Archives for posts with tag: medicine

The only mention made of death in our society is usually through the old saying that taxes and death are the only two certainties in life. The rest of the time it seems to be a taboo subject. The only certainty about it is that it will happen, yet for most of us the how, where and when are not only complete uncertainties but not discussed.

I’m trying to work out how long I will last, given my current age, life expectancy for my age group and restrictions such as chronic illness. This sounds really potent yet seems to be the medical name for diabetes and other common diseases which affect life expectancy. I felt really doomed when I first heard the expression, but life has gone back to normal since then!

For older people it probably makes life a bit easier if we can work out a rough, probably inaccurate time limit. It gives us a bit of a time-line for things we would like to achieve before then, such as tidying up and sorting through possessions (called rather cutely ‘downsizing’!). It doesn’t seem to work for me, having recently passed on a whole lot of books I knew I would never read to charity, then restocking with other books I thought I might read!

The other uncertainties we face are the how  and where. Most people say they would like to die at home but few do. I suspect that this could be caused by medicos trying to use their new devises and medications on us when we would prefer to just quietly leave this world.

The big problem is the current discussion we are currently having in Australia about being allowed to do have a hand in our death and allow us to advance it when medication is not currently available to so painlessly. Euthanasia has almost been a taboo topic and is often described as murder. There are quite a few countries intelligent enough to allow it under very strict conditions and it seems to work well, with the conditions imposed preventing abuse. The opponents to this practise seem to base their objections on reasoning which is not based on intelligence and knowledge. These are often the same people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. The problem is that although their ranks are being reduced because more people are applying reason and logic to arguments, based on modern knowledge, these groups still have a traditional influence which they inflict on all of us.

If people oppose those of us who want to be able to die to escape excruciating pain, why should this minority be allowed to dictate what we choose to do? If I still looked at the world through religious eyes I suspect I would think that if God hadn’t yet released to us the knowledge to reduce all pain to a bearable level, then why shouldn’t we use the God-given knowledge we already have to choose to end our suffering? How heartless are these people if they are prepared to force their own families to have to watch them suffer needlessly, often for weeks and months? Not my idea of a Christian, loving world in which we really care about those we love, as well as our neighbours, in its full definition.

Dying would be less of a worrying uncertainty if people didn’t have to face the possibility of unrelieved excruciating pain accompanying it. Lets at least make this a certainty.

I seem to have become involved in a jigsaw recently which I would rather not have participated in.

It started when I read an article about the importance of management in the success of a company. If management don’t appreciate their staff, and make them aware of how much they are valued, it has disastrous consequences. This shows in a high rate of ‘sickies’ among staff and high staff turnover rates. With the former it means carrying extra staff where their presence is necessary, such as in hospitals and nursing homes. For all businesses having to regularly replace staff who resign is expensive, thus raising operating costs.

The second part of the jigsaw was learning that our local public hospital has the highest sickie rate of any of the comparable facilities in the area. The person in charge blamed the nurses, apparently unaware that research shows that the blame in such situations lies with management. Worse still I have since been told that their figures have deteriorated further this year.

The third and final puzzle piece was when the safety officer of a major hospital in the U.S. was quoted as saying that the greatest threat to the safety of the patients was the relationship between the staff. Put these pieces together and I hope that neither I, my family or my friends have to be admitted to this local hospital.

The situation was brought home to me recently when a family member went into hospital, fortunately to another one, a private one. What struck me was the wonderful relationship between the staff, from the nurse in charge of the ward to the trainee nurse doing a university placement there. Both said how much they enjoyed their work. The older one said she had worked there for 17 years. What impressed me even more was that this was 21st century care as it wasn’t just the medical care that was done as a team but they also included patients and visitors who were given the impression that they were also part of the team. This is commendable as of course they all have a role to play in patient recovery.

This recognition of team work, rather than the hierarchical model which characterised the last century, is valuable knowledge to enable all organisations to reach the highest standards in all aspects of their work, leading to higher productivity. It is absolutely necessary in all businesses, but particularly where people’s lives and well-being are at risk.



The last couple of decades in particular have seen us make huge advances in communication and other areas of technology which seem to have affected the lives of many people in the world. The ones who have missed out are those who seem to miss out on everything- food, clothing, shelter and medical expertise. And we don’t seem to care.

Does humanity have to be like this? Is there one country in the world which is going against the trend and reducing the gap between the top rich 1% and the bottom poor 1%? If there is such a country I would guess that its leaders are not rich, as are currently the leaders, and potential leaders, in the most influential countries in the world.

Citizens in the USA seem to be heading in the direction of having to choose between two rich citizens for their next leader even though I am sure that there are many, many, people who would make better leaders because they have more knowledge and ability and are not tainted by being money addicts.

So many countries in the world have this problem of admiring the rich, presumably because they wish they were in that position themselves. In Australia the media is listing the top people on our rich list presumably lauding them for having this particular trait, which in the field of medicine would be labelled an addiction. In the past so many rich people have used their wealth to honour their names and families by putting their money into charitable trusts or noteworthy buildings, both of which honoured their memories for generations to come. Today’s rich seem more intent on spending as much of their wealth on themselves and leaving their offspring in the same situation rather than leaving a lasting memory. Is this because the Christian church, which encouraged the former behaviour, is no longer as influential as it was?

Is there no one today with the power and influence to encourage a fairer sharing of resources? Could I be right in feeling that if we did have fewer rich people and fewer poor people the world would be a much better place? We can’t just assume that those at the bottom leg of the ladder are brainless and untalented. Many of those who have reached the top today have done so because they got a leg up and opportunities from their rich families, rarely just from their own abilities.

Could we measure the degree of success of today’s world by the extent to which the basic necessities are available to all, and all have access to a good education and the opportunity to make use of it to the best of their ability? If we could make such a measurement I suspect today’s world  would end up with a big ‘FAIL’.

This isn’t good enough. In the past the plague affected everyone, rich and poor, and today’s superbugs are threatening to do the same. We need to pull together to make this world a happier successful place which we all share. Technology and other modern advances can’t do this on their own- it needs a caring human race to facilitate it.

There were times when older people were regarded as ‘elders’ and treated with respect. In most Westernised countries this tends to be no longer the case for what seems to be two major inter-connected reasons. Firstly we are living longer so that being old is no longer clearly defined and secondly this means that there are more of us who could be regarded as old. There are other differences. In the past people were looked up to as ‘elders’ because of their knowledge and wisdom, both of which came from their experience of being a comparatively long time on earth. Today things are different for many because ease of travel has expanded our knowledge of the world well outside our immediate neighbourhood and secondly knowledge through learning from textbooks and educational institutions has greatly increased our knowledge and improved access to it. We have more and more older people many of whom have greater knowledge and wisdom through both experience and formal learning. Since the title of ‘elders’ is no longer applied to us does that remove the obligations which went with this role? Worse still, are we deliberately abandoning this role, putting it in the too hard basket?
These thoughts have been inspired by the current situation with young people and alcohol. Should we take on the role of elders and accept our responsibility to use all our experience to view the situation objectively and try to create a better world for those who come after us?
There is concern about the current amount of alcohol based violence, a problem for both victims of abuse as well as the abusers. There should also be concern about the body damage which drinking can inflict, particularly the presently popular binge drinking. Will those who come after us be able to cope with the law and order problems, the disabilities being created, as well as organ damage today’s young people are creating, all of which are high cost problems.
Remember that today’s older people have taken the country from the ‘6 o’clock swill’ to today’s nearly open slather on drinking venue opening time? Is this progress or regression? Should those of us who remember the days where alcohol ruined lives were less common than they are today (and which will be even more of a problem tomorrow) speak out about the way our country is heading, particularly for our young people?
Currently our police often have to put their lives at risk from alcohol induced thuggery and staff in our emergency hospital wards are being sickened by what they see and have to treat. If for no other reason shouldn’t we speak out and push for less freedom to save these professionals who work on our behalf, as well as the young people who we sit back and let ruin themselves, their careers and lives, and those of their innocent victims?
Aren’t we making sure that the proud title of ‘elders’ is no longer ours through our silence? Are we abandoning our knowledge and wisdom for no apparent reason? After all, most of us do still care.

We are all aware that as we age we become more frail but recently I have had the opportunity to test whether this is due to ageing or the very different lifestyle we tend to live as oldies.
I have been doing some house painting. At first I was concerned that although I have been doing it since I still lived with my parents I haven’t done it for a few years. I wasn’t sure how my arthritic knees would handle going up and down my small 2 step-ladder for starters.
I have now been doing it for 7 days (with a break in the middle to catch up on other stuff) and I am amazed at how much fitter I am. My weight is the lowest it has been for ages and the clock has been put back on my knees! It reminds me of someone I read about in the book on the ‘Late Bloomers’. If I remember correctly he had to retire and was given only 6 months to live with really bad arthritis and high blood pressure. He decided he was going to fulfil dreams in the 6 months so bought a run down farm. He had to get up to feed the animals daily as they relied on him. His arthritis improved, his blood pressure went down and after 12 months he decided to turn the farmhouse into a B & B so people from the city could come for a relaxing weekend. So much for the 6 months the medics gave him!
As older people we are encouraged to exercise but I now realise that it seems to be more effective and efficient if it is exercise with a purpose. This is a real challenge for us older people. I am sure any medical experts will be throwing up their hands in horror but we are very wise and know we need to take care. After all, we do this every time we hop in and out of the shower or cross the road!
Exercise with a purpose. Any suggestions?