EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 14, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Hospice provide excellent care when needed most

To the editor:

My dad passed from this life on June 23, 2012. Over the previous 18 months of his illness we were fortunate to meet many qualified and caring professionals. However, when the very difficult conversation related to end of life issues approached, I was ill-prepared and admittedly misinformed. During such an emotional and difficult time, it was not easy to find answers and resources quickly.

Fortunately for my dad (and for me) he was referred to Merrimack Valley Hospice. Soon our notions of end of life began to change and we discovered that the Hospice philosophy of care has more to do with living than with dying. It was an extraordinary shift in how we approached and cherished each new day.

When the hospice team felt that they could no longer manage my dad’s care from home, my dad was welcomed to the Merrimack Valley Hospice House in Haverhill. The Hospice House is a remarkable place of hope, comfort, and peace. My dad improved in the tranquility and personalized attention of this setting. His meals were prepared to order and he found amazing comfort in the views from full length windows and skylights to his private patio. We took many strolls around the lush green spaces last spring with me pushing his wheelchair and him sharing stories and wisdom.

While the grounds, facility, and individual patient suites are exquisite, it is not the setting that makes this such an extraordinary place. What I came to appreciate were the angels and dedicated practitioners that include every member of the Hospice House team. Always positive, always hopeful, always respectful — my dad was provided with the dignity that every patient deserves as life’s end comes near.

There was a print of a beautiful butterfly in my dad’s room on the day his spirit flew. I came to adopt this symbol as one of comfort in the months that have passed. As Richard Bach wrote, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.” If you have the chance to sit in the center garden of the MVHH near the coy pond, I hope the bronze and green glass butterfly garden stakes will bring you comfort. My grandson Connor and I delivered them as a tribute to my dad late last summer.

As fate would have it, my days of caring for an ailing parent were not passed. My mother’s health declined significantly following my dad’s passing. When it became certain that the progression of my mother’s illness was profound, the angels of Merrimack Valley Hospice appeared again. Their intervention was immediate and loving. While my mother experienced only a brief stay at the MVHH, I will forever be in debt to the kindness, support, and dignity they gave to my mother. She was almost immediately at peace in their comfort.

And, given the short time that has passed since we had been there with my dad, it felt like we had come home. Those bronze butterflies, still in place and peeking out from a blanket of snow, were like harbingers of spring and new life taking shape.

I will leave someone out if I attempt to list each person by name, but I must acknowledge that everyone, beginning with Dr. Joanne Nowak, the administrators, the nurses, the social workers, the grief counselors, the chaplains, the health care aides, the cooks, and the front-desk attendants all went out of their way to comfort me and my family while providing my mother with safe and nurturing care around the clock. It was nothing short of transformational, again.

Please consider supporting the tireless caregivers and good works of the Merrimack Valley Hospice House through generous donations and by volunteering your time. We are all better when we take care of each other.

Mary A. Toomey


Seniors can’t bear Social Security reforms

To the editor:

Social Security does not contribute to the national debt. So Social Security should not be included in debt deliberations.

Social Security (SS) is neither broke nor broken. Social Security is 100 percent solvent to 2033. Cutting benefits to current and future recipients, by changing the formula for annual adjustments to the “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI) betrays promises. And the chained CPI reduces benefits, because it underestimates the disproportionately higher percentage of income seniors spend on medical expenses. Chaining the CPI reduces benefits for seniors by an average $130 a year at 65, but by $1,400 a year by 95. Any reduction for millions of seniors close to poverty would be significant. Average Social Security benefits for retirees is only $1,261 per month, less for the disabled, surviving spouses and their children.

How do we rehab Social Security if not by cutting benefits? One way is to raise the “income cap” above which wages are not taxed. Raise it from $113,700 (2013) to $215,000 and the solvency gap shrinks considerably. Eliminate the cap completely gradually over 10 years and the gap shrinks by 71 percent. After all, why should a millionaire only pay on their first $113,700, but a $10,000 or $50,000 earner pay on 100 percent of our earnings?

Charlie Zoeller