by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
This has been a rich year for depictions of end-of-life and assisted living in television this year. Back in August, I reported on a PBS series looking at life in assisted living and just last month I wrote about a Showtime documentary series about people at the end of life. The year in television is also ending with another show about the end-of-life, this one produced by HBO where all 6 episodes are available. Getting On is the story of 3 nurses and their demoted medical director, who run a woman’s rehabilitation unit affiliated with a hospital. While some of the patients are in the unit to recover and head back home, most of the patients are on palliative care, being cared for during their final days.
In an NPR interview, the creators of the American version, married production duo Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer talk about taking their very real experiences of taking care of their aging and dying mothers as inspiration for their show.
What the show does is asks how we want to take care of our elderly and how we want people to die. Sometimes the show is abhorrent in how the elders in their care are ignored while the staff fights among themselves. The elderly women might as well be furniture in the way that they are objectified. But then at other times, the staff sticks up for the patients to be respected and treated well. It reminds me of a family where the various members bicker and tear each other down. But when someone outside of the family say an unkind word, they all band together.
As we reflect on the year that was and on the year that we want to have, Getting On provides a mirror showing the worst and the best of caring for our seniors and thinking about making death a humane experience.