Last Monday October 17, my husband Mike and I packed up our camper and went to Freeport, ME. The weather was predicted to be unseasonably warm and dry. Also, it is the peak foliage season. This couldn’t get any better, could it?
The reason for our trip was twofold. We are early senior citizens (67 and 68) we feel the need to do what we can while we can still do it. Camping has been a big part of our lives and we would love keep it up. It is a great way to travel, and to do it cheaply and mostly in comfort. Our traveling nest offers this. And we get to take Louie.
We settled that afternoon on the edge of a field at Recompence Shores Campground. Then we found a vacant ocean front camping lot and stared at the gorgeous views and foliage. It’s pretty simple stuff, but stuff that we love.
On Tuesday morning, I drove some hilly beautiful roads to Brunswick Maine to meet up with Poppy Arford, my colleague in Healthcare transformation. We would host a listening booth table as part of Right Care Action Week at the Brunswick Senior Expo, in the Cooks Corner Mall. Poppy had information sheets and beautiful posters printed up for our display, and we each carried clip boards to write on. We introduced ourselves to about 100 seniors and other exhibitors, and asked the question “What worries you most about healthcare?” and if they had no worries, “What do you like about your healthcare?” http://rightcarealliance.org/right-care-action-week/
I have always loved working with seniors. They/we are generally sharp, engaged and straight forward in their responses. This was exactly the case on Tuesday.
Let me tell you about a few of the people I met that morning.
1. A tiny white haired 80ish lady with a walker approached. When I spoke to her, she said it was hard to see me because of the bright light behind my head, and could we switch positions. So we did. She told me she is legally blind. She uses the walker because if she bumps into something, the walker takes the hit instead of her. Her greatest worry was getting alzheimers. She said she doesn’t have it, but if she got it, she has no one to help her. She has no family or support people. Her worry touched me personally because of my own mother and her dementia. This lady also expressed her exasperation with the Maine DHHS and how they lack coordination, efficiency and effectiveness. She struggles with poverty and when they mess up her EBT card, she is in trouble. She said she never gets the same case worker twice, and that they take care of complaint forms in bunches instead of as they come in. The services are slow and uncoordinated and it affects her a great deal.
2. A sweet couple, married 59 years shared that they have a 45 year old ‘girl’ and a 54 year old ‘boy’. The girl is a nurse and she told her Dad to take his hands out of his pockets because if he falls, he would not be able to break the fall. I told them they have a wise daughter. They were generally happy with their healthcare. They were patients at Martins Point in Brunswick and their Medicare Advantage plan is through them as well.
3. A man, estimated to be 80 or so, talked about his late wife’s costs for medicine. He said that with insurance, a 90 day supply of 2 liquid nebulizer medicines was $900, and without insurance it would have been $9000 for 90 day supply. He talked about his beloved wife and her struggles at the end of life, and also about the expenses for her medicines. He felt that he was healthy and liked the care that he received at the VA.
4. A younger senior, maybe a little younger than me, was running a display table on Reiki, an alternative treatment for many health issues. She was enthusiastic and bright and when I told her about the Right Care Alliance, she got very excited. I invited her to join our movement. When I told her about the Lown Institute annual conference, she said she could envision herself there, offering Reiki to the attendees in a central lobby! WOW, what a great idea. He concern is that too much medicine is prescribed to mask symptoms of illness. (yeah, my kind of gal!) She said the goal should be to eliminate the symptoms, not mask them or drive them deeper. I hope she joins our group.
It was a very busy and productive day. I loved meeting, and talking to these awesome seniors about their healthcare. We will take their comments and concerns to the Right Care Alliance staff and they will create a data base. My guess is that costs issues will rise to the top, so I wonder if the question should have been a little different. People associate the term “healthcare” with insurance and that can muddy the waters and center the conversation around coverage/cost. I think perhaps I should have asked more about their actual hands on provider and perhaps hospital care.
Mike and I stayed one extra day at the campground, and it was a beauty. On October 19, the temperature was 77 degrees at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Imagine that. We had a great seafood lunch outside at a picnic table and then we went to the beach and watched the high waves crashing on the almost empty beach. After we got back to our camper, we got a can of cold beer and took our chairs to the waterfront again and stared at the beauty of the place we were at. Amazing. Life is good.