Sunday, July 29, 2012

Futurist Thomas Friedman discusses eldercare -- at home and in the "village"

The “Sunday Review” section of the New York Times on July 29 has an interesting column by futurist Thomas L. Friedman, “Coming soon: The big trade-off”, with the explanatory caption, “As baby boomers age, we can pay for nursing homes or for nursing Afghanistan”. The link is here

My first reaction is that we may have to pay for both.

Friedman makes a case for investing in home and “village” care for disabled seniors (including those with Alzheimer’s , which, according to demographics, is going to explode).  He discusses a lot of smart technology innovations, such as one that I have imagined:  clothing with sensors (and microtransmitters) woven into the clothing fabric, to monitor heart performance and even blood chemistry.  A fitted shirt could function as a Holter monitor.

He also mentions the practical burden on and risk to family caregivers.  It’s more than a financial issue – although the recent attention to filial responsibility laws (with a case in Pennsylvania, reported here May 22 and May 24 2012) will make the money aspect more pressing.  It’s also about getting the care done – since there is mounting evidence that the home health industry often doesn’t hire and compensate caregivers totally legally.  People, otherwise unmarried or childless or inexperienced in social intimacies (and more often than in the past, men) will be drawn into these very physical and sometimes humiliating matters regardless of any ideas about choice or “personal responsibility”.  Our priorities and rules are changing. 

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