If you’ve been paying attention, you already have a good idea of how this is impacting today’s elderly, and what it will do to them years down the road – perhaps when we Baby Boomers begin seeking out more intensive healthcare.
Consider just one example: Suddenly, “aspiration pneumonia” seems to have become epidemic among the elderly, particularly those in long-term care. Many have apparently forgotten how to swallow liquids, instead inhaling their beverages.
That, our bureaucrats suggest, is why so many of these old people get pneumonia; it has nothing to do with the fact that they live in facilities where even the most diligent sanitation efforts can’t wipe out every last germ. It has nothing to do with the fact that, being exhausted, they spend perhaps a little too much time lying down, letting stuff accumulate in their lungs. No no no, my friends – it’s because they can’t swallow anymore!
So these elderly people end up in the hospital with pneumonia. And the doctors heal them and send them home just as quickly as possible with orders that only thickened liquids shall ever again touch their lips. No plain water or coffee, no juice or milk, ever again.
But are these really doctors’orders? Looks like it on the surface, but when our local hospital pulled this on my mother back in 2000, the nurses admitted that it was because Medicare was pressuring them to order it for her.
“But was her pneumonia really caused by aspiration?” I asked incredulously.
“Doesn’t matter,” they said. “If she gets pneumonia again and she’s still drinking unthickened liquids, Medicare might not cover her hospitalization.”
They had no choice, they said. At the behest of the bureaucrats, my mother would be on thickened liquids for the rest of her days.
I admit that this solution does nip those pesky repeat hospitalizations in the bud. These patients mostly don't live long enough to return to the hospital. Taste it, and you’ll understand why: thickened liquids taste like they’re slimy with spit. Someone else’s spit. If that’s all a person can drink, it doesn’t take long to become dehydrated and to die.
Although the professionals I’ve consulted assure me that I’m surely wrong about this, I don't think I've ever personally known anyone to live more than a few months on an exclusive diet of thickened liquids.
What an efficient way to prevent those repeat hospitalizations!
Of course, it’s not government-sponsored euthanasia. But it’s close. It is government-ordered withholding of not only a basic human need – water – but also a needed medical service, which is to say those theoretical repeat hospitalizations for the same cause.
As a Respiratory Reviews article said some years ago, "One possible explanation for the apparent increase in aspiration pneumonia is that hospitals are increasingly likely to specify aspiration pneumonia to obtain the maximum allowable reimbursement from Medicare."
The author continued, “Of greater concern is the possibility that [these diagnoses] might be revealing a smoldering epidemic of aspiration pneumonia among elderly patients."
I’m sure he must have been kidding. He didn’t see the possibility of letting reimbursement drive diagnosis as absolutely chilling? As miles worse than the possibility that there’s a natural epidemic among old people?
I know what my view of this "care pathway" is. How about you?
A silent epidemic: Basic math tells a horrifying story.