Years ago, as a cardiac nurse, I had an “ah ha” moment on the subject of aging. It was a strong lesson that has stayed with me for decades and has provided a clear understanding of old versus young.
My lesson came on a typical, busy day in the cardiac unit. My two patients could not have been more different: One was a 55 year old who was one of our regulars. She had ongoing mild heart problems which were made much worse by her high level of fear and anxiety about dying.
Down the hall was my 99 year old patient, Betsy. She had never been in the hospital before and was in to correct an irregular rhythm problem. Betsy was not worried about dying, she was far too busy living. She was mentally sharp, articulate and socially engaging, describing her elaborate garden and the friendly neighborhood competition over squash production.
Which one was “old”? Of course not Betsy, it was the fearful woman of 55.
This experience comes to mind now as our government proposes to intervene further into our health care system. With government health care will come added volumes of rules and regulations. It happened before when they tried to fix Medicare and ended up changing the nature of health care from nurturing to clerical; attention to patient needs was reduced to make time for navigating the complicated codes of government funding reimbursement . Think that was bad? Just wait until federal bureaucrats run the whole thing.
Rationing of care will undoubtedly be part of any nationalized or public option, and this is where my personal lesson on aging starts bumping up. Who are the federal paper-pushers that will determine how old is too old for certain procedures? Will they set certain age limits, which they will call “guidelines”? Of course they will, and therein lies just one of the many big problems government controlled health care would bring.
Two of our local crown jewels would not fit under the probable age limits of government health care and we, as a community, would suffer a great loss of experience and wisdom. State Representative Frank Henderson is a man of a certain age but he is sharper, smarter and more energetic than three men half as old, combined. Frank has a long and illustrious resume of community service, including Mayor of Post Falls, County Commissioner and now serving at the state level. Last month Frank had open heart surgery. He has never had heart problems in the past and, with his vigor and energy, he probably won’t for many years; he’s recovering fast and is back in meetings as if nothing happened.
But Frank would almost certainly have been denied surgery under a new government health care option.
Another valued elder who would not fit under probable government regulations is Ruthie Johnson. She is the queen of local conservative issues, she’s been the matriarch of the Republican party here forever and serves on the state’s Human Rights Commission. Ruthie is a joy to talk with. She is quick, smart, busy and has a memory I envy at 30 years her junior. You see, Ruthie just turned 85 years young. But thank goodness that Ruthie had her open heart surgery two years ago and continues on, full speed ahead.
Common sense and personal knowledge must prevail over anonymous statistical assays, if we as a nation are to honor individual freedoms. Getting the government out of our health care, or at least fending off further intrusion, will keep important decisions where they belong: Between a patient and their doctor. Please take the time right now, this week, to write, email and/or call Rep. Minnick and Senators Crapo and Risch, and let them know your views on government controlled health care. This is one issue that be top of mind for us all, no matter what our age.