December 12, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver
It’s no secret that America is turning grey at an accelerated, expensive rate.
“On a national level, caring for an aging population requires enormous financial and social resources,” observes Pamela D. Wilson, author of “The Caregiving Trap — Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes.”
“And, on a personal level,” she underscores, “obtaining needed medical care today for the elderly will often depend on the ability of a care advocate to stand up to a health care system that seems to have an agenda not always in the best interests of the patient.”
The CEO of a major Northern California hospital we spoke with — on the condition of strict anonymity — agrees, stating, “All patients need a care advocate and families must inform themselves in how to fulfill this important task well before something bad happens.”
“Especially for the elderly, a knowledgeable, determined, and if necessary, loud care advocate is often the difference between life and death. It is not imaginary: there is an ‘older patient’ agenda where the not so funny joke is, ‘Would you please hurry up, get sick and die, because you are too expensive to keep alive.’
Connect the dots
“Dennis, just connect these dots and ask, ‘How much money was or will be saved?’
- Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in several states after years of opposition.
- From January of 2016, Medicare will pay doctors to have “End-of-Life” discussions with patients and their families as to how dying patients will be cared for.
- Despite dramatic opposition from physicians and breast cancer survivors, mammograms are now recommended at age 45 instead of 40, then at 55, every other year, ending at 74. The result will be many avoidable deaths.
- The Veterans Administration has delayed or refused care to thousands of veterans across the country, resulting in death sentences for hundreds, if not, ultimately, thousands.
Wilson sounds the alarm for Medicare patients over 65 who have been hospitalized with certain conditions: heart failure, heart attack, pneumonia, COPD, hip or knee replacements. “These are commonly referred to as high maintenance conditions, which frequently require re-admission, sometimes days after discharge,” she observes.
“Very few people have heard of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program which financially penalizes hospitals who re-admit these patients within 30 days of discharge. Medicare will tell you this is to promote better care while in the hospital and after discharge. The result can be a death sentence for a patient denied re-admission.
“Just picture mom, hospitalized because of a heart attack and two weeks after discharge later feels faint, experiencing a potentially fatal arrhythmia. Rushed to the ER by family members, instead of being re-admitted, she could be sent home or held on observation unless someone who has the legal authority and knows what to do will stand up for her.”
Wilson points out that, “Responsible family member prepare for the future by having in place these essential documents in addition to a will or trust:”
- Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Advanced Health Care Directive also called a Living Will
- Durable Power of Attorney
- HIPPA Consent for Release of Medical Information
“However, you can only accomplish this when the family has discussions about illness and death, which are subjects most people avoid. It’s a direct result of modern medicine which cures disease, prolongs life, and when we die, it is seldom at home, instead, removed, far away, in a hospital.
“As a nation, Americans are blind to the reality of death. At one time, birth and death were parts of daily life occurring at home and not in a hospital. Not experiencing death has created a nation in denial. We are a country where ‘This isn’t going to happen to me,’ is a powerful reason to not address these legal issues while we are healthy, thereby not having those documents ready and in place when an illness or an accident occurs.”
In our opinion, Wilson’s book is for anyone over 40. Not only does she clearly explain how to be an effective Health Care Advocate, but shows readers what life is like when they are in their 80s and 90s. She helps readers survive the enormous challenges of being a caregiver.
As efforts to ration health care dollars ramp up, we will all need someone who isn’t afraid to go up against the system, who will be there to say, “What’s going on? I want him treated!”
Wilson’s book is the right tool to hear, “OK, we will,” in response.
TheCareNavigator.com is her company website, well worth a long visit. The Caregiving Trap is available at www.TheCaregivingTrapBook.com.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.