A July 4th Wish for the Minneapolis Veterans Home

July 4th , of course, celebrates our country’s independence. Many of the people we and our colleagues serve around the country in assisted living and nursing homes are the ones who put their lives on the line to ensure that we have that independence.Last week I sat in on testimony given by family members and others before Governor Pawlenty’s Veterans Home commission, which has been charged to come up with recommendations on how to fix what has been a debacle at the Minneapolis Veterans Home. (Ecumen leader Kathryn Roberts is a member of the commission.)I was saddened and horrified to hear one vet’s daughter share of how her father who lives there doesn’t always get water when he needs it. I heard a husband share how he’d like to leave his wife at a nursing home he loves, but soon he won’t be able to afford her care there and so he has her on a waiting list for the Vets Home. (How incredibly stressful it must be to hear about the problems at the Vets Home when you are considering putting the person you love the most there.) Then there was the story of the veteran who is depressed living in a crummy nursing home and wants to be put in the Mpls. Vets Home, so he can be with other vets. He has made his cousin promise him that he will make that wish come true.I also heard testimony from members of AFSCME, one of the unions at the Vets Home. Caregivers at the Vets Home have taken some lumps. They could have used this forum to tee off on the administration. Those from AFSCME who testified that day were long-time caregivers at the Vets Home. And they were absolutely excellent. What was so clear and so genuine in their voices is how much they care about the people at the Vets Home and that they want solutions. In fact, everyone who testified there that day underscored that the status quo won’t cut it.My hope is that the work of this task force doesn’t simply become a set of recommendations that then gathers dust on a shelf somewhere. What a complete waste and charade that would be. But that’s exactly what happened to the last task force that met about 20 years ago on problems at the Minneapolis Veterans Home. We’re all well aware of finely tuned, innovative long-term care settings where the people who are served and the people who provide that care find their experience extremely rewarding and nourishing. My hope this July 4th is that there are recommendations that help innovation replace dysfunction at the Veterans Home and that Governor Pawlenty then sees that those recommendations move from ink on paper to reality.In Minnesota, we’ve already been down the road called status quo,’ … it doesn’t work.Eric Schubert, director of communications