Seattle

Kindness Fridays

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Caring gumby figuresThis week’s kindness centers around the dining industry where waitstaff work their tails off for us gastronome-wannabes and oftentimes receive little thanks for it, other than what I hope is a decent-sized tip for excellent service.

My sister is visiting me from California, and with her visit coming on the heels of my publication contract, (see Irene Frances Olson – me! – has signed with a publisher) she wanted to take me out to lunch to celebrate. In between touring the Seattle Art Museum and attending the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, both in downtown Seattle, we settled in for a delicious lunch at Palomino Restaurant.

Our server for the day was a fine gentleman named Sam. After he introduced himself, my sister announced that she was treating me to lunch to celebrate my book contract. He was astounded, genuinely impressed that one of his customers was soon to be a published author. (I wonder if perhaps he is also a writer – or perhaps an actor – and therefore fully understands the enormity of the situation. Writing is like acting: many people want to break into these industries, but find little success in doing so.)

He asked all the appropriate questions about manuscript publication, honing in on the details of my novel’s roll-out process. He then asked what we would like for our beverage and I chose a half diet, half sugar loaded, Coke. My sister also ordered a Coke. He walked away to get our orders but returned within a minute’s time and said, and I paraphrase, “Wait a minute, you got a publishing contract and a Coke is what you’re ordering to celebrate? You sure?”

Unfortunately, I was sure, because if I had imbibed on my 1st choice – a margarita – the remainder of my day’s efforts would have fallen by the wayside. He complied with my request, and throughout our time at his table, served us attentively (but not over-attentively … we all know what that feels like). At one point during our lunch I told him I would be featuring his kindness for my weekly Kindness Fridays column. He asked for my blog website address so he could have a look-see when it’s published.

Toward the end of my our lunch, he asked about the storyline for REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO. He was touched by its origin, saying how intrigued he was by the story, and sorry for our family’s experience.

I guess the way I would describe that day’s kindness is that I felt important and appreciated. I felt special.

And who doesn’t want to feel special now and again?

 

 

The man in the tree – Seattle, Washington

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city-skyline-693502_640It seems we’re so trained to treat the world as our own personal entertainment venue that when it comes to a mentally challenged man’s fate, we don’t give a shit what happens to him. We the inconvenienced public stand at the base of an 80 foot tree into which he’s climbed in one of the busiest sections of downtown Seattle, Washington and we shout:

“Shoot him!”

Jump!”

What the hell is wrong with us that we so carelessly thrust our complete lack of empathy at this man with words that could very well have ended his life right before our eyes?

Frack you

those who treated this human being’s frailty with such callousness!

Frack you!

 

My plea for print news media

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I love, love, love to read my local print newspaper, The Seattle Times, each morning.

 If a daily edition is late due to inclement weather, I will read the paper on my tablet, but only if I’m quite certain the print edition won’t arrive, e.g., snow, power lines across the roads, the end of the world as we know it, etc.

But I don’t want to read the paper on my tablet  – or sitting at my computer – as  my only option.

NO!!!!!

The other local area newspaper, Seattle Post Intelligencer, switched to online-only several years ago.  I’m thrilled that the Seattle PI is still available to readers but I fear the remaining local newspaper will end up with the same fate.

Why do I think so?  Read the rest of this entry »

Are you a listener?

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Talking and listeningAnd when you think you’re listening, are you really listening or are you constructing a response to the person who is talking to you?  All the instructional teachings I’ve read about being fully present in any given situation indicate that true listening can’t afford the luxury of distraction.

True listening honors the person with whom you’re connecting.  Conversely, being distracted reveals ones disregard for someone.  Read the rest of this entry »

Positive community activism

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Seattle Profile – Volunteering and Civic Life in America.

The Seattle Times newspaper posted an article touting Seattle’s stellar volunteer rate for 2013:

34% of Seattle area residents volunteer ranking Seattle 4th among the 51 largest volunteer locations.  After researching that article, I found the attached report detailing my area’s community service activities.  You can locate your State and city in the report to discern the degree of your community’s civic life.

Community hands together to volunteerThis report shines a light on content that I recently provided in two articles posted to this blog:  Restless in retirement? You don’t have to be, and The importance of good neighbors.

38.7 percent of Washington State’s Baby Boomer population volunteered in 2013, ranking my state’s volunteering Baby Boomers 6th out of 51.  See?  You’ll be in good company when you turn your retirement restlessness into service for others.

64.9 percent of Washington State residents participate in “informal volunteer activities” defined as doing favors for neighbors.  Wow, that’s a lot of people getting to know their neighbors and “having their backs.”

You don’t have to give up all of your free time to help others.

Community and the world volunteeringI’ve heard people say time and again that they can’t spare another 40 hours a week to become a volunteer.  Who asked you to?

There are countless volunteer opportunities that only require a couple hours a week.  My best friend volunteers as a companion to a disabled person who needs transportation assistance to shop and/or to attend doctor appointments.  A fellow Bar Method exerciser volunteers once a week at a local food bank to provide much needed sustenance to those in her community.  Wow, such a small commitment of time that provides a service for which others cannot do without.

Thank about it: if you spent two or three less hours a week watching television, or two or three less hours working on home projects, or two or three less hours sitting at the computer (point taken), you’ll still have oodles of free time left after spending a fraction of your week focused on someone else.

Wow, when put that way, volunteering sure sounds easy, doesn’t it?

(All images courtesy of Pixabay)

Dead Inside

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What a horrible title for an article.

It’s also a horrible concept, don’t you think?

But many with dementia are dead inside without any means of engaging with others in meaningful conversation.  Heck, they might not even be able to talk to themselves: a practice I engage in quite frequently.

What an isolating state to be in: you’re there, but not there.

My daughter & I outside the Varsity Theatre, Seattle, after viewing the documentary.
My daughter & I outside the Varsity Theatre, Seattle, after viewing the documentary.

Fortunately, those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitively restricting illnesses, have a chance to awaken their memories – and therefore their history – but not without the tools to do so.  Alive Inside, the 2014 Audience Award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, is a one and a quarter hour documentary film that touts the benefits of personalized music therapy for those who are living dead inside.

Dan Cohen, social worker, Founder and Executive Director of Music & Memory, started this awakening project several years ago.  Here is a description of the project, taken from the film’s website: “Music & Memory … promotes the use of digital music players with individualized playlists to improve the quality of life for elders, regardless of their cognitive or physical status … Dan has spent most of his career helping individuals and organizations leverage technology.  Music & Memory operates in hundreds of long term care homes across the U.S. and abroad.”

Watch the 2.15 minute trailer on the provided Alive Inside website to witness a few of the individual awakenings spotlighted in the film.

Even if the film is not scheduled to appear in your area, you are still able to help awaken the millions of people in the United States and abroad by your participation in Mr. Cohen’s project.  Whether it’s feet on the street or a click of a mouse to donate funds, each of you can become a part of these efforts.

Additionally, if you know someone, or are caring for someone with cognitive decline, put together a personalized database of music for that someone in a digital music storage device, then connect them to it with a set of headphones.  You might be able to awaken him or her with that simple effort on your part.

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia: Part 2

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STOP signI addressed some of the issues of Driving under the influence of dementia in an article I wrote in November 2013.  Back then I hadn’t planned on writing a Part 2 for this article, but after a couple local incidents involving DUI of dementia, I must provide the following.

Yesterday afternoon in a suburb of Seattle (in Bellevue), an 89-year old woman with early stage Alzheimer’s left her house for her normal daily routine of going to her favorite pancake house, then to several retail locations.  She never returned home last night and as of today, she is still considered missing.  I hope the outcome of her case is better than that of another elderly person with Alzheimer’s who also went on a brief errand, but never came home.  (Update as of 12/28/13 6:45 pm: this woman was found safe approximately 16 hours after she first left her home.  She was found 20 miles away from home.  Unfortunately, she wandered 20 miles away from her normal driving area.)

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, Joseph Douret left his Seattle area home (in Issaquah), to grab dinner.  He was reported missing the next day by his wife who stated that he never came home the previous evening when he left to grab some dinner for the two of them.  Mr. Douret, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, was found dead in his vehicle on Christmas Eve.  Police indicated that he appeared to have died of natural causes.

Taking away the keys to a vehicle – or getting rid of the vehicle as need be – are both very difficult tasks, but these are tasks that must take place if a loved one with dementia still has access to their automobile.  “But he/she is only driving a few blocks to pick up a couple items; there’s no way he/she will get lost.”  Unfortunately, what should be a routine drive can become a death journey because nothing is routine for the person with a brain addled by dementia.  Nothing looks normal or familiar;  the anxiety ratchets up several notches; panic sets in; and the countdown begins for that person’s last hours of life on earth.  Even if the person is eventually found safe, he or she will have endured a very uncomfortable time emotionally and physically.  The positive outcome of that incident, however, is that it will most likely be the catalyst that spurs people on to remove all driving options from their loved one.

Please make the decision today to take action and do the responsible thing on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Disposable human beings

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Feds: DSHS neglected disabled to cut costs, may owe $16M | Local News | The Seattle Times.

You can’t open a newspaper these days without reading about budget cuts to Federal, State, and City services.  Memos are flying around these offices demanding across the board reductions or else!

The State of Washington figured out a way to save more than one million dollars and its Department of Social and Health Services is the brainchild of this impressive savings coup: deprive those with developmental disabilities the required services mandated by law that help them to function better in society.  The required services include physical and occupational therapy, personal-care training, speech therapy, guided behavioral norms, job skills, and recreation.

Two dozen developmentally disabled residents of Lakeland Village in Spokane, Washington – a state and federally funded long-term care facility – were denied these services for two years – most likely causing irreparable damage to these residents.  Let’s see – two dozen residents for two years – how many times was the law broken as a result?

41,231 times

How did they pull it off?  They moved a couple dozen residents from the intermediate-care facility of Lakeland Village into its nursing facility which is cheaper because that part of the facility does not have to provide the specialized services that the developmentally disabled residents need.  The relocated men and women received excellent medical care – most of which wasn’t called for – but they were deprived of all the quality-of-life services they needed most.  This violation of federal law means that the facility received federal funds in error – funds that were meant to cover legally mandated services at the facility.

When the investigation was launched and DSHS was told to provide documentation for the time period in question, there was little evidence that the specialized services had been provided.  In response, DSHS stated, “We didn’t make good documentation, or indeed, we didn’t provide some of them (documents).”  It is thought that the reason the paperwork wasn’t found, is that it doesn’t exist.

The State tried to cut its budget by $1 million by fraudulently withholding required care services.  The investigation continues while it is estimated that the federal government will penalize the State of Washington/the Department of Social and Health Services in the amount of $16 million.

English: Garbage bins in a row, during prepara...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But you and I already know that the biggest price has already been paid by the disposed of human beings.

Freedom of the Press using Boeing as an example.

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‘Squeeze play’ on Machinists is reality elites failed to feel | Local News | The Seattle Times.

I am very pleased to say that I am a subscriber of the only Seattle newspaper still in print – the Seattle Times.  This newspaper writes and publishes varying opinions on local and global issues – even when one journalist disagrees with his or her fellow journalists or – dare I say – the Editors of the paper.  A timely example of freedom of the press was displayed during the showdown between the aerospace machinists unions representing Puget Sound Boeing machinists (blue collar workers) and the higher-up Boeing management who replaced Seattle with Chicago as their ivory tower home base in the year 2001.

English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, asked for – and received – a special legislative session to present a bill that would award Boeing with delightful tax incentives to entice the company to continue the practice of building their airplanes in the greater Seattle area, a/k/a the Puget Sound region.  This bill was passed but was contingent on the machinists agreeing to an extension of their current union contract period from 2016 to the year 2024.  Additionally, the newly revised contract would not come close to resembling the current contract that both the machinists and the Boeing executives agreed upon when signed a few years back.  If the union membership would vote “Yes” on this newly devised contract, Boeing would keep the 777X in Washington forever more.  If the machinists voted “No” on the contract, Boeing leadership would approach other non-local Boeing sites – those not in Washington State.  Now why would this Washington business want to give their work to another state’s economy?  It’s all about the unions, baby.

Boeing leadership, and the major shareholders of Boeing stock, are sick and tired of machinists and engineers caring about – and fighting for – their rights regarding employee benefits.  Shifting work to non-union locations means that the company doesn’t have to deal with the petty demands of their dedicated workers who are just trying to make a decent living now, while building a decent retirement for later.  One of the major take-aways of the newly crafted contract is the cessation of the machinist’s pension plan, replacing it with a traditional 401(k) savings plan.  Go ahead and say it – many people are thinking the same thing you are: “Shit!  Companies all over the United States are ending employee pensions and cutting back.  You SOB Boeing machinists should stop your whining and just be glad that you have a job!”

On November 11, 2013, the Seattle Times editorial staff printed their opinion of what the machinists should do: Vote Yes for the Boeing 777X.  I encourage you to read the attached article because the Editors no doubt speak for a certain percentage of their readership who believed that the machinists should give up their current contract and take on a new contract – let’s call it Machinists’ ContractX.  Danny Westneat’s “Squeeze play” opinion piece attached at the top of my article, speaks for a different percentage of the newspaper readership – many who work for Boeing – but also those non-Boeing people who understand that when employees are told to sacrifice and cut back on their benefits for the good of the company – everyone in the company should be a part of that sacrifice.

Let’s look at the facts and you can decide if the executives are sacrificing to the same extent as their employees.  Boeing has been racking up profits with its stock exhibiting impressive numbers.  When the markets closed on Monday, November 18th, the stock price was $138.36 per share.  “If Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, retires right now, he will get $265,575 a month.  That’s not a misprint: The man presiding over a drive to slash retirement for his own workers, and for stiffs in the rest of America, stands to glide out on a company pension that pays a quarter-million dollars per month.”  See Anguish many of us understand, by Danny Westneat dated 11/9/2013.

At play here are many emotions and opinions – both in the newsroom and in our living rooms.  On the one hand, people are saying that the machinists ruined it for Washington State by not agreeing to replace their current contract in 2016 with the hastily revised one.  This new contract came about as a result of the Governor and his legislators getting into bed with the Boeing executives and some of the machinist union leaders, to discuss in private what they felt was best for their employees.  As a result, the squeeze was indeed put on the machinists and now they are being blamed for Boeing’s decision to look elsewhere for airplane production that would have provided guaranteed work for current – and future – Boeing employees in the Puget Sound region.

Let’s get back to the disgruntled people who say that Boeing employees should just be glad that they have a job.  Boeing employees are highly skilled workers, and historically they have been paid salary and benefits commensurate to their skills – as is the case with Boeing engineers – many of whom have been with the company for decades.  All the salary and benefit details were agreed upon by Boeing management and Boeing laborers at the beginning of their current contract – the contract for which the terms don’t expire until 2016.  If the machinists voted “Yes” on the newly proposed contract, they would have eight years’ worth of financial takeaways for which they weren’t prepared at the 2016 contract end.

Based on what had been legally agreed upon, these employees had been managing their present lives and gearing up for their future lives, when all of a sudden they were presented with a different financial formula than the one promised in the contract upon which they based these financial plans.  Then the rug was pulled out from under them and the people pulling the rug were those who will bank monthly pension amounts of approximately $300,000 at today’s rate.  Where’s the sacrifice baby?  What am I missing?  Don’t forget, the aforementioned amount is just the pension amount – there are many other richly held benefits held by the executives.  And even if $300k per month was all the compensation each executive were to receive in retirement, that’s $3,600,000 a year.  Shouldn’t that leave some sacrificial wiggle room?

But the article I set out to write is about Freedom of the Press and the wonderful ability for one newspaper to express conflicting views while still being able to retain their jobs.  Newspapers and other periodicals would do well to model the Times so that the reading public can read conflicting journalistic opinions in order to arrive at their own opinions on hotly contested subject matters…

just as I have done in this article.

Thursday in the News

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English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a new category that I thought you might get a kick out of.  Each Thursday I’ll write about a bizarre news story that took place in my local area (Washington State) and you counter that news with a story from your state!

Here’s a story that you just have to scratch your head and say, “Huh?”

A couple months ago, at approximately 11:30 pm, a Seattle area man woke up his six and four year old daughters, put them in the backseat of the car, and told them they were taking a trip to The Dollar Store for some toys.

Driving at a high rate of speed – and hopped up on meth – he proceeded to hit a few cars along the way on one of the main North/South freeways, I-5.  When his car finally came to a stop, having crashed into a barrier, other drivers pulled over to provide help.  Seeing that two young girls were in the back seat, those who came to the assist yelled at the driver to unlock the doors.  The driver initially refused.  When he finally allowed access to the vehicle, the girls were removed, and although they had several seat belt bruises across their torsos, they appeared to be okay.

When the Good Samaritans gained access to the driver’s side of the vehicle in an effort to help the methed out driver, they discovered he was wearing a woman’s blouse with prosthetic breasts strapped to his chest.  Oh, one other detail: he was naked from the waist down, and had a full bag of urine at his feet.

He is being held on $250,000 bail.  His arraignment hearing is scheduled for July 1st.

How about news in your neck of the woods?  Anything even half as unbelievable occur near you?  The news story you submit doesn’t have to be icky like the one I provided, it can be too stupid to believe as well – as a matter of fact, that’s preferred.

Pooped in your pants lately? How’d that feel?

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Were you eating breakfast in bed at the time? 

Or perhaps while sitting in the easy chair next to your bed, you tried your very best to ignore the urge to purge … but you couldn’t wait any longer for someone to assist you so you let it all out, leaving you in a shameful way, sitting in a mushy pile of excrement while a stream of urine puddled at the base of your chair.

Welcome to the life of a vulnerable adult living in a nursing home.  From coast to coast across the United States skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are filled with adults needing the greatest amount of assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) – toileting is one of those ADLs.

The following true scenarios occurred recently at a nursing home in a Seattle suburb, and at a similar facility in a suburb of San Francisco.

A handicapped toilet in South San Francisco, C...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who is fully reliant on mobility assistance pushed the call button near his bed to register a need for assistance.  In this case, he needed to go “Number 1” and “Number 2” and had the audacity to require assistance while the staff was busy attending to other residents’ needs – but not his needs.  When a staff person finally entered his room an hour later, she did so to simply indicate that she didn’t have time to take him to the bathroom so he should just go in his pants.

A woman equally as vulnerable needed the assistance of a staff person upon waking in the morning and – knowing that breakfasts were brought around to the rooms at 7 a.m. – the 91 year old started to press her call button at 6 a.m. hoping to have her morning pee prior to the arrival of her breakfast tray an hour later.  That “luxury” was one that would not be afforded her; instead, a caregiver brought a breakfast tray to this patient in the seven o’clock hour and when the patient asked if she could receive help to the toilet prior to eating her breakfast, the employee told her to just go in her pants because no one had time to help her at that moment.

I can’t help myself – here’s another incident:  A staff person helps a woman to the toilet first thing in the morning.  The woman who is clothed in a lightweight nightgown finishes using the toilet and is ready to receive assistance back to her bed – but lo’ and behold, the staff person forgot to place the call button within close reach of the patient so she is not able to alert someone of her desire to go back to bed.  Enough time has passed that by this time the patient is shivering and screams for help – screams that went unnoticed for a quarter hour.  In desperation this elderly woman somehow managed to lean far enough forward to push over a metal trash pail which she then kicked repeatedly until someone finally arrived to see what all the commotion was about.

These stories don’t paint a very pretty picture do they?  They depict a low quality of life that no one deserves.

What does Quality of Life mean to you?

  • Eating at fine dining establishments?
  • Having a clothing wardrobe that rivals the catwalks of Paris?
  • Driving in a luxury vehicle that provides amenities previously only found in limousines?

For most of us, quality of life boils down to leading a dignified existence in which we are allowed to take advantage of the basic necessities of life.  For me, those necessities should include a safe living environment, sustenance, the inclusion of loving family and friends in my life, the freedom to make choices about matters that are important to me, and being on the receiving end of respectful behavior from those with whom I come in contact.

The most vulnerable among us should expect no less than those basic necessities, but “the system” isn’t working to guarantee those basics.  Try to imagine, if you will, your own grandparent, parent, spouse, partner, or other family member in any one of the above scenarios.  How comfortable are you with that type of day-to-day existence for them?  You’re not comfortable at all – as a matter of fact you’re feeling a bit uneasy about this whole subject matter.  I’m sorry to place doubt in your mind about the care your loved one is receiving but I’ll just bet that you need to get out of the comfort of denial you’ve been enjoying and into the eye-opening role of resident advocate.

Lack of caring = lack of care.  Nursing home management is a tough job to do correctly, but I know it’s possible because there are some reputable and well-run facilities out there – not perfect by any means, but fairly acceptable.  So yes, some nursing facilities employ stellar care staff but there are also those employees who just don’t give a damn.  “I go to work.  I go home after work.  I get paid.  What more do you want from me?”  Caring – that’s what we want.  You’ve chosen to work in this particular type of environment so don’t act like you didn’t know what you were getting into.  Withholding proper care for those who have no recourse but to depend upon you is not only unfair, but it’s illegal.  And how about answering these questions about your own aging prospects: Do you think you’ll somehow skip the journey into old age?  Do you not realize that you too will be as old as the patients whose care is entrusted to you?  What type of care will you hope to receive?  Does it resemble any of the scenarios I’ve illustrated above – or are you under the impression that you’ll be at a “Champagne and Chandelier” type of place where you’ll be waited on hand and foot?

Not gonna happen.

This article just scratches the surface of the sub-standard care that can be found in nursing facilities.  I only mention the toileting issue because it’s been front and center in my experiences with some of my acquaintances lately.  One place to start getting some positive traction where these matters are concerned is the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center where you’ll find links to advocacy programs in your state.  Call those local representatives and report any concerns you may have about how your loved one is being cared for, or not cared for, in their nursing facility, assisted living facility, or group home.

If you act on behalf of your loved one, you’re also acting on behalf of everyone else in the facility because trust me – your mom isn’t the only one being neglected on her nursing home floor.

Living with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease.

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In Washington State, there are currently 150,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In the rest of the Nation, more than 5 million have Alzheimer’s disease.  That number will jump to 16 million by the year 2050.  Most of us envision an elderly person with some sort of dementia.  We might even expect it to occur in those 85 or older.  Listen to me Baby Boomers – young and not-so-young – the number of people diagnosed before the age of 65 – known as early-onset Alzheimer’s – is more common than you think.  In the United States alone, those with early-onset disease currently number 200,000.

That number decreased by one when my exceptional sister-in-law died on July 4, 2012 at the age of 69.  Just about the time that Baby Boomers should be anxiously making their final retirement plans – such as was the case with my brother and his wife – they are instead dealing with the challenges of managing a disease for which there is no cure.

Sixty-four year old Lon Cole, a resident of Puyallup, Washington, is one of the 200,000.  The local NBC affiliate, King5 in Seattle, Washington, ran a touching story about this gentleman.  I hope you will take the time to look at this news article: Alive and Thankful: Living with early-onset Alzheimer’s.  Those who have managed, or are currently managing, the care of a loved one with early-onset disease, will be touched by this family’s story.

Alzheimer’s “exit-seeking” behavior at 35,000 feet.

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At a certain stage during the course of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, a person can exhibit exit-seeking behavior.  It is believed that the person exhibiting this behavior is actually trying to get home, or back to a familiar place, or even seeking a feeling of comfort rather than simply trying to escape from their current location.

Confused face with question markThis “exiting” can take place just about anywhere, even at the person’s own home – resulting in a dangerous scenario where a wandering vulnerable person could easily fall into any number of  horrific situations because of their inability to get back to the safety of their home (be it a personal residence or a long-term care facility.)  Exiting behavior also takes place in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and yes, even airplanes at 35,000 feet above the ground.  This latter scenario happened on a recent flight I took from Dulles International Airport (DC area) to Seattle International Airport (Seattle, Washington.)

Just a half hour into our five-plus hour flight, a female passenger of approximately 75 years of age became very agitated during our ascent and before the fasten seat belt sign was switched off, she climbed over the passengers in her row, carry-on in hand, screaming all the way to the back of the plane from Row 34.  I was seated in Row 35.  “Wow, she must really have to use the bathroom!” I thought.  A flight attendant tried to get the passenger re-situated in her seat to no avail.  Complicating matters was the fact that the passenger was from another geographical continent and not only did she not speak or understand English, it was determined that other passengers who had flown with her from that same continent (not any relation or connection to her) also could not understand a word that she said.  In essence, she was speaking gibberish.  That was the first sign to myself and the flight attendants, that a) this woman was flying alone; b) she was in severe distress; and c) she most likely had some sort of dementia and was trying to exit her environment.  Not an easy task, nor one any of the United Airline employees were about to allow. Read the rest of this entry »

Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass.  As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.

Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding.   Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives.  Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.

The above article introduces us to

  • a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
  • a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
  • a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.

These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life.  I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for  a replacement job.  That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.

Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?”  No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are –  and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills.  We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.

September Calendar “Celebrations”

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Stumbled across these special occasions for September in a local, Seattle-area magazine.  The ones with which I am familiar are written in bold print; the rest, not so much.  So tell me – do these celebrations sound familiar to you, in your part of the world?

  • September 3: Labor Day
  • September 4: Eat Another Dessert Day
  • September 9: Grandparents Day
  • September 13: Positive Thinking Day
  • September 16: Working Parents Day
  • September 17: Constitution Day
  • September 21: International Peace Day
  • September 23: National Checkers Day
  • September 27: Ancestor Appreciation Day
  • September 30: Chewing Gum Day

What defines you?

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Your unemployment status?

Your loneliness?

Your illness?

Your, ___________ fill in the blank?

I learned something today for the umpteenth time and it came from someone who died two days ago at the age of 54 as a result of a 14-year battle with benign, but aggressive, meningioma brain tumors.  Kathi Goertzen underwent numerous surgeries; endured countless chemotherapy and radiation treatments; and sought out additional therapies in other countries.  But these tumors mercilessly came back again, and again, and again.  Nerves in her face were destroyed making it difficult for her to speak as clearly as she wished.  Similar nerve impairment gradually affected her ability to swallow, and therefore, eat.  And what makes all of those symptoms more notable, is that Kathi was the consummate news anchor at a Seattle ABC affiliate, Komo4 News.  Kathi was on camera for over thirty years and even when she was no longer able to sit at the anchor desk, Kathi powered through as a field reporter both in the United States and abroad.

Giving up was not in Kathi Goertzen’s DNA.  It became obvious to all of us – and I never personally met her, she was simply one of the news anchors I admired the most – that Kathi virtually defined the word “tenacious.”  Throughout the years, Ms. Goertzen spent countless days in the intensive care unit (ICU) of local hospitals with her husband, two daughters, parents & siblings, and her Komo4 News family standing by her as the most supportive cheerleading team of its kind.  And once she got over that bump in the road, she carried on in her media career, and as an extraordinary wife and mother – the latter which she considered her most important roles in life.  A recent video tribute to Kathi, which can be found at the Komo4 News link, shows interviews with Kathi in which she said that she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her; she didn’t want all the attention that this unfortunate condition drew to her.  And then there was this statement, paraphrased from the video tribute:

These tumors don’t define me.  I won’t let them!

I immediately thought of the many times I let hardships and circumstances define who I am.  Oh, it’s so easy to give in to the tendency to feel sorry for ourselves isn’t it?  To pay more attention to the bad than the good.  It’s scandalous to think that in my several decades of life I have given the hardship (whether it be chronic pain, relationships, job struggles and the like) the upper hand, thereby giving power to that which should have never been given purchase in my life.

Thank you Kathi for getting through to me on this very important issue: circumstances don’t define me, I’ve only ALLOWED them to do so.

Kathi Goertzen Foundation raises research funds to find cures for brain cancers and tumors. .

Monday, August 13th was a beautiful day.

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Why?  Because at least 150 people attended my sister-in-law’s memorial service, held after she passed from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

I know that the count of 150 is nothing compared to a stadium full of football, baseball, or soccer fans.  But this 150 people showed up on Monday, the beginning of most people’s work-week, to honor my brother and his stepchildren, and memorialize a woman who impacted their world greatly.

How the day unfolded.  Individual after individual arrived: some driving south from British Columbia, Canada, one person even flying in from Toronto, Canada, and numerous people driving north from California and Oregon state.  At first it looked like those who set up the venue with numerous chairs had overcompensated in their attendance projections.  That was not to be the case.  By 2 pm, the scheduled start of the memorial service, additional chairs had to be set up.   By 2:15 pm, some of us, most notably my brother, were sweating – not just because it was very hot on that particular Seattle, Washington day, but because the Officiant for the service had not arrived – and never did.  But that’s not important.

Time for Plan B.  I joined my brother outside just after 2 pm and I suggested that since the Officiant had not yet arrived, it was probably time to figure out Plan B.  All the immediate family members sprung into action and the parts that would have been attended to by the Officiant were superbly handled by other family members.  Even my brother – who had NOT planned on saying a word during the structured part of the service – walked to the front of the room and spoke beautifully about his wife’s journey to finally reach “home.”

Home is not just a structure with four walls.  Quite a few times during my sister-in-law’s illness, she told my brother that she just wanted to go home.  Now for those who aren’t familiar with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, oftentimes “home” means comfort, freedom, peace.  That was the case with my brother’s spouse.  She died on the American holiday, July 4th, also known as Independence Day.  That day was her Independence Day, when she could finally flee to comfort, freedom, and peace, with a body – and mind – untethered by any restrictions.

Many blessings to my sister-in-law, my wonderful brother/spouse caregiver, Don, and all of the surviving family members.  Monday, August 13th was truly a Celebration of Life and Liberty.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 2

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I provide Part 2 of Seniors for Sale – Janice and Elaine.

The Great Seal of the State of Washington
The Great Seal of the State of Washington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attached link connects you to Part 2 of 6 of this Pultizer Prize winning series written by Michael Berens of the Seattle Times.  Please don’t give up hope.  Once all 6 of these episodes have been provided – one per day – I will provide you with story outcomes and repercussions in the Adult Family Home industry in Washington State.  Keep in mind – as I indicated in my first submission –  although this horrific situation took place in the State of Washington, this type of abuse goes on in other states, and countries as well – whether in group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities or similar senior residential settings.

Are there stellar Adult Family Homes (AFHs) in Washington state?  Absolutely.  But of the 2,900 AFHs in the state, 446 of those were cited for major violations since 2010.  The industry certainly was not regulated well enough to avoid such violations.  That is changing.