My closest friend has been dealing with her mother’s recurring cancers for two years. The battle is nearing an end as her mom goes into a hospice for end-of-life care.

There is one part of this story that has affected me deeply. It has been watching middle-class people, who worked their whole lives, struggle to afford the medical care they need at the end of their lives. I knew that our healthcare system had serious problems. But I had never seen the effects of these issues, up close, on people’s lives.

My friend’s mom was a nurse and her father was an engineer. They saved some money over the years and were comfortable up until the time they got sick. The dad died a few years ago. His last illness soaked up most of the extra cash that they had put away. So when the mom got cancer, money was tight.

My friend works 60 plus hours a week as an executive at AT&T. Her sister, also local, is the mother of two teenage girls. There came a point when their mom had to go to frequent doctors appointments and chemo or radiation several times a week. The sisters had to take turns driving their mom to her appointments and staying with her through her treatments.

They couldn’t afford to pay an aide to spend several days a week doing testing and treatment runs. If the sisters hadn’t turned their lives upside down to take care of their mom, I don’t know what would have happened to her. If she didn’t have two willing daughters living near her, she would have been screwed.

This situation became a real hardship for both siblings. As time went by, the mom’s symptoms got worse and she eventually needed a feeding tube. That upped the level of care she needed exponentially. After a while, the mom couldn’t handle the feeding tube on her own. So the sisters had to get to her house several times a day to help her.

When the mom needed help getting to the bathroom, the daughters broke down and hired the most affordable aide they could find to come to the house twice a day to supplement the daughters’ visits.

Then the mom became effectively bedridden and they had to hire a full-time aide. They couldn’t afford a fully certified RN. So they found a willing woman with some healthcare experience.

But she is Russian and speaks almost no English. She could communicate with my friend with a translating program on her phone. But she could not communicate with her mom at all. Unfortunately, that’s all they could afford. They were lucky to find anyone.

It’s outrageous that families are left on their own to take care of sick relatives unless they are in the top 1% of earnings.

My friend was lucky she can work wherever she has a computer. So she could get work done at her mom’s house or at the hospital or at the treatment centers. That’s not a common situation. If she had had to show up to work at an office every day to keep her job, she’d have been unemployed long ago.

Which is the situation in which most people find themselves.

So how do average families take care of their sick? Watching my relatively well-off friends struggle, I have no clue how other less lucky workers manage.

Our health care system obviously has serious problems. I understood this intellectually. Watching my friend try to do right by her mom, I suddenly understand the flaws in the system on a more visceral level.

Affordable help should be available to everyone who needs it to care for sick family members. People should not have to suffer extreme hardships just to care for a loved one who is ill. People should not have to choose between their job and their own financial security and caring for a family member.

This situation is outrageous in as rich and sophisticated a country as America. It’s not an issue in most other democracies in the western world. Hopefully, the movement towards universal healthcare here will eventually solve this problem. If we’re all lucky, I’ll live to see enlightened healthcare for everyone in my country. If not, shame on us!

Categories: Ellin Curley, Health, Medical

Tags: , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. I really have to agree with you Ellin, this is a terrible situation. It is the last thing anyone of us wants – to be a burden to our children in our end days. It’s minimally better with the Canadian health care system. But our system is being heavily burden with the sheer numbers of older people needing care. I don’t know what the answer to this is.


    • I always thought the Canadian system was much better than ours. But if you are being overburdened with old people needing care, even the best system will collapse under it’s own weight. But still, your attitude is better in Canada than here. You seem to believe that everyone is entitled to good medical care, particularly when you’re old and helpless. Our attitude is – if you can’t afford good care, tough luck. Go die in the street!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We will not see any improvement during the current administration. While we were diverted by the immigration issue, the House budget for 2019 was proposed with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If your old and sick, you can just die in the street for all these 1 per centers care. At least they get a tax deduction on the maintenance of their private jets, and the Liar in Chief gets to play golf frequently at the nation’s expense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard about the cuts to the safety net programs! Horrific! How can Trump’s base be okay with this? I don’t think they are but they’re not hearing the truth about what is happening. Or they’re being distracted by the evil immigrants at the border coming to get them! I keep waiting for the base to get fed up with getting screwed and lash out. I may be waiting a long time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s horrific. $$ talks and that’s the bottom line on health care. It’s not “Care” at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My friend lucked out. They were able to keep her mom in the hospital on hospice because they were ready to pull the feeding tube and the fluid IV. They are just waiting for her to pass at this point. Now they are getting wonderful, end of life care. But if her mother was well enough to live a few more weeks or months, she’d have been screwed!


      • Wow, astonishing. At least they have that time 🙂 I can’t imagine the guilt that must plague them because they are trying to do everything humanly possible for her, a woman that raised and loved them and cared. What an honour to be able to return the favour!


  4. I try not to think about it. I suspect that’s how most of us feel about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most people don’t think about it until it becomes an issue in their lives! And most people will deal with a loved one having a serious, often fatal illness at some point.


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Tish Farrell

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