For the past 2 months I have had a front row seat at a drama involving a friend of mine and the tragically broken and dysfunctional health care system we have in the USA. It has provided me with many important lessons which I feel I must share with others.
Many of us pride ourselves in being independent, private, hardworking individuals. We fool ourselves into thinking we need no-one, and can take care of ourselves. But if you were to find yourself hospitalized for over two months, and unable to make healthcare or financial decisions, would your family and friends know how you want your life handled? How would your bills be paid? Who would know what (if anything) you have put in place to protect your assets? And who would be able to speak on your behalf to the many healthcare providers who shuffle you through the system as if you are just a diagnosis and placement problem?
What makes this tragedy even more acute is the fact that we are not talking about a person without insurance. We are talking about a person who not only has health insurance through her job; she also (since she is over age 65) has Medicare. And the saddest irony, she is a nurse who has spent the past 40 years working in the healthcare industry, taking care of the critically ill. She is also a friend, sister, mother, daughter, cousin who has dropped everything when someone needs her.
Although we have amazing technology, skilled professionals and modern equipment to care for us when we fall ill, the same system seems to fall apart when treating the whole person. My friend was moved through the system, shuffled from rehab center (oops, not covered), to rehab center. The decision to then move her to a nursing home seemed to be based on insurance, not on her progress. And of course at each step of the way her care was transferred to a different physician who did not know her.
It fell on family and friends to fill in the history for the new healthcare providers. And most importantly, to remind caregivers of the person behind the patient. Not a diagnosis, not a room number, but a person who up until a couple of months ago was working the night shift in ICU caring for others. I have seen people who are task oriented, focusing on one thing at a time, and missing the concept of holistic care. And I have been reminded that without that oversight of the person as a whole, the patchwork of care does not add up to a full quilt of compassion.
So please, regardless of the state of your health today, think about who you would want to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot make them yourself. And write down what kind of care you wish to receive. Suppose you had a terminal disease. Would you want every avenue pursued? Or would you choose to be kept comfortable at home? You can order a packet known as Five Wishes (go to http://www.agingwithdignity.org) and write this down. Give a copy to your doctor, place a copy in your safe deposit box, and tell someone. Whoever you would want to make decisions for you, tell them. Make sure they know your wishes. And please set up your finances so someone else can protect the life you have worked so hard to build. Then your family and friends can truly help you as you fight whatever health event may befall you. And if you never need it, you lose nothing.
So on this beautiful South Florida Friday morning, I ask you to think for a moment. To set in place decisions that will help others help you. And as always, to make choices that help you to stay in the best health possible. We have one body, one life, and there are little changes we can make to keep our engines ticking in good shape. And if your parents are still alive, please have this conversation with them also. The time to ask questions is not in a crisis.
One Love family! Have a fantastic Friday and a great weekend.