In Defense of the Frail Elderly

Our current system, although flawed, still provides the best medical care anywhere on Earth.  For no population subset is this statement more true than our frail elderly. 

Even the most modest towns across our nation have nursing facilities, home health agencies, and community resources available to help maintain the dignity, function, and quality of life of the frail older adult.  There are organizations and niche providers such as Hospice and Meals on Wheels who work in the trenches daily with the elderly and their families to make the best of an oftentimes hopeless situation.  We as a nation should be thankful to this arm of the healthcare industry, and shudder when we reflect that, if Obamacare reforms are successful, it could sound the death knell for these types of services which the frail elderly population depends upon and deserves.

I've worked for nearly twenty years in the American healthcare industry, spending most of that time in long-term care.  Many patients I encounter are in the last weeks or months of their lives.  The vast majority of customers I serve each day have at least some form of dementia, from those who have mild cognitive deficits to poor souls who are profoundly demented, to the point of not being able to care for themselves.  Yet I, and hundreds of thousands of other healthcare workers nationwide, devote our lives to serving these residents and their families.  The efforts we deliver daily touch lives and make a difference, and woe to our nation if Obama's "reforms" curtail care to this seemingly hopeless group of citizens. 

Why is it important to provide care to the frail elderly?  Two anecdotes can help illustrate the mindset of those who care for the elderly.

The first comes from an essay I encountered several years ago by Dr. Paul E. Ruskin in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  In the essay, which I will paraphrase, he is instructing a class of neophyte nurses, and he presents this case study to them:

"Your next patient is a Caucasian female who appears her stated age.  She cannot speak nor comprehend the spoken word.  She often babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented to person, place and time, but will occasionally recognize her own name.  She is often soiled and her clothes are dirty from incessant drooling.  She makes no effort to care for herself and is utterly dependent upon the efforts of others.  She cannot walk.  She must be fed a special pureed diet and is 100% incontinent, requiring frequent bathing and changing.  Several times a day, she becomes agitated for no obvious reason, and will scream loudly until someone attends to her."

In the essay, the doctor asks his students how they would feel caring for such a person.  They used words such as "frustrated, "hopeless," "annoyed," and "depressed."

However, the doctor stated "I very much enjoy caring for this individual," and as the class members looked on, he held up a picture of his six-month old daughter.

The second example comes from an advertisement from a therapy company which ran in the mid-90's.  The ad showed an adorable baby alongside an older adult, with the byline "The sun setting is no less beautiful than the sun rising."

The frail elderly and their families deserve love, support and care from a compassionate society.  If we allow willy-nilly healthcare reform, the frail elderly will undoubtedly be targeted, with such rationalizations as "Why devote resources (the liberal euphemism for money) to a hopeless cause such as this?"  A physician at our local Tea Party stated one platform of healthcare reform is to withhold vital treatment in the last 6 months of the patient's life. 

Do we really want our government deciding when our last 6 months have arrived?  They have not done such a good job predicting unemployment or economic recovery:  why should we assume they'd be any better at predicting when we are in the last six months of our life?

I challenge my fellow workers in the long-term care industry to rally for no rationing of healthcare for the frail elderly.  America has a history of vocal opposition to abortion and advocacy for the unborn:  we must make similar efforts for the right to a natural death for our frail elderly, a death not subject to governmental control.  Now is the time to contact our elected officials, educate our coworkers and families, and attend a tea party to voice your opposition to growing government control over our lives.  "Change" for the sake of "change" is not what our most vulnerable patients need or deserve.

Anthony Ughetti is a HealthCare Manager and Tea Party Patriot who is Blessed to live in the great state of Texas.
Our current system, although flawed, still provides the best medical care anywhere on Earth.  For no population subset is this statement more true than our frail elderly. 

Even the most modest towns across our nation have nursing facilities, home health agencies, and community resources available to help maintain the dignity, function, and quality of life of the frail older adult.  There are organizations and niche providers such as Hospice and Meals on Wheels who work in the trenches daily with the elderly and their families to make the best of an oftentimes hopeless situation.  We as a nation should be thankful to this arm of the healthcare industry, and shudder when we reflect that, if Obamacare reforms are successful, it could sound the death knell for these types of services which the frail elderly population depends upon and deserves.

I've worked for nearly twenty years in the American healthcare industry, spending most of that time in long-term care.  Many patients I encounter are in the last weeks or months of their lives.  The vast majority of customers I serve each day have at least some form of dementia, from those who have mild cognitive deficits to poor souls who are profoundly demented, to the point of not being able to care for themselves.  Yet I, and hundreds of thousands of other healthcare workers nationwide, devote our lives to serving these residents and their families.  The efforts we deliver daily touch lives and make a difference, and woe to our nation if Obama's "reforms" curtail care to this seemingly hopeless group of citizens. 

Why is it important to provide care to the frail elderly?  Two anecdotes can help illustrate the mindset of those who care for the elderly.

The first comes from an essay I encountered several years ago by Dr. Paul E. Ruskin in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  In the essay, which I will paraphrase, he is instructing a class of neophyte nurses, and he presents this case study to them:

"Your next patient is a Caucasian female who appears her stated age.  She cannot speak nor comprehend the spoken word.  She often babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented to person, place and time, but will occasionally recognize her own name.  She is often soiled and her clothes are dirty from incessant drooling.  She makes no effort to care for herself and is utterly dependent upon the efforts of others.  She cannot walk.  She must be fed a special pureed diet and is 100% incontinent, requiring frequent bathing and changing.  Several times a day, she becomes agitated for no obvious reason, and will scream loudly until someone attends to her."

In the essay, the doctor asks his students how they would feel caring for such a person.  They used words such as "frustrated, "hopeless," "annoyed," and "depressed."

However, the doctor stated "I very much enjoy caring for this individual," and as the class members looked on, he held up a picture of his six-month old daughter.

The second example comes from an advertisement from a therapy company which ran in the mid-90's.  The ad showed an adorable baby alongside an older adult, with the byline "The sun setting is no less beautiful than the sun rising."

The frail elderly and their families deserve love, support and care from a compassionate society.  If we allow willy-nilly healthcare reform, the frail elderly will undoubtedly be targeted, with such rationalizations as "Why devote resources (the liberal euphemism for money) to a hopeless cause such as this?"  A physician at our local Tea Party stated one platform of healthcare reform is to withhold vital treatment in the last 6 months of the patient's life. 

Do we really want our government deciding when our last 6 months have arrived?  They have not done such a good job predicting unemployment or economic recovery:  why should we assume they'd be any better at predicting when we are in the last six months of our life?

I challenge my fellow workers in the long-term care industry to rally for no rationing of healthcare for the frail elderly.  America has a history of vocal opposition to abortion and advocacy for the unborn:  we must make similar efforts for the right to a natural death for our frail elderly, a death not subject to governmental control.  Now is the time to contact our elected officials, educate our coworkers and families, and attend a tea party to voice your opposition to growing government control over our lives.  "Change" for the sake of "change" is not what our most vulnerable patients need or deserve.

Anthony Ughetti is a HealthCare Manager and Tea Party Patriot who is Blessed to live in the great state of Texas.