Make an end-of-life plan or lose your money and choices in your dying days
End-of-life care can bankrupt your family and rob you of choices. End the denial about dying. Make a plan in case you end up seriously ill and frail.
Money might be the only way I can get my own baby-boomer cohort to wake up to see that living in la-la land about death and dying is going to cost them millions personally.
No one wants to talk about the fact that we are all born to die. This is particularly an American problem because we’re rich, we’re smart, we went to the moon and that means somebody will figure out how to save us from this thing that happens to other people.
Doctors don’t want to talk about it, clergy don’t want to talk about it, the families of the seriously ill and frail don’t want to talk about it, and most of those with a serious, life-limiting disease don’t want to talk about it. Psychologists label this behavior denial.
While the country stays in denial pretending that all of us can and will live forever, the dollars being spent for us to pretend are escalating. Kaiser Health News reports that in 2011, Medicare spent $554 billion and 28%, or about $170 billion, on patients’ last six months of life. After $170 billion is spent, those patients are still dead.
That is simply what Medicare spent. What about the families of those in this study? What might they have spent? Hard dollars can go to diapers, co-pays for prescription drugs, in-home care giving help, travel to specialists, hotels and parking at the famous acute care hospitals. Hard dollars are lost when working family members have to quit work to care for the ill. In my own extended family I have horror stories.
One man had Alzheimer’s. His wife was his primary caregiver and as is very common, she died before he died. His children stepped in so he could stay home, but then the care became so demanding, they hired professionals to take over. When he contracted pneumonia, what Dr. Jeanne Fitzpatrick, author of A Better Way of Dying, calls an “exit event,” he was rushed to the ICU. He came home to continue the life that had nothing to do with his own choices.