The Crazy Cost of Senior Health Care

March 5, 2014

A client recently passed away.

His wishes had been to remain at home, for as long as possible, and to be allowed to pass away, naturally, when his time came.  A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was in place.  The family felt conflicted, but followed his wishes.  Somehow, they wanted reassurance from me.  I told them that we went through the same thing with my mom.

In my  situation, my mom had lived a full life.  Alzheimer’s had taken my mom from us for the last three years of her existence.  My mom died when she was 83.  Her “life”, in the fuller sense of the word, may have ended before that because there were months when communication with her had come to an end.  There was little evidence that she knew who we were or enjoyed anything that she experienced.  In all cases, she had made her wishes known to us, and we followed them.

I recently came across a fascinating graph showing health care costs per capita vs. life expectancy.  Most countries seem to follow a trend, wherein additional health care dollars result in longer lives.  The stark stand out is the US, which has the highest cost per capita of any of the countries shown, yet with a life expectancy below many of the nations measured.

The graph does not break out costs for seniors, but I’m sure the extraordinary costs associated with end of life care have something to do with it.

Keeping a loved one alive, or the manner in which one is allowed to pass away, is an extremely personal decision.  Families have to respect the desires of their loved one.  It seems inappropriate to discuss the question of cost, yet end of life care does not come cheap.

I know that in my own case, I would prefer not to be kept alive.  It”s not how I envision my own existence and, frankly, I think there will be better use of the resources.  I’d much prefer that that money be used to feed hungry children than keep me alive an extra six months.



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