Spring, 1999. I hold the telephone tight against my ear, not wanting to miss a sound.
In the background, the high-pitched whine of Rolls Royce jet engines as the pilot guides the plane across the tarmac to the connecting hub where the passengers will deboard.
In the foreground a half-dozen prominent voices mix with the PA system as I attempt to make sense of the tsunami of noise. Finally, I hear the former President’s voice. . . a bit more laconic than the peanut farmer drawl I’m accustomed to, but still unmistakable.
“Mr. President?” My voice is strong, but humble – I am fully aware I am now speaking with a man whose voice was once the most powerful on Planet Earth.
“Yes, is this Martin Bayne?”
“Yes, Sir. It sounds a bit crazy there; are you still okay with the interview?”
“It’s pretty normal stuff for a book tour, Mr. Bayne. Fire away . . .”
And that’s how it began.
Jimmy Carter was promoting his most recent book – a personal journal about aging – and I arranged an interview with his publicist.
Today, all I remember of the interview is that the president and I agreed on three immutable truths with respect to long-term care:
First, administration and regulation of long-term care in the United States is controlled by lobbyists and special interest groups.
Two, the engine that powers the machinery of our institutional long-term care system; namely, those who provide the actual care – private care attendants – is a group, that for the most part, is treated with irreverence, indifference and contempt by a top-down management system that often appears more interested in the bottom line than the resident.
And three, the group most likely to be hammered by a long-term care system in disarray is the Baby Boomers.
In fact, today you can almost smell the blood in the water as sharks surround another bleeding Boomer trying to care for a parent or sibling; worried about the future need for care for themselves.
If you can’t smell it, you can certainly see it.
Every day, a new “senior” multimedia group pops up, reminiscent of the 2008 feeding frenzy when it was discovered that you could package due-diligence-free –mortgages and sell them as securities, as hedge fund managers from the same firms were swooping in the sell the securities short. Greed flowed like wine.
And before I knew it, the president was again at 30,000 feet and I was breathing hard with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
For God’s sake – is anyone listening?