The Danger Pill

Yes, the birth-control pill, approved by the FDA in 1960, is the “birthday girl” at tonight’s gala, which is sponsored by Israeli company Teva Pharmaceutical, the biggest maker of generic drugs in the world. Medications don’t usually have their own black-tie events—there aren’t galas for antibiotics, or chemotherapy, or blood thinners—but the Pill, after all, is so much more than just a pill. It’s magic, a trick of science that managed in one fell swoop to wipe away centuries of female oppression, overly exhausting baby-making, and just marrying the wrong guy way too early. “The Pill created the most profound change in human history,” declares Kelli Conlin, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, grabbing the mike on a small stage draped with black curtains dotted with a larger version of the same silver stars from the bar. “Today, we operate on a simple premise—that every little girl should be able to grow up to be anything she wants, and she can only do so if she has the ability to chart her own reproductive destiny.”

A series of toasts follows, from Kate White, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who talks about “vajayjays,” to Dr. Ruth, who, though considerably shrunken from her heyday in the mid-eighties, still giddily declares that tonight’s event is “better than sex!” Even the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger has stopped by to collect his award, an “honorable mention.” “What a treat!” says Alexander Sanger, jumping onstage. “You know, Margaret thought two or, at the outside, three children was the exact right number. Now I’m fourth of six. When my mom told Margaret the news, there was a long pause as she did the math. Then she said, ‘You’ve disgraced me. I’m going to Europe.’ ” The crowd laughs loudly. “And let me add one thing,” says Sanger, his voice rising triumphantly. “I think it’s time we had a male Pill also. I’d like to be around for that pill’s 50th birthday!”

It’s an endless parade of speakers, actually, with the hullabaloo lasting until 10 p.m., including a slideshow of female icons—Jackie O., Wonder Woman, Murphy Brown, Hillary, Oprah, Sarah Palin—and a constant stream of jokes from buoyant mistress of ceremonies Cybill Shepherd, in a red off-the-shoulder pantsuit that could be from her Moonlighting days. “When I grew up in Tennessee, everything I learned about sex my mother told me,” she says, wiggling this way and that. “She said, ‘It’s disgusting, and you’ll hate it, and whatever you do, don’t do it before you get married.’ Did I mention ‘disgusting’?” She shakes her head. “Nevertheless, I became sexually active as a teenager. One day, my mom took me to my family doctor. He wrote something on a prescription pad and said, ‘Take one of these every day, and all your periods will be regular.’ ” She laughs heartily. “What a thrill! He didn’t even tell me it was birth control.”

Shepherd pauses for dramatic effect. “Can you imagine how different my life would have been if I hadn’t gotten the Pill?” she says. “In the South in the sixties, you had limited choices—you could be a wife, a mother, a nurse, or a teacher. If you were really lucky, Miss America.” She cocks her head. “Wasn’t I Miss America? There’s a lot I can’t remember. Oh, right, Model of the Year.” Soon, she passes the mike to The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee, who raises yet another glass. “Today, even though we have pills for everything—to make you calm, make you sleep, and engorge your genitals beyond comprehension—you, the Pill, are so important,” says Bee. “So here’s to my tiny daily dose of freedom, and also estrogen and progesterone. A combination of the three, really.” She smiles, a little bit knowingly. “Interestingly, it’s the freedom that causes the bloating.”

What the Nursing Home Won't Tell You

When you loved one goes into a Nursing Home, a.k.a. Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) for rehabilitation, there some secrets you should know.  Entry into the skilled nursing facility usually follows three approved overnight stays in an acute care hospital.  Admission to the skilled nursing facility is often recommended after the hospital stay so a person can receive I.V. medications such as antibiotics, or various forms of therapy.   Not every older person needs to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation.  If an older person is going to a rehab for I.V. therapy such as antibiotics, there may not be an alternative since Medicare will not pay for I.V.’s at home.  This treatment can be very expensive unless the person has a secondary insurance policy (not a supplemental policy – another blog about that) that covers this service. The care at a rehab facility involves physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech/language therapy.  Care at home can often be a better option for many reasons.  Patients in rehab many spend a great deal of time in their rooms, other than the one to one and a half hours they actually get physical or occupational therapy.  This time spent in their room can be lonely and unproductive.  Older people may do better receiving these services in their own homes (if that is an option) or a family member’s home.  Family interaction, quality of and options for food, stimulation, and quality of care at home are all significant factors in how well an older person recuperates from an illness or injury.  An older person’s mood can deteriorate based on the original injury or the illness, and a rehab stay can cause their mood can deteriorate even further.  Older people who are experiencing any stage of dementia may see this disease progress quicker due to being out of their home environment. 

Another thing the nursing home will not tell you is that the Medicare insured patient has the first twenty days of rehab covered at 100% but only if they are making measurable progress towards their goals.  Many SNF’s will keep patients the full 20 days, when maybe the care in the SNF can be terminated and care continued at home by a home-based care agency.  If the Medicare insured patient has a secondary or supplemental insurance policy (separate blog) that pays the copayment for days 21-100 in the rehab, the facility will often keep them for as long as possible, up to and including the 100th day.  For all the reasons listed above, an older person may be better served by leaving the rehab as early as physically/medically possible and continuing their rehab at home with a home-based care agency.  The nursing home may not share this information with you because rehab patients are their “bread and butter”.