The downside of small-town living

With my mom’s health in jeopardy now, I’m reflecting back on my dad’s healthcare from the time he started suffering from dementia. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s okay to retire in a small town as long as you are reasonably healthy. My dad had COPD and emphysema but those were easy enough to manage, since he didn’t have any major symptoms.

But once you need more specialized care, you may be in big trouble. Certainly it wouldn’t make economic sense for every small town in America to have a horde of specialists at your beck and call. But for many Americans (and I suspect this applies in other countries as well), the high cost of living in a big city is just not feasible. Nowadays, people worry about living too long, and blowing through their meager savings, even if they live on a tight budget like my parents. So small-town life seems appealing. It’s easier to navigate around a small town and become familiar with your surroundings and maybe some of your neighbors. The cost of living is lower. It’s a more relaxed way of life.

It all makes sense, until you get really sick. Then one discovers, like I did with Dad, that the only care center that would accept him is over an hour’s drive away. The hospital in town is mediocre at best, and can afford to be, as they are the only game in town. It becomes disheartening to deal with the indifferent medical staff at doctor’s offices and at the hospital. You want your loved one to have the best of care, and you know this isn’t it. But you can’t just pick them up and drop them in a big city and have the best and brightest doctors treat them. Well, I guess you could if you won the lottery or something. Mom already did that, but she didn’t win enough.

I know my Dad’s care was not as good as it could have been, and now I fear the same fate for my Mom. In a weird twist, I felt like Dad’s dementia may have protected him from some of the medical gaffes that he suffered. My mom’s mental state has taken a hit, but she’s much more aware of what’s going on than Dad was. I fear she will be more aware of suffering. Sometimes I get tired of the rat race of city life and long to run to the mountains. But there’s no such thing as an oasis. Wherever you go, death will find you.

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