My mother lives at the Pioneer Home. I love my mother. And, so, this letter is fueled by more than a little emotion.
My mother is in relatively good health. Relatively, because actually, unless we are actively dying, we are all in good health … relatively speaking.
What we do with that good health is a daily musing for me. My mother puts a smile on her face in the morning and has a friendly greeting or a quick witticism for the people around her. I think about what I can do to support those around me, in my own way. She and I each have a little bit of power we can exercise in our day.
Others have more power. I’ve watched closely this spring the issue of the budget and the rate increase for the pioneers at the homes across the state. I’ve tried to understand it.
I’ve testified for HB 96, which mitigates the rate increase, and watched it gain bipartisan support and pass the House, to be taken up by the Senate next January. I’ve written to the commissioner of Department of Health and Social Services. I’ve given a statement at the Pioneer Home this June regarding the increase. Many others have done the same. They’ve given reasoned economic arguments and emotional appeals. They’ve pointed out the value of the people who live at the home, people who are being subjected to an enormous stress at a relatively vulnerable time in their lives. They’ve wondered aloud about our sense of humanity, and our identity as a state — that unwieldy community that tries to come together to make decisions.
And, then, last week, I learned that the rates will be increased after all, in just a few weeks. Furthermore, I learned our nurse practitioner would be moved from the Pioneer Home to an administrative role at the central office. At the home, she is integral to staff decisions and directly to patients’ care. In her absence, I wonder, who will be consulted when my mother might need a change in her meds. Will she see the doctor that she hasn’t seen in months, who isn’t specifically trained in geriatrics? Will the staff make a quick call to our former nurse practitioner at the central office, and will she be able to make a wise decision over the phone when she no longer is closely familiar with my mother? Will other residents be likewise burdened to travel to their doctors? Will their doctors be stressed with their care? Will the staff feel the burden of making the decision about when a resident should travel to see his or her doctor, and the stress that trip may cause his or her system?
Does it seem to anyone else that raising the rates at the same time as scaling back care in the Juneau Pioneer Home is particularly cruel and unjust? I have learned that our Pioneer Home is unique with the presence of our nurse practitioner. Would raising the rates be easier to stomach across the state if it was coupled with the addition of a full-time nurse practitioner in all the homes?
This week, I feel particularly powerless. Or maybe I should say, relatively powerless. My mother, and the others I’ve gotten to know and love at the Pioneer Home must feel relatively powerless, too. There is power in a veto, but also power in legislation, power in testimony … and the power of a smile.
What else, I wonder, can I do with my power? I can let you see what I see. And, perhaps question what I question.
• Margie Beedle is a third-generation Juneauite and her mother is a resident of Juneau Pioneer Home. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.