I have had to take a couple of days off and away from the markets this week to care for my elderly and aging parents. I am sure this is a common occurrence, and one that is not unique to me. An aging population is probably the single most important demographic that I can think of that will affect this country for the next two decades.
The health care system or rather the delivery of health care to seniors is so byzantine and convoluted that you cannot imagine. We needed to get a wheel chair for my 83 year old father. Simple enough, we call the medical supply store. "Do you have a prescription from the doctor?" No. We call the doctor and get the answering service. We leave a message. You cannot just buy a wheel chair, and why would you want to buy one, when Medicare will pay for it. The doctor's office calls back the next day, and they will have the prescription waiting at the office for our pick up. All this is great, but who is going to watch my father while my mother is out running around to get the wheel chair? Fortunately, for my parents, they have the means to hire a part time aide.
I have been here 3 days already, and we have had a bevy of people in their apartment. The aide is here from 8 to 5 everyday, 7 days a week. The registered nurse comes twice a week. The physical therapist comes three times a week. The oxygen store comes twice a week. And on and on. It is a constant parade of people trying to improve the quality and functionality of an aging man's life. It is overwhelming and staggering for my mother to keep up and keep track.
This costs money and none of this can be solved by the internet. For the elderly, the internet is just another barrier that they would cannot deal with. For the doctor's office, the internet does not exist. Just as well as no one is connected. I keep my life in my cell phone and on the web; my parent's life is taped to the wall in sticky notes and piled in pieces of paper near the telephone.
It is all very frightening for my parents - the uncertainty of coping with aging and failing health. It should all be very frightening for the next generation who must somehow come up with cost effective and compassionate ways to care for an aging population. There are opportunities for the resourceful, and those who can compete with the wastefulness of the government. Unfortunately, the internet or "doing it differently" cannot replace the personal touch of putting one's legs up on a pillow.
So after a couple of days off and trying to right my parents fortunes, I will be back at the markets. Today's headline is all about the unrest in Egypt, but the story remains the same: there is too much money chasing too few assets.