My Blog

October 28, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Medications

I came home to find that Mom had gotten hives from the antibiotic pills that the doctor had prescribed. Sister came to the rescue and got her a different kind which, hopefully, will prevent the gangrene that seems to be settling in her leg.

Now the big question is, do we attempt a stint to open up the arteries to improve the blood flow? What are the pros and cons of surgery at her age? How extensive a surgery is it? What alternatives are there? Will rubbing the leg help? Do the pressure socks do any good? Does just keeping the leg elevated make a difference? Or, horror of horrors, will the doctors insist on taking off her leg? Can we, or should we, deny them?

Where are we in the “end-of-life” saga? When our bodies reach the point where parts of them can no longer function, how much do we do to keep those specific pieces of the puzzle working? Our bodies are amazingly complicated and inter-connected. When one part fails, do we give up on the rest?  When does the quality of life deteriorate to the point of not being worth living?

The vision of invalids that I saw in the hospital while Hubby was in for his open-heart surgery made me question the emotionalism of wanting to “keep Mom alive.” Needles in their veins, tubes in their noses, pipes in their stomachs, hoses attached to every part of their body. Blood sucking vampires, as Hubby calls them, visiting hourly to poke and prod and draw more blood. Machines beeping and flashing. Deteriorating human bodies being kept alive by those machines. When do we pull the plug?

Mom, at 98, is not at the plug stage. She is truly amazing among her contemporaries in that she doesn’t take pills. I’ve seen some of the ladies @CarriageInn, or now, even my hubby, that have an array of half a dozen or more pills. The variety is amazing. Big pills, little pills, round ones, oblong ones, colored ones, white ones. Each a myriad of differentiating colors and designs so that someone can tell them apart, maybe. And most people know what each one is or does or doesn’t do.

Have you ever actually listened to the list of possible side effects for the drugs that are touted on TV?  It is truly eye-opening, or jaw-dropping, or perhaps horrifying. It amazes me that we are still warned of the potential harm that the pills can do. As powerful as the drug companies have become, it is surprising that they haven’t forced our congressional leaders to let them off the hook about describing all those possible outcomes.

Or perhaps they know we are so obedient to our doctors that we will silently and meekly accept what they give us, without question. The recent spate of deaths, and the growing number of victims, from Fentanel or Oxycodone or half a dozen different opioids, should make all of us more wary of our own doctors. They prescribe, and we willingly imbibe. It’s scary.

The drug cartels are blamed for the epidemic. We imagine evil looking Cuban or Mexican or Colombian overlords in elegant suits smoking big cigars and driving Rolls Royce’s while their equally evil-looking drug-runners cross our borders with the drugs.

But wait. If there weren’t a market, who would they sell to? Aren’t they just being good Capitalists by supplying a product for the growing, demanding buyers? How can we fault them for making a profit? As the old saying goes, “We are hoist by our own petard.” (Look it up).

We are the consumers. And it is no longer the drug-addicts in the ghettos who are the purchasers. Perhaps it is racist to suggest that as long as it was the African-Americans or the “poor white trash” that were the buyers, the country didn’t care. Now, however, as the white, middle-class kids are dying of overdoses, suddenly we are all attention.

At a presentation I just did in the little, out-of-the-way town of Seguin, we had a moment of silence for two young people, one 25, the other 33, who had just died of overdoses. Their deaths were shocking to their families and to their community. How could it have happened? No one understood.

The drugs have found a market, a market with plenty of money. The drugs are in the wealthy, white schools. Right here in The Woodlands. In Kingwood. At the very best schools. Those kids have money to burn. And they want the excitement that their lives lack. Sharing drugs at parties is entertaining. So, they get high and die. What a great slogan for our Millennials.

As Mom gets closer to death, the drugs are keeping her alive. But, the drugs are killing our youth.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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