[Paleopsych] NYT: Sharing and Apart, as a Life Ebbs (5 Letters

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The New York Times > Opinion > Sharing and Apart,
as a Life Ebbs (5 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    In "Under One Roof, Aging Together Yet Alone" (front page, Jan. 30),
    the underlying sadness was evident. While money may afford assisted
    living residents a nice, comfortable atmosphere with everything they
    could possibly want, the question that kept coming to my mind was,
    Where are their children, and why are they not taking care of their

    We have such vision for the rest of the world in terms of
    democratizing it and making it like us. And yet we often overlook that
    we would do well to learn from other countries that honor their
    responsibility in taking care of their parents.

    Sara Salvania
    Provo, Utah, Jan. 30, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Cranky in an assisted living facility, residents wonder why they
    aren't as happy as those depicted in the glossy brochures.
    Realistically, one wonders how they could possibly emulate those
    smiling couples. Old, often alone without a partner, removed from what
    has been familiar, the possibility of money running out, a limited
    life. Who wouldn't turn into a first-class curmudgeon?

    Has a secret been exposed? The myth that this stage of life is one of
    contentment is questionable. Assisted living facilities are necessary,
    and they serve a much-needed purpose as we live longer.

    Should this be in my future down the road, I will simply endure. But
    save me from Bingo games, and hope I am able to make the best of it.
    What other options are there?

    Mary Ramniceanu
    New York, Jan. 31, 2005

    To the Editor:

    "Humbled by the loss of control and fearful of the future." This
    phrase from "Under One Roof, Aging Together Yet Alone," made me think
    of Oregon and its Death With Dignity Act, which was enacted in 1997.
    Since then, more people have chosen to avail themselves of the act
    because of their fear of loss of control than for any other reason,
    including pain.

    If loss of control is one of our greatest fears (I am 74), why is it
    only Oregon that allows those who wish to choose the time and manner
    of their deaths to do so? When will those of us who live elsewhere
    gain that advantage?

    Betsy Carpenter
    Portola Valley, Calif., Jan. 30, 2005

    To the Editor:

    I discovered last July that I had cancer, went through chemo and
    radiation and still have cancer. I'm going to die, and I know and
    accept it. But I'm much happier than the people I read about in the
    article. I was divorced and met a widow some eight years ago, and we
    decided to share our lives together.

    We each lived alone and finally wondered why. Now that cancer has
    entered the scene, nothing has changed because of the great woman I am
    with, who doesn't want me to leave home and go anywhere. And I don't
    want to leave. We will share our lives to the end.

    Families who are considering placing a loved one in one of these
    assisted living communities might do better to find an organization
    that places a man and a woman together to share what income they have,
    staying at home and being happy. It's not a project that can be
    attempted and completed overnight, but it would benefit everybody.

    There are plenty of people living alone who would like to share their
    lives with someone. All it would take would be for someone to start an
    organization that could accomplish this task.

    My lady went through open-heart surgery, and I cared for her during
    her yearlong recovery. Now she is doing the same for me until my end
    comes. It's called love.

    Jerry Babb
    Oakland, Me., Jan. 30, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Having to leave assisted living to go to a nursing home points out a
    sad, irrational fact of the American health care system. What sense
    does it make to move a person from an appropriate, less expensive
    setting - assisted living - to an inappropriate, much more expensive
    nursing home? It makes no sense at all.

    This parallels another irrationality in our health care system.
    Insurance companies and government health financing agencies will pay
    tens of thousands of dollars for psychiatric hospitalization, but
    severely limit money for cost-effective outpatient psychotherapy,
    despite well-documented research showing that outpatient treatment
    will prevent the much greater expenditure of hospitalization.

    The gold standard for health care is providing services in the least
    restrictive setting. The practice of inappropriately shunting people
    into hospitals and nursing homes grossly violates this standard.

    In my years of practice as a psychologist, I have not been able to
    figure out the reason for these truly irrational practices. The best I
    have been able to come up with is that hospitals and nursing homes
    have better lobbyists and deeper pockets for political contributions.
    They certainly - because of the wastrel ways of the government and
    insurance companies - have more money to spend.

    Ira Rosofsky
    New Haven, Jan. 31, 2005
    The writer is a psychologist who provides services to nursing homes
    and assisted living centers.

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