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Archive for July, 2009

President Obama has announced the list of those who will receive the President’s Medal of Freedom.  It’s an impressive list, covering a wide range of achievements.  And it stands in stark contrast to several recipients named by the former president.  I’m thinking specifically of the  year in which George Tenet, Tommy Franks, and L. Paul Bremmer received the award.  At the time, I felt that the medal had been cheapened by that announcement and wondered how its reputation might be restored.  This is how.  The 2009 list represents a cross-section of high achievers in a variety of fields — all of them worthy of honor.  A common thread unites them — they have all worked to make the world a better place.

From the White House announcement:

The following individuals will receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Nancy Goodman Brinker

Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer grass roots organization. Brinker established the organization in memory of her sister, who passed away from breast cancer in 1980. Through innovative events like Race for the Cure, the organization has given and invested over $1.3 billion for research, health services and education services since its founding in 1982 and developed a worldwide grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists who are working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find cures. Brinker has received several awards for her work, and has also served in government as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary (2001 – 2003), Chief of Protocol of the U.S. (2007 – 2009), and Chair of the President’s Cancer Panel (1990). In May, Nancy Goodman Brinker was named the first-ever World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control.

Pedro José Greer, Jr.

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer is a physician and the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Florida International University School of Medicine, where he also serves as Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society. Dr. Greer is the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless patients a year in the city of Miami. He is also the founder and medical director of the St. John Bosco Clinic which provides basic primary medical care to disadvantaged children and adults in the Little Havana community. He has been recognized by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Sr., and Carter for his work with Miami’s poor . He is also the recipient of three Papal Medals as well as the prestigious MacArthur “genius grant”. He currently has a joint private practice with his father, Pedro Greer, Sr.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton in 1669. In addition to his pioneering academic research in mathematics and physics, Hawking has penned three popular science books, including the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Hawking, a British citizen, believes that non-academics should be able to access his work just as physicists are, and has also published a children’s science book with his daughter. His persistence and dedication has unlocked new pathways of discovery and inspired everyday citizens.

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp, who passed away in May 2009, served as a U.S. Congressman (1971 – 1989), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1989 – 1993), and Republican Nominee for Vice President (1996). Prior to entering public service, Kemp was a professional football player (1957 – 1969) and led the Buffalo Bills to American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965. In Congress and as a Cabinet Secretary, Kemp was a self-described “bleeding heart conservative” who worked to encourage development in underserved urban communities. In the years leading up to his death, Kemp continued seeking new solutions, raising public attention about the challenge of poverty, and working across party lines to improve the lives of Americans and others around the world.

Sen. Edward Kennedy

Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for forty-six years, and has been one of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time. From reforming our public schools to strengthening civil rights laws and supporting working Americans, Senator Kennedy has dedicated his career to fighting for equal opportunity, fairness and justice for all Americans. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that every American has access to quality and affordable health care, and has succeeded in doing so for countless children, seniors, and Americans with disabilities. He has called health care reform the “cause of his life,” and has championed nearly every health care bill enacted by Congress over the course of the last five decades. Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Kennedy is widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to progress and his ability to legislate.

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, and has helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life. King beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, then the most viewed tennis match in history. King became one of the first openly lesbian major sports figures in America when she came out in 1981. Following her professional tennis career, King became the first woman commissioner in professional sports when she co-founded and led the World Team Tennis (WTT) League. The U.S. Tennis Association named the National Tennis Center, where the US Open is played, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

Rev. Joseph Lowery

Reverend Lowery has been a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s. Rev. Lowery helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks was denied a seat, and later co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Lowery led the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Rev. Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church, and has continued to highlight important civil rights issues in the U.S. and worldwide, including apartheid in South Africa, since the 1960s.

Joe Medicine Crow – High Bird

Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, is the author of seminal works in Native American history and culture. He is the last person alive to have received direct oral testimony from a participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn: his grandfather was a scout for General George Armstrong Custer. A veteran of World War II, Medicine Crow accomplished during the war all of the four tasks required to become a “war chief,” including stealing fifty Nazi SS horses from a German camp. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attend college, receiving his master’s degree in anthropology in 1939, and continues to lecture at universities and notable institutions like the United Nations. His contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans are matched only by his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk encouraged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens to live their lives openly and believed coming out was the only way they could change society and achieve social equality. Milk, alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was shot and killed in 1978 by Dan White, a former city supervisor. Milk is revered nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Justice O’Connor was the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court. Nominated by President Reagan in 1981, she served until her retirement in 2006. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, O’Connor served as a state trial and appellate judge in Arizona. She was also as a member of the Arizona state senate, where she became the first woman in the United States ever to lead a state senate as Senate Majority Leader. At a time when women rarely entered the legal profession, O’Connor graduated Stanford Law School third in her class, where she served on the Stanford Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. Since retiring from the Supreme Court in 2006, O’Connor has served as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center, and participated in the Iraq Study Group in 2006, as well as giving numerous lectures on public service. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding achievements and public service.

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier is a groundbreaking actor, becoming the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s. Poitier is the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award, receive an award at a top international film festival (Venice Film Festival), and be the top grossing movie star in the United States. Poitier insisted that the film crew on The Lost Man be at least 50 percent African American, and starred in the first mainstream movies portraying “acceptable” interracial marriages and interracial kissing. Poitier began his acting career without any training or experience by auditioning at the American Negro Theatre.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera is an accomplished and versatile actress, singer, and dancer, who has won Two Tony Awards and received seven more nominations while breaking barriers and inspiring a generation of women to follow in her footsteps. In 2002, she became the first Hispanic recipient of the coveted Kennedy Center Honor. Propelled to stardom by her electric performance as Anita in the original Broadway premiere of West Side Story, Rivera went on to star in additional landmark musicals such as Chicago, Bye Bye Birdie, and Jerry’s Girls. She recently starred in The Dancer’s Life, an autobiographical musical about her celebrated life in the theatre.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland (1990 – 1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002), a post that required her to end her presidency four months early. Robinson served as a prominent member of the Irish Senate prior to her election as President. She continues to bring attention to international issues as Honorary President of Oxfam International, and Chairs the Board of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI Alliance). Since 2002 she has been President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, based in New York, which is an organization she founded to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all.

Janet Davison Rowley

Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., is the Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at The University of Chicago. She is an American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers. Rowley is internationally renowned for her studies of chromosome abnormalities in human leukemia and lymphoma, which have led to dramatically improved survival rates for previously incurable cancers and the development of targeted therapies. In 1999 President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Science–the nation’s highest scientific honor.

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” he served as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1978 – 1985, where he led a formidable crusade in support of justice and racial reconciliation in South Africa. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work through SACC in 1984. Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, and the Chair of the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. He retired as Archbishop in 1996 and is currently Chair of the Elders.

Muhammad Yunus

Dr. Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and has pioneered the use of “micro-loans” to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral. Dr. Yunus, an economist by training, founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 in his native Bangladesh to provide small, low-interest loans to the poor to help better their livelihood and communities. Despite its low interest rates and lending to poor individuals, Grameen Bank is sustainable and 98% percent of its loans are repaid – higher than other banking systems. It has spread its successful model throughout the world. Dr. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work.

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Facts optional

If you want a barometer of how much the private insurance companies want to hang on to the cushy financial advantage the US health care system affords them, just listen to the Republican talking points.  The latest absurdity is the “deather” theory, in which government employees will fan out to talk to senior every five years about “how they want to die.”  Worse still, the government will be murdering old people!

The facts are quite the opposite.  First, as the president pointed out, rather tongue in cheek, to do that would require far more government employees than would be available.  Second, Section 1223 of the proposed House bill in question is totally benign.  It would cover the cost of an office visit for seniors (or others on Medicare) should the senior CHOOSE to discuss end of life care issues and philosophy.   The scare tactics and the person responsible for their initial injection into the debate are not benign.  They are spreading like a virulent virus, infecting primarily those who are opposed to any reform of the current system.  They are then spread via conservative talk radio and right-wing blogs to those members of the public gullible to believe anything they are told that speaks negatively of government, Congress, or the President.

Having seen first hand what can happen when a senior doesn’t discuss end of life care issues with their health care provider, this section of the bill seems both eminently rational and a very good idea.

My former mother-in-law had made it very clear to her family that she didn’t want to be resuscitated. She was dealing with a combination of health concerns — osteoporosis, emphysema, hypertension, and the general ravages of advancing age.  Now, this was in the days before medications to reverse the effects of osteoporosis.  She was financially able to remain in her home, albeit with 24 hour care.  One evening, when a different care-giver was on duty, she suffered a major stroke.  An ambulance was called, and when she arrived at the hospital, there was no advance directive on file, no living will to guide the hospital personnel about her wishes.  She was hooked up to a ventilator, and her family was notified.  When her doctor was informed of her wishes, he indicated that they were contrary to his own philosophy of end-of-life care.  The next days were agony, while her son tried to ensure that her wishes were carried out.  We learned that once in place, it is difficult to remove a patient from a ventilator — something made even more difficult when the physician and the patient have decidedly different views and the patient is no longer able to express those views to the physician.

I have an advance directive, as does my spouse.  I have talked to my children and step-children about my views, along with my sister.  I come down strongly on the side of quality of life over quantity of life.  And the older I get, the more convinced I am that the key is the way a life is lived, rather than the number of times a heart beats.

The upshot of our experience, is that it isn’t enough to talk to one’s family.  We need to consider our views, knowing full well that they may change over time.  We need to interview our health care providers to make sure we and they are on the same page.  And it’s not smart to wait until one reaches the twilight of one’s years to have the conversation.  We never know when we might be hit by the proverbial bus.  Accidents and devastating injuries or disease can strike at any time.  We only think we are invincible.  All we are guaranteed is the present moment.  Sure, the odds increase as we get older, but we ought not assume that we will live to a ripe old age, unfazed by accident or illness.  Life doesn’t come with guarantees.  I used to remind my kids that life was a terminal illness… none of us gets out alive.

The sad part about this whole phony issue is the gullibility with which some people accept it.  I recently saw an interview with former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) in which he correctly described the current state of the Republican Party.  He pointed out that the counties that are the most educated in the entire country went for Obama and the Democrats while those that are the least educated went overwhelmingly for McCain and the GOP.  This is, at the core, the crux of the problem.  Until people living in poor, rural counties, people who lack the opportunities for higher education (regardless of race), gain an education, we are in trouble as a nation.  The irony is that it is those same poor, rural, uneducated people who most mistrust education.

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The Constitution sets out the minimum qualifications for Congress and President.  Representatives must be at least 25, been a citizen for 7 years, and be a resident of the state they represent.  Note that the Constitutional requirement is not a resident of their district, but of their state.  Senators must be at least 30, been a citizen for 9 years, and be a resident of the state they represent.  To be President, one must be at least 35 and be a natural-born citizen of the United States.  And therein lies the rub for the so-called “birthers.”

Don’t try to convince these folks otherwise.  They just “know” that there has been a conspiracy dating back to the date of his birth.  The birth announcement in the Honolulu paper is part of that conspiracy, as is the certified birth certificate that is widely available.  And that is one of the characteristics of conspiracy theories — present devotees of the theory with documentary evidence to the contrary, and they reject it as part of the conspiracy.

Given the segment of the population that carries the birther banner, I can’t help but think that the president’s race is at the core of the movement — whether consciously or otherwise.  But it doesn’t help to have members of Congress signing on to bills that would require future presidential candidates to provide their birth certificates as proof that they were born in the U.S.

And then there is Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, who seems to have a new looney idea on a regular basis.  It started during the campaign when she called for an investigation to purge Congress of people with anti-American leanings.  Talk about renewed McCarthyism!  Then, she decided that Federal Census laws were voluntary — only to have someone remind her that if enough of her constituents choose not to complete the Census, it was her seat that was on the line to be eliminated.  And now she says that she opposes the public option in the proposed health care reform package because it’s cheaper than private insurance!

If that weren’t enough, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has the temerity to proclaim that PAYGO is so sacrosanct that we can’t just go crying “emergency” every time a Katrina strikes!  If the loss of nearly 2000 lives in Louisiana alone due to a natural disaster doesn’t constitute an emergency, I don’t know what does.  Or does an emergency only apply when the lives lost are mostly upwardly mobile whites?

The only common denominator in all these crazy ideas and statements is that the proponents are Republicans.  Do we need an IQ test to run for public office?  Or a sanity test?  Clearly the Republican party has taken up residence in a dark, murky swamp.  One can only hope that they will find their way back out again.  If not, their total demise cannot come soon enough.

UPDATE:  Rep Blackburn’s spokesman tried to walk back her comments saying that “her thoughts were ahead of her mouth.”  Think about it.  Don’t we usually encourage people to engage mind before engaging mouth?  To think  before they speak?  So, the good Congresswoman, according to her staff, did that and got herself in a world of hurt.   Even when they try to correct themselves, they still screw it up.  Sad.   Very sad.  Democrats aren’t perfect by a long shot, but in their case it doesn’t seem so nearly universal.  But then, maybe it’s congenital for Republicans.  Just stick a fork in them.  They are so done.  According to an article in Newsweek, the conservative elites are trying to figure out how to reclaim their movement from the rabble.  Unfortunately, it’s probably too late.  They’d be better off  trying not to rescue the Republican party.  It’s way too far gone.  It’s lost its credibility.  They need to start a new party and leave the GOP to the crazies and the bigots.  What a long way the party of Lincoln has fallen.

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A small alteration to the question that purports to guide the thought and actions of Christians, and by extension Republicans… the question, “What would Jesus do?”  I’ve chaffed for some years at the seeming inability of Republican leaders to walk the talk — unless applying it to someone else, preferably Democrats.  This morning Joe Scarborough applied it to a couple of the GOP Senators who are doing their darnedest to derail health care reform.  What would Jesus think about the morality of a country that sees nearly 1/6 of its people without health insurance?  What would Jesus think about the morality of a country that sees another nearly equal number under-insured — so that when they are sick or injured, they find that their coverage is totally inadequate or that their insurer cancels their policy?  What would Jesus think about the morality of insurance companies who look for every possibly excuse to avoid paying claims? What would Jesus think about the morality of legislators who take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from those same insurance companies and then try to convince the public that there is no connection between the contributions and their opposition to a public option?

The people in power who trumpet the loudest about trusting the wisdom of the market are the same ones who vehemently oppose a public option.  Not a public mandate, not single payer, just a choice, competition.  They think the people are stupid, that we don’t know.  We do know.  We do understand that they support only a private solution because a public option threatens their contributors’ bottom line.

During the last push at health care reform some 15 years ago, I was living and working in New Mexico.   Our professional association toured the corporate headquarters of a health insurer.  While our visit focused on their records management program and facilities, we also toured the rest of the campus.  If you remember, the insurance companies were crying poverty if reform was instituted.  Yet no expense had been spared to furnish and decorate the offices and provide amenities for their employees.  The main office area sported indirect lighting, brand new desks, ergonomic chairs.  It was decorated with original Native American art — blankets, hand-woven baskets, pottery, paintings.  A huge sculpture greeted visitors to the garden area.  The art budget alone had obviously been in the millions of dollars; they had purchased works by the most noted Native American artists and artisans in the Southwest.  Employees had an on-site gym and wellness center, complete with a swimming pool on an upper floor of the auxiliary building, a daycare center and preschool.  The board room was worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest with the finest woods and most advanced techology tools.   The health insurance industry was obviously doing well.  Their claims of poverty were not supported by the facts.  And nothing in the intervening years has shown that conclusion to have been wrong.

This time, the public overwhelmingly supports a public option.  But the members of Congress who oppose it are the ones who get the most support from the industry.  No surprise.  No longer, it seems, are we a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Our representatives, those who should be beholden to the voters, are beholden to the special interests.  If health care reform fails, will we have the courage to clean both houses of Congress?  Small donors were the key to Barack Obama’s victory.  Yes, there were large corporate donors as well, but millions of people contributed hard-earned dollars, walked precincts and made phone calls.  We did it once.  We can do it again.

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I caught as much of the hearings for Judge Sonia Sotamayor’s confirmation as I could, what with other obligations.  With a 17 year record as a judge, Sotamayor has a more comprehensive judicial record than most nominees in our history.  But listening to the Republicans, you might have thought she was a complete novice, plucked from obscurity and totally lacking in qualifications.  Over and over they grilled her, not on her record, but on a remark made during a speech. And, as is so often true when political points are to be scored, the remark was a mere snippet, pulled from its context.

“So, you think a ‘wise Latina’ is better than a white guy?” they harrumphed.  That was the essence of the questions posed by Republican after Republican (all of them white guys).  By not retorting, after about the 47th time or so, “Yes, if you’re indicative of white guys, indeed I do.” the judge demonstrated admirably her judicial temperament — even after Lindsey Graham accused her of being a bully.  Now, I realize that New Yorkers can be a bit brusque at times.  Certainly they are known to call things as they see them far more colorfully than do South Carolinians.  Had Judge Sotomayor been a Southern woman, she might well have been thinking, “That Lindsey Graham, bless his heart.”

But all that was merely prelude to Pat Buchanan’s rant, in which he pointed out that 100% of the founding documents were written by white men.  Well, duh, Pat!  Women were considered chattel, blacks 60% of a white male, and Native Americans weren’t even considered that good.  So, we come to the question of the wisdom of affirmative action.

Given our history of discrimination of people other than rich, white males, is it so onerous to try to right those wrongs?  Perhaps we ought give some consideration to the idea of expanding our vision of affirmative action so that it includes class distinctions as well.  The common denominator of the people who gathered at the Superdome and the Convention Center — the people who couldn’t get out of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Katrina — was poverty.  And it was no surprise that the majority of those people were also people of color.  Were we to consider how we treat our underclasses — we who like to think we are not class-based — we would include many of the angry white males who screech so loudly about the ills of affirmative action.

Buchanan made sweeping accusations about Sotomayor — her supposed low test scores being high on his list of why she should not have been granted admission to Princeton or to Yale Law.  I happen to think that what she has made of herself since admitted to those institutions count for much more than scores on a couple of tests.  Consider that when she was admitted to Princeton, she was still struggling with the intricacies and idiosyncracies of the English language.  Had she not been blessed with affirmative action, she might well still be living in the projects.  Instead, she — and we — have had the benefits of a fine legal mind.  Does she tilt toward minorities?  A careful reading of her decisions and of her history tell us otherwise. Even her decision on the New Haven fire department case in the appelate court was made following the law.  It was the conservative majority on the Supreme Court who proved to be judicial activists.

Last night’s “News Hour” on PBS included a panel discussion on the future of the NAACP.  The new president of that organization spoke of the need to expand its vision — to include poor people in its mission of equality, regardless of their color.  The irony is that many of the angry white men, those people who could benefit the most from a hand-up and a move out of generations of poverty, are the ones who might well reject help from the NAACP.

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The proposals put to the voters for approval having gone down in flames, it’s interesting to watch the post-game analysis.  Republicans are crowing that the voters unequivocally rejected the idea of new taxes — leaving budget cuts the only option.  I voted no, but I was trying to send a very different message — “Legislators, do the job the voters elected you to do.”  This state, like the country at large, elects citizens to represent us and our interests.  If the voters are the ones who are left to decide the tough questions, why even bother with legislative bodies.  What’s left is mob rule.  Meanwhile, we’re stuck with the legislature and its elected members.  We’re also stuck with a number of structural problems here in California — a series of well-intentioned decisions that have led to disasterous unintended consequences.

John Vasconcellos, a former member of the California State Assembly and the State Senate, wrote an op-ed piece in Friday’s L.A. Times in which he laid out his take on the current mess.  And as a refreshing change from most of our current crop of politicians, he spares nobody from their share of the responsibility, be they the governor (current or past), Democrats in the legislature, Republicans in the legislature, and the voters of California.  It’s a piece well-worth reading.

Many Californians have an opinion on how to balance the state’s budget.  Do you think you can manage the task?  Former Governor Jerry Brown once opined that California is un-governable.  Over the weekend I learned about an interactive tool for would-be budgeteers.  Turns out it’s not quite as easy as many of us think.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Obama Administration created a similar tool for all those tea-baggers to use…

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What a moving day!

Well, yesterday my mother-in-law moved into what will be her home for the foreseeable future — an assisted living facility.  What we had hoped would run smoothly turned out to have been planned by the Three Stooges or their closest friends.  First came a communications snafu between the rehab hospital, the assisted living facility and the hospice folks.  From the description, it sounded like something right out of “who’s on first.”  Late morning had, by then, turned into mid-afternoon.

Then, the young man who’d been tasked with transporting her didn’t know how to operate the gurney.  And he didn’t know where he was going.  Finally, what should have been a five minute trip having turned into an hour, she arrived at the right place.  You can just imagine her state of mind at that point!  One look at her room, which her daughter had lovingly arranged with some of the furniture and cherished decorator items from her home, and it was pronounced “a 2×4.”  Nothing was right (mostly because it wasn’t home).  She liked the rehab hospital better (although it contained none of her personal possessions).

Her sister-in-law had made arrangements to join her for “happy hour” in her new digs, but after all the delays had given up and gone ahead with her own plans.  Meanwhile, the staff had turned the fridge in her room to maximum cool in preparation, which her daughter didn’t catch in her attempt to stock it with cheese and soda to go with her traditional scotch.  The soda water had frozen solid in the glass bottle, which had cracked, sending bits of glass throughout the fridge.  Mom decided she didn’t want to have dinner in the dining room, so her daughter went out to get them something they could share in her room.  Mom went on to throw what would be considered a tantrum in a child, berating every family member on how terrible it was, how they were doing this against her wishes, how she could live on her own just fine, and on and on.  All this despite the fact that every doctor who has seen her in the past month has told us and her otherwise.  When her daughter finally left for the evening, she proceeded to call her sister-in-law and repeated all the charges.  Now, this sister-in-law is 90 years old but fully in possession of her faculties, and is a family member who will push back when necessary.  But all that accomplished was the announcement that she was going to check herself out in the morning and take a taxi back to her house.  Needless to say, everyone was in an uproar.

Fast forward to eight o’clock this morning.  He daughter phoned to see how she was, and Mom told her that she couldn’t talk, that someone was going to come and take her to breakfast.  Later in the morning, she was happily playing bingo.  She was delighted with her bright and airy room and the effort her daughter had made to make it lovely.  Another day, and all the commotion of the evening before had been forgotten.  And that’s what makes it so hard on everyone else.  Mom has forgotten saying all manner of hateful things, but the rest of us haven’t.  Her self-censoring system doesn’t work any more.  And when she’s tired towards the end of a day, she spews.  If she were a two-year-old, you’d put her in “time out.”  But she’s 88.  The only way to accomplish “time out” is to take yourself out of the situation as soon as she gets going.  You can’t reason with her any more than you can with a child in the midst of a tantrum.

Dementia, whether due to Alzheimer’s Disease or some other cause, is the pits — both for the patient and the family and friends.

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