ELEVATOR PITCH

23 Jul
July 23, 2016

You’ve got 10 floors to convince me that sub-ployment – hiring at or below the poverty level – does not cause some nursing homes and other elder care communities to exist as “criminal enterprises.”

For the last 14 years, as a resident of assisted living communities, I’ve watched PCAs and CNAs come and go as part of a myopic, revolving door employment policy. Many subsequently leave the industry emotionally broken and physically disabled with no financial reserves.

Asked about the phenomenon, the Director of the last assisted living community I lived at replied, “We compensate at levels equal to other facilities in this locale.”

CNA Float Pool Riverbend  Lehigh Valley, PA $24,000
CNA Rrmc in Lehigh Valley, PA $27,000
CNA Medical South in Lehigh Valley, PA $22,000
CNA Neurology Riverbend  Lehigh Valley, PA $24,000
CNA CA State Prison in Lehigh Valley, PA $21,000
CNA Medical Surgical in Lehigh Valley, PA $25,000
CNA Sign UP Today in Lehigh Valley, PA $22,000
CNA Submit Info Today in Lehigh Valley, PA $21,000
CNA Sign UP in Lehigh Valley, PA $21,000
CNA Hospice in Lehigh Valley, PA $29,000
Skilled Nursing Facility CNA Lehigh Valley, $15,000
Acute Care CNA in Lehigh Valley, PA $14,000
Correctional Prison Facility CNA in Lehigh Valley, PA $14,000
Medical Assistant Family Practice in Lehigh Valley, PA $26,000
CNA in Lehigh Valley, PA $22,000

 

The Reminiscent Telomere

22 Jul
July 22, 2016

I remember, with great fondness, standing on the playground of St. Ambrose School in Endicott, New York – an eighth-grader in his thirteenth year of life – holding his ubiquitous red transistor radio in one hand and a well-hidden cigarette in the other – listening to an up-and-coming group from the UK sing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

At that moment I was intoxicated with the simple joy of being alive; unaware of the pain and disappointment aging and adulthood held in reserve – the birth, old age, disease and death we collectively call suffering.

Is memory a trickster? When, today, a half century later, I think back on these watershed moments with great affection, I often wonder what became of that beautiful and brilliantly-innocent child. Did he lease his soul to a dark angel in return for safe passage through puberty and adolescence or was it the drama of high school that drained him of his last reserves?

Actually, it was neither. With an insatiable curiosity for and an indefatigable commitment to personal emotional and spiritual evolution, the then 21-year-old sought sanctuary in monastic life. After an extended retreat in a Benedictine[Catholic]monastery, I signed up for Zen Buddhist training. It was here, in the years that followed, that I found a wellspring of healing – having learned to turn the stream of compassion within. Today this sixty-six-year-old baby boomer is a clarion for 77 million of his contemporaries – a still, small voice crying out in the wilderness.

And now, that voice – my voice – extends to you an invitation to celebrate life as a member of the largest age demographic in the western world. An invitation to look within, to discover our individual and collective essence – to embrace a spiritual, intellectual and emotional dynamic that offers the possibility of no less than a look at the face we had before we were born. —-Martin Bayne

Homeward Bound

15 Jul
July 15, 2016

Today, at 7:06 AM,  a friend of mine threw off her body and joined in a cosmic dance, billions of years old.

Edith Greenspan was ready. More than ready.

For months she languished in a bed at a local Personal Care Home (Assisted Living Facility). At first she used her imminent death as a tool to teach those of us that lived and worked in the Center Valley community. There is a great deal one can learn from a dying teacher. But we were too busy, too fascinated with the latest iteration of Pokemon, too engaged with the most recent snippet of wisdom from the Donald.

Yes, she could have left months ago. But she didn’t. The first time I saw her, I knew I was in the presence of a great Bodhisattva (One who puts off their own enlightenment until “every blade of grass is enlightened”).  There was as fire drill late one night. As my first-floor neighbor, we both ended up at the same fire exit in the bitter-cold, sans robes or blankets. And here’s this 90+ year old woman shivering and shaking, dressed in a thin cotton gown. When asked that night how she was doing, she didn’t say “I’m OK” or “I’m cold as hell.”

She looked into the eyes of the administrative director, and with a steady, unwavering voice said, “I’m worried about Marty. He looks exhausted.”

As fate would have it, her room was close to the employee lounge, and every evening at the end of shift (11 PM), a number of Personal Care Assistants would gather outside her room, where a  cluster of chairs had been placed in the hall. In this hallway oasis, on any given night, 5-10 PCAs would finish writing their daily reports, text friends on their cell phones and talk..

And my did they talk.

Most nights it was like a recurring episode of All My Children.

What they didn’t know was that Edith, at times on the edge of death, was listening.

And my, did she listen.

And as she listened, she sorted and catalogued the information — information that was passed on to her son, a physician, and daughter-in-law, a nurse.

Unfortunately, she won’t be here to help those of us who care about advocacy within a system that’s broke.

Until, that is,  we all learn to truly listen.

In the interim, We’ll miss you Edith.

Leave Parody to the Pros

08 Jul
July 8, 2016

Joseph Goebbels would have been proud.

The latest AARP Magazine’s cover shot is a pean to plastic surgeons, the rhetoric of “thinking young while growing old,” and — as a final insult — a ghost-written book Disrupt Aging by the organization’s CEO Jo Ann Jenkins (Can you use “plagiarism” and “Bill Thomas” in the same sentence?)

Is this the best we can expect from aging boomers?

As American consumers, we’ve given AARP latitude for decades, allowing the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit to sell us over-priced insurance and annuity products with impunity — years before Ms. Stone and Fonda even thought about tummy tucks and rhinoplasties. But now they’ve gone too far.

We’ll buy your car insurance and Medicare Supplements, but leave parody to the pros.

infamous_crotch_shot

I’m referring, of course to the photo of Stone in a satirical imitation of her infamous Detective Interview Scene in the movie Basic Instinct in which — while crossing her legs — she reveals her most recent bikini wax to a room full of male detectives.

Come on. Do we really want to present these two women as examples of inspired elders? One openly colluded with the enemy in Southeast Asia, and one is remembered for a pornographic movie scene.

Oh, the shame of it all!

Five Thousand, Two-Hundred, Fifty-Three [5,253]

23 Jun
June 23, 2016

This week, an epiphany of sorts. For the 100th + time, I heard someone refer to an Assisted Living Facility as ‘God’s waiting room’. It wasn’t funny the first time I heard it and it’s not . . . Hey, wait a minute. There’s some truth to this quip. Just enough to drive home a single salient point, but true nevertheless.

My father, just two years ago, called me at 4:00 AM., frazzled and out-of-breath. But before I tell you about the call, a little backstory: My father, Howard Kenneth Bayne, was afraid of nothing.  At age 29, the last of his seven children was born. Imagine that. Could you have handled seven children when you were 29? Me neither. In all the years he worked (a District Manager for the Prudential), he never took one day off. Not for a migraine, or a UTI, or more than two dozen kidney stones, or for anything. Sorry. I forgot. He took two days to recover from cancer surgery.

Anyway, when I was young (8-18) we didn’t get along. At all. In fact, when I called on my data storage units while writing this piece, one of the more graphic memories is one in which my dad and I were standing toe-to-toe over the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It was a nasty fight. But all things pass. When I turned sixty, I could honestly say my dad was my best friend. Until he died at 85, we spoke on the phone every day. And not just a pro forma call, either. We usually talked for an 30 or 40 minuites.

Here’s the cut-away: One of the characteristics of a member of The Greatest Generation is their reluctance to generate drama when it’s not called for. An example: the two of us were driving down to Virginia about 25 years ago to attend a family reunion, he tells me in a calm, even tone: “I’ve been an alcoholic for 40 years. ” And I say, “But Dad, I’ve never seen you with a drink, my entire life.” To which he replies: “I was a ‘functional alcoholic,’ the whole idea was to drink without detection.”

“Well, it worked,” I said.

And like two little boys who lifted a bag of Oreos and a bottle of milk from the neighbor’s house, we smiled and never said another word about our little secret.

OK, back to the phone call.

I’m holding the phone in my hand, listening to my father pant as if he had just run the Boston Marathon.

I didn’t know his lymphoma had caused his immune system to go south and he was very, very sick. He never mentioned to anyone in the family that he was quite ill. And it never even occurred to us at the time. In retrospect, I can see it now, but back then, he’d managed to hide the fact that he was dying.

“Read to me.” he said”

“Of course,” I said. “What should I read.”

“It doesn’t matter, Son” he said, “Your voice is a tonic to me.” Twenty minutes later he was asleep, the first time, I found out later, in nearly a week.

Later that day he was taken from his apartment in Westchester, PA to a hospital, and subsequently transferred that same day to a hospice where he died three days later.

Back to God’s waiting room . . .

I’ve seen fear, panic and terror in the mind and hearts of elder care residents who die without ever having the opportunity to talk about it in an open forum. Let’s give them that forum, make it freely accessible and encourage its use.

Almost forgot. The number 5,253? It’s the number of days I’ve been a resident in assisted living communities. Roughly 14 years.

I’ve watched a great number of people transition from this life to the next during my time on this planet.

May all our journies be filled with blessed awe and joyful reunion.

Martin Bayne

Derek Rosseau, (Manor) Care Ambassador

24 Feb
February 24, 2016

Goldenes-Zeitalter-1530-2

Lucas Cranach the Elder – The Golden Age

I was recently hospitalized in three Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) for a triad of 2-3 week short-term, rehab admissions.

One of those communities was Manor Care, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was here that I met a CNA who reinvigorated my opinion of mankind-in-general, and caregivers, specifically.

Derek Rousseau is a 32-year-old recent LPN graduate who reminded me how important we are to each other, and how that relationship becomes magnified in a long-term care setting.

Derek, through simple and genuine in-the-moment care giving, accomplishes what no Madison Ave. ad campaign could – the precept that we are important to each other, in ways that often defy definition.

I hope Manor Care realizes the value of employees like Derek Rousseau LPN, and encourages them to share their insights with admin, staff, and other aides.

 

 

 

World Mind Part II – Elder Warrior

07 Jan
January 7, 2016

We  are told by a prominent and highly-respected geriatrician that the three plagues of growing old are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

I respectfully disagree.

If you have not conquered loneliness, helplessness and boredom by the time you begin to “grow old,” chances are, you never will.

For example, when was the last time you heard of an 85-year-old entrepreneur discussing a new business start-up opportunity?

World mind says “never,” but Warren Buffett, ‘the Oracle of Omaha.’ would disagree.

What’s my point? Just this . . .Does Mr. Buffett impress you as a lonely, helpless and bored Octogenarian?

No? Me neither. (In fact, I know Zen Buddhist monks who would be envious of his courage, joy and ‘life in the moment’ commitment)

There will always be those — young and old — who hunger and thirst in a valley of sadness and suffering. That is the nature of life on this planet.

And there will always be those who, despite almost impossible odds, choose the life of a true warrior.

Which path will you travel?

 

 

World Mind

03 Jan
January 3, 2016
In Japan, some married couples — when faced with advancing age and the “empty nest” syndrome — choose to spend their final years in Buddhist monasteries.

The monastic environment offers a number of advantages:

In a like-minded community of both young and old trainees, ambient despair (the disability, dementia and depression that exist in an aging secular community) appears with much lower frequency. (anecdotal)

Because zazen (meditation – sitting quietly) is  integrated into every aspect of a trainee’s life, this simple, but powerful tool – after diligent practice – fills every moment of the trainee’s life. Thus, there is no need to “kill time” with hours of Bingo and Pinochle. Time itself becomes infinitely valuable.

Trainees ultimately learn that everyone: Buddhist, Hindu and Atheist alike possess the Buddha Nature — our original, primal nature. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when fellow monks become old and infirm, they still retain value. This is when long term care takes on a new dynamic. People, regardless of their level of ADL failure, are treated with respect and compassion.

Everyone dies, yet to grow to grow old and not know who you are — this is the profound sadness of “world mind.”

And while it is tempting to cast blame on “evil corporations” and “reckless REITs”  for imperfect SNFs and CCRCs, rarely do these equations balance. Seniors are rarely held accountable for their lack of determination and vision. Our parents are not helpless victims and it’s time we stopped treating them as such, world mind or not.

Phoebe Ministries Nursing Home Workers Demonstrate Their Unity

21 Dec
December 21, 2015

Workers vote overwhelmingly to hold a 1-day strike to protest unfair labor practices.

ALLENTOWN, PA – With growing concern over the future of senior care in their communities, and frustration that management refused to release important financial information regarding the home, workers at Phoebe Allentown and Phoebe Berks voted by an overwhelming majority to approve a 1-day unfair labor practices strike.

What: Candle Light Vigil For Quality Care
Who: Phoebe workers, Faith leaders, community supporters
Where: Outside Phoebe Ministries, Allentown: 1925 Turner Ave., Allentown
When: Tuesday, December 22nd 3:30pm
Photo opportunity: Hundreds will hold candles, speak out and share their stories. Prayers from local religious leaders

“No one ever wants to go on strike, but we felt like we had no choice,” said Sandy Fehnel, an LPN who has worked at Phoebe for 27 years. “We have been trying to work with management for months to reach a fair agreement, but their final proposal was a blow to the very foundation of what makes Phoebe home a special place with incredible care.”

Phoebe Ministries has consistently received high ratings for care and was named “One of the Best Places To Work” by the Allentown Morning Call earlier this year. The home has been known for having very high standards in employment, and their family-sustaining wages have allowed workers to spend decades serving residents and building relationships with families.

Now management is asking workers for over $2.7 million in concessions, including:

· Wage cuts of up to $4.14 an hour for 66% of workers.

· A hike in some health insurance co-premiums, making it hard for healthcare workers to afford healthcare for themselves;

· Nearly a half-million dollars in cuts to worker’s 401ks; and· Changes to overtime, short term disability, and holiday pay.

Meanwhile, the top six executives at Phoebe enjoy $2.1 million in total compensation. (see EXTRA!)

“It’s hard to be treated so unfairly,” said Eric Szopacs, a CNA at Phoebe for 12 years. “And it’s frustrating that management has refused to provide us with more financial details or work with us on cost-saving measures we had discussed.”

Workers offered proposals that would have saved Phoebe Ministries $1 million/year, including an alternate health care plan which was more cost effective for everyone. They also offered concessions, including some wage cuts, reducing their annual paid leave by up to 12 days, reducing their holiday pay, and agreeing to pay more for dependent healthcare coverage in an to avoid the deep wage cuts that could jeopardize quality care.

Low wages are linked to a reduction in quality care, because homes are unable to retain a dedicated and skilled workforce, or keep the workers they have. High turnover disrupts continuity of care and can lead to staffing shortages.

“I care for my residents like they’re my own family, and I want the very best for them” said Ann Dee Morris, who has worked at Phoebe for over 30 years. “I work in housekeeping, but if I know one of my residents is at the end of their life, I will sit there and hold their hand just to make sure they’re not alone. They don’t deserve any less than that.”

Workers will be joined by residents’ families and community supporters for a candle light vigil on Tuesday, December 22nd beginning at 3:30pm in front of Phoebe headquarters in Allentown. The one-day strike will be held December 30th at the Allentown and Berks locations – details to come.

 

EXTRA!

“A Community Of Faith, Called By  God”  . . . at $340/hr

Capture

 To illustrate management’s proposed $17/hr salary cap for Phoebe employees in perspective, I’m posting the wages, per hour, of Phoebe’s top wage earners as filed with the IRS in 2014:

Scott R. Stevenson          CEO          $340/hr     ($707, 029 annually) 

Lisa Fichera                     COO          $173/hr         

Sandra Massetti              EVP          $124/hr

Revena Rossi                   EVP          $103/hr

Cynthia Richart              Dir Pharm    $92/hr

 

 

STUFF

17 Nov
November 17, 2015

A report from the Slow Lane

I’ve been sick these past few days. Coughing, sleepless, and sore, my attitude has gone into the dumpster. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, I begin thinking more about death. During the worst of my illness, when I am desperate, tired and alone, I begin fantasizing that death is near-by.  I don’t know if it is wishful thinking on my part; I am ready for my sickness suffering to end, or, if it is some kind of dread that dying will be just as lonely, energy-less, and debilitating. In any case, I’m not my best when I’ve been ill for a while. All of this, left me thinking this week about growing old, and trying to come to terms with living/ dying.

One of the things that came to mind was about locating myself in terms of being an elder-in-training. I know I’m intent upon moving along an elder path, but I’m wondering if there is a way of recognizing movement forward. While I was sick I thought about this some more, and decided there was. I came to the conclusion that my relationship with the ‘stuff’ of my life was a good indicator. If I was letting go of stuff I was on course, and if my stuff was mostly in charge of me, I wasn’t.

Now this thought benefits a lot from the conversations I’ve heard in the last months.  Old people have sat in circles discussing their relationships with things. Each of them is facing their own mortality, knowing they aren’t what they used to be, and that they are being reduced as they age. In talking about the difficulties in facing their stuff, and getting rid of what is no longer relevant to who they presently are, they shared something of the exacting rigors of growing older. A lifetime of necessary and unnecessary acquisition was giving way to a different way of meeting the future. Letting go of stuff, was like letting go of parts of the self. It was painful, and these old people also knew, it was liberating.

Such an exquisite pain!

There is something about growing older that is so poignant and beautiful. There is so much surrender involved! The process is like moving into a series of smaller and smaller houses. Each move requires letting go of some things. Amazingly, some old people, grasp the freedom that this shedding brings. Along the way, though, is a kind of forced march, a period of loss, an era of giving up aspirations, dreams, accomplishments, hard-earned competencies, identities, and lots and lots of stuff. Wriggling out of old skins is painfully difficult, even while it is liberating.

Stuff is the detritus of a life, while the real thing is the liver — the one who has grown ripe by going through many stages and becoming multi-layered, nuanced, and complex. Losing is part of that complexity, a necessary ingredient, that liberates all of the flavors that contribute to a real richness, a bountiful character, an inner fullness. Knowing this aspect of what it means to be human, of getting to be alive, is a gift that comes primarily to the elderly. It is a gift that comes with an exacting pricetag. It is ours, it comes to each of us, but the price is high. To gain what is our birthright, we must give up everything. It is a trade that can only be made in the secret recesses of the individual heart.

In my sickness I could see all of this. I wonder if I am up to it. Can I let go of everything? I like my life now. I never imagined it could be this good, despite being disabled, poor, and marginalized. Still, I know I have more letting go to do. Everything that can be lost, will be.  Going toward the light, means lightening up. That is easier said than done.

Stuff is the most visible dimension of a much deeper process. It indicates something about how that process is going.  Meditation training should include the dictate, “I’m not my stuff,” as well as “I’m not my Body.” They are both very similar, and both things that will be left behind.

In the meantime, though, stuff is a good way to grasp where one is viz. a viz. the exacting nature of Life’s reduction of us into essence.   —  David Goff