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The health care wrangle Part 2: Pulling the plug on Grandma

If you conducted an informal survey of the rapidly growing senior citizen segment (which includes a substantial percentage of farm family husbands/wives), you'd find that three of the greatest fears of the elderly are (1) having to go into a nursing home, (2) an end-of-life scenario in which they're connected to machines that maintain life but with no hope of a recovery, and (3) a lengthy medical care situation that will leave them financially destitute.

Who among us has not visited a family member, relative, or friend in a nursing home and, even in the most caring of circumstances, inwardly prayed, “Please, may this never happen to me”?

Who among us has not had an aged parent, relative, or friend lying in a hospital bed, tied to tubes and machines, with no reasonable hope of getting better, and thought, “Dear Lord, spare me from such a fate”?

Who among us doesn't know an elderly person who has had to spend down meager savings and sell possessions in order to qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits, or who has health problems requiring ongoing hospitalizations and/or horrendously expensive drugs that leave them hopelessly in debt, and thought, “There has to be a better way”?

All of which is why, in this age when there are a myriad of legal issues involved in practically all matters medical, particularly those involving end-of-life decisions, everyone over legal age and with a lick of concern for his/her own situation should have a properly executed (1) living will and (2) durable power of attorney for health care, establishing in writing their specific wishes for such care.

Numerous charitable, religious, and fraternal organizations and foundations — chief among them the multi-million-member AARP — already offer assistance to the elderly in dealing with the legalities involved in trying to assure that their wishes will be carried out.

Despite all the blather by those determined to torpedo health care reform by any means of disinformation possible, there is absolutely nothing in any legislative proposal that would give anyone the power to “pull the plug on Grandma.”

What has been suggested in the wide-ranging discussions is a provision to provide counseling for those facing end-of-life decisions — who, either because they were unaware of the need or simply had not done it — in the legalities involved in carrying out their wishes.

It wouldn't be mandatory. No one would require them to do it. No doctor, hospital administrator, or government lackey would be hovering over Granny to hasten her departure. Rather, advice would be available to Granny on coping with issues that can be extremely litigious (remember Terri Schiavo?) in order to help make known the wishes she would like to be carried out.

The millions of grannies out there may be old, but they ain't stupid, and they can see through the scare tactics and attempts at manipulation.

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