Today, I read an article written by a man whose mother has pretty severe dementia. He was talking about long term care insurance, about the HUGE medical expense the aging population is facing, and about how Boomers (Baby Boomers) are seeing this in huge numbers. This is not new information for me.
The first wave of Boomers turned 65 last year. 65 is typically the age when people start having "dementia" on their list of worries. The younger Boomers are also often a part of the "Sandwich Generation," where they are taking care of their own young children and their aging parents at the same time.
So, since 65 is the age doctors start "looking" for signs of cognitive decline, it stands to reason that there WILL be a significant increase in Alzheimer's Disease, Vascular Dementia, and other dementias in the near future. There are over 5 million people with Alzheimer's right now, and that number is set to almost triple by 2050. That's A LOT of people. And, it's A LOT of people who will have SEEN what dementia does to a person.
I am often heard saying that the unknown is the hardest part (of virtually anything stressful in life). But, I think, in the case of dementia, KNOWING what is to come might be worse. These Boomers will have seen the physical, social, and financial effects dementia has on people, and they're not going to like facing it themselves (duh).
So, here's where my theory comes in...
I think that with the aging population, especially the aging of HUGE WAVES of people (Boomers), our country is going to start debating physician assisted suicide, HOTLY. I think that with the impending epidemic on our hands, we're going to see a significant increase in suicides of people who do not want to go where their parents went. And I think that various socializing institutions (schools, media, churches), along with politics will struggle mightily. We're already seeing it a little (Accusations of President Obama's healthcare reform instituting "death panels").
So, the question becomes, "If this happens, what are we going to do about it?" As a pastor, I wonder what our theological response will be. Maybe that's a blog post for another day. But, today, I find myself wondering about this theory. We'll have to wait and see, and pray for a cure so that this epidemic doesn't happen!