#AtoZChallenge Day 4: Disposable Culture

D is for Disposable Culture

D

For the past several months, I have been working in various nursing homes in my area. As I walk through the facilities and talk to the patients during our therapy sessions, I realize just how much society has failed the aging generation. When individuals become too old to take care of themselves, they are sent to homes in which they are surrounded by other sick peers and must rely on staff who simply do not have enough hours in the day to give them the care to allow them to live out the rest of their days in comfort, let alone satisfaction or pleasure.

I see this problem as a result of the “disposable culture” in which many Western societies function. We buy goods for a specific use, and once that good is no longer fully functional, the good is thrown away and an equal or better replacement is bought. With new upgrades constantly being made, it has become part of our culture and thinking that if an item is faulty in some way, it is no longer worth keeping because there are better replacements available for use.

When one is accustomed this kind of thinking for objects, it is not far-fetched to apply this to fellow humans as well. We live in the world of networking, which involves meeting people for the sole purpose of the use that person may serve in our future careers. When people are no longer of use to us, often we either break off the relationship or allow it to naturally dissolve.

When individuals reach a certain age in which they cannot fully function or provide a use, they become reliant on those with whom they live. Because most Western individuals live with this natural inclination to throw away that which is no longer useful, it becomes easier for younger individuals to be resistant to continuing to take care of an elderly relative, thus resulting in many elderly individuals being sent to an assisted living facility. The elderly are essentially “thrown out” with all of the other lower-functioning items.

In order to combat this problem, individuals must recognize this natural inclination. Once we realize the concept we have in our culture of disposing the old to make way for the new, we then may attempt to explore new ways of dealing with the lack of care for the aging population. It will take education and a shift in the rhetoric used when talking about fellow humans. Rather than see the elderly as lower-functioning people, we should change our perspective and look at that generation as one who raised us when we were not yet fully functional ourselves, thus providing a service that we now owe back. By shifting our perspectives and viewing the elderly as a debt to be paid rather than an item to be thrown away, we will be more inclined to put in the energy, effort, and money to provide that generation with proper care.

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9 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge Day 4: Disposable Culture

  1. trancify says:

    This is an interesting perspective, that the elderly become less functional and are “thrown away”. My first thought was that if I was forced to keep something that was less functional that I would look for ways to fix it. I think that a lot of geriatric medical research is geared towards that response. When I got to the end of your post the shift to a “debt to be paid” is more humane and a nice attitude shift.

    • minnimonmon says:

      I definitely understand the problem-solving inclination. As a (future) therapist, I too often have that attitude when it comes to people. This job actually changed forced me to change some of that thinking. When you realize that some people are at a point where they just won’t get better, it can be very disheartening. I think that’s where many people default to throwing them away.

      This is where the idea of paying them back comes in and why we continue to give them mental health services even in hospice care. We want to make the rest of their lives as fulfilling as possible.

  2. Umaima says:

    Reading this reminded me of a quote by a man named Mirza Yawar Baig: “Collect people, not things.” Because though both people and things have expiry dates, what is more valuable is the relationships we form with the people around us.
    Sometimes I feel that people become so mechanical and emotionless that they treat people like objects too. And reversely, they treat objects too well.

  3. When my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s got really bad, and we discovered his caregiver was trying to kill him for his money, we took him home with us to try and care for him. He kept wandering out the door around town though and he had a terrible temper (throwing chairs, screaming at us) and then he kept getting Pneumonia so we had to bring him to the hospital and then finally decided on a nursing home. As soon as he got in the nursing home he began to decline more rapidly, even though I think it was a good nursing home (not ignoring their patients and all). I honestly don’t know what we could have done otherwise, but I know now with my mom we are trying to keep her home as long as possible so she stays comfortable with her surroundings and hopefully has more time to spend with us. I think for some people they just aren’t able to care for their loved ones, and I think for others they just don’t want to…

    • minnimonmon says:

      I totally understand this. While nursing homes may not be ideal, they are there for a reason as some families simply cannot realistically continue to take care of their loved one at home. Part of my frustration with the situation is that there is a larger systemic problem with the nursing homes themselves. They need more attention and funding because for so many people, they are needed.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m praying for you and your mom.

  4. Paula says:

    I have worked in a couple of nursing homes as an RN! And I have had both my mom and my step-dad placed in a nursing home. It isn’t fair to say that people put their loved ones into nursing homes because we are throwing them away. We live in a culture where it often times takes both mother and fathers to work to care for their families. There is no way I could have taken care of my mom in my home. I had to work full-time to care for my family. But I didn’t ‘throw her away”. I gave her the best care money could buy and we stayed involved by visiting her every single day for over 5 years. That is what boils my blood about nursing homes where I have worked. There were residents who never received a visit from their family who lived 2 blocks from the home. And my other complaint about nursing homes is that I wish there was a better way of screening the health care workers. Not everyone that is taking care of our elderly want to be there. And it shows!! Thank you for this post!

    Paula from
    Smidgen, Snippets, & Bits

    • minnimonmon says:

      Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry if I offended you with what I said. I should have been more clear: my issue is with the larger systemic problem of nursing homes not being given enough funding or attention to be able to provide adequate care. They are definitely necessary for people in your exact situation.

  5. cassmob says:

    It’s a vexed question and yes, funding is at the bottom of it. Some parents have made it a life’s work to be difficult and uncaring or critical. As they age this impacts whether family can/are willing to look after them at home. Bottom line…hope for a quick final illness, and if not, caring family and carers.

    As to the disposable society, it’s very true…somehow it seems we’re losing our sense of community. We are also constantly bombarded by advertising to buy more “stuff” the replace it. It takes resilience to ignore that level of bombardment. So many of our problems come down to greed at all levels is my conclusion…must be getting old and cynical.

    @cassmob from
    Family History Across The Seas

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