Recently ran across a a vignette that described the hospital care that was available to older people in the pre-Medicare years. The writer recalls visiting a hospital and seeing wards full of frail old people…
My…Paternal Grandmother died in one of those wards. My last memory of her was seeing her in a urine soaked hospital bed in one of those wards, in restraints moaning in pain. She was admitted for a broken hip, and died two weeks later with pneumonia. The year was 1961, before Medicare. My Grandmother was lower middle income she was not what one would consider “poor”, however, it didn’t matter back then if you were old and not rich, this is the health care your received.
In a modern, technologically advanced society it is essential that the public as a whole share the responsibility of providing quality, dignified care for the frail and imfirm.
Why? There are two reasons really.
First, Our society allows us to have unprecedented mobility and opportunity. We cultivate families that are more nuclear and less extended. The smaller and more dispersed our families become, the harder it is to provide all of the care that is needed by our older relatives. Sharing the responsibility helps all of us.
Second, we have access to tools and technologies that are both stunningly effective and stunningly expensive. Sharing the cost of these tools through social insurance programs like Medicare helps make them available to all.
The problem is, of course, that our society also has a short memory. People have forgotten what America was like before Medicare. We need to remember because, as the writer cited above concludes…
Fast forward to 2007, when my Mom died she also died in the hospital, however thanks to Medicare she was in a semi-private room, in a hospital that didn’t believe in restraints, her every need and pain was attended to, and she left this world in dignity, the very same dignity that our society at the time neglected to provide to my Grandmother.
America without Medicare is a very different place from America with Medicare.