THE YING AND YANG OF PERSONAL CARE ATTENDANTS

18 May
May 18, 2013

 

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YING

There is an immutable truth that goes something like this: industries tend to have within their ranks, a single group that does most of the “heavy lifting.” Here’s an example: within the life & health insurance industry, the sales agents do most of the heavy lifting. They not only bring in all the premium dollars, but they are the interface the public sees. In fact, it’s unusual for a policyholder to ever come face to face with anyone BUT the agent. Here’s another, in Microsoft, it’s not Bill Gates that does the heavy lifting, it’s the line-workers who build the computer chassis and mother boards, and the “code jockeys” that translate the binary ones and zeroes that make up an instruction set, to the operational program.

YANG

And then, there’s the example of what happens when heavy-lifters are mistreated, neglected or forced to live on substandard compensation. In this dynamic, we start with a gaping loop-hole in a 1974 federal bill that allows a small handful of industries to dodge minimum wage guidelines.

In English please!                OK – the bill says a handful of industry CEOs can pay their employees less than they pay their baby-sitter.

Personal Care Attendants in the Long-Term Care Industry are in that handful.

Assisted living care givers, also known officially as personal and home care aides, provide help in both private and public institutions where patients require care and assistance with daily tasks such as bed-making and meal preparations. These assisted living institutions can include mental retardation residences, long-term care wings at general medical hospitals, and sometimes even the patient’s personal home. The average salaries earned by these care givers can vary depending on factors like work environment and geographic location.

The Long-Term Care(LTC) industry is in crisis. But the average American doesn’t understand or see the problem. What most see are the manicured lawns of assisted living facilities; the bus load of CCRC(Continuing Care Retirement Communities)residents en route to a swank casino, or the upgraded menu at a skilled nursing facility.

What they don’t see are the biweekly payroll stubs of the Personal Care Attendant who works in these facilities. Most are also unaware the average Personal Care Attendant is a woman of color with at least one child and no post-secondary education. Most training is on-the-job and minimal.

Job security and future job opportunities are abysmal.

These are the people who comfort our father with Alzheimers and feed our 96-year-old aunt who is dying of cancer. They bathe our grandmothers and often provide emotional support at 3:00 am for a stranger they’ve never met.

And they deserve better. Starting with a living wage.

 Is that really asking too much?

BOOK REVIEW

14 May
May 14, 2013

Book Review

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What Aging Men Want
By John Robinson

What an interesting title: What Aging Men Want. Don’t they just want to retire, play golf and fish, travel and see the grandkids? What more could they want? And anyway, don’t most retired guys say they’re busier and happier than ever? Not quite. Not according to psychologist, minister, author and aging Boomer, John Robinson.

John tells us that the transition from busy middle-aged family man and hard worker to enlightened elder is much more complicated that it looks, and he describes its steps and stages with the help of an ancient myth: The Odyssey by Homer. As you may recall, this myth tells the story of aging warrior coming home from the Trojan War to his wife, son and estate. What should have been a pretty simple and straightforward journey takes him ten years! Why? Because there is so much to learn in this new “coming of age.”

Likening aging men to tired warriors, John explains that each adventure Odysseus faces symbolically represents one of growth tasks confronting men in the transition of age. He explains, “Among other things, a man has to 1. Give up his habitual conquer-everything approach to life (The Raid on the Cicones), 2. Overcome the temptation to bury his angst with alcohol, drugs or mind-numbing activities (The Land of the Lotus Eaters), 3. Surrender his heroic male self-sufficiency (The King of the Winds), 4. Come to terms with the unresolved feelings about women (Circe the Witch), 5. Face the reality of death (Descent into Hades), 6. Consciously choose a real relationship over fantasy idealizations (Leaving Calypso), 7. Terminate a lifetime of warrior strivings still imprisoning his soul (Confronting the Suitors), 8. Reconcile with his family after years of emotional distance (Reunion with Penelope), 9.

What Aging Men Want, John argues, represents the Iron John for aging men. Continuing Robert Bly’s use of myth and fairy tale to symbolize psychological transformation, John deftly guides the reader on his journey home. He also provides ideas on how men can mentor each other, rekindle their passion for life, and create initiation rituals for this new time of life. With its increasing longevity, aging has literally become a new developmental stage in the human life cycle with its own unique meaning and growth tasks. Ignoring these tasks, however, often leads a man into hidden depression. Indeed, retiring “happily ever after” can be a dangerous fantasy for men because it glosses over the serious work of aging. Worse, the old model of masculinity directs men to conquer age with exercise, nutrition, attitude, travel and more work. That’s ok for a while, but it’s not the deep journey of understanding and transformation men need to reach home safely. If you are a man struggling with the passage of age, or know a man who is, take a look at this book.Accept the reality of old age (Visit with Laertes), and 10. Understand the spiritual work attending this final stage of life (Ritual for the Gods). No wonder it took Odysseus ten years to come home!”

What Aging Men Want is the third in a trilogy of aging books by John Robinson following The Three Secrets of Aging and Bedtime Stories for Elders: What Fairytales Can Teach Us About the New Aging. You can learn more about his work at www.johnrobinson.org.

May 2030–Rethought

10 May
May 10, 2013

NOTA BENE: Look I don’t know anymore about the future than you.  I can’t predict what’s going to happen in May of 2013 much less May 2030.  But I do know this, our planet’s in Congestive Heart failure; some days it’s a challenge just to balance the enormous amount of negative energy  from eight billion people and catch it’s breath while it watches it’s resources raped and pillaged by the infamous 1%.

Having said all of that let me go out on a limb to make a prediction.  There is a line we cross as human beings.  Most of us never see the line but I assure you it’s there.  It has no name and yet despite its anonymity it plays a surprisingly large roll when we cross it.  I call it the lifeline.  And for two decades using simple observation, stillness, and intuition I’ve watched many of my fellow residents cross the line.  Sometimes it’s dramatic, sometimes it’s not. But the outcome is certain, always the same. Death.  I’ve seen people cross the line at ten years old with leukemia, at 45 years old with MS, and at 60 years old well. . . you fill in the blank.  For human beings–and that’s the only race I can speak for, the desire to live to protect that spark of life within us for centuries has saved us in precarious situations, it would appear at times that we are all cats, or so we’d like to think.

But in truth, whenever I see and feel and hear a fellow resident cross that line I feel a twinge of sorrow knowing fully well what lies ahead.  Sometimes the end maybe months away, sometimes hours, but once they cross the line death chases them like a thief in the night and they are only too willing to oblige.

Now for the truly sad part.  I have watched planet earth cross that line as if she lived and breathed.  I saw her wipe back tears as she made the decision to let it be and now we are in free fall. plummeting toward the same earth that produces raspberries, cotton and healing herbs.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it was all a dream, that people will somehow pull it together. Maybe Rodney King wasn’t so far off the mark after all.

Martin Bayne

MAY 2030

06 May
May 6, 2013

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It’s 2030 and I just celebrated my 80th birthday in one of three resident lounges in AGCOM #43, an Aging Community in upstate New York, just south of the Canadian border. Unlike the assisted living and skilled nursing facilities of the past, with their manicured lawns, on-site and remote activities and 450 square-foot private rooms, today’s AGCOMs are managed by the US Dept. of Aging, and are little more than warehouses with two coats of paint. The building itself is an aircraft hanger-like structure with a corrugated steel roof, and the residents live four-to-a-room in 1,400 square-foot “quads” – each resident has 220 square feet of private space and shares a kitchen, bathroom, and living room with the three other residents.

Every quad also has an RC (Robotic Companion). RCs are the brainchild of Dean Kamen, the man who gave us Segways at the turn of the century. The Companion, made primarily of plastic and other cleanser-friendly materials, cooks, gives showers, cleans and assists with any Activity of Daily Living. Fully operational by voice command, the front of the RC can even fold out to provide an emergency wheelchair.

The conditions I described in the previous two paragraphs are the result of two dramatic changes in the American aging algorithm. Demographics coupled with a massive global financial depression in 2016 was the first. When the Euro finally caved in 2015, China called in a sizable chunk of US debt. And for the first time in this nation’s history, we were unable to meet our obligations. That set off a domino effect and within two weeks – after a sizable and very violent run on banks in this and other countries – most global stock exchanges halted trading indefinitely. The NYSE came back online three months later, but with massive restructuring.

The second change – and without doubt the most startling and dramatic – was the Timble Fergeson Act – named after the senators who introduced the bill when it became clear in 2017 that Medicaid and Medicare were nearly bankrupt. The situation called for drastic measures and Timble Fergeson narrowly passed in Congress.  Here are some of the most contentious (and most say) onerous provisions of the legislation.

Effective 12/4/2018 everyone 70 and over automatically was assigned a Primary Care Physician in a national managed care plan. ANY patient plan of  care, acute or protracted that was likely to cost over $5,000 was assigned a “cash transaction” status until an appeal could be filed. This, in effect, shut down the medical system for those 70 and older who were without financial means. A Congressperson from New Jersey said the Bill was “thinning the herd” and had an ulterior motive — to not only dramatically lower acute care costs, but also long-term care costs . . . to be continued . . .

The Grand Journey

28 Apr
April 28, 2013

In the assisted living community I call home, when a fellow-resident begins to physiologically “shut down” in preparation for death, I try — whenever possible — to visit the resident while they are still alive. I’ve never been big on post-mortem communications, regardless of how ethereal. When a person’s “essence” or soul moves on, so do I.

cemetaryI avoid sitting Shiva, wakes, funerals, burials, mortuaries, cemeteries, and cremations like the German Measles. And if that makes me insensitive, disrespectful, and socially crude, then so be it. The dead sure as hell don’t care, why should the living?

I pray our National Cemeteries, with row upon row of headstones as far as the eye can see, will be seen by future social anthropologists for what they truly are: fields of terror, pain and sorrow.

Last night I sat for an hour at the bedside of Father W, an ordained Franciscan priest. Father W is one of the kindest, most sincere and intelligent Catholic priests I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. He began his professional life as an engineer for Bethlehem Steel at their main plant and corporate headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and was in his thirties before he entered the seminary to study for the priesthood.

Now he lies, peacefully, in a coma, waiting for the first bus Home.

And If I know Father W, he’ll get a window seat; like any ten-year-old school boy, unwilling to miss a thing.

STILL RUNNING

27 Apr
April 27, 2013

evil

It’s a beautiful day in Boston, Jim. as our cameras pan the crowds that have lined the streets for this race, you can feel the excitement . . “

Jim?”

Bob, cue a 60-second spot and CUT the feed. NOW. “

“Jim, what the hell is wrong with you?”

Sorry, Richard, I was thinking about the airport”

What about the airport? God damn it, Jim, look at me when I’m talking to you — we’ve got 20 million viewers and you pick this morning to fall off the wagon?”

Bullshit. I haven’t touched a drop.”

Then tell me — what’s wrong with you?

The airport. . ..”

For the love of God, man, what about the airport?”

The passengers that flew out of Logan. They started the real race.”

Jim, what are you talking about?”

Nine-eleven was the real race day, but it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.”

OK, that’s it. GET HIM OFF THE SET and don’t make me say it twice.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties, we’ll be right back . . .

I SAID I WANT HIM OFF THE SET. Bob, please: call security if you must, but get him off this stage.”

Richard, there’s no need for Bob to call Security. Just hear me out for two minutes, then I’ll leave peacefully.”

All right, Jim, you’ve got ONE minute, not two. That’s it.”

“lLogan was just a warm-up, Richard”

Yeah, right. You now have fifty seconds.”

It didn’t stop that day, did it Richard?”

What the hell are you talking about?”

They’re still running.”

Who are they?”

They. We. Us. We’re still running, aren’t we Richard?

I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of injury death for Americans. Even more disturbing, more U.S. Soldiers died in 2012 by suicide than in combat.”

Jim. Your point?”

As our churches empty and the the psychiatric wards and crack houses fill to capacity, we are in darkness. There’s no light. Look at the legacy we’re leaving our children.”

Times up. Enough bullshit. You want to believe the world’s in a dark place and our children will . . . [A tremendous explosion] WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

[A second explosion from a pressure cooker bomb decapitates Richard.]

[Lying on the floor, covered with dust and glass, a camera man slowly makes his way across shattered equipment and broken bodies to Jim. “Who is it we’re running from?” he asks in a hoarse whisper.]

What difference does it make what you call him today. Like a virus, he’ll just mutate tomorrow”

The Devil?” he asked.”

Jim turned away and stared at a smoldering disconnected hand lying on a desk.

How do we find him?” the camera man said.

Just look in the mirror, friend. Just look in the mirror”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MACHINE THAT ATE MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER

24 Apr
April 24, 2013

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I’m sure most of us have heard at least one grueling story recounting the horrors of an innocent farm hand who accidentally caught a loose piece of clothing in a hay baler or perhaps it was a seed planter built completely of Ginzu knives. The story invariably turns ugly in the second paragraph, and by the end — after thrashing, yanking and terrifying screams — we’re left with a shirt collar and a prequel for a recurring nightmare.

Thank God this is not one of those stories.

In fact, to be completely honest, my great-grandmother was not actually eaten by a machine. She died of complications of pneumonia and heart failure. But that makes for a slow-witted title and a bored reader.(Or a prospective reader who skips over my story entirely! I can assure you, this does not sit well with the Pulitzer Selection Committee.)

Fortunately, I’m a savvy, sophisticated writer, and, thus, am allowed to use bait-and-switch headlines. We call the pick-and-lock sets that give us that extra “literary license”: metaphor, simile, euphemism, and allegory.

Back to G-G. The last time I saw her — the woman who introduced me to incense, Pecan Sandies and comic books — she was in a skilled nursing facility — restrained in a crib-bed, with sunken eyes that reflected her pain and terror.

That experience haunted me for the next half-century. And then there was the diagnosis of Parkisons 19 years ago. This is my eleventh year as a resident in an assisted living community. I live every day surrounded by more death, despair, disability and depression that most see in a lifetime.

But the days of the patient restraints are all but over, and I honestly believe the quality of life in Institutional Aging Communities is improving every day.

Incremental victories. A future with hope.

 

DIVINE INTERVENTION?

17 Apr
April 17, 2013

 

 

 

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J. arrives for the 11-7 shift. Pokes his head in my room and says “hi” on his way to the private dining room – the “Operations Center” for the handful of Personal Care Attendants(PCAs) and Med Techs(they dispense resident’s meds) who will work the graveyard shift tonight at the assisted living community I am part of.

11:09pm

I look at J., “You don’t look your usual upbeat, Bob Marley wanna-be, self this evening. What’s wrong?

“I hope nothing,” he says, “but I’ve had a pain in the middle of my chest for most of the day . . .”

“Whoa. Back up.

Where exactly is the pain?” I ask, suddenly worried about my friend.

He points to a spot about 3 inches below the Sternal Notch.

Now, alarm bells are starting to go off in my head, but I’m in no mood to argue. I had my first round of physical therapy in three years earlier in the day, and I am one tired puppy.

“I’ll be fine he says,” and the day’s exhaustion finally catches up to me and I barely make it back to my room before sleep overtakes me.

5:00am

J. walks in my room. “Shower time.” he says. I rub my eyes for a minute or two and the previous evening comes rushing back at me like a large wave. “How is your chest pain?” I ask.

“It’s livable.” (that’s not the answer I’m looking for).

After the shower, as he begins to dress me, I notice a grimace on his face as he bends over to put my sneakers on. Then, the obvious physical manifestations of someone who finds it hard to breathe.

“That’s it,” I say, “time to call the ambulance.” But J is unmoved.

J.’s as stubborn as I am, and I’m afraid we may not have much time left

And then, a random thought/voice drifted through my pre-frontal cortex: “Find the PostEm note with ‘Carol’ written on it.”

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up, I came across the note with just “Carol” written on it and a phone number. I took a guess that maybe the number was Carol Bs’s. She’s the facility’s Director of Nursing. A tall, lithe woman who is efficient with her decisions and has a great sense of humor. Mind you, I didn’t actually know the number on the note was Carol Bs., but I knew I had to call it anyway. She had the juice to convince J. to call an ambulance.

Long story, short — it was Carol B’s number, I called her, and she convinced J. to call the ambulance.

Divine intervention?

You betcha’

 

Study: Bill Thomas Is Aging

03 Apr
April 3, 2013

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Well, of course Dr. Thomas is aging. We’re all aging. We all begin the extraordinary process of cell growth, senescence and death while we’re still in the womb. Imagine that! We actually begin “growing old” before we’re out of the womb.

So, then, what’s all the hub-bub about aging?

I’ll tell you what it’s NOT about. It’s not about adopting common-sense life styles that would enhance both the quality and quantity of our exploratory missions to this planet: we eat the wrong foods in quantities that are truly startling. We smoke, chew tobacco, snort cocaine, inject heroin etc., etc.

And it’s not about finding the optimal housing arrangement for our 88-year-old mothers, either. Since the dawn of man, our elders have managed to find housing. Yes, today there are unique circumstances that challenge our village, but if we can land men on the moon, we can certainly come up with a way to care for our parents.

So, again, why all the noise NOW about aging?

I was watching a rerun of The Sopranos today (I haven’t owned a TV for 25 years. Thankfully, the Internet provides a broad range of entertainment options.)

Anyway, during one of his psychotherapeutic sessions, Tony Soprano said, “We’re the only country where people expect to be happy. And despite everything we’ve been given, happiness eludes us.”

That’s it! That’s the answer, the REAL answer to the question, Why all the noise? Now.

Happiness.

Think about it . . .most of our parents (I’m 63; my parents, mid-eighties) never found their Golden Years. After a Depression and a brutal World War, most worked, retired and either scraped out a modest living from Social Security and meager savings, lived with their children or just died.

Remember how our parents sacrificed, scrimped and saved to give us “a better life” than they had?

Well, we’ve tweaked the algorithm so WE can have what THEY never did. Besides, we’re Boomers, and Boomers practically invented change on a massive scale.

So, Get Ready!

They’re coming.

And they’re selling happiness.

And they know where 60% + of this country’s wealth is. In OUR pockets.

So, before they knock on your door, ask yourself . . .Is it possible to grow old – with chronic disease, loneliness, isolation, – and still be happy?

Well, is it?

 “Most people don’t grow up. Most people age.

They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards,

get married, have children, and call that maturity.

What that is, is aging.”

– Maya Angelou

True that.

Martin Bayne Copyright (c) 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“COME ON DOWN . . .”

01 Apr
April 1, 2013

 

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R. was dying. Ever so slowly.

I know, I’ve shared both living and dying with fellow residents for more than a decade, and there are times it’s hard to distinguish between the two. This was not one of those times.

R. had been sleeping continuously for the last three weeks; quietly, like you’d expect an angel to sleep. She would slip in and out of her coma gracefully, like a majestic swan.

When my brother was sixteen, he was in a very bad automobile accident. Ejected from the car, he would spend the next four weeks in the hospital in a coma. It was touch and go for those four weeks.

Amazingly, he joined the Navy some years later, saw action on a firing line in Vietnam, and returned home with enough mental illness for four or five men. He would spend the next years in and out of Veteran’s Psychiatric Hospitals, and then one day – he just disappeared. Never again to be seen.

In 1995 I completed the necessary paperwork in Surrogate Court, Orange County, New York, brought it before a judge, and within twenty minutes my little brother no longer existed. Legally.

I assure you he still exists in my consciousness and will until the moment it is my turn to touch the Face of God.

It was a sunny day. I was in R’s room in a large lift chair, sitting as I often did with the television in the background. I could hear the Price is Right as I drifted into the twilight between waking and sleeping.

The next words the announcer shouted were “R., Come on Down” and as I lifted the corner of my eyelid, I was sure I saw her running, arms flailing, with the beaming smile that was her trademark.

I bolted straight up, almost falling out of the chair, just in time . . .to catch a man from Indiana running down the aisle.

Oh well, a little excitement for the day. I put my head on the chair and began to close my eyes.

And that’s when I saw it.

On R.’s face.

The outline of a faint – yet definite – smile.

© 2012 Copyright - The Voice of Aging Boomers