Diary of a Palin death panel survivor
MY MOTHER AND FATHER are 85 and 86 years old respectively. They live in Britain, so if they became ill they would be prime candidates to be condemned by a socialist death panel under the UK’s socialized health service… at least according to US Fox pundit and erstwhile presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Three weeks ago my father became ill, on return from a holiday in the USA. What then happened? Did he survive the death panel described by Palin?
My father was complaining of steadily more intense back-ache and sharp, stabbing pains in his legs. (He had fallen in the US, but seemed to show no ill effects till after his return to the UK. Although he was heavily insured for medical problems while in the US, he adamantly refused to be taken to an ER for a check-up after the fall).
A home visit by his National Health Service doctor indicated no apparent damage such as broken bones. Pain killers and bed rest were prescribed. When the pain persisted through the night my mother phoned for medical assistance. A middle-of-the-night doctor’s visit again found no apparent cause, so arrangements were made for an ambulance to take him into one of the city’s two large NHS hospitals for tests.
I flew over from my home in the US.
For US readers, it should be understood that at no stage during this process are doctors or nurses asking questions about health insurance providers, insurance plans, co-pays or whatever. There are no costs or bills or financial concerns for my parents. This is simply a no-cost service for them… the reality of free health care at the point of delivery from cradle to grave as the NHS’s founding fathers put it.
Two days and a night in hospital for x-rays, other tests and observation, confirmed the most likely cause of the pain was soft tissue damage, bruising, caused in the fall. The appropriate care was bed rest and physiotherapy. He was discharged and taken home by ambulance, with a report for his family doctor at the nearby clinic.
The next home visit was from the Community Matron working out of my mother and father’s local health clinic. She adjusted the medication and arranged for the necessary (free) presciption to be issued. She called for a further visit by nurses from the Intermediate Care Team later that day and continuing for as long as needed… as well as assessments by the team’s occupational and physio therapists.
The occupational therapist arrives in the afternoon to do an initial assessment on what is needed to ease life. The physiotherapist puts my father through his paces and advises on exercises that he can do in bed. Two nurses arrive that evening to do a pre-night time examination and some exercises. They were back first thing the next morning and again in the evening. The physio returns with a walking frame, a stool to help with washing, a frame for the toilet and a commode.
That day a social worker from the local authority also arrived for a two-hour interview about the long-term care needs for both my parents to help keep them safely in their own home living an independent life.
The basic care plan is going to be a visit in the morning by a care worker to check my parents are both up and moving, breakfast is sorted, medicines taken, laundry put in the washer. A second visit in the evening will check on the day, evening meal, medications and preparations for the night. Once a week a care worker will collect a shopping list to supplement the weekly delivery of frozen meals. There’s a discussion about what can be done to help maintain and even improve my parent’s social life.
The house will be fitted with fire alarms plus an emergency call button with my parents having pendants and fall monitors, all linked to the local authority 24/7 call centre. A key safe on the outside of the house will give the care workers and emergency services access to the house. The social worker apologises, my parents will need to pay for the call centre monitoring, the UK equivalent of about $1-a-day.
The care plan will be free if my parents have less than £25,000 — about $37,000 — in savings, but will be capped regardless at £200 a week — about $300. As my parents already receive £120 a week to subsidise cleaning, gardening and the likes, their costs are likely to be minimal.
All health care costs were, are and will remain zero.
Three weeks in we have once again phoned in the early hours for advice from a night doctor regarding pains near my father’s right lung, fearing possible infection. The Community Matron confirmed his lungs and heart were sounding OK early the following morning, diagnosing possible constipation.
On a Sunday we phoned for advice when my father complained his legs were feeling cold, fearing a problem with circulation in his legs. Two nurses arrived within 20 minutes and stayed for 30 minutes. Again all clear.
The physio and occupational therapist have schooled my father to safely negotiate the stairs.
The house has been measured ready for installing more grab rails inside and outside to help when my parents move around. A spare walking frame as arrived. The key safe as been installed. The fire alarms and monitoring system will be fitted early next week. The bath is fitted with a chair to help lower my father into the bath. The local pharmacist will be delivering the medical presciptions, pre-sorted into dated and timed doses from now on.
A community nurse will visit later today to discuss my mother’s medical needs.
Long-term care starts on Monday.
And we’ve had numerous chats with nurses, carers and friends about the differences between the US — where I live — and the UK. People are baffled and flabbergasted by the attitudes in the US on health care. The public option was not as strong as the UK system, and similar public-based philosophies in some 50+ other countries, but it was a “no-brainer” comments one friend.
The nurses are angry at the misrepresentations of their work in the US. One, who worked with US-based health insurance plans earlier in her career, recounts tales of medical incompetence, inefficiency and cynicism with open contempt.
So, my elderly father is still in pain, though less, he still needs medication and he still needs nursing care. But he has survived the UK’s socialized death panels to live another day.
Many elderly people in the US — indeed, even many with insurance in their 30s, 40s and 50s — might wish they had access to such “death panel” care from a socialized care system, rather than the pay-or-die dictats they get from the US for-profit, private anti-social health insurance industry. The opposite of “socialized” might simply be described as “uncivilized”.
They might also inquire why Sarah Palin tells lies about the UK health service while availing herself of the similar “socialized” Canadian health care system.