents were, through situations and circumstances, the Capelli kids became independent quite early. We learnt to look after ourselves even though we had good care. When mum got ill, dad’s attention went to looking after mum. So we learnt how to live, I guess, accountably and if you look at that word, “accountable” and you got “count” and “able” in it, that’s some of the things I think we should consider that, Lindy and I do not have children therefore, we do not have grandchildren and we are accountable to each other, we’ve looked after each other. If one of us goes suddenly or we both go in a certain way, we both know that we want to be accountable and that is we’ve got a certain amount of dollars to be able to pay whatever needs to be paid. And if that’s for somebody to give us care or more our line of thinking that for us to be able to find our own farewell, to find our way to saying goodbye to this planet and waving it farewell and nobody else having the burden apart from somebody having to find our body or our bodies. So that living accountably and who will look after me when we’ve gone, we thought very early on that the state and the country wouldn’t be there for us. The pension wouldn’t exist when we got around to taking it. So we try to do as much as we can to be accountable to ourselves and live with independence as long as we can.
Dr. Drew: Yes. Part of that Glenn is about wealth. When I look at the research in this area and I understand predominantly where it sits. Statistically, the figures on wealth creation or coping with end-stage with wealth is significantly higher amongst couples who are married in their retirement years. So married couples statistically have a better opportunity or if they’re more financial and supporting each other, regardless of whether they have children or not, they’re more going to have a success in that retirement space because their wealth creation is shared and it’s a shared thing. Also, the heading into the sunset is for people who are single and don’t have that accountability factor of another person or that growth factor in planning wealth in retirement. One of the things to be mindful of as a couple when you’re ageing or heading into end stages of life, third stage of life, is you need to be remained focused on not transitioning yourself from being a partner, a spouse, and a wife, or a husband and a supportive person to then all of a sudden finding yourself in the space of being a carer. And this is very prevalent in people who have dementia and are supported by their partners. And so people with the diagnosis of dementia, one of the things that I specifically talk to them about is that moving in the transition is great, holding that accountability is fine, but I tell Boomers, don’t become or transition away from being that partner and that supportive person to just simply becoming a carer of a person with dementia. And that’s very, very high on the scale because many people who do end up just themselves, looking after each other into later years often find themselves transitioning into just being a carer and no longer identifying with their role as a partner. So you raise a good thing about accountability and accountability is important subject to have. Bron, what’s your thought on this subject?
Bron Williams: I liked Glenn’s idea of accountability and I fully take on boarding the statistics that you talk about Drew about wealth and accrued wealth, accumulated wealth, that happens in a partnered relationship, particularly a long-term partnered relationship. And I only have to look at my brother and sister who are both in long-term relationships and the comparative wealth that they enjoy in their heading towards retirement is the three of us are compared to my own, which suffered hugely with the divorce and having to go out on my own in my 50s. So I would say that those statistics ring very, very true from my own experience. But I do like what Glenn said about accountability because my middle son has already told me that he doesn’t want me to come and live with him.
Dr. Drew: That’s very honest of him.
Bron: He is very honest. I don’t know that it’s because he doesn’t love me, but I think he feels the weight. My two older boys became fathers very, probably their choice, became fathers quite young and so I think I feel the weight of they’ve had that responsibilities early. I think it’s done wonders for them, but particularly my middle son, doesn’t actually want the responsibility of a mother, as well as the responsibility of his own family and I understand that. And I do think, like Glenn said, we actually do need to be accountable for ourselves. I look at my own mum at the moment, and she’s back in the hospital again and she is still trying to be independent at 93.
Dr. Drew: You’ll never take that away while she’s cognitive.
Bron: No and I think that’s good like yes, there’s a certain measure of responsibility that us, as the three children are taking, but mum is continuing to say, “This is my life, I’m still hoping to get better, I’m still hoping to get home.” And she’s certainly from a financial perspective, she and dad had things put in place. So I like that and I think she, for me, has been a great role model and I want to follow in her footsteps, not that I’m necessarily want to be in my own home when I’m 93. I think like you Drew, I will be looking to transition into some sort of supported living. The drain that it actually has been on my brother and sister and I, particularly earlier this year when we’re tag-teaming going to traveling hundreds of kilometres to be with mum, I don’t want to put that on my boys.
Dr. Drew: I see a lot of these stuff on Facebook because I am in a social media space and all these, “Look after your mum, she’s the only one you’ve got and blah, blah, blah.” I see a lot of these MEMS and things. Glenn works a lot with language and you can put something on this Glenn if you’d like, but it’s the use of words. Well words are used in magic, words spelling and words and the articulation or the construction of words and letters is magic, its spelling, its spells. But I don’t think messages should be sent through the social media about, “Look after your mum, it’s your responsibility.” I mean, I do understand it but at the end of the day, I have my own mother who’s very difficult to get along with and is very independent and again won’t have a power of me getting involved in this part of her life in her late 80s, so I don’t. I don’t want to feel guilty about it and I don’t want to have these conversations with other family members where it’s my responsibility or your responsibility, or your accountability. And I agree with Glenn, the accountability should sit with us as individuals and these are emotional intelligence conversations and spaces to remain confident in because as we get older and the further you get older, this must be more prevalent in the thinking space of, “Who is actually going to care for me when I get older?” And what does care look like and what does care mean to you when you’re an older person? Brian, you’re our oldest Baby Boomer here, what is your thought here?
Brian Hinselwood: Look, it’s interesting what you just mentioned there Drew, what’s it going to look like? Sometimes when you talk about being cared for, you’re talking nursing, you’re talking palliative care, you’re talking all these things. When we started this conversation 10 minutes or whatever it was ago, I was thinking more of just living life, not being nursed in life. And on that level, I kind of covered myself in glory. I have two daughters and I have a much younger wife. So one of them is going to say, “Let’s look after the poor old bugger,” but I’m in the off chance and again, my daughters who happen to live interstate from where I live, I’ve never had this conversation with them and I don’t want them to feel obligated to look after me. I mean financially, I think I’ll be okay. I can’t see any major, and that’s the danger of course, you can’t see any major reason that you won’t be financially okay. And as Glenn pointed out, there’s no point in relying on a pension. I’m at pensionable age now and I can’t get a pension to save my life. And dealing with the people in the government is just a nightmare. It’s worse than dealing with the telephone companies. And so look, in terms of looking after myself, again, picking up on what Glenn said of accountability, I’m trying to look after myself, I’m trying to stay as healthy as I can and delaying the inevitable, I suppose. But yes, I’m not that concerned about it.
Dr. Drew: Amanda?
Amanda Lambros: So for me, I absolutely love the contributions by everyone but I think for me, I’m really hoping that we put enough money aside which we’ve already started doing, that we can actually live really comfortably in a retirement home that is a very comfortable nursing home so somebody else can take care of me. So I don’t really anticipate my kids taking care of me, I’d really just appreciate that they come and visit, that would be great. And I really think if I can put the money aside to be able to be put in a space that is comfortable enough for me, then I’m happy with that.
Dr. Drew: Sure, and I’ll agree and you’re much younger than the panel Amanda so your planning strategy is a lot earlier implemented, probably because if you step back generationally, it’s now these are the concerns of the under the Baby Boomer generations because they’ve watched the Baby Boomers.
Dr. Drew: The Baby Boomers are very much stuck as we’ve mentioned before where many Baby Boomers are actually transitioning their elderly parents, like Bron, like Wayne, where people like Glenn have already transitioned their parents. My parents are getting close to it now, my father is already deceased, but these actual situations cause a lot of stress in family circles and circles of influence. So Brian clearly says he’s got two daughters he’s never had the conversation with. Brian, what will you do when the day comes by accident, by mercy of the Lord, whatever, where all of a sudden you’re needing care and you’ve never had these conversations with your family, and wait for it, the daughters decide they’re going to take control and they’re going to start putting things in that they want?
Brian: What am I going to do? One of the things is that I actually don’t think and I will now have this conversation at some stage with my daughters. I don’t think that they will want to necessarily be that involved but they’ll want me to be comfortable, they’ll want me to be looked after. I don’t think they’ll necessarily want to do it. They’re not going to move, for example, they both live in Victoria, they’re not going to move from one end of the country to the other just because I’ve hit a roadblock or whatever it is.
Dr. Drew: Yes, I know, but Brian, I hate to be the bearer of bad news and I’m not saying it will happen to you but I can tell you I sit in many circles around tables of families where the daughters just take control and go, “No, Dad we’ll be moving down here. We’ll put him in a nursing home around the corner.”
Brian: yes, and when my mother got old, she’s dead now, she was living one end of the country from where my sister lived. My sister went through all this with Mum, “You should move down with us.” And mum said, “Oh no, I’ve got all my friends here.” It’s that all sorts of things. I think I might just move to somewhere in Southeast Asia to be honest.
Dr. Drew: Yes, I’m with you. I’m going to move on and book a room in Wayne’s mansion.
Bron: Sounds good.
Wayne: Wayne’s retirement village.
Glenn: To give you a scenario mate, let’s imagine that you’re transitioned into an old actor’s home.
Dr. Drew: There’s a movie about that. What’s it called?
Glenn: Is this a nightmare for you or is this heaven?
Dr. Drew: Is it Helen Mirren did that movie? No. The one in India, the hotel.
Brian: Marigold Hotel.
Dr. Drew: Marigold Hotel.
Bron: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Dr. Drew: That’s it. I could see Brian sitting in the middle of that.
Bron: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
Wayne: At the old actor’s retirement home at breakfast every morning, do they just shout “Action!” when they want you to eat?
Brian: And “cut!” when it’s over.
Dr. Drew: Glenn, I want to ask Glenn the use of word. The words and the meanings, I mean, the “more of, the less ofs.” For somebody, unlike the rest of us who is independent with just your spouse and your lovely wife, you have to have these conversations because you have no one else. Do you sit down and regard and take into that consideration what’s more of, what’s less of, what’s needed, what’s not? Do you actually sit and plan? Because you are the prime example of not having a close inner circle of children, grandchildren that will be asked or will have a concern to step in. It is primarily simply you and your spouse.
Glenn: I mean, one point I’d like to make for all professional presenters and speakers, if you invent something or you speak something onstage, it’s probably good to actually live it in your own life. So when I come up with the Russians and the more ofs, and the less ofs and the bit ofs, it’s a model that Lindy and I use and talk about. But it’s also, there’s another little thing that I teach. I was asked years ago with some youngsters who were living on the streets, and I said, “Goal setting done the work unless you’ve got a future orientation.” So first of all, we have to help these youngsters have a future orientation and we’re going for a walk out in nature, get out of the classroom, walk in nature, walk up to a river, and a youngster picked up a rock and threw it into the river and then youngsters started skimming rocks across the river. And we sat down in the sand and we drew that, that this leads to this leads to this leads to this when you’re skimming the rocks. And it became a metaphor for skimming rocks into the future. And so we all need to do some contingencies. What’s a rock throw into the future that’s really pessimistic? So if all of my neurons go and I’m no longer able to make these decisions for myself, what’s a rock thrown to the future that’s really optimistic? I might live until I’m a 110 and be healthy and wealthy. So you do a variety of rock throws and I think every human being needs to be doing those contingencies. When you hear Amanda doing those contingencies now and thinking, “Hey there’s a little bit we’ve got to put aside just in case.” And I know we’ve talked about this and Brian backed it up a little bit of a just-in-case fund in life. And part of my just in case, just in case my dollars, and I don’t have my dollars, I don’t have my neurons, then I’ve got to have a good intention written down for other human beings: “This is the way that I want it for me. This is the way that it needs to be and this is the way I’m going to do it kind of thing if I’m still capable of doing it.” Now if Lindy goes or I go and the other is in a situation where they can take care of all that stuff, we’ll take care of it. We know what we do for each other. But in case that there was a situation where one of us was declining slowly or losing some of our neuron capability, then the intentions got to be there in the contingencies and it is.
Dr. Drew: You’re dead right. I often sit with couples like you Glenn in their 80s. And funnily enough, if the wife is frailing or the husband is frailing, one of their contingencies they’ve planned on is that they will both move regardless into a supported living space. Now for me, professionally as a gerontologist, I like this modeling concept – no separation. If I look at the more of and less ofs, your Russian friends, I can categorically tell you and the empirical data is very clear, the research here is very solid. We need less of the material gains, material supports and material aspects of life. We need more of the connections, the persons, the people and the values. So the emotional intelligence should be using that and I have many couples that will move into a nursing home, a retirement village setting or a care home together, shared room, accommodations and so forth. One is quite declining and frailing with dementia, the other one is not. But I see much more quality of life in the person declining as well as the other person, when the partner is there consistently with them along the journey because that’s the choice they made and the stones they threw early. Where I see couples that are separated, one has to visit, or can’t visit the home, or can’t visit the other, or separated within service really detrimental to care, detrimental to the quality of life in ageing care. And it’s effective for Boomers to think about who’s going to look after it with your old? If you’ve got family great, if you can have that circle of influence. If you haven’t, my advice is to try and stay, and cast that stone and make that mold to get more of together and less of separation and stay together because that is what you need more of – connection, communication, engagement and familiarity as you age. We call it care, some people only seek care as nursing care, but care is holistic for a human being.
Glenn: Can I just, first of all, pop in and say that my love of language picked up on what you first opened with. You said I was dead right? And given the topic, that is dead right and maybe it’s one of the rock throws into the future is we all should work out how we want to be dead right.
Dr. Drew: Absolutely.
Amanda: And I think one of the things to consider too is in like you were saying Drew, I am in a bit of a younger situation and that’s why I’m starting to save now but it’s really it’s based on what I’ve seen. And I think we’re no longer that we’ve had a fundamental shift of there used to be one part of a couple would go to work, the other part would stay home. So typically, it would be men would go to work and women would stay home. So if parents of those people needed to be moved into the house, there was always someone to take care of them in the house. And so we’ve developed this idea of, “Well we’ll just move mom and dad into our house if they get sick.” Well, that’s great until they get so sick and they need so much care that the next thing is, “Oh my goodness, we’ve got to move like a doctor or a nurse in.” So unless you previously worked as a full-time nurse or a full-time carer, there’s absolutely no way can you do that and there’s going to be a point that they’re not able to stand up, that you’re going to need hoists for them and inevitably your house is not going to be equipped for this. So then, you get to the third stage of “Well now, they’re too difficult for us. We’ve moved care in and now we need to send them somewhere else because this is beyond our scope of what we can do.”
Dr. Drew: Yes. They are emotional transitions that don’t need to occur and I’m with all the panel, today Bron said, I mean it’s hard in an ageing space. For someone like me who continuously sits in the counseling, guidance, and therapeutic care and planning of care for older people, these are tough conversations let me tell you. I’ve many times have to sit, you have to train in this space to sit in that room and be emotionally competent when you’re faced with a husband, or wife, or daughter, or son, a family, the influences that come here because everybody sits around thinking, “She’ll be right, it’ll be okay, don’t worry about that. She’ll be right, she’ll be okay.” Until that crisis moment comes and it falls apart in front of everybody and then all of a sudden, no one wants to take accountability. People don’t want to be honest about their own responsibilities when it comes to caring for an older person. And I’ll be honest, the older people are quite ignorant because they’re not taking the responsibility and accountability as Glenn puts it on themselves. You really have to decide what is going to be a benefit and what is going to be a burden in your end stage of your life because this has dramatic impact on more than just yourself as an individual.
Brian: Can I just mentioned as well that one of the things that I’m finding with this conversation is generally speaking, we’re talking about people who are currently in a relationship maybe have children, maybe have grandchildren. There must be tens of thousands of people who are single people – no children, no grandchildren, they don’t have the family home as Amanda has just been saying to maybe transfer into a mini hospital, or hospice or whatever. And what happens to these people mean like I just go into care, I don’t know.
Dr. Drew: But this is the issue of homelessness Brian, and this is a major issue within the community. And no husband, no kids, no family and the thought of being transitioned to a nursing home is extremely frightening for older people who are single and isolated. They actually become more isolated in their own homes as they age and it’s really up to building connection in community and this is where I place an emphasis in our training of community coordinators to make sure they understand. Look at the circles of influence outside of this older person – they have neighbors, they have someone across the street, they have meals on wheels – all of these stuff has to be planned together to keep an engagement, that ‘more of’ on this person, as Glenn speaks, and ‘less of’ the isolation and less of the disengagement. It’s very frightening for an older person with no family, no husband, no kids to be facing and looking out that window of what’s going to happen in their last stage and who is going to care for them.
Amanda: I want to step in here because I think this is where a lot of problems start to occur when you’re on your own and you have nobody else. Let’s essentially assume there’s no partner, there’s no kids and you’re on your own. At what point do you go, “Okay, I’m no longer capable of driving. I need to start getting a taxi service, or an Uber or a driver to get me from point A to point B.” Oftentimes, especially with the older people that I work with, they’re not even willing to have that honest conversation. So then that’s one thing, that’s the driving part. If they can’t even cope with the driving part, at what point do they go, “Okay, I can no longer manage myself in my house. I’m not eating properly, I’m not eating healthily, I’m not showering the way I should, I’m not getting up and getting dressed the way I should every day. I think today is the day to transition myself into aged care,” and they just don’t have that conversation. So that gets put back to society to say, “Next time I go and see my doctor or my healthcare provider,” that person needs to do an assessment to go, “Do you have any partner?” No. “Do you have any kids?” No. “Do you have anywhere to go?” I don’t think so. “Okay, this is where we need to start transitioning help.”
Dr. Drew: This is where it interferes with the diversity or individualism and the aspect of ownership and owning your own life and having control and power Amanda. But one of the things in relationship to this is I put it on health professionals, professionals community. I mean we are lucky, we live in a Western society, it’s got wealth, it’s got money and we build a society platform that allows this. My fear at the moment and I’ll be political, the way the country is going and the way we’re moving. This fabric that has been built by the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomer Generation, it’s actually the Baby Boomer Generation that these social welfare networks in place. We’re running very strict fears at the moment that bleeding down line not too far away. Those social welfare networks and safety nets are going to be taken away and it’s going to be the Baby Boomers who are going to miss it because they’re the ones who put it into place in the first place. If you leave it up to the Millennials, they will ignore it because they don’t see a need for it. If you leave it up to the individual elderly, they will be stoic on the point of, “I don’t need help,” or “I still can drive.” So I keep pushing the barrier back to health professionals, community people, people who have a passion and a focus to be trained well to identify and observe these issues around older people, engage, have the courage to have the conversation, put it on the table and let’s mold it out because I think Glenn said, goals are useless if you don’t have the stepping stones or the smaller goals, the SMART goal setting. The conversation must start early and I employ Baby Boomers who are listening to this podcast, this is why this podcast exists, it’s time to have these conversations because the numbers are getting extraordinary. And I know Bronwyn will have something to say here about homelessness and isolation particularly of women over 60 at the moment, the figures are extraordinary. Much bigger than I thought they were when I looked at them only a month ago.
Bron: And I know for myself like, I house sit. But if I didn’t house sit, I would be homeless. So yes, that’s the reality and I never thought I would find myself in that situation. But I love what Amanda was saying because I suppose that’s the journey that I’ve been taking myself on and why I house sit rather than be homeless, obviously it’s much nicer. But there’s that whole sense that the emotional intelligence that you talk about Drew all the time. I look at my mum and she’d still like to get back to driving. Hello, I don’t think she’s going to get back to living on her own again. What I’ve been trying to do is I observe my mother’s ageing and what I see is her lack of her own emotional intelligence and her own self-awareness, I want to be able to say, “I am not doing well. I do need help.” That is hard. Look, I’ll put my hand up, I’m a very independent person, my children would tell you that. But I hope that I can have enough emotional intelligence to say, “I actually need help. I can’t do this anymore, this is getting too hard for me,” and to have that sufficient self-awareness. That’s actually my goal, is to move into my old age with self-awareness and I think that when it comes to the homelessness as well, I am incredibly aware of how close to the edge I am. I call it “dancing on the edge” and I’ve been there many, many times over the last 10 years. But it comes back I think to what Glenn was saying, it’s about being accountable and are you accountable to yourself? What is it that I want to do? What sort of life do I want? And what am I prepared to do to keep myself safe a lot on a whole range of areas?
Dr. Drew: I’m going to raise the question and I’m going to throw it in now because we’ve got a bit of time. But I’m going to raise it because this conversation of who’s going to care for me when I get old – very many times ends up in the space of talking about euthanasia or assisted suicide. And I’m throwing it on the table because it is a conversation that needs to be had. In Australia at the moment, it is definitely a prevalent discussion in Parliament amongst communities and we’ve just had a very clear example of an 80 odd year old professor who’s just in public domain and space, moved himself overseas to assist his own suicide because he didn’t want to be cared for now, he can’t care for himself. And I’m going to put it out to you. I have my own thoughts I’ll keep to the end. I’m going to go to Wayne first because I want to know what Wayne thinks about this. Quickly, give me your thoughts on it. Is it something you discuss and think about and where does it sit with you?
Wayne: My view is that it’s absolutely your right to deal with your life as you see fit and that includes terminating it. The professor you’re talking about I think was 101 or 102.
Amanda: A hundred and four.
Wayne: A hundred and four, his choice. Good on him for making it while he was still physically and cognitively able to make it and it’s terribly sad that you have to go to Switzerland to do this.
Dr. Drew: I totally agree.
Wayne: I don’t understand why our politicians see this as anyone’s business except the individual involved. But that being said, I’ve recently had a colleague at the age of in his late 40s, be found dead after three days of a heart attack, living alone. So this is not just a problem for who’s going to care for me when I get old, it happens right across the board.
Dr. Drew: Yes, I’d like to keep it in an age space because euthanasia goes across to many terminal illnesses. I want to only speak about its association with being old, very old and that choice and what we’re facing. So I’ll go to Glenn next.
Glenn: I love the idea that it can be a metaphorical ‘go to Switzerland; and in the future, we’ll be able to say, “I’m going to Switzerland” and we can go around the street corner Wayne and put our deposit down and like Fleetwood Mac, find our own way and go our own way. I would be hoping that there’s that kind of a package to be able to purchase but when my time comes, if there isn’t, then sadly you go about trying to find your own way to put that package together and that sometimes can be devastating that you’re not totally successful with going your own way. So I’m with you Wayne and I want more options, more possibilities and but I’m sure somewhere along the way, governments out of a tone of concern and care will actually see that it’s costing too much not to have people be able to go to Switzerland and there might be some many opportunities in having a few ‘go to Switzerland’ places around the street corner and die more comfortably.
Dr. Drew: Yes, tourism. Amanda?
Amanda: I totally agree in the concept of euthanasia and that it’s my own life and if this is where I want to be, that’s great. As a family, we talk about it on a regular basis. My mom looks forward to getting to a point that she can no longer survive the way she wants to with her quality of living and she said, “I hope that you take me to wherever I need to go.” It’s been written in her power of attorney and I think that’s actually really important. My husband on the other hand thinks it’s horrible that we actually talk about this. He is like, “Oh my God, what are you guys doing? You can’t kill your mom.” I said, “I’m not going to kill my mom. My mom is making a choice if she would like to go somewhere and I really hope he would do the same thing for me.” And he goes, “I’m not going to prison.”
Dr. Drew: We need to move away from the term and the language “assisted suicide” because that is a terrible way to describe what we’re talking about. It should be “supportive death.”
Amanda: I totally agree. And unfortunately, currently in Australia, that’s not how it’s seen and it absolutely should be seen that way and props to the guy who was a 104, made all the decisions, went ahead with it and I absolutely loved the fact that media kind of followed him around and said, “How are you feeling?” He said, “I’m glad that I’m able to make my own choices.”
Dr. Drew: There’s a great documentary on the ABC which they got in quite a bit of trouble for making, it’s called “The Suicidal Tourist.” And he was an Australian fellow, he’s quite prominent that they followed him over, he did the whole process, and ABC filmed the entire process for 3 months all the way including the action that he took, process of death and dying and what he did. And they got in quite a bit of trouble because they aired that and showed it on TV. I thought they would cut the curtain, but they didn’t, they showed the whole process. Now you can get a hold of that through the ABC but it caused a lot of controversy. Brian?
Brian: Yes look, I agree with the general consensus that’s happening here. I actually find it hard to believe that we don’t have a system that allows terminally ill people to end their lives when they want to end it. And instead of which, we spend I don’t know what the figure is, millions, and millions, and millions and millions of dollars keeping these people alive. Some years ago, I had a quite a dear friend who had a massive brain aneurysm and when I found out, I went to visit her, she was in the emergency ward at one of the local hospitals and there were tubes coming out of everywhere. And the nurse actually said to me that, “There’s nothing we can do, we’re just keeping her alive.” I said, “Why? Why are you bothering? Why are you spending all this money when there’s people probably in the next wall who’s have got some relatively minor illness, it could do good some of this money spent on?” I find it obscene, I really find it obscene, like this professor a few weeks ago had to travel halfway around the world at the age of 104 to do what he wanted to do. It’s absolutely obscene I think.
Dr. Drew: And Bronwyn?
Bron: I’m totally in agreement with the panel in terms of having the choice to end your life, bring your life to a close in the way that you want and at the time that you want. However, my sister has the opposite. She works in aged care like you do Drew and her major concern is that there would be pressure from family on an aged relative to bring their life to a close and I understand her concerns there. But I think if, like what we’re hoping to do with this podcast is to educate people and get people thinking so that we have our advanced care plans in place and in that, we say “We want this, this, and this done if I can no longer make those decisions. This is how I want to go, this is what I don’t want to happen.” So that family knows what our wishes are. And like you are Amanda, having discussions with your mum as to what she wants and how she wants to go, like I know that’s a perfect world but I think we’ve just got to keep moving towards that perfect world that we all actually want where people will respect one another and where people will say, “Look, I have had enough of life.” I look at my mum now and I don’t believe that she has a very good quality of life. However, she wants to stay on living so there is no way even if we had the opportunity that I would be saying to mum, “I think it’s time you took the little blue pill mum.” Because mum wants to keep on living and I think that’s where the owners and the responsibility rests with the person themselves.
Brian: I think that’s brilliant and I think if the older person, your mother in this case Bron, wants to keep on living, that’s fine. But there’s the tens of millions of other people who have some horrible disease who don’t want to keep on living. They’re the ones that we should be concerned about.
Bron: That’s right, giving them the option.
Dr. Drew: Here’s my point of view and it’s based professionally and ethically and through all the studies so I think I’m quite around to be able to have my comment on it and I do regularly. I’m a firm believer in the rights for an individual to choose to euthanize and I’m a firm believer more so in the right for the government to construct very strong and tight laws sit around it to protect people and to make sure that these processes are advocated through professionals, through the legal system and that they are only dealt with with the individual and their health team. Nobody else, no family, no one else, no nothing. The law should be very strict on this. When I then put a very big line in the sand and I move across to aged care, I’m not a huge advocate for this system to be driven into the aged care domain. One thing we don’t do well but we can do better and extremely well is palliate people. And the natural dying process for an older person is very observable and measurable. You can see it through a process of assessment and observation and data that’s gathered by making clear clinical decisions and having conversations with patients to inform them of their trajectory of their illness, or their disease or their ageing and again, allowing them to have options if their cognitive or if they’re going to reach a stage of not having cognition. One of the problems in aged care is no one likes to see people suffer. So we hide away from death and death is a conversation not being had in aged care, it’s a conversation not being warmed in nursing homes and it is primarily a clinical leadership issue for nurses, for clinical leaders, doctors, people in the health domain to encourage, to bring it to the table and to have these real conversations with people so that they understand their options in the trajectory of their end stage. Then allow them to have the right to choose a time, if they wish, depending on their diagnosis with their team to make a choice of clear palliative approach, which is quite painless and very well supported if done right or to be taking an option for legal euthanasia. And I think aged care just sits in that space where there’s a better option, but what we’ve got to do is start understanding what it means to be old, what it means to palliate and what that process looks like. We have to own it. And I agree with you Bron, family get involved in these processes and I don’t believe they’ve got a right to have a discussion in it because they’re only talking about their own emotions about what they see. This is about the individual and what they’re choosing. And interestingly enough, I have very deep and interesting conversations around this with clients who in their second breath will immediately tell me, “Do not discuss this with my daughter.” And it’s like, “Oh really? This is a discussion you should be telling your daughter.” So at the end of the day, is it an option, quickly for all panel? For me, yes it’s an option at the end stage, people should be allowed to legally have.
Brian: Yes, I agree totally.
Amanda: I, too.
Dr. Drew: And now, I will move. We’ll make it a bit more enlightening and more happy. We might even bring the conversation of sex in there Amanda.
Amanda: That excites me so much Drew.
Dr. Drew: Well let’s have a look at who’s going to care for you when you’re old and that’s the question when I’m old and gray, “Who’s going to care for me?” But I want to now end it off with emotional, sexual and intimacy attachments and how that looks for an older person because I just recently finished doing a program of looking at doll and pet therapy in a nursing home. Now this has been through its transitions within aged care environments and community care environments and let me tell you, I’ve looked at both ends of the data and it’s extremely enlightening and empowering to see the effect that pet therapy, doll therapy, intimacy and connection because intimacy is not sex. Sexuality and intimacy are connected but they’re not the same thing. And I’ve just followed a program where to see how lap dogs, poodles, little tiny dogs have made such a remarkable change to the residents in a number of facilities for the sheer fact of no husband, no family, nobody but their connection with this pet, or this doll or an animal has extended their quality of life in such a recordable and dramatic way. So I’m a huge advocate now looking at having pets, connection with pets, intimacy, love and relationships and allowing elder people to reconnect and have love in their life when they get older and it’s not something they should keep out of there end stage. What’s your thoughts Amanda?
Amanda: I’m going to one up that and I’m going to say, there’s also some really great facilities that allow sex surrogacy. So yes, I totally agree that pets and intimacy is really wonderful and that touching connection is important, but I also think that just because I’m old or elder and I’m in a home doesn’t mean that I have no sex drive and I should just not have sex for the rest of my life. And so there’s fabulous things called “sex surrogates” and if you’re in one of the home spaces that allows for that to come in, absolutely go for it because I think it’s called “sex drive” for a reason and if you want to keep driving it, use it or you’re going to lose it. So if you’re someone who has a high sex drive, use a sex surrogate and hopefully have that conversation. Again, don’t tell my kids, they might not approve.
Dr. Drew: I often throw the cat amongst the pigeons in a Christian-based home when I start allowing the process of getting sex health workers to become connected with the clients in the home. Their eyes turn into dinner plates.
Amanda: And it’s something as simple that it could just be laying together naked. Nothing happens in force, it’s just nude on nude, touching that actually does so much positives to people that I think it should be allowed in every space.
Dr. Drew: That’s why the partner process is important. Glenn?
Glenn: Listen, I was born a nudist. Let’s throw in a word for the great Ashley Montagu in the 1960s he wrote the book, “Touching and Reawaken the World” as to why skin-on-skin, human touch to human touch, petting a dog, or we need touch as human beings, it keeps us in touch and that should be at every stage of our life. Born a nudist and may we die a nudist as well as well. So thumbs up to Ashley Montagu, the book is touching if anyone can find it.
Dr. Drew: Brian?
Brian: Look, I want to move into Amanda’s retirement village. I just think she’s kind of got it worked out where I want to be.
Dr. Drew: Me too. I want pole dancing, happy hour and hydroponics.
Brian: That answered an earlier question of what I’m going to do. But look, I agree. I think it’s vitally important that people have physical contact, be with a pet or be with preferably an another human. And yes, I’m all for it, I think it should be brought in and I know certain places are doing this now but I think it should be almost a given.
Dr. Drew: They have a tendency these days to get rid of it all because of infection control and occupational, health and safety and all these other rubbish they go on with, this is just bullshit extraordinaire stuff if you ask me but anyway. Bronwyn?
Bron: Well I’m going to go back to the “Return of the Nude” that I was part of on Monday where there were 500 of us who were naked on a cold Melbourne morning because what that did, no we didn’t actually physically touch, that could have been quite inappropriate. However, the connection that was there between 500 people who chose to take their clothes off as a group for something, there is something about nakedness that actually connects us even if we’re not touching one another and you asked me earlier how the experience was. For me, there was this huge connection because there’s a vulnerability about nakedness and I think that’s probably what that skin-on-skin thing does. You get to be your most vulnerable when you’re naked and if you can do that with another human being, preferably if you’re still able to do it with someone whom you love, that’s wonderful or if not, with someone who cares enough about you as a human being to put themselves into that space like a sex surrogate. I think that is wonderful, it’s the connection always that we want whether it’s on skin or whether it’s being able to be part of something like I was on Monday with other people but that vulnerability about nakedness and the connection that comes with nakedness, I think they’re the two things that are so important to us as people.
Wayne: We are indeed. I just like to say that I was with Amanda in her sex surrogacy and then Drew, your pole dancing and hydroponics pool got me more interested. But Bronwyn’s with her 500 nudes, I’m on her side, let’s go there.
Dr. Drew: You know I was thinking to myself, I wonder if Wayne was to attend that photoshoot, I imagine something inappropriate would happen.
Wayne: Well you’ll never know what could pop up. But I have to make a serious comment here about the issue of sex, and ageing and aged care facilities on behalf of the gay community because my understanding is that there is still considerable discrimination against gay couples in their capacity to share a room, in their capacity to live together, in their capacity to have sex together and some of the religious institutions you mentioned earlier Drew have made this very difficult and while it’s getting better, I don’t think we should forget our gay colleagues who also have a need for all of this intimacy that we’re talking about.
Dr. Drew: And we have freedom aged care now Wayne in Australia. Freedom Aged Care are people that work with and setup and design now gay friendly or what we call FLAG (friends of lesbians and gays, family of lesbian and gays) they have now specific LGBTI focused nursing homes for the elderly now, they are government-funded. There are three that I know of in the country and now they’re moving the Freedom Aged Care, they’re moving that now into setting up programs inside nursing homes right around a country where LGBTI consumers and residents are absolutely focused on and given what they want.
Wayne: It’s nice to see it happening but it’s slow, late and small.
Dr. Drew: Yes.
Wayne: So on that positive note, it’s mostly unlike me to be so positive, isn’t it? Let’s say, thank you for joining us today. We might give a miss to our final thoughts given that we’ve taken a little while to get to this point in time. But Brian, Glenn, Bron and Amanda, thank you for being with us as our panelists today, it’s been a fascinating conversation.
Brian: Thank you.
Wayne: Our resident gerontologist Dr. Drew Dwyer, thank you for being with us and leading the discussion.
Dr. Drew: Thank you everyone. Great to contact with you all again this week.
Wayne: And if you’ve been listening and you like the show, we’d invite you to become a patron. We are on patreon.com/boomsday and there, you can pledge to us on the sum of $1 to let us know you exist or more if you’re so inclined to keep us going. We do appreciate your support. If you’re listening to us on social media, please click the likes, the shares, the subscribes and share us with your colleagues. This is Booms Day Prepping, my name is Wayne Bucklar.