Just how much is to be expected out of a human in this so-called great United States of America of ours?
My mother worked hard all her life, either raising four children in a rat-assed Midwest dying industrial town or living her lonely life after the ugly divorce from a man who had been unfaithful once the kids were grown and gone.
At a certain time there should be a period of rest and retirement in ones life, or at least it was that way in the America she grew up in in the 30’s and 40’s. She ended up working until shortly before her death at the age of 82. And that is having to work HARD.
She worked until her mind grew too enfeebled to make the cupcakes and deserts anymore for people slightly younger than her at the assisted living facility where she had started twenty years earlier at an age when people used to be able to retire. Then she ended up at one herself.
In her twenty years of hot labor next to ovens and mixing machines of the large facility she had miraculously managed to save up a small fortune of money.
The bank she took her bi-weekly checks to gladly accepted them. Of course, that didn’t stop them from charging her exorbitantly the couple times she over-drafted her account. And the pittance they paid her in interest did not anywhere near match the amount they made off what she kept in her account.
For all these years she lived a frugal existence; splurging only on a very nice used car for herself when her old one developed electrical problems. The rest of the money she allotted herself after the majority of it went into a bank account was partitioned out at the local thrift stores, her salary not allowing for much that was new.
Then her mind slowly began to crumble. She started to imagine that one or another of her kids was in the apartment with her when there were none. She started to lose things, especially her purse, several times a day resulting in frantic, tear-filled searches for it. Usually it would be in a place where she had hidden it and then forgotten where.
When I saw that it was becoming unsafe for her to live alone I moved in with her. I had to take whatever work there was in the small Mid-west town where she lived for my economic needs, much of it unpleasant.
Then came the day when she collapsed at work. She sat down in a chair and her head bobbed to the side, unconscious and drooling. Fortunately the facility where she worked had an EMT who treated her, until the expensive ambulance arrived. I was working a good distance away, but headed down as quickly as I could. She was conscious when I got there, sitting up answering the doctors questions, one of which was “Why are you still working at your age?”, the doctor not realizing that he was used to his sizable income and could not understand the economic plights that bedevil we the less fortunate.
Fortunately my mother had Medicaid to handle the almost $15,000 bill for less than 24 hours care in their facility. She was well taken care of, but, were it not for the Medicaid, how could any normal person handle such an expense? It is stated that the cause of most bankruptcies in America are medical expenses. Is this the way our lives are supposed to be? Were we not at one time the most advanced nation on earth with the highest living standard including health care? Is it to be that we are to work hard all our lives, many for inadequate wages, just to have whatever little we are able to accumulate be wiped out by one emergency and to become debtors for the rest of our lives?
The strange thing about her bill was the huge amounts charged for each procedure. Could it be that our trusted medical facilities overcharge Medicare just because they know that they can get away with it? My sister, who was my mother’s power of attorney, and I both noticed this. What was especially eye-gouging was the $528 charge for ‘physical therapy’ that my mother ran up in the time that she was there. What sort of physical therapy can you do on an 82 year old woman in one complete day that costs $528? It sounds more like there was a physical therapist there who needed some extra cash for their trip to Bermuda. And then there is a $330 ‘occupational therapy’ charge to boot. They were able to fit that much ‘therapy’ into that short a period of time?
How about the $1,623 charge for room and board for one night for a woman who didn’t eat anything while she was there? $549 for a pharmacy charge. Were they giving her pure cocaine to get the price up that much? Cardiology for a person who had not had a heart attack- $1,980. Ditto EKG (twice) – $1,800. Laboratory costs for someone who was conscious and responsive from the time she entered the hospital- $1443. MRI- $3026. Good thing Uncle Sam has deep pocket. (Don’t know how much longer he will at this rate though.).
Then another time there was the laser treatment for her cataract laden eye. The operating room charge for only one hour was $7,129. Were all the fixtures all polished gold or what? The recovery room which was probably used for 30 minutes was $722. Anesthesia- $652.
Who is getting wealthy off all this?
You can’t tell me that this isn’t bilking the system big time. Some of the people in healthcare must look at patients and the Medicare system as being milk cows that they can drain dry. It is no wonder that the conservatives are so leery of Medicare and Obamacare- it might not be the poor that are going to exploit it but rather the well-off healthcare providers.
At work my mother began to make too many mistakes. Everyone there liked her and they kept her on long after her real usefulness was past. Her boss hinted to me to talk to her about retirement, something she refused to consider. When the day came that they informed her they would have to let her go she took it hard. “Wait until you see what it is like to get old.” she told them bitterly.
After the layoff her mind went downhill fast. Her connection to society and the greater world of her community had been severed. Her interest in things outside herself diminished rapidly. She no longer seemed to have much contact to the outer world.
One day it became too much. She was too far gone. She had to be put into a nursing home. Working in one and already being elderly herself she had seen too many people put into such a home, then watched as their savings slowly ran out until they had nothing left and they had to leave. It put the fear of the same happening to her. And it did. It is a horrible reality of our modern society.
After much searching my sister found her a place down by her house. It was ‘reasonably priced’ by the standards that such places go for these days- just over $4,000 a month. That was a lot better than most which were running at $5,000 plus a month. It was clean and apparently well organized with a huge lunch room and a rural setting.
Despite that the toll this would take on the poor woman’s savings was awful. At the monthly cost for rent it would burn through her entire savings in about three years. Fortunately when she became bankrupt Medicare would take over and she wouldn’t get booted out. Still, it made a joke of all the hard work she had gone through saving up her small fortune over 20 years time. A very cruel joke.
Circumstances would deliver a different fate for her though. In March this woman who, although she had lived her entire life in the upper Midwest still hated cold, wandered out of the facility one night too lightly clad for the weather and managed to make it a half mile in stocking feet before collapsing to a final frozen sleep in a corn field. She would have been 83 in a month.
One has to question a society in which one can slave for decades to make for one self at least a moderately comfortable life and to have something of a nest egg left at the end of it so that one might at least have some degree of security in old age. I guess that is too much to ask in our modern world.
Fuel is constantly needed to keep the wheels of our commercial world moving, even if that grease is the blood and bones of the poorer young, adults and even the elderly of the society it feeds upon. We are forced to pay a price that makes a joke of our lives.