Stella Lohmann
Shouting to be heard: Are the elderly being shut out?
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By Stella Lohmann
August 10, 2009

The golden years don't appear to be so precious when efforts to cut and even ration healthcare to the elderly are on the rise. Imagine working an entire lifetime, only to be rewarded by being shut out of life-sustaining procedures and treatments just because you are deemed too old according to guidelines arbitrarily set by government councils or politicians.

Now imagine what would happen if the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic erupted fully nationwide and worldwide. Ever since the first case was reported in April from Mexico, the World Health Organization, United Nations, and governments have debated what should happen and who should carry the torch. Eyes always seem to stare down at the United States to find the way and then fund it. Congress passed and President Obama recently signed a supplemental appropriation for $7.5 billion to cover the costs of preparing for H1N1, including a vaccination campaign.
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Granted, most medical breakthroughs of the past century have emerged from American researchers through tax dollars or grants given. True to American benevolence, the knowledge is generously shared or distributed back not only to those who paid for its discoveries, but also the world at large. The elderly paid toward those efforts through hard-earned tax dollars just as their parents and grandparents did and so on. Likewise, those vaccines and medicines are flown across the world to others in need. So why are seniors at the end of the list now as healthcare and vaccines are portioned by government?

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta was quick to prioritize those who would be the first recipients — children, school-age students, pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, and health care providers. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/09/AR2009070900353.html

"School-age children will be a key target population for a pandemic flu vaccine in the fall, and they may be vaccinated at school in a mass campaign not seen since the Salk polio vaccine epidemics of the 1950's. The federal government should get about 100 million doses of vaccine by mid-October, if the current production by five companies goes as planned. But enough vaccine for wide use by the 120 million people especially vulnerable to the newly emerged strain of H1N1 influenza virus will not be available until later in the fall."

Great pains are being taken to ensure vaccines for children are absent of neuron-toxin mercury while adults will still have to use vaccines with thimerosal as a preservative. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228 So while manufactures work feverishly to meet the flu season deadline and the critical requests worldwide for a vaccine, the elderly ponder what their fate will be? See also: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/cdc-vac-price-list.html

Is government purposely crossing privacy lines and personal choices between families and doctors on how to make winter years golden for the elderly? In 1995, Tom P. died at the age of 84 in the arms of his youngest daughter, his 8th child. She prayed for him, held him as he grasped his bed rail after a lung collapsed, and reminded him of the love of his family, each one named including grandchildren. Tom worked for 50 years at the same sheet metal company, and when he needed to draw the Social Security, Medicare and insurance benefits, it was there. And now he was in the hospital as nurses and doctors scurried to make him comfortable as family was summoned to his bedside. He would lose consciousness before taking his final breath that evening.

Currently, proposed healthcare bills oversimplify and depersonalize an incredibly private and precious time between patient-doctor-family members. "To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes" — the purpose stated in the July 14th version of the Obama health care plan to include all Americans. For example, on page 427: Government mandates program that orders end of life treatment. In other words government entities decide how you or your parent's lives will end. On page 42, "The Health Choices Commissioner" will decide health benefits for you!

Sounds more like survival of the fittest — that which Charles Darwin called 'natural selection, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life'." This time, however, Darwinism is getting a helping hand from government! Naturally, seniors need more care as they age and receive 80% of their benefits in the last years of their lives. What would have happened to Tom, or Rita who lived nine years longer, if Medicare benefits had been slashed by 500 billion and they were deemed too old to receive their needed care from specialists? That's why seniors are attending town hall meetings and contacting their elected officials in record numbers. They want to live out their lives without interference.

Rita and Tom championed quality of life in their late years as volunteers at senior citizen centers. Rita became a watchdog for the elderly in the nursing home where Tom spent the last 6 years before his death. She became a fixture to the patients and staff, greeting and hugging those in wheelchairs lined up at the door awaiting visitors that many times never came. Rita adopted them all, making cloth dolls for the ladies for Christmas, and baked goods for the rest. She was appointed by the city council to a state healthcare oversight committee, never shy to speak out for those too frail or too sick to be heard.

If Rita were alive today, she would be right there at town halls or in Washington. And the media and politicians might have described her as angry, but then who wouldn't be, fighting for a loved one's right to live. Perhaps also daughters and sons need to be there, instead of or at least alongside their parents if they want to see their parents grow old with dignity of care. Remember, we all get old someday. I haven't forgotten that November day in 1995, Papa, when I kissed your head and your entered eternity.

© Stella Lohmann

 

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