To a dog we must seem immortal. During your average dogs life time you hardly age at all. Fifteen is a good age for a dog. If you have a dog you will have known the joy of the companionship they bring and the sadness as old age over takes them. You can't replace your dog, each is unique ,but you can get another one and most dog lovers do. In fact throughout your life you can share the years with a succession of dogs each special in their own way. But there comes a point where many dog lovers feel they can no longer cope with the idea of having another dog only to see it grow old and die.
We over focus on the physical aspects of ageing. We talk of physical decline, we fear dementia but we rarely discuss how we will cope psychologically with living beyond that of parents, siblings, friends, partners and our pet dogs. We don't discuss the feeling of "seen it all before" of life repeating it self or the routine mundaneness of daily living. We talk of being physically tired but not of being psychologically weary. Clearly the two are related and the interaction must impact on our sense of wellbeing. All to often older people don't die of their physical aliments but their loss of the will to carry on.
Health and social care work with older people is increasingly focused on the physical aspects of ageing compensating for reduced mobility, hearing loss ,impaired vision or poor short term memory by help to dress, wash, go to the toilet and help with shopping, cleaning and cooking. But the psychological impact of loss of independence, the loss of dignity and loss of companionship are neglected. Which explains why the operation can be a success, the rehab/intermediate care program can work, the care package can be delivered yet the patient is dead within a year.
Blair McPherson former director of community care www.blairmcpherson.co.uk