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GRAYING NEW YORK

By MARCIA EPSTEIN

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 percent of Americans older than 60 have no living will or advance directive spelling out end-of-life preferences. This is foolish, as many of the treatments that are implemented at the end of life are ineffective and can be very expensive. One way to circumvent this problem is to participate in the Stanford Letter Project, an initiative of the Stanford Successful Aging Program. The project includes a “What Matters Most” letter and is very specific as to one’s wishes. You complete a simple online questionnaire, addressing multiple topics about end-of-life wishes, such as how much sedation you might want and who should make decisions. It also includes questions about whether you’d want hospice care, to be at home or in a hospital and when your appointed decision-maker should take over.

After the form is completed you simply click print and the computerized tool at Stanford gives you a prefilled advance directive, along with a letter to your doctor stating your wishes. The advance directive should be notarized and copies given to several different people and agencies, such as your healthcare agent or proxy, your local hospital, your family doctor, your state’s Advance Directory Registry and others.

Much more information about this new and important project can be obtained by emailing periyakoil@stanford.edu (Dr. VJ Periyakoil is clinical associate professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine). You can also call 650-493-5000, x65039. I am going to use this tool myself and hope that this information prompts my readers to research the project for more specific details.

Maybe someday I’ll understand how the government computes annual Social Security increases, but as of now I don’t have a clue. All I know is that after waiting to hear how my 0.3 increase would affect my Social Security, I was sent a letter and found out that my annual increase is ... nothing. I’m getting the exact same amount as last year. However, my drug premium is going up, my monthly Medicare Supplement is going up, and undoubtedly my medications are going up. So where is the logic here? Something to do with gas prices? Can’t they find a better way to decide what kind of increases people really need? We do have to eat, after all. Maybe I should be thankful that I still have Medicare and Social Security, what with the new administration determined to deprive us of what we did, after all, pay for all those years of working.

I can’t take my eyes off the news, but it’s more like rubbernecking a car wreck. You know how traffic slows just so people can see how bad the accident is? That’s me and the cable news stations. MSNBC, CNN, back and forth, back and forth. I have to put it on mute with sub-titles because John can’t stand to listen anymore. But I can’t stop. I need to hear the scary parts, just to be prepared. Sorry, I know that 20 percent of New Yorkers voted for our president-elect; most of us are terrified. However, recently I was energized and uplifted by hearing Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Rachel Maddow show voicing their plans for engaging people in the fight to preserve and expand the things that really do make America great. For the first time since the election, I felt a ray of hope. What a great show it was — just the boost many of us needed. I felt some of the awful fear melt away listening to the two of them voicing their plans and strategies.

Especially important for us seniors was their total commitment to seeing that Medicare and Social Security, as well as the essence of The Affordable Care Act, not be easily overthrown by the new leadership. Organize, be involved, and don’t give up hope. That’s their message, and it lifted my spirits immeasurably.

I thought you might want to know about an organization called Friends in Deed. It provides supportive programs and services to people with life-threatening illnesses. Also to their family friends and caregivers and people dealing with bereavement. There are facilitated Big Group meetings six times a week and also groups targeted to caregivers. All services are free and open to everyone. The location is 594 Broadway, Suite 706. The telephone number is 212-925-2009 or go to www.friendsindeed.org on your computer.


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