By Melissa A. Frost
“I’m writing a paper on the future of the elderly in Australia, Melissa,” said the nurse I was signing S8 drugs out of the DD cupboard with the other night at the local public hospital I work at. Both of us are senior nurses on a medical unit. Average age of patients in this unit would be around 88 years old. Ninety per cent of them are awaiting placement as a result from falls at home, falls at an aged-care facility, delirium at home, urosepsis at home, carer stress at home … the list goes on.
“Paul, it’s quite simple,” I said. “Our generation is going to do the right thing and euthanise ourselves at 75. We are not going to be 92 year-old old patients lying in public hospital beds awaiting some placement, any placement, anywhere, that is available, anywhere in Australia.”
“Paul,” I continued, “we are going to do the right thing and take ourselves off the planet at 75 years old. We are going to euthanise ourselves. Remove ourselves, and not burden the health system and our families.”
The sweet little new graduate Registered Nurse behind us, rummaging through the IV antibiotics section, picked up her vial of Amoxicillin and high tailed it out of that festering, uncomfortable conversation. Turning briefly to look at the two baby boomers in the treatment room discussing a scenario that was:
- too uncomfortable for her, and
- another example of the insanity of baby boomers in her eyes.
But it’s the truth. What are we going to do about our ageing population?
Our public hospitals are struggling now. We simply do not have enough aged-care facilities to place these 88-year olds. And the aged-care facilities are insufficiently resourced with not enough funding and inadequate nursing/carer ratios. How does a registered nurse look after 195 residents on her/his own? The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union is trying. Its campaign about the ratios in aged-care facilities is in full throttle. Is the union making any headway with the Federal Government? No. Not at this stage.
In the 2018 – 2019 Budget delivered by the Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, he promised “caring for older Australians.” Morrison stated that the government would increase home care packages by 14,000 over four years at a cost of A$1.6 billion. However, the aged-care sector clouded this news by pointing out more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a Home Care package now.
The conversation in the treatment room ended between myself and Paul agreeing that yes indeed, we needed to do the right thing and euthanise ourselves at 75 years old. Remove ourselves from the planet. Preferably in one of those decomposition coffins or to be thrown from an urn across some beach we had loved.