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Living Longer vs. Living Better

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Science, Senior Lifestyle, State News, Technology, Uncategorized on December 26, 2017 at 8:07 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

Modern medicine is an incredible thing, with breakthroughs almost daily that range from simple treatments for common ailments to advanced organ transplants. Through those great medical innovations, the lifespan of the average person is now well into the 80s, with better living through chemistry, or so they want us to believe.

But while we treat one area of illness another continues to progress making it seem like we’re falling apart in little pieces. Where we once just dropped dead from something simple like a heart attack, now it seems we deteriorate bit by bit, with each component of our bodies being held together by a separate roll of medical duct tape.

Think of it this way. We take a pill for blood thinning so we don’t have a clot and get a stroke or heart attack. We take a pill for diabetes to keep our glucose levels down. But at the same time, our mind is intact, with virtually no deterioration. Or maybe it’s the opposite, Alzheimer’s shreds the mind while the body is still healthy. Eventually, the body follows in decay since the Alzheimer’s begins to affect how the nervous system functions.

Thanks to modern science, we’re living longer than ever, but I wouldn’t call it healthier or with much of a quality of life. There’s something to be said for just having the lights go out all at once. One of the most horrific things I have had to endure is watching my mother’s mind go as her body still functioned reasonably well. Or what might be worse, having an active, clear mind trapped in a degenerating body that refuses to follow the brain’s instructions any longer.

At what point are we living too long for our own good and quality of life? Can medical science develop a plan to help the entire body and mind maintain the same or reasonably similar level of health for as long as possible? I don’t think that’s really possible.

So, here we are, a pill for this and a potion for that, all in the name of better living through chemistry. Granted, much of what’s wrong with us is their our doing – smoking, drinking, sugar, fat, it goes on and on. Personal responsibility as one ages should at least be taken into account here. We are what we eat, and boy, it’s a mess.

Formaldehyde and chemicals in our water, the carcinogenic material in our meat, pesticides in our vegetables, super-sized everything at the fast food counter, vaping (yeah, like that’s not smoking, whatever). It’s all killing us. But don’t worry, there’s a pill to counteract the effects of all that, so don’t worry about it.

Isn’t it idiotic, though, how much of what happens to us as we age is our own fault? We’re getting older, but we’re sicker when we live longer. When we won’t take care of ourselves even in the short term, someone else has to pay for that later on.

Last year, for example, obesity-related illness cost Americans nearly $200 billion and treating sickness related to smoking cost more than $300 billion. But wait, there’s more! Excessive use of alcohol costs Americans $249 billion.

Fighting obesity is sadly not as simple as trading a cheeseburger for a celery stick. It takes a full and complete lifestyle overhaul that may require generations to affect a family line. But you can totally prevent alcohol and tobacco illness by never lighting up or popping open that cold one.

Addiction may be a disease, but even that is 100-percent preventable because that first drink or smoke is a choice. A penny toward prevention is worth billions toward a cure.

Well, some of this we have control over, some we don’t. It’s so hard to imagine how people can just not care about their own well-being and how that affects those around them. As we age, we need more help from others. Wouldn’t it be great if that burden were just a little easier on our loved ones?

Yes, we’re living longer. But, despite what the big pharmaceutical company advertisements tell you, the quality of that long life is not measured in milligram doses.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

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The needs of the many

In Charities, Education, history, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Uncategorized on December 25, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

There is a quote from the Star Trek science fiction franchise that has been repeated often throughout the various television series and movies, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” The phrase was first spoken by Leonard Nimoy’s character of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as he tries to reassure his Admiral Kirk about a command decision.

It might be a fictional source, but the sentiment carries a great deal of merit, especially in today’s self-gratification-focused society. The concept is based on a logical determination wherein decisions are made to favor the needs over those of a large population of just a few individuals or even a single person.

Much of the time decisions are made from a very personal, emotional point of view. And there are people out there who simply live in their own little reality, completely oblivious to how their own behavior affects others, so logical thinking just isn’t within their comprehension. But there are three areas where people can make a difference in affecting the lives of far more than themselves and the few who might immediately benefit from a single decision.

First, the needs of the many should be the primary concern of government officials – always. At the state and federal levels, members of legislature seem far less concerned with helping their whole citizen constituency but rather filling their own coffers and lining the pockets of their big donors.

The local level seems to be more about ego, people who want to have their name on everything and be the big fish in the small pond. If those who are sent to represent “the people” would actually do that for a change, the country would be in a far better state.

In business, the idea is to make a buck and show a profit, and those aren’t bad things because they mean jobs and a growing economy. But when business benefits from bad practice, like unregulated pollution or any other activity that could cause harm either physically or economically to an outside population.

Commerce can be community-minded and still make money, the two needn’t be mutually exclusive. Everyone will benefit when a business focuses on the needs of the many, instead of the needs of the stockholder or management chasing the next bonus, whatever the cost.

Individually, each person can make a difference by just taking a moment to consider the consequences of every decision. When people consider the larger picture and understand how their choices affect those around them, the outcome can be far more appealing to everyone affected.

The first thing that comes to mind is intoxicated or distracted driving. Waiting to send that next text or check Twitter, calling a cab or Uber after a particularly “loaded” holiday bash could literally save lives.

What hasn’t been revealed here is that, at some point, the needs of the few, or the one, outweigh the needs of the many. Not because of logic, but because we are human, and we make illogical, emotional decisions and sometimes that’s a good thing.

As a family caregiver for a special needs child or an elderly parent, for example, you might need to adjust your day-to-day activity to accommodate your charge. One person, who requires that the world adjusts to them sometimes. And no one is perfect. But, most people will put the needs of that individual first, weighing how everyday decisions affect everyone involved.

Sadly, it is impossible to change some people and altering the “me” mindset of a culture could very well take generations. Plus, there will always be power-hungry politicians, self-absorbed celebrities, and that one neighbor who continually throws her dog droppings over the fence into the next yard.

In the end, the problem is all about people; illogical, unpredictable, impulsive, self-driven people. It would be great, though, if we, as a society, could start thinking in a more logical manner, something incredibly unlikely given the current state of entitlement and gluttony that has overrun America. Maybe with a little effort on the part of each individual, everyone might eventually, Live Long, and Prosper. See what I did there?

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gldenterprises.net.

Grandma doesn’t know me anymore.

In Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm

When a family member has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s difficult enough for adults to understand, let alone a child. For a youngster, it can be confusing and scary.

Based on a true account, here’s a story about little Anna who was sad because her grandma doesn’t remember her anymore and how her mother helped her understand. Hopefully, it can help someone you care about as well.

“Anna, it’s time to go see Grandma.” “I don’t want to go,” the little girl answered. She sat in her bedroom with her head in her hands as her eyes welled. “Grandma doesn’t know me anymore. Why doesn’t she like me?”

Anna’s mother sat down on the bed next to the seemingly inconsolable 6-year-old. “It’s not her fault sweetie,” her mother said. “She got sick and has trouble remembering things now.”

“But why me,” the girl sobbed, looking up at her mother, tears pouring down her reddened cheeks. Her mother put an arm around the child, fighting back her own tears. After all, it was her own mother who had the illness. “She doesn’t know me anymore either baby,” she told the girl, brushing the curly brown locks away from her face.

“It’s not fair,” the girl squeaked through her tears. “Why did she have to get sick? Grandpa’s not sick. He remembers me.” “I don’t know why,” said her mother. “I think it’s just how different things happen to different people when we get older.”

Anna looked up, quizzically, wiping tears from her face with her sleeve. “What kinds of things?” “Well, do you remember how your Uncle Jack had trouble hearing you last year until he got his hearing aids?”

“Yes. But now he hears everything. He’s always shushing us.” Her mother chuckled through her tears. “Yes, well, it’s kind of like that. When we get older, some parts of our bodies don’t work as well as they once did. For Uncle Jack, it was his hearing, but for Grandma, it’s her mind. Over time, her thoughts and memories got all scrambled up.”

“Let me try to explain it another way.” Anna’s mother picked up a completed jigsaw puzzle from the night table that the girl had been playing with at bedtime. She held the finished puzzle so the girl could see the picture, a family portrait, with Grandma and Grandpa right up front.

“Last night we took all the pieces of this puzzle and put them in just the right spot to make the picture. Well, the puzzle pieces are like the memories stored your mind.” Suddenly she dumped the puzzle on the bed, and the picture dissolved into a pile of jumbled pieces.

“Just like the puzzle, all the pieces have to fit together just right, or the picture doesn’t make any sense. The thoughts and memories that help Grandma remember people and things are all jumbled up, so to her, the world looks very different now.”

The little girl stared at the mixed-up puzzle quietly. For a long moment, she said nothing. “Can we get her a hearing aid to help put the pieces back,” she asked, hope in her blue eyes.

Her mother held back a laugh while simultaneously wanting to burst into tears. “No sweetie, there’s no way to fix Grandma. All we can do is take care of her and try to help her be happy and comfortable.”

Once again, the girl was silent, then she said, taking her mother’s hand, “I’m sorry your mommy is sick. If you got sick, I’d try to help put your puzzle back together.”

Tears gushed from her mother’s eyes as she saw the compassion in her little girl’s face. “Thank you, honey,” she said, trying to wipe the tears, “I know you would.” She smiled and stood, clasping her daughter’s hand. “Ready to go see Grandma now?”

“Yes,” the little girl said. She looked at the bed where the jigsaw pieces had landed. “Can we take the puzzle picture? Maybe if I do it with her, it will help Grandma remember us.” “Yes, honey. That’s a great idea.”

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. Information at gerydeer.com