October 27th, 2009:
Tonight was the monthly Maitri board meeting, and since I am still a board member, I offered to talk about what it's like to be a resident here. It's never happened that a board member has become a resident, so this was a unique opportunity to pass along the information.
First, I talked about how Maitri contracts with other provider agencies, especially Hospice by the Bay to retrieve services that we could otherwise never afford. Since it has a much larger number of clients, Maurice the pain management guru, Tove my social worker who helps manage my support system of friends, and Steven my spiritual counselor are all available to help me. I had no idea that this arrangement existed or that it would have such an impact to my care.
Once Maurice and I have made a decision about the direction for my pain management, these decisions are presented to my primary care physician and the medical staff at Maitri. Final agreements are made and I have a new regimen of care. All of this is possible by good case management; everyone knows what's going on and there's no overlap of services. Maitri staff order the new pharmaceuticals and give them to me right on time.
There's also a lot of cultural diversity issues that come up for review and resolution. When I ask for a glass of water, I'm likely to say, "When you have a minute, could I please have a glass of water, no ice, and there's no rush?" I noticed that many of the African American residents will say, "I want water." At first, I was really annoyed at what seemed to me a very blunt, even rude way of ordering the staff around. However, I didn't like having thoughts bouncing through my head about how impolite my neighbors seemed. When I unpacked both of our requests, we were both asking for water. So I asked one of the black residents about this and he said, "No offense. They just asking for a drink." I asked a staff person who said the same thing. As an American citizen, I feel a lot of commitment to cultural diversity. Through this experience, I got to change my mind, drop some prejudice, and reconnect to my neighbors. Good work for one day.
I also appreciate that neither staff nor residents have given me any wide berth for being a board member. In fact, I doubt that any residents know about my other role here, although I might be wrong. The staff treat me as a resident, and that's what I want to be as I live here. Because I've been cleaning out my apartment and my favorite position is to lie on my bed with my right leg propped up, I haven't spent as much time as I'd like with the other folks here. Solution? Invite people into my room for a visit. Still, in the past six weeks, I have consistently felt accepted, cared for and loved.
Finally, I put in a word for the superb volunteers, some of whom I've gotten to know and set aside time for to cultivate a relationship. After the meeting, I spoke with Tim our executive director who suggested that I do a similar presentation next month to offer any new insights into why this place runs well and has such a high degree of self-correcting behavior if something is off kilter.