Life expectancy in the United States, and even in the world, is definitely on the rise. Here at Martin Oaks Cemetery & Crematory, located just north of Dallas, Texas we can attest to this fact: we certainly are cremating older and older people.
The facts speak for themselves: on average, women live to be 81.2 years, men 76.4 years. This, then, leads to an average age of 78.8. Breaking down the numbers further: white males live to be 76.7 years, while black males live to be 72.3 years. White females live to be an average of 81.4 years and black females 78.4 years.
The trend in this country mirrors most of the world’s population as well. As of this February 2017, 901 million people are over the age of 60 – this number is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030. For the first time in the history of the world, countries of all income levels (low, middle, and high) are likely to live to 60 years of age and beyond. This has been a worldwide trend for the last 50 years.
The top ten causes of death have not really changed much over the years: diseases of the heart; cancer; lower respiratory diseases; strokes; accidental injuries; Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes; blood poisoning; kidney disease; and pneumonia.
Tragically, behavior modification aimed at significantly changing high risk activities (smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, etc.) could help reduce death totals in many of these diseases. More physical activity could further reduce exposure.
Because we are living longer, we frequently find ourselves in situations where loved ones have prolonged goodbyes. For example, there are now almost 2 million people in hospice care, more than double the number around the year 2000. The number of hospice programs has risen to more than 6,000 nationwide. As you probably know, hospice care is geared towards caring, not curing. Much of this care is provided in the patient’s home, although there are many freestanding hospice centers.
All of these demographics can get personal very quickly when a loved one is nearing death. How much care is too much care? Would the loved one want to be in a prolonged, semiconscious state? At what point do you turn off life support? These are topics people do not like to think about, but it is our experience that is it better to discuss all of the above before anyone reaches a crisis stage.
If someone falls ill and has not made their wishes expressly clear, we have seen families agonize over these decisions to the point that serious riffs in relationships develop.
The decision to withdraw a patient from a ventilator with death likely to occur is not only a traumatic personal decision, but it can be an ethical or legal question. Again, it is better to discuss all of this in advance so that process disagreements can be avoided.
Withdrawing a patient from life support in an intensive care setting is becoming more and more common. More than half a million deaths per year occur in intensive care units. Although the numbers vary, it is estimated that withholding of life support has jumped from 50% in the 1990’s to almost 90% today.
In summary, we definitely are living longer, both here in the United States and around the world. But, this increase in life expectancy comes with a price – quality of life, responsibility for important decision being shifted to loved ones, and the legal/moral issues of how life should be appropriately terminated. There are no easy answers to any of these questions.
We here are Martin Oaks see these dramas play out in all kinds of ways. Again, family communication at the appropriate time seems to be the best way to ease the burden on everyone.
Call Martin Oaks for an immediate response (469)605-7215. Inexpensive, burial and cremation services are available through the funeral directors who work with Martin Oaks in and around the Dallas, Texas area. We are the affordable onsite direct cremation. All services must be arranged through the licensed funeral directors who work with Martin Oaks.