Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Miracle of Modern Medicine

You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.

Florida Scott-Maxwell

I hope you haven't come here this morning to have your spirits lifted because unfortunately this is Serious Thursday, or alternately Soap Box Thursday.

We often talk about the miracle of modern medicine, and it's true, it is a miracle. If it wasn't for the advances in medicine some of us would be not be alive today.

But there's good news and bad news concerning modern medicine. The good news is we're living longer. The bad news is we're living longer.

My freshman science teacher used a phrase that I've never forgotten. It applies to many things in life beyond science. That phrase was, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Yes, we're living longer, but that in itself replaces one set of problems with another. The reality is, if you live a very long time there's a price to pay. And that price is that you will lose some or all of your independence.

I'm determined to age responsibly.

What does that mean? Our uncle died recently, at 96 years of age. He was still climbing on his roof to do repairs. And for anyone who is tempted to say, "Oh, that's so cool....96 years old and still repairing his roof..." I will say it is not cool. His son is 74 and believe me at that age he should be able to relax and enjoy his retirement and not worry about his 96 yr. old dad climbing all over a roof. Aging responsibly means I do not want to create any unnecessary difficulties for my children.

It also means that we must be fierce with reality. This is a little easier for me because when I was diagnosed with Lupus over 10 years ago I was forced to deal with the limitations placed on me by the disease. Denial would only make things worse for everyone. I mourned the loss of good health quickly so that I could move on to my new normal. I knew that there would be days when I would not be able to function or fulfill my responsibilities. I needed to be OK with that and accept my limitations and make changes to my life to accommodate those changes.

Unfortunately we are in a situation that could prove to be very traumatic for a family member due to the fact that they are in denial about their situation and the DMV is most likely bringing the hammer down.

Illinois is one of the few states that stringently tests senior citizen's driving skills. Seniors are tested quite frequently until the age of 87 and at that point they are tested yearly. Family members also have the option to contact the Secretary of State's Office confidentially if they believe their family member is impaired. The senior would be contacted and tested without revealing the family's involvement.

- Do you have these discussions in your family?
- Have you ever faced the difficult task of asking for their keys?
- Have you ever been in fear that your inaction or denial of your family member's diminishing driving skills could lead to someone's injury or death?
- How can we determine when it's time to intervene?
- Would you be willing to be someone's transportation partner, or put together a support network?

We need to have these conversations.

I've discussed this issue with a lot of people and they all say, "Well, it's hard, because they'll lose their independence."

YES they will. That's the reality, so we should be addressing it before the 11th hour.

My own mom has made some major changes in her life that are leading up to the day when she no longer drives. She moved from a senior apartment in a very small town to a place in a nearby city. The new building has plenty of activities and transportation options.

I hope I'm never in the position of the elderly gentleman that my son and I encountered at the DMV last year. He arrived for the test in his pajamas and slippers! Everyone in the facility was looking at each other, thinking the same thing....this person actually drove here? He failed the driving test and seemed totally blindsided, having not given one moment of thought to the possibility of failure. His equally frail and confused wife kept asking, "But what does that mean? You failed? What does that mean?" Everyone in the DMV office knew what it meant. My mind was on fire. Where was their family? It was a scene that was sad beyond belief and totally unnecessary.

I hope I'm fierce enough with the truth to lay the keys down when the time comes, actually before the time comes.

NOTE: Please join me in my kitchen first thing tomorrow morning. I've got a fun day planned and there's going to be a contest! We need to be on our best behavior because I've got lots of new guests coming!


Cindy La Ferle said...

Good morning! Your post hit home in so many ways. First, I had both hips replaced when I was in my forties (thanks to a ripping case of osteoarthritis) and am very grateful that modern surgery gave me back my mobility. At the same time, I have limitations due to the artificial joints -- and have to honor those as long as I live.

Secondly, the driving issue. My mother is starting to "fade" and recently got her first speeding ticket ever. I am watching her closely now. Very closely....

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I like your phrase "fierce with the truth" on so many levels. Yes, we have these kinds of discussions all the time. Fortunately, the one who should give up her license did and now we've moved on to the next generation. I think it's a good test to think "would I be willing to be a passenger in the car with that person." Excellent point! Course I may have to give up riding with some much younger folks. Thanks for the excellent post.

JLynnette (Aunt Jo) said...

We've asked those questions with regard to my 81-year-old FIL.

Personally, I'd rather lie down in the road and let him run over me, than sit in the vehicle with him behind the wheel.

It's a battle we're fighting daily.

Suzanne said...

Cindy - Physical challenges are a gift in an adverse way. When our loved ones start fading it brings new challenges into our relationships.

Vee - Oh, I can't tell you how important that quote is to me. I'll go into my therapy experiences in detail int the future, let's just say finding the truth about myself was the most important thing I've ever done. Would I be willing to be a passenger in the Other Mother's car? NO WAY. The last time I rode with her was 13 years ago and it was a HARROWING event. I told the Farmer, neither I nor anyone I cared about would ever get in a car with her at the wheel.

Aunt Jo - There you are!! It is a battle and it shouldn't be. Perhaps we can learn from this and not visit these problems on our own children.

- Suzanne

Mary said...

Hi Suzanne,
We have faced this with my husband's aunt. After much discussion, in which her siblings would not try to interfere, her car was impounded by the police when it was found that she had not registered or insured it for over a year. She is now in a nursing home with dementia, but her siblings were ready to ignore the problem because they knew she would be angry at their interference.

Now it is my father-in-law, who has spent the past 18 months dealing with multiple myeloma. He has progressed from walking with a walker, to a cane, to a few short steps on his own, and he thinks he is ready to drive again. Yikes! His children have conspired thus far to keep his car from him, but it would have been much easier had he and his wife planned for this period of their lives.

So many lessons in front of us -- I hope we will be more sanguine about it.


Heidi said...

Thank you SO much for stopping over to my blog!! How fun to have company! :)

OH how we must love the elderly! What wisdom, insight and fear they bring to our daily lives! My granny is 81, takes care of my grandpy - 84 and does a great job! But- I would rather face the devil himself than ride 3 miles to town with her -I think I would have a better chance of surviving! LOL My great grandma, when she was slowing and fading, said the most profound thing to me. It still hits me when I think of my own aging - Once a man and twice a child.... How deeply true and amazing is that statement? She knew she was fading and yet understood and wanted to teach us what she could while she could, for our own future...

Janet said...

Special guests?? Does this mean we can't arrive in our pajamas and slippers?


lifeinredshoes said...

Oh Holy Whip, we went through this with my Mom and the MIL,sheer unadulterated Hell! The tales I could tell.

Jill said...

My grandfather falls under the category of people who shouldn't drive... yet still does.

The entire family has warned each other that when he visits he is NOT to rent a car, and it doesn't matter if one is inconvenienced... they WILL drive him around.

Your story of the man at the DMV who failed his test brought tears... I doubt anyone was subtle enough there to help him and his wife handle that big blow. Sadly... that's what it's going to take my grandfather to let him know that he shouldn't be driving either!

Heather said...

Such a hard thing. I got a little choked up thinking about the little man and his wife in the DMV. PB and I are very close to our parents and have already warned them that there will be a day that we lovingly tell them that they now have us as their chauffeurs.

Lil_Birdie said...

We had to deal with this a few years ago with my husbands grandpa who is now 93 . It was downright frightening getting in the car with him and he was starting to have occasional mini seizures but wasn't aware he was having them .We could not talk him into giving up his car so we finally resorted to fixing it so the car would not run anymore . He shopped around for a new car but didn't like the price tags on them so he finally gave up :) The family now shares the responsiblity of driving him around .

Bettsi McComb said...

You are so amazing. Great post. Thanks.

Trish said...

Good post....I am so there right now....with my elderly parents. Especially with the thing about driving. Oh goodness it is scarey. And us kids don't always agree either on what is best...and then my dad resents us trying to decide his life etc....and then we feel guilty. Brother.

Good post kiddo!


I think the most responsible thing to do is get wealthy, buy a limo and always have 25 year old chaufeurs driving us everywhere...oh..ah..yes, back to reality. It's sad, but we all must be willing to take the keys or hand them over.

Suzanne said...

Mary - It's such a challenge. I'm afraid that this family member is going to try to pull one over on us... like your husband's aunt. She only has a few days left to complete the test successfully. We'll see.

Heidi - I love your blog!!! Keep on going because I want to read more about what goes on at your farmstead. I feel the same way. The last time I rode with this person (13 yrs,?) she went through 5 stop signs and almost took the toll collectors arm off when he made the mistake of reaching inside the car to hand her the change. SHE TOOK OFF, almost taking his arm. YIKES. That was the last time I rode with her. I can't imagine things have gotten better in 13 yrs,

Janet - No. You must come dressed in picnic attire.

Red Shoes - Oh the tales I could tell. I'd probably get sued for defamation of character though.

Jill - It's amazing the hoops that family's are required to jump through regarding this driving issue. It's very tiring.

Heather - It was very, very sad. Actually the couple were pathetic. Everyone in the DMV had the same look on their face when the wife kept asking, "What does that mean?" Their family (if they had one) should have been totally ashamed about their general condition. It was bad.

Lil Birdie - I've heard of that trick more than once! Disconnect the battery is the usual modus operandi.

Bettsi - Amazing? Ha, try to tell my family that.

Trish - We have the same thing going on - that the family members can't agree. One person's answer is, "Let her drive until she gets in an accident." Brilliant.

My Liberty friend - Only if the chauffeur agrees to do double duty as a cabana boy. Now I just need to dig a pool and build a cabana.

Thanks everyone for visiting today. - Suzanne

leezee52 said...

Beautiful blog and congrats on being the SITS girl of the day!

Memarie Lane said...

Oy. I grew up in a big retirement community and got hit twice by older people who didn't look, and didn't even realize they'd hit something. One of those times was ten minutes after I'd driven my brand new car off the lot.

I remember once when I was at the DMV, an older man ahead of me line line was trying to renew his license. He was doing an eye test and wasn't doing well, so the attendant was helping him, saying "what do you see in the first box? You see a triangle right? And do you see a square in the second box? Good!" And I was like, "dude! He's going to kill someone! Do you not realize this???" Very sad.

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

I have SUCH a soft place in my heart for the "most experienced" members of our society. They have seen SO much and done so much. I can only imagine the difficulties in watching your body betray itself, in knowing you're starting to forget things and being powerless to do anything. I hope, like you, that I will accept these changes gracefully and make decisions that will allow my kids and their kids to just enjoy their time with me, not spend it worrying.

And regarding how long people live - until they can figure out a way to make your brain live as long as your body, I don't wanna hear that we're "living" longer. People aren't "living".. they're exsisting...

Rhea said...

I love this phrase "be fierce with reality." Wonderful stuff!!

The File Family said...

What a great subject. I hadn't really though of the the term age responsibility.

We have not experienced this first hand yet. A friend of mine had the situation with grandfather being unsafe on the road and instead of confronting him about it, he went out and did something to his car to so that it would not run. I suppose that is a passive way of dealing with the subject. I myself would prefer brutal honesty. Maegan said...

I LOVE the version of "Summertime" playing on your blog...great layout too!

Sandi McBride said...

Wow Lady, I like Soapbox Thursday...and my Dad is going to be 96 in September...he still practices Medicine in a small town and wouldn't have it any other way...I on the other hand have RA, Heart Disease and other problems with walking...but I choose not to dwell, you said, the good news is we live longer...the bad news is we live longer...great post!

Rue said...

My now deceased grandfather (Papa) wrote my mom a letter telling her that he had to take his own licence away. He had been diagnosed with alzheimer's disease and the doctor told him what he was in for. He knew before that time that something was off and that's why he gone to the doctor in the first place. I can't imagine how awful that was for my very intelligent and powerful grandfather, but he was smart enough to "know". That saved us from having to deal with the situation that you witnessed and I'm thankful for that. Those people break my heart.

I would like to live a long time, but I don't plan on making myself a burden on my family. Those later years are there for enjoyment and I plan on watching the world go by on a porch with my husband if God gives us that long of a life :)