Author: omarpassons

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 3)

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 3)

You can read the first two parts of this series here: Part I and Part II

The over easy eggs, crispy bacon, sausage and whole grain toast arrived at our table and my mom, carefully and with her hands shaking with Parkinson’s-induced tremors, began cutting at an egg to start her meal.  As she ate, I noticed something that my sister warned me about. My mom started methodically, painstakingly, repeatedly scraping the plate to pull the yolk into one specific place. Over and over and over and over. Repeating the same motion on the plate.  I choked back tears.  My sister told me that she had developed moderate Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as part of the aging process.  She told me that my mom would hoard and neatly fold toilet paper and tissue (which she did), that she’d organize her crayons and pens over and over (which she also did) and that this was just part of this stage of life.  But something about the way she managed this plate of food just broke my heart.  The challenges that certain diseases create are really staggering and sad.

She looked up from her plate, smiled a wide, toothy smile, and let out a laugh as she thanked me and said how good the meal was! The high and lows are something.

One thing I noticed multiple times over as I wheeled and walked my mom around Tucson is how poorly designed the world is for people with disabilities. I knew this growing up with brothers and sisters who were blind or in wheelchairs, but it isn’t part of my regular life as an adult.  Getting her wheelchair into and out of certain places was a real challenge. The ADA ramps sometimes don’t lead to anywhere useful and even little steps into buildings present major obstacles.  Even small things like finding a place to store her chair while we ate proved a little challenging at times. One wonderful upside, though, was how delightful every single service professional was at the hotel, the restaurants, and even the stores we’d went in.  I watched as clerks and servers looked at my mom with the same tenderness as if they were looking at an elderly loved one in their own lives.  I noticed this and was grateful.

As breakfast concluded we began a ritual that must be mentally exhausting on a full-time basis: taking her meds.  My mom’s morning pills range in size from super tiny to “horse pill” large and there were 15 distinct pills.  She couldn’t take them all at once and I had to make sure she took them all, so I bent down next to her and slowly handed her a couple at a time, waiting and holding my breath a little that she didn’t choke as she swallowed.  I imagined what it must be like to separate each of those pills for three meal times every day from 15 different bottles and prescriptions and keeping track of drug interactions. I’ve got some friends who are In Home Healthcare providers and I know how poorly we fund and support that work.  Seeing this glimpse into how much is involved was really something.

As I write this, one thing I want to be clear about is that this story is not unique and my actions don’t get close to worthy of any praise.  There are people – overwhelmingly women – who care for ailing parents on a full time basis. Every day, every night. They miss work. They balance caring for children and managing their own staff at work and squeezing in time for their own needs.  Our failure as a society to better support our seniors is not just a senior care issue, it is an economic issue, a woman’s issue (occasionally a man’s issue, to be sure), and an inter-generational challenge that we have to grapple with.

For me, in this weekend with my 85-year old mom, I got a glimpse into the mental strength necessary to be there for an ailing parent.  I am grateful to have been in a position to do it even for just a weekend. I am grateful that my sister and her husband are close enough to be there for her on a regular basis. But thinking about my mom and the small amount of social security she receives makes me think about the growing homeless senior population in our country and what they do for medical support, for emotional support, for basic shelter.  How they deal with being frail or with being clean as issues of incontinence begin to creep in. We are on the cusp of a reckoning not just in my hometown of San Diego, but across the country.

Phyllis Passons changed the course of my life with her love. She deserves every bit of my being that I can give.  And I wish we as a society would do better in honoring our seniors, regardless of whether we think they saved enough or planned in a way someone thinks they ought to have.  I was lucky to have the time that we shared, both to return some of the love she spent a lifetime giving to me and for the window into the many challenges our seniors and those with disabilities face.

Note: if something in this series touched you and you’d like to get more involved in senior issues, foster care, or just share some thoughts, I can be reached at omar@omarpassons.com

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 2)

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 2)

If you haven’t read part I of this series, please read that here.

My mom and I pulled up to the hotel valet entrance and the experience of just getting from the car to the hotel room we’d share for the next couple days was as challenging a process as I’d experienced getting her ready to leave her care facility.  There is just so much stuff.  To be clear, nothing I write is a complaint. Even the things that sound like complaints aren’t really.  This woman rushed me to the hospital when I fell out of a tree and needed 20 stitches as a 3 year old.  She moved me to a school with more diversity and educational opportunity when I was 7 even though she really didn’t understand the full magnitude of either of those things. She was there at every turn to teach me, to scold me, and most importantly to me as a kid who watched foster brothers and sisters come and go sometimes weekly, she was there to love me.  So when I share the events of this weekend, even the hard ones, they really aren’t complaints in the normal sense. Read More

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 1 of 3)

Time with my mom: Reflections on senior care (pt. 1 of 3)

This is part I of a three-part series about senior support and caring for a parent

I pulled up to the adult care home where my 85-year old mom lives to take her out for the weekend and spend some time together. We don’t live in the same state for a variety of reasons that center mostly around California’s abhorrent lack of support for low-income seniors and the people who care for them. But I decided to put these political conversations away for a weekend as I walked into her building, turned the corner down the hall to her room, and opened her door…and what I saw was a punch in the gut that started a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows.   Read More

A word about Scooter laws in San Diego

A word about Scooter laws in San Diego

I love riding the new scooters. I also love safely walking, and riding my bike (and, technically, also tolerate having to drive). The scooter laws are important for safety and we’d all be better off if more people even knew what they were. As of August 24, 2018, when I published this, you can get up to $250 fine for:

1 – Riding on sidewalks (use the bike lanes – carefully)

2 – Riding more than one person on a scooter

3 – Riding under age 16 OR without a license

4 – Riding without a helmet**

NOTE: It is irresponsible to block sidewalks and access ways with your scooter. Please encourage your friends not to be lazy and go the extra few feet to find a responsible place for them. We’ll all benefit.

**This one is illegal, but there is a pending bill in the California state legislature to change it. That said, you can pick up a helmet for $1.99 if you have a credit card directly from the Bird App – I did, it was super easy.

The image below was added to the initial app screen on about 8/22/18. It requires users to swipe through information that includes the things I mentioned above (except the fine amount). Good job, Bird.

Please share this with your friends and neighbors and encourage your local elected officials to include a notice in those little bulletins they all send out. Also, there will be some people who want to check my work, so to speak. You can find the California Vehicle Code section HERE and the San Diego Municipal Code section HERE.  You can (and should) also write your Councilmembers to share your perspective. Get their emails HERE.

Thanks for reading!

A Torrey Named Lee: Mr. Sawyer, wisdom, and La Jolla Country Day School

A Torrey Named Lee: Mr. Sawyer, wisdom, and La Jolla Country Day School

A couple weeks ago I was invited to be a part of the Human Library Project at La Jolla Country Day School. The basic premise is that students get a chance to check out human “books,” or guests who share their stories and answer questions to help the students expand their horizons.  I talked about my maternal grandmother Henrietta, about the sliver of difference between slavery and the $234 she earned in 1940 – ALL of 1940 – and about the generational impact of racial segregation. But the most important thing that happened to me was the 15 minutes I spent with the type of man this world needs more of. Let me tell you about Lee Sawyer. Read More

On being ashy

On being ashy

I have had the good fortune to speak with students at the Preuss School, as well as through the Aaron Price Fellows program, at La Jolla Country Day School, with the Blue Heart Foundation, and a few others over the last 15 months.  With the presence of bullying, of school violence, and the general difficulties of youth that always seem present, I have found myself sharing a story to help young people remember empathy. It’s a story about being ashy. Read More

Thoughts about Live Well Center – complex issues and transparency

Thoughts about Live Well Center – complex issues and transparency

The County of San Diego has a Live Well framework that it employs to guide an approach to improving the quality of life of San Diego residents.  There is a great deal of information about the framework on the County’s site here, but this post is specifically about the proposed Live Well center location in Southeastern San Diego, the process for moving forward, and the elements that will need meaningful attention and community participation to ensure local voices are heard and embraced in the leadership and development of the region’s future. Read More

Economic prosperity and inclusion: the County’s role (part 2 of 2)

Economic prosperity and inclusion: the County’s role (part 2 of 2)

In part 1 of this series, I covered the County’s role in protecting and promoting the community’s health and the connection between health and wealth.  You can read that here.  While it is a nice benefit of this approach that taxpayers will spend less money on health and social service programs as the health and economic prosperity of our community grows, there is another reason the County can and must take a bigger leadership role in the area of economic inclusion. That is the subject of this post. Read More

Hiring a homeless person – and learning

Hiring a homeless person – and learning

Homelessness is a major issue in our community. Early this year, my campaign released our Hope4Homeless plan to provide greater County leadership around tackling homelessness.  We sat down with policy experts, homeless youth, front line service providers, and did quite a bit of research. Add that to my own experience serving Rachel’s Women’s Center as part of Catholic Charities Homeless Women’s Services Advisory Committee several years ago and a healthy amount of journalism from Kelly Davis, Kelly Bennett-Heyd, David Garrick, Lisa Halverstadt and a few other journalists and we feel good that we’d spent meaningful time understanding before writing. Then this other thing happened. Read More