As a professional in the field of aging, Sara had seen it all—until her own mother broke her hip at the age of 88 and became profoundly confused, unable to live in her own home. Join Sara on her journey through the strangeness that is dementia while trying to make sense of it all and finding humor in the details. [Editor's note: Sara no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Can I complete my mother’s mail-in ballot, voting as her proxy? While the answer may seem obvious, I wasn’t sure if it was legal or not. I know how she would vote in most cases. For those candidates and issues in doubt, I would not cast a vote.
It seems perverse that I have the legal power to determine what medical procedures my mother gets or does not get, what services she accesses, and how she spends her money (a moot point now that she is on Medicaid), but I can’t legally cast a vote on her behalf for an initiative that will directly impact her life.
Washington State is considering Initiative 1033. In the past 20 years, dozens, maybe hundreds, of similar initiatives have been floated in the name of lower taxes and smaller government. I’m old enough to remember I-1033’s grandmother, California’s Proposition 13, an initiative passed in 1978 that severely limited the ability of California’s legislature to raise revenue. Time.com calls Prop 13 “the root of California's misery.” I lived in California in 1980 and witnessed the steep decline of that great state. Today, it’s become a chaotic, IOU-peddling state with little hope of inspired problem solving.
My mother is a retired Salvation Army social worker. She spent years working with the poor and disabled in Phoenix. I know she understands poverty, but she is definitely not a political liberal. She always believed that people should do their best to take care of themselves and their families and should take from others, including the government, only as a last resort. She was a registered Independent. She voted for Ronald Reagan the first time around, but not the second, and voted for the first President Bush. She adamantly opposed the second President Bush, calling him the worst president in U.S. history.
Passage of Washington’s I-1033 will result in severe cuts in Medicaid rates, health insurance for the poor, and teachers in the class room. I know that Mom would vote against I-1033. She would see it as an assault on government support for old people, sick people, and kids. She would vote against it without hesitation.
I spoke with Louise Ryan, Washington State’s long-term care ombudsman, and an expert on these matters. I asked Louise if I could cast a proxy vote* for Mom. Without so much as a pause, Louise said, “No.” (*King County, where my mother lives, has all mail-in voting.)
It just doesn’t seem fair to prevent my mother from having her political say on an initiative that will directly impact her life. Sometimes the legal interpretation conflicts with the ethical value.
By Sara Myers
A Good Enough Daughter Blog