I recently returned from a trip to the United States, travelling from Colorado, through Wyoming to Montana and, along the way, I picked up local newspapers to appreciate what was happening in the town I was passing through. I was saddened to read several articles about the elderly and how they were treated by the health services in the States.
It’s OK if you have money, and can afford the very expensive health insurance but even then if you have ongoing conditions, that insurance could well run out.
There is a form of state health service, but in one article, and I won’t name the county or state, where the newspaper highlighted a scandal in which poor elderly people were not given any treatment and basically left to die. The quote from the doctor horrified me, ‘these people have mental health problems, usually associated with dementia, and have no quality of life.’ The newspaper indicated it was to save money for the state health service.
On the other side of the equation, we ended up in a tiny town called Jordan and headed for their museum but we were three hours off its opening time. But an elderly lady welcomed us, emerging from another part of the building, and offered to open the museum for us. She explained that she was a volunteer for the town’s elderly people’s luncheon club and, as we entered the museum, we could smell good food cooking from the kitchen. This lady showed us a collection of baby pictures taken from the early 1930s up to the 1980s, taken by the local doctor who had ‘worked the town’ for over fifty years. She pointed out the picture of herself in 1932 and I was astonished to realise she was nearly ninety, still sprightly and proud of her work at the centre. Her two children had also been brought into the world by the same doctor. I had a feeling that there was a real community spirit in that town, with everyone being very independent.
But these stories made me think how lucky we are to have a health service that is largely free at the point of service, although of course we pay through our taxes. I was very careful in the US not to have an accident, aware that the first action taken by a doctor or ambulance crew would be to note my credit card details and ask about travel insurance, before taking any steps to treat me.