Friday, June 4, 2010

First World Health Care?

I’m on a broom about health care in the United States. The only folks who are happy with our current system are the ones with Cadillac insurance policies, but for common men and women, especially the elderly and under insured, getting help is a nightmare. Families are expected to become impoverished and overworked to care for chronically ill family members which actually damages their health and therefore puts the family unit at even more risk. Caretakers are forced to extreme measures to get help from the medical community and Medicare.

I have a friend whose daughter has been battling chronic Lyme disease for more than a decade. This devastating illness has robbed the girl of her youth as well as her health. My friend has been unable to work as her daughter requires around the clock care and Medicare has ceased paying for a home health nurse, forcing mom to care for medical procedures that are out of a mother’s job description unless there’s an RN after her name. Because of the word “chronic” Medicare will also not pay for prescriptions that improve the quality of life for the daughter thereby increasing her symptoms and making a bad situation worse.

My 86 year old aunt has Lupus. As a result she suffers from water retention in her legs making it difficult and sometimes impossible for her to walk. Like the chicken and egg story, one thing just exacerbates the other setting up a cycle of downward spirling existence. Twice last year she was hospitalized when she became unable to walk and then sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Each time she got better, only to come home and have the situation recur. It happened a third time and when her daughter, who herself has Lupus, fibromyalgia, and emphysema, had her taken to the hospital following a fall, they refused to admit her because her malady is “chronic” and Medicare doesn’t pay for chronic conditions. With a cracked eye socket and swollen lip and face, my aunt was sent home (in an ambulance because she could not walk) where she was accidentally dropped in the yard by the firemen, bruising her bottom, and told that if she couldn’t walk to the bathroom, to put a commode by her recliner where she basically lives. Her world had shrunk to a few square feet.

When she could not even stand well enough to do that and her exhausted daughter could no longer change and care for her, my cousin called the Medics again and had her taken to the hospital. This time she resorted to something no family member should be forced to, she didn’t go to the hospital with my aunt. She was afraid that they would tell her to take her mother home and she couldn’t face it. I cannot imagine how my cousin felt at not being able to be in the ER with her mother nor how my aunt must have felt at being there alone, but my cousin saw no other way to get help. Without hospitalization my cousin could not get her mother into a rehab center and get help. Fortunately this time the ER doctor realized the truth of the situation and even apologized to my cousin when she finally went to the hospital.

So this is the glorious system the Rightwingers so vehemently want to protect. Some would even abolish Medicare, thereby depriving recipients of what little help they can now get. Is this how we treat the Greatest Generation and our fellow citizens? God help us all.


Kim Thompson said...

Stephanie, a powerful post. Let me add my story. We are an autism family and my son's care, well, there's LITTLE care. Most treatments don't take insurance period and for my son's psychiatrist we still have to PAY (and we NOW as of this year, have Cadillac insurance). Let's just say, it's a LOT of money, that goes where? Smack on the credit card and then we try to figure it out later. It sucks.

When my grandma was dying of lung cancer, she had little in the way of money and my mom and uncle LEARNED how to be nurses in the last months of her life. I helped where I could, but seeing what my family suffered, I would not wish this on my worst enemy. How do we fix this? I am sick about it.

Stephanie Frieze said...

I have a friend who has MS and had to nurse her father to her grave. While I can get $ for caring for my special needs daughter, offspring can get nothing for caring for an ill parent. To put her dad in a nursing home would have caused her to lose the house they lived in so she had no choice. Pretty much that is the same thing that is happening to my cousin. While she's gotten her mother into a nursing home for rehab if she has to move her to a facility permanently they will have to sell the house. Actually, maybe that will be a good thing since it isn't set up for a disabled person, but it worries my aunt. Health Care reform is long overdue.