Case VI: Chapter 9: Soldiers and Seniors

Chapter 9: Soldiers & Seniors

Later the following week, Dudley was sitting in the dining room reading the Wall Street Journal and watching the soft rain outside. He appreciated the kindness of the gentleman who left the paper for him each morning. Paloma Angostura approached and sat down across from Dudley. “Señor Doc, you look so far away from here and your eyes tell me you are sad. Is there something upsetting you?”

“No, Paloma, I was just thinking.”

“It should be good thoughts, Señor Doc. We helped bring happiness to two very nice people from a very unhappy situation. And, we helped Isabella to come up with a way to help less fortunate people in our community like Martina Trujillo. You should be proud of what you did.”

“Oh, Paloma, I am happy that everything turned out as well as it did. And, I am certainly happy that we helped JoAnne and Lawrence find each other. I hope they are able to make many pleasant memories of their own.”

“Then, what troubles you?”

“I guess I have begun to realize that these two situations are similar and may both be the result of our trying to do Good but, in doing so, we have created some very difficult problems for which we do not have the answers.”

“I don’t understand. Should we not always try to do Good?”

“Yes, most certainly. But, I’m afraid that we are trying to do Good for the wrong reasons. Let me try to explain. There are many thoughts in my head and maybe, if I talk about them, you can help me make sense of it all.”

“Please talk to me and do not be afraid to share your deepest feelings. I will try to understand and help.”

“These two situations seem similar to me because they both involve our acting to help people live longer. JoAnne told us about how she dedicated her life to helping soldiers returning from war. In her own experience, our medical technology has improved greatly and fewer young people are dying in battle. We are very proud of ourselves for our advances in medical science and technology that permits us to do marvelous things to save these young people’s lives. But, when they come home, it seems like our support of them decreases dramatically. And, we seem to not really understand how exposure to the ugliness of war affects these young peoples’ minds. We heal them physically, but it seems that we fail to support them as a total person. JoAnne’s description of some of the situations she encountered at the VA facilities was very disturbing to me.”

“The situation that Martina brought to our attention can be viewed in much the same way. We have made significant strides in improving the health of our population and we take great pride in our achievements. People are living longer than ever before. But, once again, we stopped short of developing the understanding of what happens when so many people live so much longer. “

“I am troubled by the similarities of these situations, at least as I see it. We have made unbelievable progress in extending the life of soldiers and seniors, but I am beginning to question whether we have considered the quality of life we’ve left these people with. It seems like we have used our knowledge and skills to solve only half of the problem. Perhaps we are blinded by the apparent success of our actions and fail to see the potential and unintended consequences of what we do.”

“It seems to me that, in effect, we have intervened in people’s lives so that they can live longer. That IS a good thing. But, it creates a responsibility to complete the task and provide answers for the quality of these extended lives. At the very least, we are obligated to provide a level of support that is consistent with the level of technology we employed to give people these extra years of life. ”

“These longer/extended lives are beset with a host of new and different and in some ways more complex problems and issues. Perhaps it is an issue of not wanting to face the very uncomfortable personal side of things. Much of what we’ve done with our science and technology is pretty impersonal and we can step back and look at our accomplishments objectively and with pride, perhaps too much pride. But, too frequently, the surgeon and the scientist do not have to live with the day-to-day consequences of the life-extending situation they brought about. That task is left to someone else altogether and too often, that person is a family member who is totally unprepared and ill-equipped to cope with the situation.”

“I am very pleased that La Vida Aureo’s approach to the aging population crisis is based on providing education and information for caregivers faced with these difficult situations. Perhaps there is a lesson that could be applied to other situations and environments.”


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