July 12, 2013

Living Longer, But With Worse Quality Of Life

Watching my parents age over the years has been hard--and very painful. 

They are good people--they've worked hard all their lives (nothing was just given to them), they are devoted to serving G-d, and they are loved by their family, friends, and community. 

They have lived a good life and we are grateful for every day.

Yet as they are getting older, the body like anything physical, starts to get sick and break down. 

Both my parents have serious illnesses, and in the last two years my mom has become almost totally disabled and is moving from a rehab center to a nursing home this coming week. 

I read this week in the Wall Street Journal, what I've been watching with my own eyes...we are living "longer, but not healthier lives."

Over the last 2 decades, life expectancy has risen 3 years to 78 years, but unfortunately only 68 of those, on average, are in good health--meaning that people suffer for about ten years with various disabilities.

What is amazing is that people are being pressed to retire later in life with an increase in age to receive full social security benefits to 67 by 2022--giving the average person a healthy retirement to enjoy of just 1 year!

With the average working household having less the $3,000 in retirement savings, things are not looking too good for Americans to retire young and enjoy their healthy years either. 

Additionally, despite longer living, in the last 2 decades, the U.S. fell from 20th place to 27th place in 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for life expectancy and quality of life.

The leading causes of death remain heart disease, cancer, and stroke.  And disabilities are being driven by back, muscle, nerve, and joint disorders. 

Seeing with my own parents, the deteriorating quality of life and true suffering as they age, I am left questioning the real wisdom of keeping people alive, when the quality of life has so deteriorated as to leave them in pain and misery. 

While no one wants to lose their loved ones--the emptiness is devastating--at the same time, watching them endlessly and needlessly suffer is worse. 

I see my mom clutching her wheelchair, always in various states of discomfort and pain, and less and less able to help herself, in almost any way--it is tragic. 

So I ask myself is it also unnecessary and wrong? 

I call it forcing people alive. We keep people going not only with extraordinary measures, but also with day-to-day medicines and care that keeps their hearts pumping, their lungs breathing, and their brains somewhat aware. 

The patients are alive, but are in a sense dying a long and painful death, rather than a quick and painless one. 

I love my parents and mom who is suffering so much now, and I don't want to lose her, by does really caring for her mean, at some point, letting her go.

I tell my dad, "I just want mom to have peace"--no more suffering!

For the average person, 68 years of health is too short, but 10 years of disability and suffering may be too long. 

We use advances in technology and medical breakthroughs to keep people alive. But what is the cost in pain and disability, and even in cold hard dollar terms for a nation being gobbled up by deficits, longevity, and miserable disease and disability? 

People are living longer but at a significant painful price! 

Is this real compassion and empathy or a senseless fight with the Angel of Death? 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to wwwupertal)


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