ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

A Pacemaker and Our Healthcare System

Recently, the New York Times published an article that describes how the modern medical system destroyed a family’s life and journey through the aging process.

The family featured in the article centered around a couple in their mid-eighties who had been together since World War II. The wife and mother was fiercely independent and intelligent, and the husband and father was well educated and stubborn. The couple had always been together, had two children, and lived what most would consider to be the American dream. The article goes on to describe how the modern medical system and Medicare had treated the couple well. Neither of them had any major illnesses and any minor illnesses they had were primarily covered by Medicare and a Medicare supplement policy so their finances had not been devastated by an illness. For all purposes they were happy with the healthcare they had received for most of their lives.

Unfortunately, the husband suffered a stroke at age 79. Part of his treatment was to have a pacemaker installed. The stroke completely changed the lives of the couple because they went from being an independent couple to an infirm man being cared for by his wife. The article explains that in years past the stroke would have caused the death of the husband but, due to our medical system, the husband was able to survive. According to the author, “thanks to advanced medical technologies, elderly people now survive repeated health crises that once killed them, and so the ‘oldest old’ have become the nation’s most rapidly growing age group.”

The story goes on to describe that a progressive form of dementia was one of the side affects of the husband’s stroke. Eventually, the husband became, like so many dementia patients, unable to communicate or act on his own. He became totally dependent on his wife for everything from going to the bathroom to eating. His condition caused exhaustion and resulted in a heart condition for his wife. Eventually, the only thing keeping the husband alive was the pacemaker which far outlived his mental capacity.

The point of the article was to describe our current healthcare system. While the family had requested information on alternatives to the pacemaker, the likelihood of recovery, quality of life, prognosis, etc., few answers were provided to the family. The family was led down a path which provided maximum revenue to the doctors, hospitals, and specialists involved, but did not take into consideration the patient’s quality of life. The pacemaker that had been installed caused years of suffering and heartache to this typical American family. Only after the pacemaker had been installed did the family find out that there were reasonable alternatives. Not one of the husband’s treating physicians or specialists had discussed or described alternatives even after being asked by the family. The family had a wonderful relationship with their primary care physician, but after the husband entered the hospital, he was no longer involved in the family’s care.

The modern healthcare system can work wonders and extend our lives significantly longer now than ever before; however, few people in the healthcare industry stop to consider how extending life can affect quality of life for the patient and the patient’s family. Further, the healthcare system is disjointed; an individual’s primary care physician has no involvement with treatment if the individual has a medical crisis. Having an advocate who can lead a person through the healthcare system and who can connect the broken links is crucial and can provide a family with options, alternatives, and quality of life.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm’s life care planning program can help connect the dots in today’s healthcare system by helping clients through the continuum of care and the healthcare maze. Please contact The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm if we can assist you.

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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