I asked a woman once what she wanted for her upcoming 75th birthday. She’d been living in a nursing home as a ward of the state, wheelchair-bound and in the last stages of metastatic breast cancer. Hers had been a difficult and often lonely life. I’d been visiting her in the nursing home for several months, as a hospice volunteer. The woman thought about my question briefly, then winked at me.
“Life,” she said.
Life. Of course. We all want to live as well as we can, for as long as we can. But as we baby boomers approach old age and its likely infirmities – no doubt kicking and screaming – we must confront some unwelcome questions. How do we want to be cared for in our lives’ closing chapters? Who’s going to take care of us, and where? How can we avoid the nightmarish, “medicalized” ends that too many of our parents suffered?
How can we manage late-life better?
That’s what this blog, and my upcoming book, “Last Comforts: Notes from the Forefront of Late-Life Care“, are all about. I want to share with you the many interwoven issues at work in such care.
- There are new models for coordinated care and culture change in long-term care settings.
- There are inroads in medical and nursing education.
- There are pathfinders in compassionate and effective dementia care.
- There are leaders who are addressing the unique challenges faced by minority and LGBT populations.
- There are technological innovations that are just now beginning to gain traction.
- And of course, there are public policy issues that profoundly affect how late-life care is delivered and paid for.
I’m an optimist by nature, so my aim is to spotlight ways that late-life care in the not-too-distant future might look dramatically different. The good news is that the seeds for a better future have been planted already. But it will be up to all of us to nurture them, insisting on the kinds of changes in the system that we’ll need and, on a personal level, making sure that those closest to us understand what we want, particularly if we reach a point where we cannot speak for ourselves.
I am eager to hear from you, too. Your stories, your ideas, your solutions. You can respond on this web site, or reach me through my contact page.