A few weeks ago, I wrote a little about hospitals “dumping” patients. At least around here, it’s a rare problem. But what about people who don’t get dumped but have no place to go?
Let’s take “Mrs. Anton”. She’s 68 years old and has metastatic breast cancer. She’s going to die of the disease, but probably not this week or next. She is admitted to the hospital for a fall, but nothing is broken and there’s no reason to keep her. Her husband has been caring for her, but he’s a little guy and can’t handle the day-to-day care which includes cleaning her, changing her diaper (she can’t get to the bathroom quickly enough most of the time), and turning her in bed so that she doesn’t develop painful bed sores.
She would like to go to hospice, but in the real world there is no magic “hospice” where everything is free. As a Medicare patient without long-term care insurance, she will have to pay several hundred dollars a day for lodging in a nursing home, and Medicare will pick up the bill for various hospice-related services. She doesn’t have that kind of money. She also can’t afford to hire help around the home. If we want to commit something akin to fraud, we can send her for “rehabilitation”, and Medicare will pick up the bill for a few weeks, but if she doesn’t die in that time, we’re back to square one.
Our system makes no provision for this. That’s a problem. We are all going to die, and hopefully it will be relatively painless, but our society is not set up for that. We don’t live with large extended families, and we have no way of helping older people at the end of their lives pay for the care they need.
I know plenty of people who would say, “So what? They should have planned better. It costs a ton of money, and why should I have to pay for it?”
The answer is threefold: We all should pay for it because we already do, in various hidden fees and taxes. We should pay for it because we will all need it at some point. And we should pay for it because it is obscenely immoral to let our old folks die with such painful anxiety.