Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gimme a Sense of Purpose

In a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating the ten year anniversary of launching my writing business. Since I had neither business skills nor family encouragement, I prepared myself more for failure than success. I used my last regular paycheck to buy a dozen cans of chicken noodle soup, a few boxes of pasta, and a 24 roll pack of toilet paper. If the business tanked, I was prepared to wait tables again, just like I had in college.

Looking back, I’d say one factor helped me spin the floss of my dreams into a decent living: I was motivated by a strong sense of purpose. My writing projects focused on issues that seemed vitally important to our society. I wrote about schools and homelessness. I wrote about health care systems that were not prepared to serve immigrant patients. And I wrote crazy creative pieces about working class Joes who’d been replaced in the popular culture by thin people in Armani. What kept my business in motion was my belief that good writing could make people care about matters that needed their attention -- and I still believe that. But, after a decade of writing, the arc of my interests has shifted. A business anniversary is an opportunity to evaluate things and reflect on the issues that now dominate my thoughts. 
In September 2011, after 15 months of taking care of my ailing Mom, I got wrapped up in a social problem that now seems more urgent than any other. Research and experience are both telling me that our communities are not prepared to meet the needs of the booming elderly population. While seeking help for my mom, I began to discover that services are very fragmented. They breakdown across health systems, insurance companies, and geography. Elders who have no advocate to help them are as vulnerable as children who walk through gunfire to attend bad schools. I really don’t know how people survive if they have no family member to help them navigate the bureaucratic systems that control their quality of life. 
One day, after listening to some total strangers discuss problems they faced while caring for their parents, I felt a new sense of purpose sink its teeth into my writing bones. Working with people I’d met through clients, friends, and service providers, I set up an interview schedule and began collecting information to help families caring for elders with fragile health and memory loss. Through a new website and Facebook page, I started publishing stories to help caregivers in different parts of the country. The product of this effort is called “Between the Pond and the Woods”. Every day I wake up full of new ideas about interviews and issues I want to include. The renewed sense of purpose is thrilling. Despite my deepening crows feet, it’s the same force that helped me get started when I was a young idealist. 
Since my new project is keeping me very busy, I won’t be writing much here. Although the stories are different, any one who enjoys the photographs from this site, will find more of them at  I invite you to take a look at these pages and share the links with those who may need them. I’m also searching for families and caregivers who want to share stories about caring for their parents, spouses or other family members. If you have a tale you want to share, please contact me at . In the meantime, accept my best wishes for a joyful holiday season. 

1 comment:

Mary Allison said...

Great article!
It's comforting to see coverage of issues that really matter to our elder community.

For your readers, I recently ran across a great FREE website for those currently researching elder care facilities. They don’t have a middle man or answering service, just raw information for just about every facility in the country. Pretty cool. check it out!