This is about how we treat our ill and old people not only here but around the world
I am almost done reading a book entitled Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. This is all about how we get old and die in America.
This morning’s paper had an article on the woman who had to leave the state of California in order to have a less gruesome ending to her life than what she was forbidden by law here, namely when to die.
I have seen two members of my own family die painful deaths, one begged to die by a bullet to the head rather than suffer any more from the cancer that was eating her guts out.
Of course, since she was in hospice later, she had the power to push the button on her self-administered pain killer, but before she reached that state, any treatment she got was painful with nauseating side effects.
In his book about the end of life, and how we treat old people and their illnesses, Dr. Gawande offers some other methods and attitudes.
He says that the aim of our medical institutions should be not to provide a “good death” but a good life- until the very end.
How to achieve this good life is the trick. The cost of living a healthy life has skyrocketed. Even paying the rent in a city with good medical institutions is being denied to more and more elderly.
Doctors don’t want to take on poor old people because it does not pay enough.
Rich people have no problem, but the middle class and the lower economic level of senior citizen have to struggle. In the rich country like ours this is a disgrace.
It seems like we are victims of our economic success. Before Social Security there was the Poor house for elderly poor with no family resources. The Dickensian conditions of former ages were corrected, but the population increase and life span increase only made the problems more evident.
Now we see medical refugees who think they can get better health care over the border in Mexico, bloated regulations that prevent decent end of life care, and insurance companies unwilling to help out anybody.
In addition to these problems, people are a bit too proud to admit that they can no longer live alone, so hide their deficiencies until they have a really bad fall in the bathroom, or start a fire by putting on things to cook and then forgetting them.
I hope that we can alleviate the treatment that nursing homes seem to consider normal, like tying people into their wheelchairs, and treating them like units instead of human beings.
For myself, I am trying to stay healthy and keep my grown children appraised of any health issues, so that if I reach the point of helplessness, they can put me in a yurt in their backyard.