by Kazeem Olalekan
CEO Iforg Limited
To say that Iforg Limited cares about heath is an understatement: We are passionate about it. The health care journey is a lifelong one: from cradle to grave. That is why our efforts thus far has been about how best to make a difference in this area. We have made some giant strides but the magnitude of the task ahead means strides will not be enough: Giant Leaps are required but we are constrained at this junction by our famine of financial resources and a general dearth of courage to walk in step. There is a fundamental need to do things differently in our cherished institutions: something akin to creative disruption in general business parlance.
If You Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Get What You’ve Always Gotten
– Anthony Robbins
For this to happen, people need to change; and that is a big ask! The culture of constant change is important and those that master this art give the impression of not changing. There is a difference however, between paying lip service to changing and genuinely changing. The only constant that stays still is God (if you believe, that is) so, we mortals have to change. Clearly, if proofs were needed, Iforg Limited (through the actions of myself) have demonstrated unequivocally that it can make a difference (ref 1, 2, 3) and will like to continue to do so without fear or favour. The main goal being to make a difference in lives of our patients.
Strands of healthcare
If healthcare is a lifelong enterprise, then its strand will cover the spectrum of paediatrics right through to older people. I have elected to be part of the teams looking after the paediatric end of the spectrum as a paediatric pharmacist. I am therefore not going to dwell on that in this post. The focus of this post is the other end of that spectrum and the embodiment of some of the current challenges facing this age group is: Terry Pratchett. Sir Terry Pratchett is a renowned novelist who in 2007 announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in all ages and eventually lead to memory loss. In a powerful documentary: Choosing to die (video below) produced by Sir Terry Practchett in 2011, the challenges of living with the disease was laid bare.
…but I know time will come when words will fail me. When I can no longer write my books, I am not sure that I will want to go on living. I want to enjoy life for as long as I squeeze the juice out of it and then I’ll like to die. But I don’t quite know how and I am not quite sure when.
– Terry Pratchett
As well as the well documented low level of investment in this research area (Government and charitable spending on dementia is 12 times lower than on cancer research – ref 4) there is also a sparsity of available interventions. Lifestyle has been suggested as the single most important intervention. In recent time, politicians are trying to target resources on this problem although this is still a drop in the ocean. The clear focus therefore, is how do we care for people suffering from this condition? How, in the words of Sir Terry, do we enable them to squeeze the juice out of their remaining lives? I guess, I will have to explore that on a more personal level and understand better how I can be of help and it would appear that Dementia friends is a good start for me. I will take steps over the coming months to be an active advocate. I can also use my role as a mentor to junior pharmacists to encourage active interest in this research area.
On the controversial subject of exercising the choice to die, my thoughts are clear: As an healthcare professional, the choice is patient’s own and end of life care planning is an integral part of good quality healthcare. I will respect your decision on how you choose to go without any judgement. My priority is that this happens in a dignified and managed way. On how God feels about it? It is a matter between you and your God. In any case, if I am struck down with Dementia and lose my memory; I hope you will be kind enough to look after me with dignity and love….you know…like I would you.
On assisted dying
If I ended this post as above, I might be accused of sitting on the fence on this issue but that is not my intention. I honestly believe that the decision is an individual one. In my case, what will I do? I will find it terribly frustrating not to be able to remember things and even more frustrating perhaps, for those around me. The moment I have lost my memory, I am no longer responsible for my actions. I will hate to be a burden on those around me. If I can be sure that there is going to be a good support system around my family to share the load of caring for me, then I am happy to live that little bit longer as long as this ‘old fool’ (me) is treated with dignity. I am even happy to share a laugh or two about the condition itself…if I can remember that is! The moment the rest of my health deteriorates to such an extent that pottering around is no longer viable (and that is an individual decision), I will want a swift end. I am sure healthcare professionals such as your doctors and consultants understand what that looks like and will be more than happy to walk in step with you.
The challenge we face is this: Are we able to create a first class support infrastructure around our older people with conditions like dementia? It will involve families, neighbours, non- and for-profit organisations and government. We need a fundamentally rethink of how our society works. I am more likely to opt for assisted dying if I felt that I will pose undue burden on my loved ones – and that is just me! I however, also want to squeeze the juice out of life, so I will make financial and other provisions to help lighten the load. However, because the society is inherently unfair and those that toil are not necessarily rewarded, our faith based institutions have a role to play here.