A Dignified Life: Compassionate Care for the Elderly and Disabled (by Guest Blogger Jeremy Frank)

Read more about the author here. This post is based on the community work and writing that the author has been doing in WR 122 at Portland Community College.  The piece of public writing is loosely based on a research question and research collection the author developed.  The public writing is a chance to use one’s writing to become part of the larger community dialogue about issues in the chosen theme.

The Public Writing

The Honorable Laurie Monnes Anderson

P.O. Box 1531

Gresham, Oregon  97030

Dear Senator Monnes Anderson,

My name is Jeremy Frank and I reside in East Multnomah County and attend Portland Community College. I would like to begin by thanking you sincerely for your public service and for being such a great example of someone who stands up for what they believe in. Your work to improve health care results in Oregon benefits every citizen of this great state, and for that I thank you. I have spent the last ten weeks researching to find ways that local government policy can enhance the lives of those in assisted living, and I am compelled to draw your attention to the following matters:

I am writing today to ask that you support Senate Bill 559 that seeks to expand the range of care options for disabled adults. I see a flexible, pragmatic approach to assisted-living as the only way our state will be able to keep health care budgets from skyrocketing as the population ages.  I’m sure you are well aware of the changing demographics (highlighted in the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services 2006 report, Riding the Wave: A Call to Action), and I’m sure you can see the dramatic impact these changes will have on the community. I hope you will agree this as an opportunity for economic growth as the demand for health care increases. We must be ready to seize the opportunity or we’ll risk finding ourselves ill-prepared, with not enough qualified nursing staff to care for those in need.

I ask that you consider the benefits of supporting a multi-tiered system for nurse licensing. I see a system that allows for on-the-job training, akin to programs already in place for engineers and surveyors, as a streamlined and skills-based way to develop the professionals our state will need in the future. This could involve a checklist of vital skills needed for advancement that students could learn while under the tutelage of a registered nurse instructor.  By issuing college credits for hours on the job, or skills attained, our state could become a magnet for aspiring health care professionals.

As a registered nurse yourself, I know you understand the hardships that nurses in assisted living face. Studies have shown that CNA’s are most happy, and less likely to move out of the nursing field, when they feel like they are on track for advancement and learning new skills. The study, “What Do CNAs Want? A Survey,” by Michelle Snow and George L. White Jr in Long Term Living Magazine clearly shows the value of keeping the workforce engaged and always improving. I hope you can see the economic benefits in creating flexibility and clearly defined career paths for workers.

Your congressional website states your three main goals are “continuing to improve our health care system, invest in job creation, and working to protect Oregon’s most vulnerable citizen.” I hope you will find my suggestions helpful and encouraging ways that all three of these goals may be addressed. As someone who plans on being an Oregonian for life, I hope you and your colleagues will find ways to compromise in the best interest of all Oregonians. I wish you luck in the remainder of the legislative session and wish you and your family the best in the future.

Kind Regards,

Jeremy Frank

The Research Question & Collection


My wife’s grandparents at our wedding, October 2010. I chose this because I think it represents a dignified life at eighty-plus years of age.

When I first decided to enroll in an online-service-based writing class at Portland Community College, I was already concerned with the care of the elderly. I’ve seen three of my grandparents pass. I have a grandmother who is aging and might need enhanced care someday. I’ve also thought about my own life. As a child, my mother made me volunteer at the retirement home across the street. I wasn’t thrilled, but my mother was wise. I learned some valuable lessons and it was a fantastic reference when I was fourteen and they were hiring for a part-time dishwasher. The lesson that stuck with me the most was everyone will die. The particulars are somewhat up to you, but don’t count on things always going according to plan. During my time volunteering at Health Care at Foster Creek, I’ve gotten to know several different residents and I’ve realized how varied are each of their stories. The fine folks I spent time with are definitely part of an important group. They are the most vulnerable people in our community and I think our truest measure of integrity as a nation rests on our ability to compassionately care for them as individuals.

I have a deep interest in politics and the relationship between public policy and the lives of those who most need help within our society. I am also currently enrolled in PS 207 (State and Local Government), so writing a letter to an appropriate person within our state government seemed like a great way to let my voice be heard. I went in search of pertinent issues and I found a bill that is coming up for public debate at the capitol in Salem this week that relates to caring for the elderly and disabled. Oregon Senate Bill 559 requires the Department of Human Services to provide adults with developmental disabilities needing comprehensive services at least three options for residential care. That means that if a person who is receiving government assistance can be housed at home at a lower cost, rather than entering a care facility, they will be allowed to do so. This bill represents the flexible, pragmatic approach to care that I see as the only way we can create a sustainable system that will be able to shoulder the burden of an increasingly older general population. I’ve chosen to write a letter to the Oregon Senate Committee on Health Care and Human Services chair-person Laurie Monnes Anderson to ask that she support SB 559 and also enhance the current system by finding ways to encourage better care results through a multi-tiered nurse/nursing assistant training system. My research question is: How can government policy positively affect the lives of senior and disabled adults in assisted living?

Here are some articles that have helped me better understand the issues regarding assisted living at the state government level:

Governor’s Commission on Senior Services. Riding the Wave: A Call to Action. Oregon.gov. Oregon Dept. of Human Services. Nov. 2006. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.

This report, from the state agency directly responsible for senior services, details the population shift happening in Oregon and gives recommendations on ways that the system can change to meet the needs of the increasingly older public. This information gets to the core of what I’m interested in exploring and is very detailed and complete in its analysis.

Oregon Project Independence. Oregon.gov. Oregon Dept. of Human Services. May 2012. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.

This report shows the budget concerns that this vital government program is facing. First off, this is a great example of how respite care can change the outcome for seniors in terms of if, or how long, they are able to remain living at home.

Eyre, Katie. Make Senior Services a Priority in 2012. Editorial. The Hillsboro Argus. 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.

This is a plea from a current member of the Oregon Legislature asking the house to consider increasing the importance on senior services. It’s a great example of the letter I intend to write and it comes from an expert on the issues.

Lupo Reese, Jen. AARP: Retirement Security in Doubt for Middle Class. AARP National. 15 Jan. 2013.    Web. 5 Mar. 2013

This article explains how rising health-care costs have made retirement unattainable for many in the middle class and really shows the reason that changes need to be made. The AARP is a strong lobbying force that can really push for changes in policy, and they definitely have the ear of politicians.

Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Top 10 Complaints by Topic and Type of Facility. Oregon       Department of Human Services. Sep. 2012. Web. 5 Mar. 2013

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman fields complaints from residents and their families in regards to their care in assisted living facilities here in Oregon. This is a breakdown of the types of complaints and the numbers of each. This report shows there is definitely room for improvement.

Throughout this term I have encountered dozens of topics that fall under the umbrella of end-of-life issues. There is morality, funding, definition of care, training, and many more places that our current system, as it’s currently set up, could improve. I think the thing I found most profound about the way we do things here in the U.S. is that there is such a large disconnect between elderly and disabled, and the rest of us. Most people don’t have a plan for the end of their life and clearly most people avoid the issue all together. Few of us know what an assisted living facility is like or what goes on there. I hope that my generation will learn to communicate about these issues more openly and together we’ll find solutions remedy the problems we face in providing compassionate care for the most vulnerable in our society.



  1. Bobbi

    I really appreciated the positive tone of your letter to Senator Anderson. It was respectful, detailed as to what you see as an opportunity to benefit both employees such as CNA’s but also highlighted the needs of our aging population. Your very correct in noting that healthcare costs could skyrocket if issues are not addressed. And that our aging population will be requiring more assistance, so to look at it now is more constructive than just reacting to the fallout. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your letter. I am interested to see in what the reply may be. You had great information as well as life experience to back up what you were saying. I really appreciate they you have so much compassion for such a marginalized population. Being a voice for others is such an honorable thing.
    This letter is very persuasive because you also used the words that their agency had used and challenged them, I think that is a great tool to use. I hope that you continue to fight for the needs of these people.

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