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Our Parents, Ourselves

Our Parents, Ourselves: How American Health Care Imperils Middle Age and Beyond

Judith Steinberg Turiel
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 317
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  • Book Info
    Our Parents, Ourselves
    Book Description:

    The prospect of caring for elderly relatives who may be too old, fragile, or forgetful to manage on their own looms large for millions of women and men who are unprepared for the difficulties such an experience can bring. Written by a daughter of aging parents, this book takes an honest, unflinching look at aging in America, weaving together personal stories with current medical information to trace exactly how social and health care policies are affecting daily lives. Judith Steinberg Turiel addresses such topics as healthy aging and independent living; mental impairment brought on by Alzheimer's, other dementias, and depression; women as caregivers; health care rationing; the power of prescription drug makers; end-of-life care; and prospects for Medicare. Her book clearly demonstrates the pressing need for quality health care for people of all ages—through universal, publicly funded health insurance.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93891-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction People and Their Environment
    (pp. 1-13)

    Vibrant, focused, engaged, and engaging, Lillian Rabinowitz was the picture of independence when I first met her. Divorced many years, she lived alone in a home purchased decades earlier when young families, many connected to the university, could afford a modest bungalow in the Berkeley hills. She was immersed in her work on aging, especially on improving health care for older people. The calendar beside her phone displayed a full schedule of meetings, presentations to public health or medical students, trips to Sacramento, California’s capital, to lobby for statewide legislation. Everyone involved with aging—professors, doctors, lawyers, community organizers, and...

  6. 1 Independence in Daily Life: Aging In-Place or Elsewhere
    (pp. 14-51)

    We have all seen them. Tanned, smiling, silver-haired women and men, golf clubs in hand. They appear in glossy magazine advertisements for retirement communities, or in newspaper supplements bearing such titles as “Primetime,” or on health insurance brochures that arrive unsolicited in the mail offering, for example, “Secure Horizons.” These women and men are obviously enjoying golden years filled with recreation and companionship, free of worries, certainly not dependent on their grown children or anyone else for that matter.

    Yet how many older adults look, let alone live, like that? Enjoying country-clublike retirement requires not only ample finances but also...

  7. 2 Patterns of Decline: Mind and Matter
    (pp. 52-104)

    A moment in time: my mother-in-law phones from New York, there is a pause, and then I hear, “Who am I talking to? Who did I call?” When the voice I hear is my mother’s from across the street, the greeting is, “I can’t remember why I called.” On some calls, she then remembers, “Dad wants to talk to you.” As he forces out words or parts of words tied to his thought, I wait, trying to balance patience with helping him finish what he means to say. I gave up talking with Lillian on the phone months before hers...

  8. 3 The Pharmaceutical Age: Taking Our Medicine
    (pp. 105-142)

    Three physicians’ groups share the waiting area for my parents’ doctor; the space is large and open. Without fail, the pharmaceutical representatives stand out from the typical Berkeley assortment of patients middle-aged and older. Known in the past as detailmen, these young men and women are well dressed and coifed. They tote large black carry cases and talk frequently on small cell phones. They talk also with each other about their territory and wares, as might any traveling salespersons whose paths tend to cross. Their pitch to the doctors inside may highlight a new drug their company is pushing; in...

  9. 4 Health-Care Rationing: Taking It Personally
    (pp. 143-178)

    The fact that middle-aged and older Americans are doing without prescribed medication because drugs cost too much would seem outrageous. Yet limiting medical treatment by cost, as noted in the last chapter, reflects a far more pervasive rationing of Americans’ health care. This chapter expands the view of such limitations, outlining the broader array of health services subject to sometimes hidden forms of rationing. The discussion turns first to additional limits on available medications, then explores the larger context of cost rationing, calling attention to ways everyone, including people with health insurance, experience restrictions on care. As a major locus...

  10. 5 End of Life
    (pp. 179-224)

    Looking back, I can better see that my father entered and passed through a time of dying. His body for the first time thin and frail, his dementia severe, he had left robust far behind. White gauze swaddled his bruised, mottled purple arms, holding together wounds that refused to heal, his skin too fragile for emergency room stitches or staples. With scabbed nose and a bandaged brow, scraped open by the latest bump or fall, he looked the picture of abuse.¹ As he moved from cane to walker to wheelchair, my father’s last weeks sped like a too-fast home movie,...

  11. 6 Conclusions and a Look Ahead: Baby Boomers Take Stock
    (pp. 225-252)

    Across the street, my parents’ house sits large and empty, in need of repair. Shortly after my mother’s death a friend said, “You must be tired.” With responsibility for parents ended, I recall with sorrow, nostalgia even, just months earlier when I allowed myself to say, in frustration over yet another crisis, “I’m tired of taking care of them.” I was far more tired of watching them slowly die.

    Across the country, my mother-in-law moves through her nineties. She no longer makes phone calls, so she speaks with my husband only when he calls her. During our last visit, she...

  12. APPENDIX. Resources for Information and Referrals
    (pp. 253-256)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 257-274)
  14. References
    (pp. 275-296)
  15. Index
    (pp. 297-306)