Archive for month: January, 2013


29 Jan
January 29, 2013

You! That’s right, you, the author of a new book on elder care, or “long-term care expert,” or Assisted Living CEO…


It’s shower time!

What I’m about to say may not seem important to you, but I CAN ASSURE YOU it’s damn important to me, and millions like me. (But don’t worry, your time is coming.)

Next to toileting, showering  it’s one of our most intimate and private moments. And here’s how it works, for example, in an assisted living facility.

You’re a shy, reserved, 86 year-old recent widow with episodes of syncope.. With the exception of your husband and doctor, you’ve never disrobed in front of anyone. Suddenly, you find yourself  stripping down in front of  a  twenty-something year-old man whose name you don’t even know.

Want to have some real fun? In our example, let’s mix up the genders and ages. And don’t forget about the “trainees” who pop in during your shower to observe.

Now, here’s the worst part: just when you’ve finally become comfortable with someone undressing/washing/dressing you, that person gets sucked into the Great Personal Care Attendant Revolving Door.  Why?  Because these  angels of mercy — many are women of color, doing their best to raise young children — quickly discover you can’t pay the rent and feed the children on $8.50/hr.

Could you?


25 Jan
January 25, 2013

iStock_000011437470Small    When the plane had climbed to 13,500 feet, I checked the wind one final time and nodded to the pilot. Then, with the usual mixture of terror and exhilaration, I slowly pushed off the wing mount and into the stuff of dreams. Within ten seconds my body had reached terminal velocity, the speed at which air resistance equals the force of gravity. I was in free fall.

Unfortunately, human language skills – only 160,000 years old – are inadequate to describe my experience during the next minute, but sufficient to say that I now understand why sky divers routinely risk their lives for those precious sixty seconds. I broke the free fall 3,800 feet above the target or “jump run” by deploying my pilot chute, which in turn caused my main canopy to unfold and grab a piece of the early morning sky. As my feet touched solid ground, I pondered the realization that I was now irrevocably stuck between earth and the heavens.

For a moment, let’s imagine another scenario. One in which something goes wrong.

Terribly wrong.

Same skydiver, same free fall. But this time, when he reaches for his pilot chute to deploy the main canopy, he discovers to his horror that there is no chute assembly. No pilot chute, no primary chute and no reserve. There is only panic. And waiting. In his last moments of consciousness, hurtling toward a Mobil Mart at 160 miles/hour, he glances skyward. Planes as far as the eye can see. Jumpers leaping through twin-prop bay doors fill the air like locusts; their numbers so great they virtually block out the sun. He wonders how his obituary will read, as the sky rains a steady downpour of terror and flailing limbs.

And not a parachute among them.

The American long-term health care system is caught in an uncontrolled free fall – plunging to earth in a death spiral. And each day, thousands of individuals – rich and poor, black and white – stand on line at 15,000 feet, sipping a glass of Chardonnay or reading a book, only to find themselves moments later plunging towards earth and their inevitable destiny. And it is all so unnecessary.

There are times, however, when skydiving metaphors let us off the hook. They take us miles from the ugly, nauseating, wretched, truth of what we really do to our chronically ill and our frail elders – and, thus, to each other and ourselves. So I will help us remember. Not from some misguided sense of benevolence, but of necessity. I, too, am one of the walking wounded; a 62 year-old resident of an assisted living facility, Read more →

A Soulful, Heart-Based Reinvention of Assisted Living

14 Jan
January 14, 2013

By Martin Bayne

Imagine you are 70, your spouse has just died and your children have decided it’s no longer safe or prudent for you to live alone. It’s your worst nightmare—complete with memories of the insecurities and trepidation felt in the first days of school, but this time it’s an assisted living facility, and, like you, the other “kids” are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. For many assisted living residents, the first days and weeks are the most traumatic. 1VIany arrive in a surreal haze—some, just days after burying their spouse; others following years of steady losses to a chronic illness like Parkinson’s. And then there are the legions of poor souls with cognitive disorders, who neither understand why they’re sleeping in a different bed nor know who just served them breakfast. And every resident is susceptible to the ambient despair that conies with the recognition of their community’s unprecedented levels of dementia, disability, depression and death.

Rethinking Assisted Living At age 52, I entered an assisted living facility because I had young-onset Parkinson’s disease. But my knowledge and experience of long-term care go beyond living in an assisted living facility As the publisher from 1993 to 2001 of the website,, I have had the opportunity to interview Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Clint Eastwood and a number of other prominent Americans about long-term care.

For many assisted living residents, the first days and weeks of residency are the most traumatic.

After nearly a decade as an assisted living resident, I decided it was time to create the next generation of assisted living communities. I developed a program called Therapeutic Assisted Living, which I believe will change the way Americans think about institutional aging. My vision of Therapeutic Assisted Living is made up of two immutable truths, eight principles and five interventions.

A New Vision, Parsed The two immutable truths are that aging and death are natural attributes of being human, and love and compassion are the most powerful forces in the universe. The eight principles of Therapeutic Assisted Living, which originated in my practice as a Zen Buddhist monk, are that with stillness, we lay the foundation; with courage, we move forward—despite our fear; with forgiveness, we discover true freedom; with insight, we accept the change of life’s seasons; with gratitude, we honor our ancestors; with tenderness, we turn the stream of com-passion within; with faith, we learn surrender; with mindfulness, we do just this thing, now.

The five interventions make up a set of instructions, or an operational guide, for a Therapeutic Assisted Living community. First, there should be a Welcoming Committee—each new resident should be greeted by a group of existing residents. The interchange is simple, yet the rewards are often profound for new residents. There should be a Peer Support Group, a weekly, residents-only meeting. This provides a safe, supportive environment for honest exchange between community members on myriad issues. This group is the heart of the community, and its objective—purposeful living—the soul. A Crisis Team, made up of residents, should be available to other residents around the clock. This team is composed of three or four residents who agree to be available at all times for any resident who asks for their help. A Crisis Team member is not a therapist, psychologist or professional healer, but simply some-one willing to listen, comfort and demonstrate compassion to a resident in trauma. To anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack at 3:00 a.m, and just needed a kind and reassuring voice to walk them through the rough spots—not an often-ambivalent ambulance crew or 10 hours in an emergency room—this concept needs no explanation.

Community Volunteering is a key component as volunteering says to the world, “I am worthwhile; a fellow human being with something to offer, regardless of my age.”

A Peer Support Group is the heart of the community, and its objective—purposeful living—the soul.

And finally, there should be Legacy When a resident dies, the community should come together to honor and pay respect to one of their own as the fallen resident embarks on the Great Adventure. Therapeutic Assisted Living says “dying is completely safe,” and if all goes well, the residents can expect to be greet-ed by another Welcoming Committee, albeit one with a bit more spirit.

Martin Bayne, who lives in Pennsylvania, has been an assisted living resident for more than 10 years, and credits many of his ideas to his experience as a Zen Buddhist monk and an MIT scholar. His website is and his literary journal—showcasing authors ages 60 and older—can be found at


12 Jan
January 12, 2013



Eight days ago, I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. An Emergency Room physician told me I nearly bought the farm.

But it was not to be. Not this time. Not this farmer.

Let me tell you  a little something about dying  and The Farm.

First and foremost – DYING IS COMPLETELY SAFE!

And The Farm is home to every human being that ever existed, and will ever exist.

Where does that leave Heaven and Hell. Nowhere . . .

The existence of Heaven was created for children to lessen their fear of death. It was sublime poetry meant to lift the soul and soothe the spirit. And like Santa Claus, most kids who made it to adulthood, understood that although its presence was a myth, it was a beautiful myth, worth passing down to their children and their children’s children.

But then religion changed everything.

Today, most folks need to believe in Hell, because it’s easier to create eternal  punishment than it is to embrace the concept of forgiveness in the present moment.