The death of my father was sad, but it was also illuminating. Relatives who hadn’t paid much attention to my parents for years suddenly sprang into action, on hearing that my father had gone sharply downhill (perhaps coincidentally, but it was one week after the second Pfizer Covid vaccine shot).
People were desperate to show up in person, get on Zoom or FaceTime, or talk on the phone. The neglect of the elderly in America reached a state of perfection starting in March 2020. People who hadn’t visited relatives in retirement homes suddenly had a perfect excuse: #AbundanceOfCaution #BecauseCorona. Even when the inmates were released to meet friends and family on outdoor terraces in masks, the Coronarighteous refrained from visiting (often while posting on Facebook photos of themselves enjoying various activities with other potentially infected humans, going out to get food at/from restaurants #BecauseTooLazyToCook, etc.). All of that changed once my dad slipped toward unresponsiveness.
Apparently I am always out of step with my fellow(?) humans. I was happy to have talked on the phone with my parents every day or two for the preceding 10 years. I was happy that we’d been able to visit them (from Boston to DC) every few months, including amidst “the global pandemic”, over the same period. As it happened, I was also able to be there during my father’s final week, but I didn’t consider that essential or important compared to what had transpired over the preceding 10 years.
Folks often decry the huge expenses that Medicare is willing to incur even when it is obvious that death of the beneficiary is imminent (see “Medicare Cost at End of Life” for some data; as much as 25 percent of spending is during the last year of life). But now I’m thinking that this is a feature and not a bug. If Medicare is a reflection of ourselves and what is important to us, it actually make sense for Medicare to pull out all of the stops when the end is near and certain.
Readers: What have you seen in your own families when the end is plainly near for an older relative? Do folks who’ve not been interested in the soon-to-be-deceased suddenly come out of the woodwork?