Editor's Column - August 2013

We’ve had the best summer, weather-wise, that I can remember in Minnesota in many years. Except for a week or so of air-conditioning hot weather, most daytime temperatures, have been comfortable for most activities. And then these perfectly cool evenings have been great for early evening walks (and rolls) or windows-open TV watching. Best of all has been the long streak of great sleeping weather.

I’m excited about the “Five Percent” campaign. I do not recall ever being aware of the beginnings of a legislative lobbying effort this early in the season. And I sure don’t remember seeing this much community support effort about a lobbying endeavor this early in the season. It is very encouraging.

The campaign has the support, backing and peoplepower of a broad variety of organizations, and is planning a legitimate request to the legislature that, personally, I feel cannot be denied. There is far too much at risk, and the costs of not realizing the goals of the five-percent campaign in a timely manner will be far too costly for everyone in the future. People that need home health services cannot stay healthy themselves without a healthy and stable personal care attendant (PCA) workforce. That workforce cannot stay healthy and live stable lives without a livable wage. How can the legislature expect the quality of life to be better for people with disabilities and aging adults without caregivers having a good quality of life? It’s essential that we create a qualified workforce for the upcoming “Silver Tsunami” of aging baby boomers who will be become more dependent on services to maintain their independence and quality of life. The economy is getting stronger and the cost of living will be going up. We have to address now how to supply a livable wage for career professionals providing these services. Whether you call them PCAs, direct support professionals, caregivers, or home health aides, we have to enable people with the passion for doing this work to have a career and not just a stepping stone job with a meager living.

On Minnesota Public Radio, Cathy Wurzer has been doing an excellent series following University of St. Thomas Professor Bruce Kramer as he copes with life after being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The latest piece in the series, The right kind of bucket list http://tinyurl.com/not-pity, is incredibly insightful about living with disabilities. Kramer quietly but firmly articulated the origins of pity vs. empathy so well that it brought tears to my eyes. He gave voice to what so many of us in the disability community talk about in a way that few of us have been able to say so well. For Kramer, a new member of the disability community, the common public perception of disability as deserving of pity or even inspiration comes out of a sense of “otherness.” That “otherness” separates us in a way that makes us look at disability as the other guy’s problem or “there but for the grace of God go I.” He said that if we can approach one another out of a sense of “oneness,” we could achieve real empathy. He told Wurzer that how we talk about disability and fatal conditions like his either separates us or brings us together as a much more accepting society. He explained that embracing and accepting his disease and disability has actually given him a sense of the “oneness” that unites us. “Why couldn’t we be pouring our resources into oneness of humanity, rather than otherness of humanity?” I agree with him wholeheartedly. Please go listen to the NPR story.

On a lighter note, it is State Fair time again. Minnesota has a grand tradition in the fair, a long and continuous one. Only a few times in its history has the fair been canceled—once because of the US Civil War, Dakota Indian war, and later because of the World War and once in the 1950s during the polio epidemic. I don’t usually talk about my family, but my father has a tradition at the fair as well. For years, he took days off from his job at the postal service to work at the fair; then after he retired my parents would travel from Arizona to “visit,” but we all know it was to go to the fair. They would park their travel trailer in the fairgrounds and stay the whole 10 days. He’s a couple years short of 90 years old and is coming again this year to experience the Great Minnesota Get-Together. So, I’ll be spending a lot of quality father-son time at the fair. We will buy advance tickets, for cheaper admission and less time wasted standing at the entrance gate (“There are enough lines after you get through the gate.”). I’m sure my dad will encourage me to bring all-weather clothing while I’ll have to remind him to bring his sunscreen and Meds. He has some breathing problems, so not having to deal with tobacco smoke will be helpful to his lungs. And Ron Iversen of IMed Mobility has offered a scooter for my dad so we don’t have to reserve a rental scooter (one less line!).

Have a great August and a wonderful time at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, the State Fair.

 

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