It seems that while people of course do want to live longer lives, they don’t want those to be of such reduced quality using major advances in technology. They would prefer improved care, not higher technology. According to an associate professor of medicine at Buffalo University, Bruce J. Naughton (who is also a geriatrics specialist), “it turns out that more care and more technology doesn’t necessarily translate to the best care.”
When the Stats Don’t Add Up
The question is, why is it so bad for old people in particular to be cared for in a hospital environment? Isn’t it bad for everyone? In general, yes. But statistics from a study at the university’s Geriatric Center of Excellence has shown that the elderly (those individuals over 80) who are hospitalized for more than four consecutive days have up to a “75 percent chance of dying in the hospital.” What has been happening is that patients who are being treated for multiple illnesses through advanced technological methods are ending up with poor care. This is not what physicians are trained to do, Naughton notes.
Thus Naughton makes the following recommendations for patient carers to deal with this problem. First, one should discuss with the patient’s doctor his or her life expectancy along with life quality. Next, find out if there are alternative methods available instead of surgery, or, what would happen if nothing was done. Try and get more than one opinion from a variety of experts. Set up a meeting with all the specialists involved in the case. It seems, as Naughton has pointed out, “the role of the geriatrician is to discuss what the medical technology involves and what are the outcomes.” If, for example, surgery may prolong the patient’s life but at a reduced quality, it might be decided to not go the surgery route.
Ultimately, it is imperative to not rely too heavily on technology and to thus keep the human element firmly in the picture. This is because making the patient less a priority and technological methods more, has proven ineffective with regards to geriatric health care.