I was watching a PBS murder mystery a few weeks back in which the detective is pursuing a mysterious young lady in order to get clues. However, she is a recluse living in a cave and, making a long story short, she tries to elude him, but he pursues and eventually has to crawl up a very narrow shaft in order to get to her. Then the inevitable happens- he gets stuck! I felt this immense fear of not being able to move, an incredible sense of fear set in, and then panic struck! It was an awful feeling and I drew a semblance to what life could be like at the end when it was time to leave if I was not prepared. What these thoughts and feelings have done is to strongly motivate me to do my best to prepare for that final hour so I can make that final transition as best I can and with dignity. What a powerful feeling and motivator this has been, and probably one of the most important. It also ties into how older adults tend to die in our country, with many not prepared yet being subjected to the whims of those who wish to prolong life forever, even when it’s time to go. This is reflected upon quite nicely in an article I read in TIME Magazine while on vacation this past week, written by Joe Klein, who recounts his parent’s final months, weeks and days.
The article is titled “How To Die”. He speaks to how the final weeks and months in the lives of many American elders is of poor quality and wrought with unnecessary life-sustaining treatment. But the author then speaks to what might be the best way to go, working with caregivers and health professionals that understand the limitations of excessive treatments and also recognizing when it’s time to go, along with helping the person and their loved ones get ready for that final transition. The author also points out the perhaps cruel and unnecessary act of asking older adults to make decisions about their heath care plan under Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan of privatizing Medicare, and I couldn’t agree more, as the author states “Changing the way health care is provided rather than the way it is sold may be the most efficient way to generate savings”. Yes, the last thing I need in my life, or that of an older adult I care for, is to be jostled around the health care system by fee-for-service specialists and insurance company case managers trying to maximize their profitability, when in fact it is best for the older adult to be getting ready for those final weeks, days and hours so as to not be filled with fear as if one is stuck in a cave.