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“Caring for Mom, Mum and Maman”

The Washington Post, January 10, 2010.

A look at how older people’s quality of life is shaped by their governments’ health care policies. In Britain or France my aging mother would have gotten better health care.


In the final months before her death in May, my mother kept her shoes on all day, even when napping. She had to -- at her assisted-living facility in Mitchellville, Md., three certified nursing assistants looked after 39 residents. My mom couldn't depend on one of them to have the time to put her shoes on when she needed to get out of bed. Only in the mornings and evenings, when one of her private aides was with her for about 30 minutes, did she have personalized care…

Overseas, things are different -- that is, better. In England, which has a national health system similar in structure to our Veterans Affairs system, Fiona's mum, Pat Reid, suffers from disabling arthritis and diabetes, and cannot move without great pain. But a government-supplied home health aide visits Pat at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. This costs the family 120 pounds a week (approximately $785 per month), a little more than half of what my mom paid for private aides…

In France, Juliette's maman, Madeleine Fournot, has Alzheimer's disease. She receives assistance via a national health reimbursement system similar to Medicare as well as through a special program for the elderly and disabled called l'Allocation Personalisée à l'Autonomie ("Personal Autonomy Allocation"). Since the government refunds 560 of every 1,200 euros Juliette spends on her mother's medical expenses, she is able to hire a caregiver who looks after her mother around the clock 3 1/2 days per week. This allows Madeleine to stay in her suburban Paris home, where her family has lived for three generations, and provides Juliette a regular respite from elder care…

To hear radio interview with Sara on Aging in Different Cultures, contact KQV Radio, "Your Health with Dr. Miki Fato," 3/16/10

Due to a French government program, Madeleine is able to say in the house in which her family has lived for three generations