I was interviewed last week by Richard Garcia, a freelance journalist, for a feature story in the Christian Science Monitor. The interview, on the heels of a bitter personal disappointment, was an opportunity to purge myself of pain, and seek redemption in ultimate truth.
After a brief introduction, the first question Garcia asked was, “How much does ‘unpaid long-term care’ cost the US?”
I took a sip of coffee and adjusted my Skype microphone: “Are you referring to the care that individuals receive in their own homes – provided by family and friends – and in their communities, such as adult day care?”
“Yes” he said.
I paused for a moment; “I don’t have the slightest idea.”
Sounding a bit frustrated, like a man accustomed to receiving answers to the questions he asked, said, “I know you’ve spent the last 13 years as a resident in assisted living facilities. What’s the average stay in a typical facility?”
“I could hazard a guess, sir, but I’m afraid it would just be a stab in the dark by a blind man.”
“Damn it. I’m confused,” he chortled, “I thought you were an expert on the subject of long-term care?”
The single syllable hung in the air like a slap in the face.
“Mr. Bayne,” he said, “give me one good reason to continue this interview.”
“Well then,” he said, “thank you for your . . .”
“Unless,” I cut in . . . “you wanted to learn something genuine about the art and science of giving care to another human being.”
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard a muffled voice say, “I’m listening.”
“Good,” I said, “let’s first define our terms: ‘long-term care’ is a phrase used by banks, lobbyists, underwriters and actuaries, REIT developers, big pharma, and the myriad ‘We do well by doing good’ entrepreneurs who have infested the landscape of real-time aging for 77,000,000 American Baby Boomers.”
“Still with me, Mr. Garcia?”
“Good. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, continuing care retirement communities – and every permutation thereof – exist for the sole purpose of providing services for individuals whose family have decided they can’t or won’t provide themselves. Neither inherently good or bad, each facility should be judged on its own merits.”
I stretched. “Now for the great stuff.”
“Caring for another human being – feeding, toileting, bathing, dressing – performed in the spirit of kindness, is the most direct route to the Fire of the Eternal that exists deep within each of us ” (see Dynamic Kindness). And on that note, Mr. Garcia, I think I’ll call it a day.
We’ll pick this up another time . . .”
TO BE CONTINUED