In the News

Laguna Honda Hospital, home to 750 vulnerable residents, has recently been threatened with closure. Although there have been challenges, Laguna Honda administrators and staff have implemented a variety of new protocols to ensure all appropriate health and safety standards. Please read below an appeal by AWE Executive Director Mark Campbell in support of keeping Laguna Honda Hospital open:

“Gods Hotel in Mortal Danger?
10 yeas ago Dr Victoria Sweet offered her well-received perspective on Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) in her acclaimed book, God’s Hotel. Composed of accounts documenting the home’s rich history in service to the most needy San Franciscans since 1866, most readers were taken by the compassion, high quality care and meaningful community described in Sweet’s tome. She writes about how Laguna Honda staff, serving one of the largest remaining institutional care communities in the country, had the ability to practice “slow medicine”, meeting patients where they are and providing specialized responsive care combined with therapeutic programming not tenable at the smaller, ever-more ubiquitous, care homes that were then cropping up.

I’ve been providing art classes to Laguna Honda residents 3 days a week for over 25 years through my non profit Art With Elders and can personally attest to the many years of good work and positive outcomes Sweet artfully describes. Several years before Laguna Honda was forced to rebuild due to seismic vulnerability and began transferring its 750 dependent residents into the new building in 2010, our program had been invited by then Executive Director, Larry Funk, to consult on the design of a planned art studio. That invitation and the many other carefully considered programs, clinics, well-appointed facilities/rooms, therapy pool and small farm were all clear signs that quality patient care was of prime importance. Anyone seriously involved with healthcare in San Francisco is well aware of the ever-enduring lengthy  waiting list for admittance to LHH. There are far too few available beds to adequately accommodate our growing elder, frail and psychologically troubled San Franciscans; Laguna Honda remains a life-affirming oasis in an increasingly hostile environment for these, our most vulnerable, neighbors.

When Covid first appeared and began ravaging the frail, elderly and disabled, we heard horror stories about devastating loss of life among large nursing home communities around the country, first in Washington state and soon after, spreading like wildfire throughout. Many of us were terrified we would see similar tragedy within the rooms and corridors of LHH. One month passed, then another and then another with only limited reports of illness, and those that did appear were by and large managed so successfully that loss of life was kept at a seemingly impossibly low threshold. LHH and it’s overseer, the San Francisco Dept of Public Health, were held up as national examples. The devoted teamwork of skilled care workers, combined with dedicated and nimble administrative leadership, demonstrated how a large community like LHH could contend proficiently with such a profound and potentially catastrophic health crisis.

And so, how were Hospital staff and administration lauded for this incredible life-saving triumph? Just as the dire circumstances began to subside and the magnitude of their accomplishment became more clear, they were not recognized for this great achievement but instead cited and criticized for comparatively minute and, in the big picture, un-impactful infractions. They were informed that even in light of their success, the near impossible task of policing the relatively few desperate, younger, and occasionally rouge residents who remain in dire need of a more specialized care setting, had become a singular priority. And yet, we all know these particular problems are not confined exclusively within LHH’s hallowed halls. Besides Covid, the second main health challenge that our city and the nation, for that matter, currently face is the raging opioid crisis. Without authoritarian cavity searches and drug sniffing dogs, a zero-tolerance policy is nothing short of quixotic, especially within the compassionate framework celebrated by our progressive city. Figure out how to solve rampant nation-wide chemical dependency, and then hold us to these, now wholly unrealistic, standards.

The political drama, misguided expressions of authority and bafflingly counterintuitive policy, of course inflicts pain on our entire community, but I can say first-hand that those bearing the brunt of this ill-conceived experiment are our beloved and vulnerable residents. Imagine suffering a 3rd relapse of cancer, your family visits regularly, knowing your remaining days are limited, and you now learn that you are being unceremoniously transplanted many hours away to the nearest and yet completely unfamiliar home to die. You’re fully aware that your devoted family who’ve lived in San Francisco their whole lives, will be unable to afford regular visits.

Imagine that you’ve spent a good part of your life homeless. You finally secure admittance to Laguna Honda and have weened yourself off destructive chemical dependency which nearly took your life. You’ve rehabilitated to some degree of relative physical stability, despite having lost legs to diabetes. Now you’re looking at being cast back out directly into the already overcrowded streets from which you somehow managed to escape. Your fear of a relapse to more costly acute care needs or to simply return to homelessness and succumb to the elements in short order is all encompassing.

It’s remains unclear to me, and most everyone I ask, exactly who or what bureaucratic mechanisms bear responsibility for this slowly unfolding process of assured and cruel destruction, but we simply can not let it continue. No doubt we can and must all do better. The failure of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here is unforgivable; the cost to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters as well as on our collective conscience is far too great. We need more of these beds, not less. Destroying Laguna Honda will only serve to accelerate the already ballooning critical healthcare problems San Francisco, California and our entire country now face. Keep the lights on in God’s Hotel…”

Mark Campbell
Executive Director ART WITH ELDERS
6/22/22

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Read the Sun. Sep. 13, 2020 article about Mark Campbell in the Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon:
https://sfrichmondreview.com/2020/09/07/local-artist-and-teacher-mark-campbell-a-man-of-many-talents/

AWE CatalogIt Feature – Click here to link

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Art student Ione Kuhner who participates in the Art With Elders class at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center has made some big news, see this feature from CBS Sunday Morning:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/savants-a-sudden-talent-at-painting/

AWE is honored to work with Betty Rothaus and The Reutlinger Community. Learn about some of our recent endeavors in this wonderful article from The Jewish News of Northern California! Cover image by Rita O. Goldman. Thank you to all!

More than 100 seniors — including seven who live at the Reutlinger Community in Danville — recently celebrated their artwork with their families, caregivers,…
jweekly.com


Some Articles of Interest

From the National Center for Creative Aging – NEA’s Summit on Creativity and Aging in America:

The process of aging is a profound experience marked by increasing physical and emotional change and a heightened search for meaning and purpose. Creative expression is important for older people of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds, regardless of economic status, age, or level of physical, emotional, or cognitive functioning. The arts can serve as a powerful way to engage elders in a creative and healing process of self-expression, enabling them to create works that honor their life experience.


The process of aging is a profound experience marked by increasing physical and emotional change and a heightened search for meaning and purpose. Creative expression is important for older people of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds, regardless of economic status, age, or level of physical, emotional, or cognitive functioning. The arts can serve as a powerful way to engage elders in a creative and healing process of self-expression, enabling them to create works that honor their life experience.

 

Arts & Aging In The News