I would see sweet elderly people in small square rooms, surrounded by photographs and the loneliness that came with the fact many of the people in the photographs didn’t get by to see them much.
That’s the way things were in the 1960s. You remained in your home as long as you possibly could; but you would inevitably reach a point you could no longer care for yourself at home – without some level of help.
There is so much controversy surrounding the American health care system that we often overlook the amazing strides that have been made in just the past 40 years. The most obvious change is improvements in medicine that have led to longer lifespans. According to the CIA World Factbook the average male/female life expectancy in the U.S. is now 78.5 years, compared to 49.2 years at the turn of the 20th century. That’s an extra 28 years! I don’t think any of us would forfeit that achievement.
The second change is developing here and now. It’s a combination of cutting-edge services that help us stay in our homes as long as we possibly can. I recently discovered a business called LivHOME. Founded on the West Coast, the business and companies like it are the inventions of entrepreneurs like Chris Foster who have recognized the exploding marketplace of seniors who could remain in their homes if they only had some help.
This is far more than individuals providing elder-sitting. The business employs full-time, drug-tested, background-checked professionals to be with you or your loved one daily, weekly or even occasionally – as the need demands. You are assigned a geriatric care manager who designs a program the delivers services such as exercising, bathing, feeding, even the monitoring of your medicine. Another great benefit comes with having professionals guide you through the inevitable process. When is it time for out-of-the-home assisted living? Is it possible for me to remain at home throughout the entire end of life process? The business provides the answers to those questions.
The third phenomenal advance is one I witness every day. It’s called hospice. Chances are you won’t recognize the term unless you’ve lost a close loved one. If you have, you know it well. Hospice is an arm of medical care that focuses on bringing comfort, self-respect and tranquility to people in their final days, weeks or months of life.
According to Wikipedia, “Hospice is the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24-hour/seven-day-a-week access to care and support for loved ones following a death.” Most hospice care is delivered at home. Hospice care is also available to people in home-like hospice residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, veterans’ facilities, hospitals and prisons. I know a lot about hospice because my wonderful wife Angie is a longtime hospice nurse.
I’ve watched with amazement as Angie and thousands of caring professionals like her guide patients and families through the toughest moments of life. The amazing part? If you’re 65 or older, you qualify for hospice. It’s part of Medicare which means, you don’t pay a dime. That’s one of the very serious issues that must be tackled as Washington wrestles with the future of health care in America. I have never met a family who’s experienced hospice say after the fact that it shouldn’t be part of Medicare but that’s a conversation for another day.
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