An Old-Age Problem
I could not read Stuart Steers "Dying for Dollars," in the October 15 issue, to completion because of the painful memories it brought back.

After a stay in Lutheran Hospital, my mother was transferred to Cedars Health Care Center for rehabilitation in late 1996. I chose Cedars because of the assurances they offered to my family of a pro-active program to return her home by June 1997. In her "dementia," my mother told me of the horrible way she was being treated. I began to show up for her "scheduled therapy sessions" only to find her lying in bed in a filthy condition. I would ring for the nurse and wait for up to an hour for a response. One day I received a call from Cedars that my mother was being transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital. She was moved from St. Joseph's to St. John's Hospice, where under their caring hands she passed away. She was only 67 years old.

I wonder to this day if by my own hand I placed my mother in harm's way. Ironically, she is buried under an Alberta pine on a mountain just west of town.

John Moreno

Maybe these lawmakers, lobbyists, nursing-home owners and aides should start to think a little more about their own aging/mortality. Would they want to stay in the facilities they are creating? Wall Street won't be there for them when they must stay in these hellholes. The American Association of Retired Persons seems to have so much clout to keep Social Security insolvent and stagnant--why don't they do something about the nursing homes?

I guess money will always be the driving factor. Who cares about dignity, compassion and simple cleanliness? They don't pay the bills.

Cheryl Bower
via the Internet

After reading "Dying for Dollars," several of my co-workers at a quality Boulder nursing home and I were dying to be heard! To judge "the industry" most heavily on the alleged actions of one nursing home is outrageous! I don't know about the health care at Cedars, and I don't intend to defend it here. I work at a home where families are content and staff are skilled and caring.

The guilt of putting a loved one into a nursing home and the denial of that person's declining condition is often transferred by family into anger toward the staff. Families often struggle for control and experience a clouded perception of the situation. From an objective view, the answer as to why an eighty-something Alzheimer's patient (with any number of other physical ailments) is declining in condition, falling and having mood swings is obvious. To a loving family, it is not.

Unfortunately for the elderly, falls, bruises, skin tears, fractures and nutritional problems are common and are rarely signs of abuse. Thin skin tears very easily. "Unusual fractures" are not so unusual in the elderly due to loss of bone mass and density, and they often occur spontaneously. Malnutrition and dehydration may be the result of a patient's refusal of food and drink. Some patients spit out food or drink, even becoming combative when staff attempts to feed them. This raises the question of patient's rights. It is a paradox: While families don't want patients to go without food or hygiene, they don't want staff to "abuse" the patient by forcing it on them. Ultimately, it is up to the patient.

Bad facilities and caregivers do exist. Families need to inspect and tour a facility thoroughly before admitting a loved one. We also need to have realistic expectations of the elderly. Let's face it: Unless admitted for short-term rehab, people don't go to nursing homes to get better. I'm all for improving our nursing homes--mine included--but I couldn't stand by silently as a slanted article insulted my profession and, therefore, me.

Erica Rubenstein

When nursing homes and hospitals were owned and run by local organizations that were based in the communities they served, they seemed to be more accountable. Peer pressure from the community meant that people came first, profit second. The community helped support the home or hospital in rough times. Nowadays, these organizations are run on the business model, and the bottom line is what counts most. Downsizing and cutting corners do not make for good service. This is very apparent in the number of cases filed against these organizations for poor care, substandard care and wrongful death. The hidden link between the companies that own insurance plans and hospitals, nursing homes and interim-care facilities has created a conglomerate in which CEOs and shareholders win and patients, communities and society lose.

Debora Beck-Massey
via the Internet

As a nurse who works in long-term care by choice, I was glad to see Stuart Steers's article on the profitable nursing-home industry with sometimes deplorable care, staffing and salaries. Poor patient outcomes are related to reduced staffing ratios in both hospitals and nursing homes. The media must address these issues on a regular basis.

Getting back to nursing homes, it is important to remember that an elderly person is placed in long-term care for a reason: Their health does not allow them to live independently anymore. It can be very challenging to promote independence while maintaining safety for a frail or confused elderly patient. We cannot automatically administer psychotropics or apply restraints. The care of residents is guided by a multi-disciplinary approach with strict protocols.

I was pleased to see Steers acknowledge the Colorado Legislature's failure to address the low staffing ratios. One thing he missed, though, is that Colorado is one of seven states that does not have mandatory reporting of abuse of the elderly in nursing homes. I was told this is due to the Colorado Legislature not approving the necessary funding.

The trend is to elect a fiscally conservative Republican majority. As a result, the most vulnerable population of our society, the elderly, are not protected as they should be in the state of Colorado. I urge voters to call any candidate before voting and demand legislation for mandatory reporting of abuse of the elderly.

Marty Smith

The Dead Zone
Regarding Steve Jackson's "Death Takes a Holiday," in the
October 15 issue:

Death takes a holiday? It doesn't seem like it took a holiday for Brandy Duvall. Francisco Martinez--what can you say about a lowlife like Martinez and members of the CMG, other than he doesn't deserve a life? Was he abused as a child? Probably. By his alcoholic, violent, spineless father (if he knows who his father is) and equally disgusting, uneducated excuse for a mother. Did drugs make him do this? Easy to say yes. And this isn't the first "murder" he's been involved with. Why mess around with his rights now? They should be forfeited for this type of savagery. Who is the crying "bitch" now? He should be introduced to a broomstick or equally penetrating device, and he probably will. What scum he is to the Hispanic heritage.

John Rael
via the Internet

I'm appalled you used pictures of my husband, Francisco Martinez. I'm also appalled at the media. This is the reason my husband did not get a fair trial, because of the media and all the publicity. You don't realize all the trouble this has caused his family. Everybody has lost, not just that Brandy Duvall's family.

I have children who one day might see these things. You people do not realize what you put people through.

Nicole Martinez

State GOP chairman Steve Curtis is now reaping what he sowed. Asking the judges who might decide the death penalty to not discuss the case shows that Pandora's box is still open.

What was wrong with a jury of twelve deciding such cases? That is working well in most states. Life without parole is bad enough, if one juror goes against the death penalty. It was a working system, and now justice will be delayed again while this new system is tested.

Nick Werle
via the Internet

Park and Chide
Regarding Gayle Worland's "Lots of Bad Luck," in the October 8 issue:
While I sympathize with the commuters who are getting towed out of the Broadway Marketplace, I fully support the center's owners' efforts to "reclaim" parking spaces for their customers. RTD built the first leg of light rail "on the cheap," just to get it up and running in Denver, and parking is the one area where major "savings" occurred, in both land acquisition and construction. If these stations were serving primarily local commuters, I would agree with RTD's premise that a minimal number of parking spaces could be adequate. Unfortunately, the reality is that the parking currently provided by RTD for light rail is being used almost exclusively by commuters from outside the neighborhood who choose not to drive downtown! The parking for use by residents for non-commuter trips is simply not available after 8 a.m. on weekdays. By being "penny-wise and pound-foolish," RTD is now facing significantly higher land and construction costs for additional parking, unhappy riders, unhappy neighbors and a major disincentive to transit use.

In the short term, if the existing spaces get filled, commuters should be encouraged either to take the bus from closer to where they live or to continue to drive downtown. They definitely should not be "encouraged to park in the neighborhood"! RTD is like any other business or governmental agency, and its clients should not be allowed to intrude or place unusual demands on surrounding businesses and residents. Sure, it's going to cost big bucks to add more parking now, but that's just the cost of doing business and, unfortunately, bad planning.

History appears to be destined to repeat itself along the southwest extension of light rail along Santa Fe. RTD is projecting 1,800 riders a day at the Evans Avenue station and is building fewer than 100 parking spaces. RTD's response is that they'll deal with the problem if there is one after the line opens, and/or Denver can place parking restrictions in the surrounding neighborhood. The Cinderella City station is being presented as a major Park-n-Ride that will reduce parking demand at the Evans, Broadway and Alameda stations, but what happens when customers can't find spaces to patronize the businesses? The same sort of restrictions as at the Broadway Marketplace?

The numbers in Westword's article don't lie. RTD now has 18,000 riders a day and 1,560 spaces (for 9 percent of the riders), and that's not nearly enough. Assuming a 50 percent increase in riders (to 27,000) with the new line and a total of 4,000 spaces, you're still only providing parking for 15 percent of the riders. This isn't rocket science. If you want customers, you have to meet their needs. If they want to drive to a light-rail station, give them parking! In the long run, you'll have more riders, happier riders and a more successful system!

Jim Zavist

There's a very simple solution to both the Internet hogs at Denver Public Library (Chris LaMorte's "Time's Up!," October 8) and the parking-lot woes at the RTD light-rail stop at Broadway and Alameda: Charge people money or something else of value to use them. This, of course, won't sit well with the fascists/socialists at either RTD or DPL, but it's the only permanent cure there is.

This dilemma is known as "the tragedy of the commons"--free or commonly owned (public) property always gets abused. By contrast, private property is better cared for and managed by its owners.

David Aitken

The Buddha System
Tony Perez-Giese's "Buddha Behind Bars," in the October 8 issue, is excellent. Having the inmates speak in their own words really gets across their message with simplicity and clarity. If meditation can free criminals from the cycle of crime/jail, there should be more programs of this type in prisons. It would also be helpful to teach it in schools to reach younger people before they wind up in jail.

It was interesting that at least one inmate felt he had more freedom than people on the outside. I guess I'd better go get on my cushion: I want to feel as free as these prisoners.

Dave Christy
via the Internet

"Buddha Behind Bars" was fantastic! This article inspires me to do the same kind of work in our area. What easier way to change society than to educate others on how to work with the mind?

Mark McClenaghan
via the Internet

I thought Tony Perez-Giese's "Buddha Behind Bars" was very insightful. However, even though I usually vote Democratic, after reading the comments made by prisoner Bill Bileck, I am beginning to wish that all prisoners were forced to break rocks all day, especially habitual prisoners. I was appalled that any "man" who has a wife and possibly other obligations (children?) outside in the non-"free" real world could be so blatant about his lack of concern for how they may be coping in that world that is so lacking in "freedom." Is it possible that this person got to prison because he is inherently lazy and that we as a society lose with him in or out of prison?

John Swanson
via the Internet

I would like to commend Tony Perez-Giese on his well-researched and well-written article. I was interviewed for "Buddha Behind Bars" and just wanted to set the record straight. The article states, "Bileck looks as if he wouldn't mind a longer sentence." I may look that way, but I don't feel that way. There is not much peace and serenity in the world. Believe me, I can meditate at home just fine.

Bill Bileck
FCI Englewood

Sex and the Single-Minded
In the wake of the horrible death of Matthew Shephard, it is more important than ever that we "live and let live." Ward Harkavy's October 1 "Fact or Friction?" was an excellent story about how it is not right

to make people change their sexual feelings. We must accept homosexuals as people with rights and feelings who are no different from heterosexuals. They have no more obligation to change than we do.

Joy Porter

When Westword published my letter regarding "Fact or Friction?" in the October 8 issue, you left out the signature that said I am gay (and also respect diversity and am a liberal). I am a far cry from the right-wing fanatic your reader implied I was in the October 15 Letters column. My point is that our community (the gay community) has in recent months displayed blatant hypocrisy toward the very community we so desperately want to accept and respect us and our diversity--the heterosexual community. How self-righteous and judgmental is it for a large part of the gay community to imply or state that an individual who previously held a homosexual orientation but presently enjoys a heterosexual one is lying, in denial or has only "retreated back into the closet"? How hypocritical is it for us to not accept these individuals for who they say they are but want others to accept us for who we say we are?

Why do so many of us gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgendered (glbt) people get so upset and unnerved by someone stating that while he previously held a homosexual orientation, he now enjoys a heterosexual one? What scares us so about that? Can we read or scan the contents of the minds of these individuals? No, we cannot--so who are we to say they are lying or in denial? The ones who now hold a heterosexual orientation but previously held a homosexual one more likely than not would still have occasional homosexual thoughts or have images pop into their heads. Unless one has amnesia, one cannot permanently forget past homosexual experiences, images, etc. So, yes--one who has changed his same-sex orientation for a fulfilling opposite-sex orientation will have occasional homosexual thoughts or images. But that in no way means that he is fooling himself--or anyone else, for that matter.

I do not desire, nor have I ever consciously desired, to change my homosexual orientation. Some may have wanted to and been unable to do so (I am sure we all know someone who has tried and failed), but for those who have desired to do so and have been successful by their own report, then we need to accept these individuals and stop ridiculing them. Who are we to judge? I mean, don't we all deplore those who judge us? It's time for the hypocrisy to end.

Jesse Davis

I wish to respond to the recent letters regarding Where Grace Abounds. The October 8 letter-writer who went to WGA in 1992 says she was appalled by the "bigotry from the pulpits" she heard during the Amendment 2 campaign. Where was WGA? Many churches and synagogues condemned Amendment 2, even those who disagree with homosexuality as an attack on God's children. Where was WGA? In Fort Collins right now, opponents are telling residents that if civil-rights laws based on sexual orientation are approved, rates of sickness and death will increase. Where is WGA to attack such horrendous group libel?

In her October 15 letter, Mary Heathman states that she is fully aware of people with homosexual feelings being harmed by churches and clergy who have "misused the Bible to condemn homosexuals." I am a gay political activist who also receives the Colorado for Family Values CFV newsletters (which is why I am asking that my name be withheld). I have given Westword's editor a copy of a CFV newsletter showing Ms. Heathman standing by CFV's executive director as he releases a report condemning a proposal to make changes to laws so that gay and lesbian couples have some of the same rights and responsibilities as straight couples. CFV constantly attacks gays and lesbians and viciously attacks any attempt by gays and lesbians to achieve full equality in our state. How can WGA associate with the foremost group stirring hatred and bigotry toward gays and lesbians in this state? We are all known by the company we keep. WGA's company speaks volumes.

Name withheld on request

Guerrilla Theater
Some statements in Steve Jackson's October 15 story "Guerrillas in the Midst" need some clarification in regard to the war in Guatemala:

1) No "official" funding from the United States or the Guatemalan government: In reality, the United States has supported the Guatemalan military (which controlled the Guatemalan government until recently) since the late 1950s, when the U.S. helped establish a new power structure.

2) Guerrillas who supported themselves through drug dealing, bank robbery and terrorism: Some acts of terrorism and human-rights violations have been linked to the URNG (the Guatemalan guerrillas), but according to the latest report, approximately 85 percent of the atrocities against the people were committed by the Guatemalan military and national police force. Incidentally, the author of the report, Bishop Gerardi, was murdered two days after making the report public.

More than 200,000 people are listed in the Book of the Unknown, people who were killed or disappeared during the Guatemalan war. I have to wonder: Who were the "good" guys?

Sabin Portillo

The Big he
I love Jesus of the Week. If God hadn't wanted us to make fun of His followers, He wouldn't have created organized religion.

David Klamann
via the Internet

I just wanted to note that your October 1 Jesus of the Week is about the furthest thing from His real stature. He came as a lamb, but He's coming back as a lion. (He'll be the baddest motherfucker you'll ever meet.)

I think you'll learn a few things.
Jonas the Prophet

What's Cooking?
Recipes in Westword? I never thought I'd see the day, but I have to admit that they're a welcome addition. I eagerly read Kyle Wagner's reviews, but I don't get the chance to eat out very often. Now I can follow along at home! Thanks.

Susan Franks

In Kyle Wagner's October 15 Mouthing Off, the recipe recommends two chicken breasts. A chicken only has one breast. Does she mean two whole breasts or one that has been split in two pieces?

James Ludlow

Kyle Wagner responds: Sources use "breast" as both singular and plural when referring to chicken. The rule seems to be that when skinless and boneless is specified, it means halves; if a whole breast is required, instructions are given for boning and skinning. The 29 Mile Cantina recipe, which calls for four skinless, boneless breasts, calls for donations from two chickens.

Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:

Letters Editor, Westword
P.O. Box 5970
Denver, CO 80217
or e-mail (include your full name and hometown) to: editorial@westword.com.

Missed a story? The entire editorial contents of Westword, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available online at www.westword.com/archive/index.html.


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