You know you're getting old when all the names in your black book have “M. D.” after them.
The sun streamed through the windows and the trees were in bloom. The coffee was flowing and the retirees sat in a circle at the senior apartments. Kathi and I stopped by to greet my mother and some of her friends. The circle widened to admit us. We found a spot to share a moment.
“What are you talking about today?” I asked.
“Same as always,” someone said.
“Yeah. Yesterday’s Brewers game, the weather, the people who didn’t show up this morning…you know,” added another.
They all nodded in agreement. “Oh, yeah. One other thing,” added Harold.
“The cost of health care. Whenever we get together, our one common theme is how much we spend out of our pockets for medical care. At our age, we spend as much time at hospitals as we do at home!”
There was some truth to that. As our own parents and relatives aged, they accumulated doctor appointments, hospital admissions, therapy visits, prescriptions, and piles of paper. My dad had several bulging files jammed with incomprehensible Medicare forms.
“Doctors!” Harold said. “They suck us dry!” Then, apparently remembering what I do for a living, he added, “Of course, it’s not your
It was quiet for a moment before the conversation switched to another topic. Yet, I realized this is the table talk that occupies many of my own patients and will, no doubt, occupy us if we are fortunate enough to live that long.
I remember a moment many years ago when I was working as a nurse’s aide in a Chicago-area emergency room. An elderly woman was violently pushed to the ground and her wallet, containing $2, was stolen. She ended up in the ER, had an exam, stitches, and x-rays. The hospital visit cost a lot more than the $2 she had lost to the mugger. When she started to realize how much the emergency room visit would cost her, she cried.
Harold and his wife eventually moved to another city to be closer to their family. Before he left, he told everyone it was due to their depleted finances. “We’re going broke here,” he said.
The coffee group still gathers every morning, although the participants have changed. We still stop once in a while. These are the people those of us in middle age hope to be. These people took good care of themselves and their families. They live simply and quietly. They enjoy talking about the Brewers, the weather, and each other. And, as I am certain, they will continue to worry whether the health care system upon which they depend will eventually make it impossible for them to feel safe and secure as they approach the end of their lives..Share on Facebook