Elderly and Death

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  • Elderly and Death
    • Key terms
      • Death: the end of life, which can be determined in several ways but normally when the brain stops functioning
      • Heaven: a state of being with God after death
      • Hell: a state of being without God (or with the Devil) after death
      • Purgatory: a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for heaven
      • Reincarnation: being born again in another form
      • Rebirth: continuing life in another form
      • Ageism: prejudice and discrimination against the elderly
      • Life-support machine: a machine that keeps people alive when they would otherwise die
      • Mourning: a period of time which signs of grief are shown
      • Hospice: a special place to which people go to die with dignity
    • Christian Beliefs
      • Christians and Muslims believe that when a person dies, God decides whether they should spend eternity in heaven (or paradise) with Him or in hell with the Devil
        • Muslim Beliefs
          • Muslims believe there is a 'state of waiting' called Barzakh, between death and the day of judgement
            • The dead will then enter paradise if Allah invites them to
          • Islam has an extended family society, which means different generations of a family often live together
          • Elderly parents have the right to expect their children to care for them and it is the responsibility and duty of the whole family to do this because of the effort and sacrifices the parents have made and for the wisdom they have acquired throughout their life
            • Looking after the elderly provides spiritual growth
            • Sending elderly parents to a home is seen as unkind and disrespectful
              • Islam has an extended family society, which means different generations of a family often live together
              • Looking after the elderly provides spiritual growth
          • Only Allah can take life, so euthanasia is therefore against His plan
            • However, passive euthanasia may be regarded as compassionate and not true euthanasia because it enables nature to take its course, whilst relieving pain
        • God's decision depends on how they have followed their religion and how their beliefs have affected their actions throughout their life
      • Roman Catholics believe that there is a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation called purgatory, for some people before they enter heaven
        • Other Christians believe God chooses without the need for purgatory
        • However, there is some discussion about whether the Day of Judgement that Jesus spoke of will be a future event when all are judged or an individual judgement when a person dies
          • Other Christians believe God chooses without the need for purgatory
      • Christians should support the elderly because they should be respected and are vulnerable
        • Traditionally, Christians have preferred to allow the elderly to keep their independence, but where this is not possible it is a duty to consider options carefully in order to provide the best for them, including the possibility of looking after them themselves
        • Churches provide facilities for the elderly and pastoral support, including regular Holy Communion at home or in a residential care home
      • Christians usually disagree with euthanasia because of their belief in the sanctity of life, preferring to trust in God's mercy
        • Some, however cannot believe that a loving God would want His people to suffer
          • They might argue that God-given freewill and intelligence give a person the right to choose to end their life when its quality is greatly reduced
      • Both Christians and Muslims support turning off life-support machines for people who are brain dead
        • Muslim Beliefs
          • Muslims believe there is a 'state of waiting' called Barzakh, between death and the day of judgement
            • The dead will then enter paradise if Allah invites them to
          • Elderly parents have the right to expect their children to care for them and it is the responsibility and duty of the whole family to do this because of the effort and sacrifices the parents have made and for the wisdom they have acquired throughout their life
            • Sending elderly parents to a home is seen as unkind and disrespectful
            • Only Allah can take life, so euthanasia is therefore against His plan
              • However, passive euthanasia may be regarded as compassionate and not true euthanasia because it enables nature to take its course, whilst relieving pain
          • Although they recognise that this may be interpreted as taking God's role in life and death, they would prefer not to keep people alive with little prospect of a decent quality of life, purely to prolong it
      • Who should care for the elderly?
        • Living at home
          • Many elderly people are strongly independent and prefer to live in their own home, with support
            • The local social services may allocate a social worker to them or arrange for someone to help with the housework, perhaps at a small cost
              • They may also arrange for a hot meal to be delivered every day by the meals on wheels service, again at a small cost
        • Living with family
          • Many families prefer to have elderly members of their family living with them
            • The ideal situation is when the elderly person is treated as an important member of the family, not as someone who lives there because there is no other option
        • Community options
          • Sheltered housing
            • Elderly people can rent a small  flat within a complex of similar flats with a communal area for socialising
              • The flats are adapted to make them easier for elderly people to use, with a warden on duty to help the residents and take charge in an emergency
            • It allows elderly people to have some independence and privacy in a place they call their own
          • Residential homes
            • They provide security and care when people are no longer easily able to look after themselves
            • Residents usually have their own room, but have use of a communal lounge and dining room
            • Meals are provided and some activities are often arranged so that people can socialise if they wish to
          • Elderly people who are unwell may move into a care home, or a hospital for short-term treatment, where they have access to the medical care they need
      • Euthanasia
        • There are three types:
          • Voluntary - the person asks a doctor to end their life
          • Non-voluntary - the person is too ill to ask but it is believed to be in their best interests
          • Involuntary - as happened in Nazi Germany, disabled and sick people were killed without consultation
        • Euthanasia: inducing a painless death, by agreement and with compassion, to ease suffering
        • There are two 'methods':
          • Passive - this is either where the dose of a pain-killing drug, such as morphine, is increased in the belief that it will not only control pain but also shorten life, or where treatment is withheld or withdrawn because all it is doing is delaying the natural process fo dying
            • Some say that this is not really euthanasia at all
          • Active - withholding treatment with the deliberate intention of ending life or giving a drug that will end life

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