I have been writing about my emotional roller coaster ride for which I was ticketed by my disabled brother’s hospitalization, surgery, infections, and transfer into a hospice program followed by his apparent strengthening and process of recovery. You can read the first part of this series here. I am mainly writing this second part of a post for my friends who believe they are comfortable and set for life. Most of them who think they are okay, are one unforeseen disaster away from losing everything one way or another. The demographic details backing up this statement can be found at http://www.nber.org/papers/w17824.pdf or you can read summary coverage of the research here.
Most middle class Americans do not know they are average, or if they know, they do not want to admit it. Look at the regular folks who support the policies and political rhetoric of billionaire families that control major corporations. People really like to think that they have a chance, a small but viable chance, to miraculously transition into living the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Simultaneously these people believe that nothing bad will happen to them. Horatio Alger is alive and well in the misguided dreams of the common person.
I am one of the people who call out that, “The emperor wears no clothes!” Sometimes this comes from my study of culture and how meaning is created and how change happens, but more and more often this comes from personal experience and observation.
I have experienced the sad inequality and false front of healthcare and economic security in this country through experiences that are not unique circumstances and can only be described as tragic. These tragedies happened to landowners and retired laborers who were upstanding citizens. They were my family members who died prematurely, unnecessarily, because they were among the have-nots.
Folks in my family always worked hard and were upright citizens, with the notable except of a black sheep here and there. I think that is the case with most families. My family farmed. Some were laborers. We paid our own way. We were civically involved, and some even served in the military. But what little land the family had accumulated in any given generation for the last several generations was used up in end of life health care and elder care. So what little surplus was saved ends up being turned over to and concentrated by mega-corporations which ends up excluding more and more funds from from the common pool in which most Americans participate.
I have to ask why the common people have to use up every bit of anything they have managed to scrape together? Why should corporations who let us die in groups homes with inadequate care should be allowed to pocket the life savings of the infirm or elderly? In a recent post a Helene on Books Is Wonderful writes about two experiences that frame this issue both personally and from distinct perspectives both inside and outside the system.
Premature Deaths in My Family
We were never close, our natal family just did not do closeness. My family has many problems that trace through generations of midwestern stoicism to tough love that wasn’t loving, emotional distance and neglect, and just plain old lack of time for doing things other than making a living. In other words we were poor farmers. I’ve watched my family die because of this poverty and underclass status.
The system almost did it again. I am so tired of and frustrated by watching family members I love die because we are unimportant laborers. The 1% can go fuck itself. Profit should not come into the healthcare equation. Corporations should not have control over our very lives and deaths.
My mother manipulated my father to sign for a longterm care policy just before they turned 70 or the cost of my father’s care would have forced her to turn over control of the farm to the healthcare corporation when Dad died from cancer a couple years later.
When my middle brother died, he lost the battle with cancer because it was diagnosed too late. He had a type of slowly metastasizing cancer that if found early could be treated, eradicated, and he would live normally for 5 to 10 years before another tumor would develop. He went through this several times. Things were found early because when he was working his healthcare covered preventive screenings. When he retired, he lost that preventive coverage. He died. They found the last cancer too late. My last conversation with him was him encouraging me to fight Washington for better healthcare.
When my Mom became terminally ill we kept her at home because that was what she wanted. When she had a stroke at home and I saw it happening I took her in to the ER and they would not give her the drugs to counteract the clotting and damage though it was well within the time period when it could have worked. I was told that my mother was 92 and I needed to accept that she was going to die. My mother was refused a standard treatment because she was old, on medicare, not able to buy excellent private care – or some combination of these things. I stayed with her and screwed up my personal life (I lived 2000 miles away) until she passed because the private caregiver hired by my brother did not care for her very well and stole her blind.
When I provided evidence of the caregiver’s fraudulent activities to government agencies she was defrauding, they could not do anything as they do not have staff for investigation.
Now, another brother has almost died because of healthcare dysfunction where vets are shoved off to the side to tie in the normal healthcare systems and the VA system is so overwhelmed that it is difficult to get a vet into the good programs, where they do exist.
I am sick of this. My family has just as much right to live as anyone. But because we were farmers and laborers, we die from neglect and inadequate or inappropriate care.