The Sandwich Generation — Caregivers again?

Death is somewhat like the weather: we can talk about it forever, but eventually, it happens. Start now to share with your family through guided discussions and documents that describe how you feel about your life, from beginning to end. If your health heads south, the family is led by your decisions, if you can no longer communicate.

Katy Butler wrote about her family’s experience in 2010, “What Broke My Father’s Heart” New York Times Magazine, when her dad received an unwanted pacemaker. I showed this story to my ninety year old uncle. His incredulous response: “I’ve read it twice! Do you really think this is true?” [His pacemaker was installed five years ago.] The record-breaking reader response to her article signaled a wakeup call for the rest of us. With additional research into the medical industrial complex, in 2013 she published, Knocking on Heaven’s Door which became a New York Times bestseller.  Won’t you tell me your reaction?

Katy Butler introduced the concept of SLOW MEDICINE, which led me to – UMT means CAMPAIGN TO END UNWANTED MEDICAL TREATMENT. If you live in the Greater Washington DC area, check out their website for a luncheon they’re sponsoring on March 4, 2014.

Naively, I believed doctors only installed pacemakers in a life or death emergency. Wrong.  Pacemakers are a booming business for everyone in the medical food chain. Curious? Check out this website:  $19,000–$96,000? What?

Is it just me, or does this remind you of the doctors who insisted on performing hysterectomies a few decades ago? I met a woman who believed the surgeon who said, “You need a bilateral mastectomy (surgical removal of both breasts), now!” Imagine her reaction to the pathology report: “No evidence of disease, no carcinoma.”  Can you believe that? She didn’t have breast cancer! She might become accustomed to the physical mutilation, but how will she ever recover from the emotional scars? Don’t get me started on “trust” issues—I’m still furious about my cancer-induced, failed breast reconstruction surgery (2004-2005). Upon completion of my modified radical mastectomy, the plastic surgeon inserted a huge expander. Eleven months later, he traded it out for a saline implant, which was much bigger than I requested. Eight painful months later, while visiting Portland, Oregon, my daughter arranged for a consultation with a plastic surgeon. After my surgery, he told me, “I removed your railroad track scars when I took out the implant.”

As taxpayers we need to slam the brakes on medical practices that charge full-speed ahead, determined to try every new medical device and experimental treatment within Medicare and insurance company guidelines. They’ll only stop when they’ve drained the patient’s allowed medical expenditures. Imagine the family members, so optimistic and hopeful because they expected a cure, only to discover the bitter truth: the medical staff always knew it was a terminal condition. Remember, they get paid (reimbursed) to prolong life.

As consumers, we need learn to ask the tough questions:

·       “Is my mother/father/sister/brother dying? Tell me the truth.

·       “Is this a terminal disease?”

·        “Can this condition ever be cured?”

·        “Explain palliative care and hospice to me.”

If your loved one doesn’t want to die (alone) in the hospital, then forbid a futile escapade in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Dying is dying, but many do it with grace, courage, and a sense of peace, if hospice and palliative care are ordered early–not as a last-ditch effort for their few remaining days.