Caring For The Elderly!

The human being is born, will grow, develop, get old and die after a time. It is a natural progression. In family and life ministry we learn and share the experience of couples and others who look forward to retirement and a quiet period from a hectic life. Retirement as it is has its own challenges.

A period of time if unplanned that can have unusual difficulties. However, adequate preparation with the right attitude can make this a great experience. Good intuition and self-control are characteristics which can ensure a stable, peaceful life and perhaps longevity. If couples are economically prepared for retirement they may not experience economic difficulties despite a fall in their income.

Nevertheless, there are numerous challenges and social issues in our society today, to deal with. These include possible abuse: physical, emotional,  sexual  and financial. Subjected , sometimes by the elderly’s  own  relatives or children. The loss of an elderly spouse can be also, a very hard blow to take. However, the period of grief can be considerably mitigated by adequate preparation and  counseling . In many cases depression is a real threat for those who lose their lifetime partner. But in all of the above, faith and religion are important factors in helping overcome the difficulty of  grief, sorrow and pain.

Getting old implies a deterioration of physical and mental faculties. The process however can be slowed down by maintaining and caring for the body. It is a proven fact that a suitable life style  not  only adds years to one’s life but it also adds life to one’s years. Good eating habits together   with  a program of moderate , regular, physical exercise are very decisive factors for good  physical and mental health in elderly people. Faith in God and the expectation of the final resurrection   to a completely  joyous existence has proven useful for support in facing death with confidence   and  dignity.

Caring for the elderly can be a very arduous task and anyone assigned this responsibility should  be  filled with love,  but in taking up this responsibility we must be aware  of the global and  evil  concept of euthanasia. In the United States….some countries, the law recognizes  the  legal  right   of a competent adult to refuse any and all forms of medical treatment including: food   and  water for the aged and suffering, particularly those suffering with a terminal illness.

Now, it is said that with respect to incompetent patients the courts generally allow withdrawal of artificially  provided  food and water. That is based on the patient’s previously expressed intent. Perhaps based on the decision of the family or authorized health care agent  suggesting   that  the patient  would   have wanted such withdrawal anyway. Even if that the withdrawal was in his or her best  interest  depending on the circumstances. In a New Jersey Supreme Court case it was decided that the line between active and passive conduct in the context of medical decisions is far too nebulous to constitute a principled basis for decision making. Brothers and Sisters we know that once  the  law permits euthanasia by withholding food and water the allowance of active intentional killing  is inevitable.

In the  case  of  Brophy  vs. New England Sinai Hospital where the court approved removal of a feeding tube from a patient in a persistent vegetative state; Justice Neil L Lynch remarked in  dissent: “The withdrawal of the provision of food and water is a particularly  difficult, painful  and  gruesome  death. The cause of death would not be some underlying physical disability like kidney failure or the withdrawal of some highly complex medical treatment, but the un-natural cessation of feeding and hydration which like breathing is part of the responsibilities we assume towards  our bodies  routinely. “Friends only God gives life therefore only God should take away life.

Respect for parents derives from gratitude towards those parents and  grandparents, who by the gift of  life;  their life and their work have brought their children into the world and enable them to grow in stature, wisdom  and  grace. Therefore children  and  society  by  extension  should with all their hearts honour  their  fathers and never forget the birth pangs of their mothers. This is referred to as filial respect. Remember that through your parents you are born and so what can you give back that equals  their gift to you? Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. Jesus Christ said: “My son  keep your father’s commandments and forsake not your mother’s teaching……When you walk they will  lead  you, when you lie down they will watch over you, and when you are awake they will talk  with you. A wise son hears his father’s instruction but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

Those old in age and whose lives are diminished or weakened deserves special respect. Old age, sick or  handicapped  persons   should be helped to live lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and  means,  direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, old  or  dying  persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Let us all remember the words of  scripture  from 1 Timothy 5:17-18:”Let the elders who rule well be counted  worthy of double honour especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” “For the scripture says: you shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain and the laborer is worthy  of his wages.”

God Bless You!

Deacon Peter Fevrier
Family & Life Secretariat
Chancery Office Vigie Castries.

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