End-of-Life Conundrum.

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As of this year, there are 78 million baby boomers in the U.S. and many of them have living parents. The aging population is huge. I’ve been doing some planning in and about this sector and having spoken to dieticians, nutritionists, gerontologists, physicians, nursing home execs and those tangentially allied with the pharmaceutical industry, I can safely say that we, as a society, are prolonging life and suffering beyond what is necessary and it’s not a good thing.

The suffering hits three bull’s eyes. First, the aging patient him or herself. Second, the caregiver who is typically a family member providing ongoing care and assistance. And third, the pocketbook of all Americans. If the aged weren’t ready to go, there would be no such thing as Do Not Resuscitate or Health Power of Attorney. Many elders who are ready to go, only agree to stick around because they feel obliged to, enduring undo pain and suffering to keep others happy.  Caregivers, bearers of the biggest burdens and most anguish, are quitting and losing jobs to help their infirm loved ones at home, rather than send them to homes.  And lastly, though the pharmaceutical business is doing some wonderful things, some say they are not so much looking for cures as looking for ways to prolong treatment.  Total healthcare dollars spend in America are like 20+% of the GDP and they are often spent so efficiently.

Read a brochure on aging or hospice or end-of-life and you often see the word dignity. There is no dignity in wasting.  We can’t legislate solutions, but we should be able to talk about them and keep from causing loved one so much undo pain.