After watching my brother care for his wife through her 12 years of Alzheimer’s, I can well understand why many caregivers die before their charges do. He said to me at one point that he had not had a single uninterrupted night’s sleep in five years. He was in his 80s, and refused to put her in the local nursing home which is dirty and depressing. He died shortly after she did. He sacrificed his life for hers.

As an avid genealogist I have many death records of my ancestors. Looking at those records is very revealing. Many had a mild chronic illness for several years prior to death but the illnesses that incapacitated them and led to death were brief, from hours to days. The amount of intense bedside care they required was short.

We now have the ability to extend that period of incapacity to years, and people need care for long periods of time. Through modern medicine we’ve extended many lives without regard for the quality of that life, or the quality of the lives of those who must care for them.

This is analogous to inventing the 2013 Mercedes Benz without building a road system, or the jetliner without airports. Today’s 30-60 year old is going to have to work well into their 70s to finance their 80s and 90s. At the same time many are caring for both children and elderly, infirm parents. There are no landing strips able to handle the onslaught of infirm elders who are just beginning to circle the airports, and no ground crews waiting to handle the baggage of their frailty and extreme vulnerability. We are apparently a stupid people or we would have placed skilled elder care in pleasant environments as a priority.

The word has always been that things would change when the “Boomers” hit the demographic, but as far as I can see, and I am a “boomer”, we have no more sense than the generations before us. We are allowing even the pathetic system we have now to be dismantled by the tea-sharks in Congress. Twenty years from now families will look back at when they could put granny in a nursing home as “the good ole days”, as they are forced to shoulder the burden of care alone after the demise of Medicare and the theft of Social Security. Invalided elders, needing medication and nursing care that are unavailable to them, will die quickly (and very conveniently – cheaply) at home, cared for by their exhausted families.

There is nothing new under the sun.