“Being Mortal” – A Must Read For Anybody Over 50!

History of Care of The Elderly

This is a book that was recommended to me by several people and one I managed to avoid reading because I thought it would be a dry and somewhat painful read.  I have to admit – I was totally. Wrong and my assumptions were way off base.  I learned so much and it really made me think about the challenges that will face us baby boomers as we age and if we still have parents how they will be treated as they age.  I’d like to share some highlights from this book and hope it will encourage you to read this book!

Before pensions and social security was created most of the elderly population were poor with the exception of those who were independently wealthy. Those elderly without families to care for them were relegated to what was called a “poor house”.  This housing situation was abysmal with residents being treated like they were incarcerated and husbands and wives were made to live separately. The Gilded Era luckily created an awareness of the conditions of the “poor houses” and people began to express their dissatisfaction. Historically, around 1935, Social Security and the advent of a national pension plan forced the disappearance of these “poor homes”.

The end of WW II saw the beginning of growth in the building of hospitals. Prior to this time doctors would make house calls and hospitals were places that merely maintained people’s health. Medicare had little effect on patient outcomes; whatever disease the patients had dictated whether they lived or died. Post WWII saw major positive changes in the healthcare industry. Drugs came into use for treating infections, and blood pressure; heart procedures and kidney transplants became more common. Congress promoted the development of hospitals nationwide by passing Bills which created funds to spearhead this activity. People began to view hospitals as a place they could be treated and be “cured”.  These changes created a venue for the elderly and this accelerated the demise of the “poorhouse” by the1950’s. The mid fifties saw more changes in the hospitals due to government subsidies. They established separate units for those patients needing more recovery time which emptied the hospital beds for more acute care.

Look for my next post which will discuss the beginning of nursing homes!


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