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Discretion aside, I take our very personal experience in Home Hospice Care to the public eye as an important example.
Already in our 80s, we were teary when our two grown sons (and their wives) offered their homes to us due to my wife’s declining health. We stuck it out alone for two more years but then decided to move in with our Colorado son with the additional attraction of three young grandchildren. We planned to drive there in June but my wife became more frail and our family doctor advised the service of CVHHH (Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice). An experienced team examined MariaLucia, assayed conditions in our home and gave valuable instructions on safety, care and stimulus. The heavy input of time and effort by the family caregivers continues – but it’s professionalized and monitored regularly. The nurses and their aides check vital signs and post them using laptops for review at weekly staff meetings with treatments adjusted accordingly.
By the end of September MariaLucia had improved enough and was eager for the trip. CVHHH arranged for home hospice service to be provided by Gunnison Valley Health and lent us a portable oxygen concentrator for use until check-in. With this security and my wife’s condition up to it, we headed northwest, to avoid congested traffic, through Ottawa and Cochrane, Ontario, over all the Great Lakes, returning to the U.S. at Grand Portage in the northeast corner of Minnesota. In this sparsely populated area, we were especially grateful for the Moms and Pops of the isolated gas stations and even a family pottery (pun not even noticed at the time) off the road between Mattawa and North Bay, enabling me to enter the ladies’ rooms to help my wife.
Gunnison Valley Health took over where the Vermont team had left off. This Medicare-supported program is national, depends upon the family caregiver as a key collaborator and effectively reduces emergency room visits and in-patient stays – both often traumatic to patient and family alike, especially in the case of the elderly.
Our family is awed by the professional competence and human warmth of all the hospice individuals (both employees and volunteers) we have met – in Vermont and in Colorado. Some have graduated from regular four-year colleges or as post-graduate professionals, but many others learned their skills through junior colleges, specialized courses or on-the-job training. We even had the good fortune to find a physical therapist with a specialty in edema care. With our aging population, the need for such jobs will doubtless increase – a welcome contrast to the decline in American manufacturing employment which may never return.
The “important example” I cited at the outset is this: There are human services the United States could profitably provide through the systematic interaction of individuals, families, schools and small communities, using Hospice as a model. This is an area where the jobs cannot be exported to China. A case in point is the worldwide frenesi to learn English from native speakers. Among the emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India there are many wealthy families who want their children to spend a year or so in the United States in a safe and culturally broadening environment with total immersion in English. Variations on this are work-study programs for European college graduates who cannot find employment at home. Training programs for foreigners in sports, music or medicine can be developed in tourist areas to get better occupancy returns in offseason. Not only does this promote better worldwide understanding but it increases the human capital of our own employees who grow and develop in the process.
Aside from the sophisticated training these jobs require, there is the need for the U. S. government to modernize and facilitate the visa process so that the right foreign customers get to the U.S. smoothly, without jurisdictional hang-ups between agencies. Exaggerated fears for national security should not obstruct this. I believe the best national security is to have a healthy, well-educated and critical populace which recognizes that globalization is an irreversible fact – a human resource which will restructure our economy toward satisfying the worldwide demand for services, technology and innovation and playing down mindless, wasteful consumerism.
Rather than letting the bizarre amalgam of plutocrats with retrograde fundamentalists steer us into another Maginot Line, I suggest we halve military expenditures and vote for human values. I just did: for Obama, Independents and progressive Democrats, I trust them.
Arthur Dayton Trezise
Fayston,VT, and Gunnison, CO