You know that feeling you get when people around you suddenly start talking about you in the third person, as if you were not there. As if you did not exist. "Excuse me, I am standing right here; talk to me," or some such phrase is what I use to reaffirm my existence and to re-establish my reality when this happens to me.
Let me introduce you to some folks we are talking about in third person, as if they did not exist.
The resident of room No. 3 in the east wing of Seaview Rehabilitation and Wellness Center is named Diana. She is a lifelong Humboldt County resident. She has been living in room No. 3 for more than four years. Diana's sister recently moved from out of state to Humboldt County to be nearer to her. She settled in Fortuna, bought a mobile home and visits Diana weekly. Diana is scared. She fears being moved out of the county she has called home her entire life, and fears losing the recently re-established relationship with her sister.
The resident of room No. 50 in the west wing of Seaview is named Alfred. He has been living in room No. 50 for two and a half years. Alfred has been married for 47 years. His wife lives in a local residential care facility. His required level of care exceeds what a residential facility can provide but he and his wife are still able to see each other once a week. Alfred is scared. He fears being out on the street and not being able to see his wife again.
Let me also cut through the rhetoric of some recent news articles and put a name to two other people.
The chief administrator at Seaview is a woman named Lorena.
Lorena did not purposefully set out to administer an inferior institution. Seaview has been consistently downgraded over the last several years to its current lowest "1 Star" rating by the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. I am sure Lorena is a good person, with good intentions, with bills to pay, with a good heart, and an advancing age and retirement to consider. No one in her position decides to purposefully make life unbearable for the residents they supervise. Whether she is competent to run Seaview under what must be extremely difficult circumstances is for someone else to decide.
The owner of Brius Healthcare Services is a man named Shlomo Rechnitz.
Shlomo Rechnitz, according to WikiNetworth, "is married to Tamar. She is the daughter of Rabbi Yisroel Bellsky. He and his wife live in Los Angeles, California. They had a grand wedding. They have altogether six children. Their house is a big villa with many rooms. He has contact all-round the world with his nursing homes. Doing business through nursing homes is like getting a lottery for him. He has an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion dollars."
The next time you see double-page ads written and signed by Brius, as if Brius were a real human being, question why there is not a real person, with real Humboldt County connections, taking responsibility for those claims. The next time our local newspapers come out with articles describing how Brius Healthcare Services wants Partnership Healthplan "to step up and prevent the closures," remember Diana and her sister, and Alfred and his wife. The next time you read an article that discusses the staffing controversies at Seaview, remember Lorena, who administers those staffing formulas. The next time Brius and its administrative company, Rockport Healthcare Services, suggest that they are helpless to stop the foreclosures, remember the owner of Brius is one single individual, one Shlomo Rechnitz, living in Los Angeles in "a big villa with many rooms," someone who can end all of this with one act of human decency.
Most of all, remember that Alfred and Diana are still waiting for us to hear their voices. They are waiting for us here in Humboldt County to be witness to and comprehend their utterances of "Excuse me, I am standing right here! Talk to me; I exist."
John Heckel is a longtime resident of Humboldt County who advocates for local seniors and writes a monthly column for Senior News entitled "Aging as an Art."