Death and Dying in TEOTWAWKI, by Snowman

Monday, Jan 11, 2010

Most of the SurvivalBlog.com articles focus on the "how tos" of living in or preparing for survival situations. We all understand these needs. However, there has been much less discussion on preparedness for death and dying. I have worked in the medical profession since 1975. I have worked with people in various stages of death and dying in hospitals, hospices, operating rooms, clinics and accident sites. While most of us are doing as much as possible to prepare and stay alive in bad situations we know that our options may be greatly limited in future scenarios. Death and dying are two examples. Initially, I thought that this subject would be too abstract or "soft" in comparison other "how to" articles. However, after some consideration it seems that I was wrong.

Death, dying and bereavement make take very different forms in future scenarios. Our society generally requires a fairly orderly approach to these issues. Much of this process is sanitized in the form of body management and dying locations.. Aside from accidents, civilians usually die in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes or their own residences. We have witnessed many recent natural disasters that displaced thousands. Many of those died in strange or makeshift environments. Families and friends often find closure at a planned funeral. Some have the benefit of resolving bereavement issue with clergy or counselors. How do you suppose that will change in TEOTWAWKI? Many of those services will either be nonexistent or deferred to the most skilled family member. You might be that "go-to" person. The sanitized funerals of today will look very different tomorrow. Death and dying will become a more visible. This is was the case in Europe during the Great Plague in England in the 1600s.

This country has gone through years of pandemic planning in corporate and government sectors. I have been on some of the planning committees at those levels for pandemic preparedness. Government plans for the dead and dying in a full blown pandemic are very real and very ready. Large institutions (i.e. prisons) have purchased or at least budgeted for body bags and other burial supplies for on site mass graves. I never saw these details made public so I can only assume that smarter people didn't want to scare the general public. Although these are largely public health and institutional security issues the same should apply to personal preparedness.

Consider a medication issue: while many may be able to manage various acute medical problems it is unlikely that any will be able to manufacture medications required to sustain life for the long haul. Simply put, a lot of us won't last very long in a TEOTWAWKI or even a protracted natural disaster- regardless of preparedness because our we are living due to modern medications. How long would a fragile insulin dependent diabetic live without insulin? When we look at supply lines we find that much of our generic medications come from foreign nations. Major foreign producers already have major quality control issue with medication production. supply shortages will only worsen any product.

Because of restricted budgets many foreign countries already lack access to medications commonly found in America. Those countries may well be the ultimate survivors, in terms of medication need, as many have already developed and adapted in the absence of modern medicine and limited national budgets. A trip to China, India or any Eastern European nation will demonstrate the point. Could it be that modern medicine has actually placed us behind the curve by making us more dependent on technology? Let's consider practical alternatives.

For starters, take a quick self/family inventory. What will happen to you when your medications are gone? Which of your family members requires meds for diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, cancer, chronic pain,mental illness or chronic infections? Who requires dialysis, oxygen or is bed ridden? Start by talking with your medical provider. Ask for help to prioritize your meds. This is commonly done in clinics because of cost concerns so the question should not seem odd. What would happen if you had to reduce your dose or ran out completely? Your provider should be able to give you planning options. Ask about alternatives for cheaper or more readily available medications. Pharmacists are also excellent resources for these questions. What are your options when the local pharmacy closes? Many now order drugs on line from out of country. Medication planning could help to avoid death in a scenario of limited duration, i.e. natural disaster. The same concerns apply to those dependent on medical devices and related equipment: ventilators, pumps, oxygen, braces and wheelchairs. Many avoid this aspect of preparedness planning as the details can be overwhelming. Despite our best efforts, many will die quickly or painfully because of the lack of medications and medical devices. There are options.

If your health is fine then you are good to go, right? Wrong! What about your spouse, child, friend or pet? The ultimate part of preparedness includes an understanding of death and dying. Although faith is obviously a cornerstone to this discussion it is not the entire story. It is not enough to simply put your loved one in a back room until God decides the time. I have been with many people of faith during their dying time. Responses are varied. Often, the relatives of the dying require just as much care.

Aside from your own discussions with your maker, there are some other practical considerations to a death and dying scenario.

For some of us, our ultimate value will be appreciated by how we both lived and died. Dying members of any group will threaten to drain limited resources. However, their death, if handled properly, may ultimately strengthen their community.


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