New Sherwood

Modesto

This week I’m in Modesto, three hours from home, taking an RCFE certification course for would-be administrators of elder care homes. I honestly don’t know where this is going to lead, but it’s the only direction I have at this time, and it seems to have the potential to be a very rewarding profession. Most of the folks in this class are middle age, like myself, embarking on second careers.

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RCFE homes are very highly regulated, to the point where I think full compliance is simply impossible. Based upon what I’ve learned in the last couple of days, I’ve observed code violations in every such place I’ve ever visited, even the best of them. I’m not a libertarian by any stretch, and I think regulations are very necessary in this industry, but the state is using a hammer when a flyswatter would suffice. No, let me put it another way: the state is using a hammer when when a flyswatter should suffice, but it doesn’t suffice because too many RCFE operators don’t put their residents first. That doesn’t justify the hammer, which squashes the good along with the bad.

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Today we discussed discrimination in hiring. The instructor used the example of an RCFE administrator who hired a homosexual cross-dresser. Incredulous, I asked if it were really illegal to fire a man who came to work dressed like a woman, or at least to require that he adhere to a certain dress code. This isn’t “sexual orientation”, I argued, but public behavior, and not just any public behavior but public behavior on the job! She replied that women wear pants today and employers could not discriminate on this basis. I responded that so far as I knew, restaurant owners could still require their waitresses to wear skirts, even in California. I was advised to contact a state agency on this question to get a definitive answer.

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Speaking of moral decay in California, it now seems that the whole state is locked in a ferocious battle. “Yes on Prop 8” and “No on Prop 8” messages are everywhere. When I walked into the hotel lobby on Sunday evening, two employees were arguing about it. As a topic of conversation it is inescapable – in any context.

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Last night I took a little walk downtown. I was approached by two panhandlers within a few seconds of each other. Both seemed to be young, white, able-bodied, non-disheveled and non-intoxicated. Today after class I took another walk, and while I was not approached directly, I saw several more of them: panhandlers who looked like 25 to 35 year-old construction workers. Where I live, this is something new, and it isn’t a good sign at all. Not at all …

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October 1, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

11 Comments »

  1. Good post. I’ll pray for you and the family on the career direction. I often wonder myself what I’d do if I found myself out of work suddenly, without warning. It’s humbling. God Grace comes in many ways…. Can you do more w/the land? Perhaps local produce for sale?? Is there a mortgage, et al??

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    Comment by James | October 1, 2008 | Reply

  2. My wife worked in environmental law for awhile, on behalf of a large corporation. Basically, her job was to make sure they complied with the web of Fed and state regs. She quickly discovered that there are so many different regulations, and often so much in conflict with each other, that it is frequently impossible to be in compliance with everything. Her conclusion: it’s a deliberate set-up, so the government always has SOMETHING they can nail the business for if they really want to.

    An example: one of the company’s facilities had a problem with birds roosting in a certain place and leaving droppings. Those droppings constituted a hazardous waste. BUT, every single possible method of removing the birds violated some other federal regulation. I think she left the firm before that issue was resolved; I’m not sure it ever was.

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    Comment by Chris | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  3. Speaking of moral decay in California, it now seems that the whole state is locked in a ferocious battle. “Yes on Prop 8″ and “No on Prop 8″ messages are everywhere.

    And Google has formally gone in support of it. Since I was getting less impressed with them anyway, I’ve been de-Googleizing.

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    Comment by romishgraffiti | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’ll add my prayers. Elder care seems like an excellent second career choice. My mother worked for many years as a nurse in an elder care home, before moving to a home for the developmentally disabled. When I was a kid, she used to take me to events they held at the elder care home. Older folks really brighten up when kids are around.

    Bill Kauffman wrote about George McGovern’s rethinking of regulation after he retired from politics and tried to open a small hotel, which eventually closed because he couldn’t afford to comply with the regulations. I’d like to see more regulation privatized, and given over to guild-like voluntary associations.

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    Comment by The Western Confucian | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  5. James, I sure do appreciate the prayers. Heartfelt thanks. As for possible uses of the land, of course I have racked my brain about this question for four years. Pretty much anything I might do with the potential to earn a living would require an investment of $100,000 or more, substantial risk, and a period of three to five years before profitability. In this region, that means an orchard – almonds, olives, prunes, or other pit fruit. There are a couple of other less-expensive scenarios, such as cultivating maybe five acres (or fewer) in fruit and vegetables in a direct-to-market enterprise. Some people do that around here, but I don’t think they make much money, and they work incredibly hard. One fellow who does this has taken 12 years to build his business and he still works the night shift at a lumber company. The Hmong family with the strawberry field on the corner probably nets $30K to $40K annually, but they are crouching in the field from dawn to dusk – it’s backbreaking work, and my wife has this funny idea that our kids ought to be doing schoolwork instead of slaving away in the fields all day. Another possibility is a goat dairy, but that’s also a large capital investment. I might be able to get a loan for these projects, but we already have too much debt with the ranch mortgage and I’m reluctant to add to it.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  6. Chris, your wife’s experience is definitely instructive. I kind of felt the same way when I had the print shop. I don’t know how deliberate it is, but the end result is that such businesses exist solely at the mercy of regulatory agencies. They can choose to be lenient, and they often do, but you had best stay on their good side. The end result is a contempt for the rules by all parties. When compliance is impossible, one’s energies are devoted, instead, to not getting caught, which always involves deceit and makes liars of everyone. That’s just no way to live.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. Romishgraffiti: That’s bad news about Google, but not at all surprising. I excpect all of corporate America to fall in line in support of same-sex marriage. If you find a good alternative to Google please let me know. I just switched to g-mail so I think I’m stuck with them for a while.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. Thanks for the comment and the prayers, Joshua. I support the idea of turning over much regulation to guilds and trade organizations. However, I don’t think elder care lends itself to being totally regulated in this way. There is too much at stake. If one purchases a defective tool from a non-guild tool maker, there is little harm done. If, seduced by low rates, one dies from neglect or incompetence in a non-guild elder care home, or even in a guild home that is inadequately regulated, the price is finally too high.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | October 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. Jeff – excellent point about everyone just focusing on staying on the good side of regulators, and trying not to get caught. It’s one of the many things my wife found disillusioning about the practice of law.

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    Comment by Chris | October 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. Jeff–question that I hope isn’t too nosy: Would this re-training give you better hope of not having to relocate than the background you already have? I ask, because when the issue of your needing a new job first came up, you were at first willing to apply to jobs outside your present area, including at least one that you described as a “dream job” and another one to a company that a reader recommended. But then you evidently, as I understood it, stopped pursuing any of these _solely_ because they would involve relocating. But if being a manager of a home for the elderly would also involve or probably involve relocating, how is it any better? And you’re describing all too well the many unpleasant regulatory issues you would face, including some involving the homosexuality issue.

    If this is a nosy question, feel free to ignore it.

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    Comment by Lydia | October 5, 2008 | Reply

  11. “Would this re-training give you better hope of not having to relocate than the background you already have?”

    Thus far it seems so, but I don’t know for sure. One advantage of the RCFE route is that there exists a strong possibility that I could start a facility here locally – with adequate financing. That, and many other details, remain to be worked out.

    “I ask, because when the issue of your needing a new job first came up, you were at first willing to apply to jobs outside your present area, including at least one that you described as a ‘dream job’ and another one to a company that a reader recommended. But then you evidently, as I understood it, stopped pursuing any of these _solely_ because they would involve relocating.”

    That’s true. For one thing, relocating would require selling our ranch. That’s not going to be easy in this market. I don’t want to walk away from it. I was given an opportunity to interview for the “dream job”, but it was not in a commutable location, and the salary was inadequate for the cost of living in that particular area.

    “But if being a manager of a home for the elderly would also involve or probably involve relocating, how is it any better?”

    It would be better in that it is good and necessary work. That’s more than I can say for most of the things I’ve done over the years. Anyway I’ve only taken some preliminary steps, trying to get the ball rolling in case nothing else materializes. If I end up going in that direction hopefully it won’t involve relocating. I don’t mind relocating here in northern CA if the opportunity presents itself.

    “And you’re describing all too well the many unpleasant regulatory issues you would face, including some involving the homosexuality issue.”

    Oh, yes, that part of it is very intimidating. The exposure is unbelievable.

    “If this is a nosy question, feel free to ignore it.”

    Not at all, Lydia, and I’m glad you asked.

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | October 5, 2008 | Reply


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