Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Demanding oldies

I get annoyed at the constant refrain that the mounting pressures on the NHS stem mainly from the soaring number of oldies and their complex medical needs.

There's a definite implication there that we oldies are just a burden, a millstone, an endless drain on the NHS, that we should feel guilty and irresponsible for living so long and needing so much care and attention. Shouldn't we just hurry up and die and stop being such a bloody nuisance?

Okay, so the growing number of oldies puts a strain on the NHS. So there's a rising demand from a particular segment of the population. So just deal with it. Provide the necessary funding and staff and other resources to meet the demand. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there's more than enough money available.

Just don't keep harping on about oldies and their medical needs as if we're spoilt children asking mummy for a new smartphone. Are young people with housing needs made to feel they're a burden? No. Are women who get pregnant treated as a burden? No. So why this judgmental emphasis on unhealthy oldies and their failing bodies? Can someone change the record?

The irony is that it's very much the NHS itself that's enabling people to live so long nowadays. All sorts of new drugs have helped people to stay alive by preventing heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, diabetic comas and many other medical emergencies. And new surgical procedures are rejuvenating people's hearts and arteries.

But of course that means we're all living much longer and needing more medical attention farther down the line. Well, you can't keep us all alive on the one hand and then complain we're overwhelming the NHS on the other, The NHS is there to provide a vital public service. So stop whinging and provide it.

I'm not a burden, I'm a human being.

28 comments:

Ms Scarlet said...

The irony you speak of is not lost on me. Maybe we should sue the drug companies who made the life-lengthening drugs - make 'em pay for allowing people to get so old and sickly!
I have elderly parents, my mum never fully recovered from a stroke in 2015, and my dad has health issues too - they are reliant on carers and the NHS. It's heartbreaking. They are in no way enjoying life. From my perspective old age does not look fun.... if I have a stroke I hope they let me go.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: The government should just seize some of the drug companies' massive profits and give it to the NHS to fund medical treatment and social care for the elderly. Yes, many oldies are no longer enjoying life because of serious medical conditions and are probably more than ready to go. My mum had DNR added to her hospital record when she was in hospital recently after a fall.

helen devries said...

My mother and her friends are worried - no, terrified - of admittance to their local general hospital for fear of being put on the Liverpool Pathway and being starved to death.
They are happy to go for scheduled surgery - thanks to hip and knee ops in her nineties my mother is able to stay in her own home and be independent - but unscheduled stuff, like falls, etc., has them worried about the outcome of an admittance.
It might be an exaggerated fear, but the current climate of blaming the old for the shortcomings of government doesn't help matters.

Nick said...

Helen: I think my mum is afraid of something similar - being taken into hospital and then somehow declining and never coming out again. Amazingly at the age of 94, she has never needed knee or hip replacements, but she's increasingly unsteady on her legs.

Indeed, we oldies are being blamed for the government's refusal to fund an efficient, high-quality NHS for all age groups.

Rummuser said...

We do not have the NHS here so the complaint is not heard here. On the other hand, younger citizens with older parents and grand parents/relatives have a large burden to carry indeed and one comes across many instances of neglect and deprivation. Even well to do older people have to fend for themselves but face loneliness. Here is something that coincidentally came to my notice just a few hours ago.

https://qz.com/936397/indias-seniors-are-so-lonely-theyre-renting-grand-kids-for-company/

Bijoux said...

We've been hearing similar things here over Social Security benefits. Baby Boomers are going to exhaust the funds. It's hard to complain about them, as they were the ones paying into it for so long. It's the government's fault for not having the foresight to see this coming!

Nick said...

Ramana: Neglect and deprivation are common here too. There's just no culture of looking after your elderly neighbours. They're supposed to be looked after by their families or by the state, and if that doesn't happen, they're on their own.

Bijoux: How can they exhaust the nation's funds when the USA is one of the richest nations on earth? All those billionaires and millionaires should be forced to stump up the shortfall. And as you say, the elderly have been paying their taxes for decades, so why shouldn't they be properly cared for when the need arises? And yes, the government should be planning ahead.

Nick said...

Ramana: An interesting link. I can see the same sort of thing developing in the UK, as there are similar problems with other family members being unable to look after their elderly relatives. The University of Exeter has a good scheme whereby students get rent-free housing in return for helping the elderly.

Anonymous said...

My parents are still in a good health condition and whatever will happen my brother and myself will take care of them. Where I grew up old people are honoured and are respected as being wise and knowing life. Where I live now many things are done to take care of old people.and personnaly I love old people, I love listen to them , their life experiences, they are witnesses of another time.Young people can be sick and get health problems too and need care, so I do not really understand all the fuzz about the NHS in your country concerning the old ones. As you say we are all human beings and shold get the care we need.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: Good to hear you grew up in a culture that honoured old people. As you say, they're wise and worldly-wise. The fuss about the NHS being "burdened" by old people is very much generated by politicians who think cost-cutting sprees are more important than proper health care. They probably want old people to pay for their own health care and give up on the NHS.

tammy j said...

AMEN nick.
I dare not get started or i'll write a book. another great thought provoking post. xo

CheerfulMonk said...

Andy and I are doing our best to keep as healthy as possible. I'm a believer in assisted suicide when it starts becoming hopeless, but there's a good chance that will be outlawed at the federal level.

Just tonight I read an article about people addicted to drugs who end up having multiple heart surgeries. The surgeon can patch them up, but the problem comes back if the person can't get off the drugs. It's an expensive mess. I assume you don't have a drug crisis there?

Dave Martin said...

I doubt the pressure created by the country's crumblies is any worse than that from all the largely self-inflicted conditions - type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery etc.
If people of all ages did more to look after themselves by eating properly and getting exercise, the NHS wouldn't be in such dire straits.

Nick said...

Tammy: Thanks. I like to get people thinking!

Jean: We certainly have a drugs crisis. Both prescription drugs and fun drugs are being used more and more, with all the familiar negative consequences. I haven't heard of people needing multiple heart surgeries though.

Nick said...

Dave: I agree, a lot of conditions are self-inflicted. But when everyone around you is pursuing unhealthy lifestyles, it's hard to go against the trend. If we go to a party, how often do we refuse any alcohol or refuse a slice of cake?

Did you read about that Bolivian tribe, the Tsimane, who stay incredibly healthy well into old age? We could be just as healthy if we really wanted to.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Oh, well said Nick ..... I agree with everything you say.
.... and, I am so fed up with adverts about funerals, stair lifts and ready meals for the elderly!!!! I don't get depressed but they aren't helping !!!! XXXX

Nick said...

Jacqueline: Oh, I just regard those ads as nothing to do with me and skip over to the next page. Maybe in 20 years' time they may seem a bit more relevant!

Liz Hinds said...

Well said, Nick! Not to mention the fact that you've been contributing to society throughout your life and have earned your old age.

Hattie said...

Maybe, like the "deserving poor," we are falling for the notion of the "deserving old."
I happen to live in Hawaii, where so many come from cultures that respect and care for elders. Paying us back for the care we gave to others when we were younger seems only fair. But even those who have lived mostly for themselves or "haven't taken care of themselves" deserve compassion.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm not sure saying "just deal with it" and "provide the necessary funding" is exactly a practical approach. Truth is, a disproportionate amount of money gets spent on on people in the last year of their lives. Should we take care of elderly people's medical needs? Of course. But to my way of thinking, it's reasonable to question what we pour money into and to assess whether it provides either a significant increase in lifespan or quality of life. I also think we should be shunting more resources to preventive measures and improvements in things like nutrition to help decrease the amount we have to spend fixing messes that could have been avoided.

Nick said...

Liz: I certainly have. I'm still working now, after 52 years of work! And still paying plenty of tax.

Hattie: I'm not sure the present British government thinks any old people are deserving. It seems to begrudge giving any of us a decent old age and the comprehensive public services we need.

Nick said...

Agent: I agree there should be more emphasis on healthy nutrition and preventing illness. I also agree that it's questionable to spend money keeping people alive when their quality of life has greatly deteriorated. Perhaps more of us should put "Do Not Resuscitate" in our medical records.

Eryl said...

I'm positive I commented here a couple of days ago, saying something like Scarlet, as is often the case, seems to have come up with a doozy: let's start a class action and sue the drug companies for making us live past our sell by dates.

One of the reason's I continue to smoke is that I'm told (almost daily) that it will knock at least five years off my life, or, in other words, my old age. It's like a slow, and rather enjoyable way to self euthanize.

Wisewebwoman said...

Wow Nick good to see you worked up into a lather. And with an excellent target. Elder treatment is a massive problem aspects of which would take up a book. Suffice to say I agree we are perceived as a nuisance. Maybe we need a sign off age like 80. On to the ice floe or hemlock or ?? with us. Take yer pick.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Eryl: Sorry your comment vanished, I don't know why that happens. Unfortunately I think suing the drug companies would be an expensive and unpredictable business. The drug companies are obscenely wealthy and can hire the smartest lawyers in town to crush the opposition.

Knocking a few years off your life sounds like a wise move. I for one don't want to be still alive at 100, in some decrepit and vegetable state.

Nick said...

www: A sign-off age is a good idea. Eighty is more than enough when (hopefully) you've already had a long and fulfilling life. Why plod on for decades more as your body (and maybe your mind) gradually disintegrates?

Oh come now, I often get into a lather. As you must have noticed, since you've been following my blog practically since it started.

Jenny Woolf said...

The problems of the NHS are not helped by the likes of Jeremy Hunt, are they?

Nick said...

Jenny: Jeremy Hunt is a nasty bit of work. He keeps denying there's any crisis in the NHS, keeps rejecting any extra funding, and seems determined to let the NHS deteriorate to such an extent that he can argue the only way forward is to privatise the whole thing.