As first generation Americans we were aware of our fierce pride in our country. Today we take our comfortable lives for granted and criticize our government as it tries to protect us from ever more insidious means of destruction. We question what we don't understand. Many in my generation fear the information technology altogether; we fear knowing that younger people understand more than we do, that our experience and knowledge in this arena is obsolescent. Embarrassed by that fear, we turn its expression into anger.
In the medical arena, we still want to feel that the doctors know more than we do, that we can rely on someone to care for us when we are ill and to recommend procedures that are curative as well as symptom relieving and to advise us when these treatments are less than effective and should be discontinued.
With loved ones stricken by Alzheimer's disease or other life-limiting degenerative dementias, it strikes me as difficult when no one in the medical field knows when to end the Aricept or other memory-enhancing medications, especially now when we see that as side effects of some of these medications, there is protection against heart disease. In whose best interest is it to keep memory care folks who no longer can make decisions about their own health care needs alive longer than their bodies' needs? Have I become so cynical that I feel the big pharma companies want to profit from the projected increase of Alzheimer's disease in the next ten years as 65,000 people reach age 65 every day?
Dr. Abigail Zuger, writing in the Hard Cases analysis in the Science Times this Tuesday(June 11) suggests that physicians not rush to fix all of the problems that patients present chronically at every visit. She advises being present for the patient, listening to the issues, understanding the needs behind the symptoms until the physician and patient know more or less what the best way to proceed needs to be. As our world becomes more and more complicated, as our individual knowledge base is limited due to the swift increase in knowledge available, we need to learn to do our own research, to trust in ourselves so we can participate in these decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.