Friday, December 04, 2009

Cord Wood

After decades of discussion, the issue of the Carroll County Nursing home seems to have been solved, at least for now. We’ve all been aware for well over a decade that the building had problems. Decades of GOP control in the legislature ensured inadequate funding for plenty of things in the state, including the county nursing home.

The ugliness of the debate has been surprising even to me, and I always expect the worst. I do know, however, that elderly people vote, and so I would have expected some of the Republicans to at least pretend to have some concern and compassion for others. They let their masks slip, and we all saw what lurks beneath. It wasn’t pretty.

Some of the antics around this debate have been comedic. The alleged emails from Umberger and Chandler were good for a laugh. Clearly Representative Umberger knows how to use a computer, but we all learned at the 2006 candidate debate that Representative Chandler does not know how to use email. If any emails came from him, he had some help. Some have been tragic – State Senator Jeb Bradley saying he didn’t try to influence legislators, while Last Minute Zimmerman carried around a letter on Bradley’s own letterhead proving otherwise. Bradley, a multimillionaire, will never have to worry about paying for the best possible care for his own mother. Other people’s mothers and fathers are a different story, unless of course, they’re wealthy GOP donors. I’m sure he’d muster up some concern then. Same for Last-Minute Zimmerman, a Tuftonboro businessman whose business is in Wolfeboro. Like Jeb Bradley. No connection there, I’m sure. Zimmerman is another wealthy man who doesn’t want to have to spend a dime on those less fortunate. Damn these old people! They should have planned better; they should have pulled up their bootstraps and not gotten old!

The ugliness was not confined to the county legislative delegation. Nearly every week, we were treated to a diatribe from Ray Shakir, a NY transplant, who writes in the style of the hyperactive fifth grade playground bully he once was. The tele-talk column about the nursing home was another eye opener. There was a lengthy response from a fellow who claimed to be 72 years old. He felt that since he is part of a large family with a shared bathroom, that nursing home residents should endure the same. That these folks in the nursing home aren’t related didn’t seem to factor into his thinking. He was opposed to residents having dieticians and social activities. According to that tele-talk column, he said, “When you get to a place in your life where you’re completely helpless and unable to care for yourself then it’s time to begin to think of other alternatives.” Sounds like death panels to me. Does Sarah Palin know about this guy?

Thanks to Last-Minute Zimmerman, who never had a plan, just a whole lot of last minute criticism for a project he never involved himself in, the folks at Mountain View got to live in fear for a while longer. A guy who has two homes of his own was able to slow down the process long enough to frighten seniors even more about what might become of them. Somewhere, his wealthy pals are patting him on the back for his efforts. One can only hope that a spin from the Great Wheel of Karma may give these guys a taste of their own medicine. Let them be startled by what kind of nursing home their kids put them in.

The way this whole debate unfolded reflects everything that is wrong with us as a community and a society. The folks who live in the county nursing home are folks of limited means, who need care. They cannot afford the expensive, for-profit homes. These are people who worked their whole lives. Some were veterans. They are mothers, fathers, and neighbors. They are members of our communities. Now they live in a cramped, old building, in rooms that aren’t big enough to swing a cat in, and they have to share them with another person. These people have no privacy at all, and no room for their belongings. Is this really how we think people should be forced to live at the end of their lives? Do we think that because they are elderly, they don’t care about privacy and dignity, or have any right to it? If the old adage is true, “A society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members” we are in big trouble. In other words, we are in big trouble.

The people who would love to stack up seniors on bunks like cordwood, and haul ‘em into a group shower are the same ones who have never met a defense budget or a military appropriations bill they wouldn’t cheerlead. They begrudge every cent spent on taking care of US citizens, but applaud every trillion spent killing foreigners or lining the pockets of defense contractors. Our priorities are deeply skewed.

It’s unfortunate that this became a political football. Thankfully, some folks managed to resist that temptation. Harry Merrow of Ossipee wrote a great letter to the editor, where he said, “I consider myself a conservative Republican and I can be as cheap as the next person, but sticking it to the old people is not the way to cut costs.” Thanks for giving them hell, Harry.
At least this matter has been resolved, and we can get on with building a nursing home worthy of our seniors – a place where folks can spend their last years in comfortable surroundings, with dignity and respect.

In a country well-governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucious

© sbruce 2009 Published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on December 4, 2009

the picture is not of the Mountain View nursing home - it's an old photo of a poor house.

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Outstanding Susan thank you for this. My Repub. acquaintances had previously complained to me about the costs of this nursing home. Ironic, since they are both elderly and in poor health. What is it about Republicans that allow themto think they can escape lifes inescapable fates? For many years I worked in nursing homes and assisted living complexes where I saw both ends of the financial spectrum. Many homes do not accept Medicaid and so these patients get thrown into dastardly circumstances where they as individuals are not recognized. They have little to no personal effects in their shared rooms, they are treated like cattle in a slaughterhouse and there is zero dignity. The wealthy enjoyed multiple private rooms, personalized service and better food and conditions in general. This is what for profit brings us. The haves and the have nots. We are not civilized, we are monetized.