CVIndependent

Thu12032020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Thank goodness I live in California.

Those are six words that I don’t always, well, feel. Don’t get me wrong; I love it here. This is the place I chose to live, after all. But there are times the state government can be a serious pain in the ass, as any, and I mean ANY, small-business owner will tell you.

But, man, when it comes to this pandemic, thank goodness I live in California. The leadership from the state has been fairly quick, decisive and competent … and such is not the case in other states.

Those six words—thank goodness I live in California—have been running through my head in a loop every time I read a tweet from my friend Donna Ladd. She’s the co-founder of the Jackson Free Press, the kick-ass alternative newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi—a state where things, basically, are a mess.

Why? Because Gov. Tate Reeves has made them that way.

For the full story, I’ll direct you to this just-published editorial, by Donna and her team. But here’s the four-sentence summary: Reeves declared a state of emergency, closed schools, expedited unemployment, etc. … which is good. He then issued an executive order closing or limiting businesses unless they’re deemed essential … which is painful, but good for public-health purposes. However, the order goes on to, in the words of the Free Press, “exempt pretty much all businesses” … which is bad. And finally, the order, again in the words of the Free Press, “contains specific, direct language saying that it overrides any efforts by other bodies—like local mayors—to order stronger distancing in their areas of Mississippi” … which is WTF-you-must-be-kidding-me heinous.

Props to Donna and her staff. Their work is a prime example of the importance of independent journalism—especially in crazy times like these.

Oh, and one more thing: Thank goodness I live in California.

And now, some news:

• If you want a copy of our April print edition delivered to you by mail, that is now an option. I’ll elaborate more on this and the Independent’s other plans moving forward tomorrow.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Here’s an update on the state’s efforts to house the homeless during the pandemic.

We’re No. 1. U.S.A. Sigh.

• Also from The New York Times: An interactive piece where you can see (admittedly rough and flawed, but still helpful and revealing) projections of the COVID-19 toll based on social distancing time and severity, seasonal factors and so on.

• I appeared again on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast—this time, with video (so you can see what my raggedy face looks like at 8 a.m. in the morning, and I am really sorry about that)—for a Q&A with Dr. Laura Rush.

• If you can give blood, please do so.

• From the city of Palm Springs: “A new hotline and email is now available for Palm Springs businesses and residents impacted by the spread of coronavirus. Anyone with questions such as how to apply for unemployment, a small business loan, unemployment, find information about recent city and state of California orders related to sheltering in place, parks, trails, golf courses, the moratorium on vacation rentals, homeshares, hotels and any other issue, can now call a hotline number at (760) 902-1155 or reach out via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Our goal is that city staff will respond to your call within one hour, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.” Cool.

• You know that drug Donald Trump touted as a COVID-19 treatment? And a bunch of people said that was really stupid? And then someone took a bunch of it to self-treat himself and died? Here’s the nuanced truth on chloroquine, from the always-excellent The Conversation. (Spoiler alert: It was still really stupid for the president to say that.)

• James Dyson—the dude who makes that weird vacuum cleaner—designed and began producing a new kind of ventilator. In 10 days. He’s donating 5,000 of them to the worldwide fight against COVID-19. #badass

If you’re caring for someone dealing with dementia during this crazy time: 1) God bless you, and 2) Check out these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the state insurance commissioner to make insurance carriers cover business interruptions—like, say, this pandemic—under existing policies.

• The Desert AIDS Project is seeking donations of personal protective equipment.

Chris Hemsworth is offering free virtual workouts for the next six weeks. Go Thor!

• Finally … a long read, but a good read—one so good that President Obama endorsed it via Tweet: From The Atlantic, “How the Pandemic Will End.”

That’s all for now. Wash your hands. For the full 20 seconds. Yeah, get the thumbs, and down your wrist, etc. There you go. Good job. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Pat Kaplan, of Palm Desert, is determined to make a difference in the lives of Coachella Valley residents suffering from dementia—and the loved ones caring for them.

The oldest of six girls, Kaplan, 71, remembers her father, an attorney, ran the household “like a courtroom. I think he was afraid of making wrong decisions, having six girls to raise. He did teach me that anything I wanted, I could have it, but I’d have to work for it. He’d say, ‘Nobody’s going to give it to you,’

“My mom was a physical therapist who always told me that regardless of what I did growing up, she knew I was a good person—that even if she might be disappointed in what I did, it was only ‘because I know you’re better than that.’

“My folks were both devout Catholics, and I went to Catholic schools all the way through my first two years of college. I then spent my last two years at a public university, majoring in sociology.”

Born and raised in San Jose, Kaplan met her husband while she was attending school in Santa Barbara. Her husband at the time was a helicopter pilot, working for private companies.

“I started out working in the insurance industry, working a day shift and going to school at night,” she says. “My husband was working the night shift. He used to work on a ‘time on/time off’ schedule, and we were both used to having time apart and enjoying the time we spent together. It’s the same now: We do different things that we each enjoy doing, and we enjoy our time together as well.”

They married in 1970, so the arrangement has worked well.

“We settled in Seattle, my husband’s home turf, but eventually got tired of nine months of rain,” she says. “We kept our house in Seattle but spent summers here in the desert. We came back each year, and after three years, we sold our house and have been here permanently since 1989.”

The couple invested in two homes in Palm Springs that had been built for elder care.

“Once we came to Palm Springs,” says Kaplan, “I envisioned that we’d just be taking care of people who couldn’t live at home anymore—but I was told we needed to take care of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I started doing research, and what I really learned is that the first residents you get will teach you everything you need to know.”

Kaplan went on to study gerontology at UC Riverside.

“We sold the homes in 2004, and I became a consultant at Vista Cove in Rancho Mirage. I also do a lot of volunteer work now with Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley, a nonprofit organization that began in 2017,” she said; Kaplan was a co-founder and serves on the board. “We had a group including registered nurses, social workers, therapists, activity directors and even a chef to brainstorm ideas about what was needed in the Coachella Valley.

“We felt it was important to establish a local place that could offer the kind of programs people really need. The national Alzheimer’s Association raises money and focuses on research to find a cure, but caregivers—primarily spouses and children—need help with what they’re facing on a day-to-day basis. We began offering programs in January 2018.”

ACV offers an eight-week program that meets each Friday, “Traveling the Journey Together,” where patients and caregivers spend one hour together, and then spend an hour apart. Patients get stimulating activities while caregivers learn skills that can improve their adjustment to what is possible rather than what is lost. Another program, “Club Journey,” meets each Tuesday for three hours and is focused on social interaction, as well as activities like music, games, sing-alongs, exercise, bingo, conversation, crafts and more; it includes snacks and lunch. ACV also trains caregivers and offers support groups. There is no cost to participants.

“Even if someone hasn’t been officially diagnosed,” says Kaplan, “the person living with them can see what they are going through, and needs help coping with the changes they’re encountering.”

What is the best way to find out if a dementia diagnosis is warranted?

“The first stop should be a neurologist,” says Kaplan. “A regular internist or primary caregiver can then follow up to monitor related medical care and oversee medications. There are drug-trial programs where companies are researching drugs that can delay or minimize symptoms, but those drug trials have stringent requirements about who can participate, and there’s a lot of oversight needed, (like) keeping records (and) monitoring ongoing testing. It’s not easy for the caregivers, and it may or may not help.”

Kaplan says state and federal policies need to adapt to an aging population. “We need to enact medical programs that cover stay-at-home and long-term care,” she says. “Under Medicare, you get 21 days in a skilled nursing facility after a surgery or accident, but we need coverage for at-home care, and for day-care programs where a patient can get skilled care while their caregiver gets some time off knowing the patient is in a safe place. There are only two such places in the Coachella Valley, and lots of people just can’t afford it.”

Pat Kaplan’s advice to anyone dealing with a loved one with symptoms of dementia: “You have to think creatively, and realize you don’t speak the same language the patient does. Obviously, you need a lot of patience, and there is a lot to learn about how to communicate effectively. Don’t buy into the stereotypes and negativity about people with cognitive impairment.

“When someone has cancer, we know they didn’t choose that. It’s the same with dementia. Focus on the opportunities that are still there. Is dementia a horrible disease? Yes. But there’s still a person inside, and that’s what you need to focus on.”

Pat Kaplan is focused on making a difference in the Coachella Valley—and she is succeeding.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

How do you start up something new? No matter how worthy the cause, you need individuals who see a need and are willing to volunteer a substantial amount of time to satisfy that need.

A local coalition has cropped up committed to creating a “Dementia-Friendly Coachella Valley,” composed of individuals who represent local nonprofit organizations, those diagnosed with or caring for someone with a dementia-related disease (like Alzheimer’s), medical professionals and interested citizens.

The DF-CV group recently sponsored the first Dementia-Friendly Café as a way to expand awareness that those living with a diagnosis of a dementia-related disease are still able to enjoy life, socialize and be in a public setting without fear. They wanted to create a “safe space” in which people could come together for a purely social event.

What is a safe space? To me, it’s a place where one can be truly oneself, relaxed and able to be fully expressive without fear of ridicule, judgment, embarrassment or stigmatization based on sex, race, ethnicity, orientation, religion, age, physical disability or any other arbitrary characteristic.

Cathy Greenblat, author of Love, Loss, and Laughter—Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently, was the catalyst for the coalition after the exhibit in Palm Desert of her remarkable photographs of patients with dementia-related diseases in state-of-the-art treatment facilities.

Dee Wieringa, executive director of the new Stonewall Gardens in Palm Springs, made the arrangements for the café with Albert Morales, manager at PF Chang's China Bistro at The River. Morales was enthusiastic about the idea.

“Our company is always telling us to get involved with our community,” he said.

A dining room at the restaurant would be set aside from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Those attending could order off the menu if they chose to, get drinks at the bar, or just socialize with others who could relate.

Rupert Macnee, a filmmaker who lives in Rancho Mirage, did the first draft of a flier. With minimal tweaking, it was ready to distribute online, at hospital rounds and on counters and bulletin boards at businesses and organizations throughout the Coachella Valley.

Pat Kaplan, of Palm Desert, one of the honorary co-chairs of the 15th annual Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, came up with the idea of coalition participants wearing purple ribbons, typically an Alzheimer’s disease symbol, so those attending the café would know whom to ask if they had questions or concerns. She greeted attendees warmly, and generally acted as the unofficial hostess.

Other coalition participants who worked the room included Anne Gimbel, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association; John Wisor, of Palm Springs; Kae Hammond, executive director of the Dementia Help Center and the author of a definitive book, Pathways: A Guidebook for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers (if you need answers and guidance, this is THE book); Soo Borson, a geriatric psychiatrist; and yours truly, who prints nicely and thus did the name tags.

The expectation was that if we could turn out 15 to 20 people on our first outing, that would be a good start. We wanted to learn what the community needs—and what the community will respond to—when it comes to the potentially touchy subject of dementia. Imagine our surprise when more than 50 people showed up! The staff at Chang’s brought in extra tables, added another waitperson, and generally made it a good experience. People were sitting with others they didn’t already know, making new acquaintances, sharing stories and laughing. There was a lot of laughing.

Two women who attended came alone, without their husbands who are living with dementia-related diagnoses. The wives, being sensitive to what their husbands might require, wanted to make sure it would be a safe space. They were thrilled and plan to bring their husbands to the next café. Other attendees included people from all over the valley, ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s—daughters and sons, caregivers, spouses and live-in partners, gay and straight, long-time and new desert residents. It was a noisy, fun, purely social couple of hours with good food, good company and the comfort of a safe space. One attendee described it as “warm and fuzzy.”

The next Dementia-Friendly Café is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Chang’s. Morales is eagerly looking forward to making everyone comfortable, and the coalition members are planning to spread the word far and wide.

How do you start something new? You come together with people who know how to get things done—people who genuinely care about the issue you’re addressing, people who make time in busy schedules, people who are your neighbors. When’s the last time you got involved in something new?

Anita Rufus is also known as "The Lovable Liberal," and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Cathy Greenblat is a newcomer to the desert; she’s now settling in Palm Springs after living in Nice, France.

Greenblat earned her Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia University. She has published numerous books and papers, and has lectured in South America, Europe, India, Africa, Israel, the Far East and throughout the United States. She is soon heading for Indonesia and Australia.

In 2002, Greenblat gave up a tenured professorship at Rutgers to pursue her labor of love: photography and its ability to depict the sociology of aging.

Through the Coachella Valley Regional Office of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greenblat has been presenting her work locally. Her photographic display and its accompanying book, published in 2012, is called Love, Loss, and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently.

Initially focusing on person-centered care facilities in the United States with her 2004 book, Alive With Alzheimer’s, Greenblat’s photos now depict not only Alzheimer’s patients in the United States, but also in Mexico, France, India, Japan and the Dominican Republic. Her intention is to challenge stereotypes.

“People with Alzheimer’s are not, as they are often depicted, ‘empty shells,’ completely lost,” says Greenblat. “I believe (photography) to be the most effective vehicle to open people’s eyes … a better way to ‘face’ issues that are generally avoided.”

Greenblat’s photos capture the sheer joy, free laughter and loving interactions people with Alzheimer’s can have, in images documenting the impact of competent care and exposure to music and the arts.

One patient had been all but bedridden for several years—basically warehoused in a nursing-home facility. After his family had him moved to a place that features a person-centered approach specifically for Alzheimer’s care, his demeanor completely changed. Greenblat shows the once-inert man is clapping, smiling, moving along to music and even getting up to dance.

Cathy Greenblat’s pictures are worth seeing for the joy they evoke—the laughter between a grandparent and grandchild, for example, and the genuine affection between caring staff and their patients. Her photos allowed me to fully experience the reality that she describes: “Someone is in there … Quality health care allows people with Alzheimer’s to sustain connections to others and to their own past lives.”

According to HBO’s Alzheimer’s Project, 70 percent of people with Alzheimer's live at home, cared for by family and friends. In addition to hoping to preserve some personal dignity and a sense of connection to home, many family members may not be able to afford a care facility for their loved ones. Unless one is basically impoverished and eligible for Medi-Cal, the cost of such long-term care is not covered by Medicare or most health insurance, and few have prepared for their own situation by investing in long-term care insurance. This is an area long overdue for re-thinking by policy makers.

Phyllis Greene, a Palm Desert resident, had to make the difficult decision to move her husband to a local group-home care facility. They had prepared for this eventuality by purchasing long-term care insurance.

“I realized that when he had no independence left, had become incontinent, and would wander away, it was time,” says Greene. “I couldn’t care for him myself. I couldn’t watch him all the time. I thought I would feel guilty, but to be honest, the impact on me at that point was relief.”

Greene visits her husband several times a week. He doesn’t always know who she is, often mistaking her for his own mother. “He speaks his own language and lives in his own internal world,” says Greene. “He can get very agitated when I don’t know what he’s saying. The main thing is, I know he is getting good care and is in a safe environment.”

Bill Couturié, director of HBO’s Alzheimer Project, says the decision to place a loved one in a care facility can be wrenching.

"Not only is it very expensive to pay for care in a nursing home, but the patient is someone you love a lot—a mother, father, spouse, someone who has taken care of you—so it's only natural to want to take care of them," he says.

But Alzheimer's takes a great toll on the physical and emotional well-being not just of the patient, but of the caregiver as well. “It's not uncommon for the caregiver to die before the patient,” says Couturié.

There is a tremendous cost to the public as well. The Alzheimer’s Association says that “in 2012, nearly 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion.”

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2013, statistics showed that 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. (All Alzheimer’s is dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer’s.) Those numbers are expected to increase to almost 14 million by 2050 as Baby Boomers continue to age.

Anyone with concerns about memory loss or other possible symptoms of Alzheimer’s can take Ohio State University’s Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), which is designed to detect early signs of cognitive, memory or thinking impairments. There is no answer sheet—you just follow the directions and then take the test to your physician for an evaluation.

The local Alzheimer’s Association office has helpful tips for caregivers and family, and sponsors caregiver support groups where people can share their stories and solutions.

“My goal is to change minds and hearts, to have this work be a catalyst for education, cultural understanding, and social action,” says Cathy Greenblat. Seeing her photos has expanded my consciousness not only about Alzheimer’s disease, but about the need for a change in public policy regarding long-term care.

My mother used to call me from her retirement apartment in Florida totally hysterical because she couldn’t find her keys. “I know I put them exactly where I always put them, but they’re not there. I’m afraid I’ve got Alzheimer’s.”

“Mom,” I would reply, “stop worrying. It’s not when you can’t find your keys—it’s when you don’t know what keys are for.”

Although it’s good to keep your sense of humor, I’ve learned that Alzheimer’s disease is not something to joke about, no matter how that may alleviate our fears.

Get the facts. Talk to your family and friends about your concerns; reach out for support; lobby for informed public policy, and see Cathy Greenblat’s photos if you get the chance. (She will be featured on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 9 a.m., at the Annenberg Auditorium on the Eisenhower Medical Center campus, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage.)

There IS someone in there.

Anita Rufus is also known as "The Lovable Liberal," and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM.

Published in Know Your Neighbors