A futuristic depiction of long-term care

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John A. Kunz
John A. Kunz

This site's readers are well aware of the future demographics of our aging population and related burgeoning need for long-term health and end-of-life care. These astronomical issues will be further compounded by the smaller population and tax base of the younger generation that will still be in the work phase of life.

Some of this caregiving cohort may expand with increased numbers of immigrants to this country. However, with more and more people who don't share English as a first language, training, supervision and all aspects of communication present significant challenges for the care receiver and further isolate them from the world around them.

How can we maximize the use of technology to provide individualized care planning in a cost-effective manner?

Dr. James V. Gambone has recently released a short science fiction “thought film” titled “The Journey Home.” While introducing the second showing of this film, Gambone tells the story of meeting a boomer Catholic nun following a keynote to the Religious Communicators in America. He asked her what she thought the future of long-term care would hold for 84 million boomers by the year 2030. She quickly responded with a slight grin: “It will be taken care of with drugs and technology.”

He couldn't get these two words, "drugs" and "technology," out of his mind, and three weeks later, he dreamt a complete 10-minute movie script that portrays one scenario about the role drugs and technology could play in the future.

As a former geriatric therapist, educator, author and filmmaker in my own right, I was inspired to write the following fictional piece that portrays another such scenario about a possible future for long-term care.

Heaven or hell?

7/24/365: Efficient, cost-effective, targeted individualized approaches and increased longevity in long-term care

By John A. Kunz, BSW, MS

(Inspired by the film “The Journey Home” by James V. Gambone)

Please read the following section of the FGA (frequently given answers) of this cosmic site of the future. (You can likely imagine the questions, given these replies.):

A: Rest assured, we are committed to the longevity and highest quality of life for our consumers. Our approaches are fine-tuned to provide targeted individualized care plans. Family and friends, even if estranged, can take comfort that without their visits or a financial burden, the customer will be taken care of.

A: Yes, the “swimming cap” is essential because it continually maps the cerebral circuits. They quickly get used to it and stop trying to pull it off.

A: Oh, no! There are no restraints. Soft hands on soft robotic arms gently prevent the consumer from pulling off the “swimming cap” during the first few hours until the cerebral circuits are mapped and this uncomfortable instinctive response is extinguished. Meanwhile, all other desirable quality of life experiences and responses are mapped and catalogued.

A: The customer experiences the entireness of their full lifespan in the comfort of the environmental cylinder. For example, during the sleep mode, customers lie almost flat. Since they are naked in the fully appointed living chamber, any waste excreted during sleep or at other times is immediately removed and the skin soothed.

A: In the morning, the consumer experiences a randomly selected ritual from the positive section of the catalogue of his or her own cerebral circuits. Yes, this includes a variety of his or her favorite breakfast experiences with the tastes, smells and other senses fully engaged. The consumer experiences great culinary delight and satisfaction without the challenges, problems and costs required for food preparation, feeding and clean up. All of their nutritional needs are provided intravenously.

A: Oh, yes, any time the customer's mind craves high tea, a Bloody Mary, or the best glass of water he or she has ever had, the cerebral circuits will provide it, sustaining life satisfaction and high quality of life.

A: As in ordinary life, the customers don't often crave cardiovascular exercise. For 20 minutes, three times daily, the cerebral circuits are stimulated in order to create real lifelike physical movement that promotes health and long-term longevity. For these activities the living chamber is placed in the upright position in the environmental cylinder.

A: Bathing and cleansing are provided every day, while the customer experiences memories of bathing as a child or swimming in the ocean, all perfectly tailored to their own life experiences. Shaving, aftershave, make-up, hair styling fashion, etc., are all experienced in keeping with the customer's long-term lifestyle.

A: Continuous cerebral mapping and adjusting ensure the consumers experience the highest level of self-esteem and life satisfaction.

A: Constant and immediate physical assessment, diagnosis and treatment promote optimal health and, in conjunction with the physical activity and exceptional psychosocial interventions mentioned above, enable to the customer to exceed the outdated notion that human life expectancy ends at age 120 by at least 50% of that figure!

A: Yes, now more than ever, living space and water are scarce. The benefits of the living cylinder are that the average unit is only three-feet wide by six-feet in diameter. All water usage is recycled within the unit. It is best installed six feet below ground level in order to provide the most efficient use of energy for heating and cooling. This approach saves taxpayers a fortune while assuring the longest and best quality of life for the customer!

A: In keeping with our dedication to fiscal responsibility and the environment, the chamber will be collapsed to a thickness of only one inch when the contents have expired. This makes ample room for additional cylinders to be placed directly at the same site. With proper management, the site could last at least 3,000 years. That means only 36 square feet could accommodate the temporary life and remains of at least 30 customers!

A: Yes, we did think about recycling, but after about 200 years per customer, what would be left of any value?

John A. Kunz is the outreach program manager in the Health and Human Issues Division of the Center for Continuing Education/Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. A psychotherapist and educator for almost 30 years, he also founded the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review.

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