Hospice 101.1: The first meeting. A quick look at what can be expected when a patient goes on hospice

(Hospice care supports patients and families of any age. As my experience is predominantly with senior citizens, I will be discussing hospice for patients in that demographic. The information is generally applicable to all ages, however.)

Hospice is individualized care for patients (and support for their loved ones) who no longer receive treatment for their illness, there is no cure, and they are not going to survive the illness. Usually, a hospice team cares for patients in the final 6 months of life.

On hospice, patients choose to live the rest of their lives in the way that makes them most comfortable, with the focus being on what each patient’s goals are for this time. For example, while many patients will want to remain at home, some patients will choose to go to a hospital or skilled nursing facility for end-of-life care. These are individual choices that the hospice team will discuss with each patient.

Usually, a patient’s doctor or nurse practitioner recommends and notifies a hospice organization. If the patient is living in a retirement community, the community’s nursing staff, or a health care advocate, and/or a trusted friend and family member can help with a recommendation. Perhaps the patient knows of a local hospice that other friends or families have called for their loved ones, and they have spoken highly of that organization. Online searches are great, and representatives from hospices will come and talk to patients and loved ones in an informational setting. Hospice organizations are both non-profit and for-profit entities.

The doctor, patient or a loved one calls to make an appointment, and the hospice representative who is oftentimes a nurse, visits the patient at his or her home or hospital room. The representative will describe the organization’s services. At the meeting, the representative will ask the patient about his or her medical history. The hospice organization must have the medical diagnosis that makes the patient eligible for these services so they can approve the patient for hospice. The representative may have already received the diagnosis from the doctor, or will ask the patient for a copy of the diagnosis in the form of a doctor or hospital report. The nursing staff at a skilled nursing facility or assisted living community may have this report.

During the initial meeting, the patient, or an agent of the patient if the patient is unable to represent him or herself, will sign a contract for hospice care. The hospice representative will determine which professionals will be on the patient’s care team. Typically, there will be a hospice care manager, registered nurse or nurse practitioner, licensed vocational nurses, and personal aide. The patient will learn the name of the supervising physician. Hospice teams generally involve direct patient care through their nursing staff, however the nurses keep in touch with the hospice physicians. The entire care team meets regularly at the hospice office to discuss each patient, their status and care plans. A patient can request the doctor to visit, too. Hospice will work with Medicare or the insurer directly; the patient doesn’t have to do this.

At the first meeting, expect the hospice representative to discuss medical equipment the patient may need now, or may need as the disease progresses. Certain items can help to make the patient’s life easier and may also help keep the patient safe, especially from falls. Not everything has to be ordered now. Some items might include a hospital bed and bedside tray table; an oxygen concentrator, nasal cannula, mask and oxygen tanks (for when the patient leaves the bedroom); a nebulizer for breathing treatments; a commode toilet – a bedside unit or perhaps an extension for the patient’s own toilet with a higher seat and grab rails; a walker or a four-point cane; or a wheelchair.

The hospice representative will also discuss prescriptions; the nurse will review the medications the patient currently takes. Do not be surprised if hospice discontinues some of the patient’s regularly taken medicines and supplements. As hospice is for end-of-life care, medicines that are prescribed for long-term health no longer may be appropriate. Also, hospice can prescribe new medications for the patient.

In addition to changing the patient’s daily medication schedule, the representative will discuss a “care pack” of hospice-provided medications that will be delivered to the patient or to the nursing team at the patient’s residence. The care pack must be kept in a safe place, perhaps in the refrigerator or other location of the patient’s home, or at the nursing station of an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility. The patient may not need any of these care pack medications right away. They typically include: pain relief and anti-anxiety medications, drugs that prevent vomiting and nausea, anti-inflammatories, laxatives, anti-psychotics and medications that help reduce respiratory secretions at end of life. Hospice will direct the patient as to how and when the medications will be administered.

Also at the first meeting or soon thereafter, the patient will receive a schedule for hospice nurse visits. For example, hospice may determine that the nurse practitioner or registered nurse may visit once or twice a week. If desired, a care aide will be scheduled regularly to help the patient shower.

While a patient is on hospice care, do not expect hospice to provide nursing or care coverage 24/7. However, when a patient’s needs change, for example if the patient is experiencing more pain, or is having difficulty breathing, the patient, loved ones, or assisted living or skilled nursing staff will call hospice. At the initial meeting and most likely in subsequent meetings, the representative will explain that hospice is the patient’s first call, not 9-1-1. At that point, when called, a hospice nurse will come and assess the patient, determining if the care regimen needs to be changed. The nurse may decide the patient should have a licensed vocational nurse stay with the patient for a shift of 8-12 hours to provide nursing services at this time and to re-evaluate the patient. Near the end of that first shift, hospice will determine if another shift is needed. At some point, a patient may be stable and no longer need the shift care and evaluations.

If a patient does not warrant hospice around-the-clock care but still needs assistance, such as when a patient is a fall-risk, or is having difficulty doing daily tasks for him or herself, loved ones can step in to assist. Also, the patient or family members can work with a care agency, and hire caregivers for a partial day, full day, or for 24/7 assistance. The caregivers can help the patient with daily tasks such as: transferring from sitting to standing, eating and drinking, and going to the bathroom. The hospice organization, the patient’s own medical team, and/ or the nursing staff of the retirement community or skilled nursing facility can help determine which agency to contact.

Hospice does provide an intensive, round-the-clock care service for patients nearing death, ensuring the patient’s comfort. The oxygen, and the medicines from the care pack that the patient needs are dispensed per the hospice doctor’s orders. The hospice nurse advocates for the patient and calls the doctor to make adjustments to the patient’s regimen as needed.

Hospice offers all kinds of services for the patient and for loved ones, including counseling and chaplain services. Patients may choose to participate in massage therapy, and might enjoy music therapy. Animal lovers can choose pet therapy, where volunteers will bring their pets for the patient and loved ones to hold. All these services are printed in the hospice informational packet given to the patient at the first meeting. As a loved one nears death, this can be a difficult time for everyone involved, and these professionals and services can help with this transition.

In subsequent posts, I will discuss the differences between palliative, hospice and allopathic care. I will talk in more detail about different aspects of hospice care, things I’ve learned, and areas where it might be important to advocate for loved ones. Thanks for reading.

Kathy Galgano

March 4, 2018

Blogger’s Statement: I am a care manager for elderly clients; I am not a nurse or health professional. I will not give medical advice; please go to the doctor for that. That said, in my job and in my personal life, I have worked with medical professionals and hospice organizations for a number of people. It is important to remember that while the vast majority of health professionals provide care for our loved ones with the very best of intentions, people are fallible. We want the best care for those we love, and especially during the final stages of life. While I deeply believe that hospice and medical caregivers are well-trained, hard-working, generous and caring people, sometimes, despite best efforts, things may fall through the cracks. Such is life; nobody’s perfect. A loved one or care manager who knows the patient well can advocate successfully at times when the system is moving a bit too slowly. There are little things that are good to know if you or someone you love is entering hospice. I will discuss these in my blog posts.



Welcome Return-Guest Blogger Richard Galgano “Fantasy Football”

My son started a fantasy football league this year. I was in a fantasy baseball league about 15 years ago. My co-workers needed an extra team and nominated me for the role. I was clueless about the process and looked at my record more than halfway through the season. As expected, I was in last place and discovered that the manager needs to alter the lineup daily to make sure the players are actually playing that day. I managed to improve a bit but remained in the cellar.

Trying to learn from past experience, I decided to do a little research (very little, about 5 minutes.) Each team drafts players and selects a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, a defense and a kicker. There are a few reserve spots as well. When selecting players, especially the reserves, one must account for bye weeks when the actual player’s team is off. We had a draft, scheduled for 9 pm last Thursday. I had slept about four hours the night before and was running on fumes when the draft started.

Players are ranked based on their prior statistics. Highly ranked players are sought after because their statistics (yards gained, passes caught, touchdowns scored, field goals kicked, etc.) are what generate points for your team. About a half hour before the draft, I started reviewing leaders from the 2016 NFL season. I learned that there is a staggering amount of information available and that sophisticated programs mining “big” data create realms of analyses and forecasts. How was I, an analog guy who used a slide rule in high school physics for a semester, going to compete with the high-tech, computer savvy, data mining experts who eat, drink and sleep fantasy football?

I thought for a few minutes and then it came to me in a series of waves, like body surfing at the shore. I considered words of advice from great coaches like Vince Lombardi, Hank Stram and Don Shula, and remembered Joe Namath’s 1968 New York Jets thoughts about facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Lastly, I recalled sage wisdom from “Moneyball” and decided there might be a way for fantasy football underdogs to compete.

  • Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling. Vince Lombardi
  • Football is a game of recognition. Each team must determine what the other team is doing before it knows how to respond. Hank Stram
  • What do you do against a team which is bigger, faster, stronger and more aggressive? You use it against them, you trick them. Don Shula
  • (Referring to the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III) Why would they change anything? For the Jets? They’re not gonna change anything? Joe Namath (More on Broadway Joe in a future post.)
  • People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. … I believe there is a championship team … because everyone overlooks them like an island of misfit toys. Moneyball

Knowing professional and fantasy football are big business, I decided to treat this as a business, and developed a set of guiding principles for my team.

  • Focus on fundamentals
  • Do your own research and draw your own conclusions
  • Disguise your strengths
  • Evaluate players’ stats in context
  • Trust your intuition

After getting the “okay” to manage a team, it was time to get to work. Searching for a name, I thought about menacing names like “Genghis Kahn” or “Hammerhead Sharks,” but thought this would not help us keep a low profile. I opted for something a bit personal and disarming, possibly humorous and deceptive. “Rich’s Relics” immediately came to mind. Think about the advertising possibilities. Finally! A team which could attract interests from funeral homes. Our team slogan: “You don’t scare us. We survived decomposition.”

I needed a head coach. With an upstart team, there could be only one person who could fill the role — the late, great Sid Gilman. Gilman was an innovative coach for the Chargers as well as other teams and wore a bow-tie on the sidelines.

Next I wanted a veteran presence on my team, someone who epitomized toughness and coolness under pressure. The ultimate competitor and veteran. A man who could play two positions, quarterback and kicker. After doing a little checking, I signed Hall-of-Fame player George Blanda to a one year minimum contact. Well, he’s actually dead so I signed his remains. Actually, he hasn’t signed it yet but I’m hoping no one will notice and will try to make an “X” with his skeleton holding the pen. He was 48 when he retired so I don’t think anyone will be expecting him to look all that spry in uniform. (Full disclosure: I loved watching George Blanda. He won the MVP trophy in his 40s by winning a bunch of games in the last minute for the Oakland Raiders.)

I thought about our offensive strategy and decided we couldn’t run the modern NFL offense. Nowadays everyone uses the quarterback in the “shotgun” formation (not directly behind the center) for most plays. We could try the “I” formation or even the “Wishbone” — these formations may be vaguely familiar to some of my co-owners. I decided to bring back the “Single Wing” formation introduced by Pop Warner. Although there are a few devotees who still use the system, it went out of style after WWII. As we only play our opponents once per season, they won’t know what hit them.

The first round was ready to start and I had the 5th draft choice. Quickly going over the numerous athletes, one name caught my eye. He wasn’t top ranked but something about his name rang true. Fozzy. Fozzy Whittaker. Who could resist? Fozzy played college ball at Texas and was with Cleveland during his rookie year. He’s been with the Carolina Panthers for the last 3 years. Last year he ran the ball for 265 yards and caught 25 passes for 226 yards. Among all players, Fozzy was 68th in the NFL in total rushing and 186th in receiving yards. However, if you look at his trends, you will see that his productivity has increased in the last two years in Carolina.
Year        Rushes        Yards Rushing      Receptions       Yards Receiving
2015             35                      108                         12                        64
2016             57                      265                         25                      226

If he continues to improve at this rate, he should rush for 650 yards and receive 800 yards in 2017. That would put him among the league leaders!

Back to the draft. I looked at some players who had middle-of-the-pack ratings. Rob Gronkowski was among them. Although he’s been injured a few times, when healthy, Gronk is almost unstoppable. Perhaps, just maybe, the computer rankings don’t reflect a player’s true value. Could this be used to identify undervalued players?

In my youth I was a true football fan and was up-to-date on the standings and stats. Now-a-days, I’m a casual fan. I live near Boston and am most familiar with the Patriots. Julian Edelman was lost to the season because of a knee injury and I guessed that Chris Hogan would be getting a lot more action. Hogan was a lacrosse player in college and has become a good wide receiver. He averaged almost 18 yards per catch last year so I thought he would be another sleeper.

After a couple more rounds of surprises, my eyes were almost shut. The computer “selected” the rest of my team and I went to bed.

The next day I received an email of my draft. They gave me a “D” and the experts predict I’ll go 2 and 12. However they did remark: “Not a great draft. Or was it? Maybe you know something no one else does. A true underdog. If so, maybe you’re Toyota Hall of Fame material. Nominate yourself now.

I deferred nominating myself for the “Hall” but am keeping the option open for later in the season. Now, just a bit more work to do. Find a backup defense and kicker and start begging the Carolina Panthers to give Fozzy the ball!

Football Fan & Guest Blogger Richard Galgano

September 10, 2017

I was in the Senate Gallery during the Big Vote

I had the great honor of being on The Hill multiple days recently, including Tuesday, July 25, 2017 for the Senate vote to advance health care legislation to the Senate floor. I waited about two hours to enter the Senate Gallery with a pass I secured from my Senator’s office staff the day before. I never waited that kind of time before to get into the Gallery. And security was tight. As I waited just to enter the Capitol Building Visitor center outside, I stared at two police buses parked in front of the Capitol. I learned there were police waiting inside, in full gear, just in case, and that there were many undercover officers on duty in the city. 
I witnessed a planned, non-violent demonstration en route to the Capitol in support of people with disabilities. All that week, the Senate office buildings were full of visitors with physical disabilities. I saw people with prosthetic limbs, and a mom and dad rolling their baby stroller into the Hart Office Bldg. When I was leaving that building, I saw the same couple talking to someone in the lobby. What I hadn’t noticed before was the baby’s oxygen tank and medical tubing attached to the stroller. People actively participated in the health bill conversation.
Folks chatted with me that week – a taxi driver, a woman working at Macy’s, a gentleman crossing the street – they were residents of D.C. having emigrated from other countries. Everyone was knowledgeable of the votes, and were able to speak in-depth about the health care issues being addressed on The Hill.
Waiting to get into the Senate Gallery, I was reminded that visitors are forbidden to have any electronics, including phones, car keys and fitbits. Nor can they eat, drink, talk, read (unless it is about the Senate), take notes, and especially, react to anything. If a senator says something funny, Gallery visitors cannot laugh. With one eye on my watch, hoping to enter in time to see the full proceedings with the oncoming scheduled vote, and with another on the long line of people ahead of me, I finally advanced enough to surrender my cell phone and charger, which is what I have done in the past. I also handed over my tiny container of Altoids, hand lotions, an empty water bottle, and even a little tube of antibiotic ointment before proceeding. I explained to the police officer checking my purse that two containers in my purse remained, and these held my allergy medications and ibuprofen. She did not ask me to surrender these. She thoroughly checked every compartment of my purse and every zippered pocket of my wallet. That was new.
One woman, upon entering the Gallery, exclaimed to security that she wanted to “sit in the best seat and did not want cameras in front of her” and that she was here to watch the vote. These guards put up with a lot. I don’t know how many times I heard them say, “The only seats you cannot take are the two in the back row nearest the Gallery section door, which are reserved for the Capitol police, and the first row. They repeated this over and over, multiple times to the same individuals. And person after person either chose the “police seats” or the front row. I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. Before entering the Gallery, security tells you to read the back of the ticket which explains all the rules. Signs provide the same information. Security personnel tell you they are going to enforce all these rules. Everybody says they understand. And yet, the guards had to ask a guy to stop reading a novel, and told somebody to get their foot off the seat, and woke up a visitor who fell fast asleep, and repeated, time after time after time, not to sit “there” because it’s either for the police or it’s in the front row. The guards remained courteous the whole time.
These security officers, dressed in suits, welcomed visitors to the Gallery until the Senate resumed. Before proceedings started, I sat next to a gentleman from England, who knew everything about U.S. politics, but had to leave early, and then a woman from China. Visitors can stay as long as they want. There were staffers, families, individuals, groups — a Future Farmers of America contingent was there. At one point, a mom asked the security officer if she could take her child to the bathroom. The officer said she could, but they would have to get back in line, now a 3 1/2 hour wait. The mom, dad and child left. Security did not allow any visitor into the Gallery once the session began; this surprised me. I have entered the Gallery in mid-proceedings in the past.
When the Senate formally introduced the health care business at hand, the people in the section to my right stood and began yelling, “Kill the bill. Don’t kill us,” and “Shame. Shame. Shame.” I saw one clergy member in the group dressed in her collar. The vocal demonstration disrupted the proceedings, and the senators looked up to the Gallery. The press, in a Gallery section to my left, were leaning over the railing, watching, and writing furiously.
The security officers accompanied one demonstrator out, and then came back for the next. No uniformed officers came into the Gallery. It took a few minutes to clear the area, with demonstrators slowly and peacefully exiting, though continually chanting. There were no scuffles. I could hear the group as they walked along the long hallway outside of, and around the Gallery. The senators, who had stopped their work to watch, continued with their business while the demonstrators were being escorted out of the Gallery. I couldn’t hear what was being said on the Senate floor, though. The two children sitting next to me looked a bit frightened, (their mom was behind them) and earlier I had explained to them that politics was not boring, as they had told me it was, but a passionate thing. While they looked at me during the demonstration, I held my hand over my heart and whispered, “Passion,” to the kids, and they nodded. Nobody in our area of the Gallery moved while the protest was taking place.
After the demonstrators were ushered out and things were quiet, I whispered a question to the security guard standing near me, wondering if they would allow more visitors to take the newly vacated seats. He told me they probably would not. There were other vacant seats in other sections of the Gallery and I don’t know if these areas were off-limits to the general public. Many staffers sat in the area directly across from me. With so many people waiting in line to see this vote, I was surprised at the number of Gallery vacancies.
With voting underway, the Democratic senators did not vote when their names were first called. From my perch, I could not see California’s newest Senator, Ms. Harris, but I could see Senator Feinstein, and so many famous faces. Other visitors were pointing out their own Senators and whispering their names, and others whose faces are well-known.
There were a few “No” votes from the Republicans, and the folks in the Gallery were really paying attention. Many people were sitting forward. There wasn’t much whispering now.
After the roll had been called, I heard a few staffers whispering about why the vote was taking longer than usual. The kids next to me asked me what was taking so long, and I told them the voting time had been extended and that we were waiting for more senators to arrive. When the tally was read, I had counted the votes and knew we were waiting for three more votes. The press was hanging over the Gallery railing, again, listening to conversations on the floor, and watching the Senate floor entrances. When Senator McCain walked into the chamber, the floor erupted in applause. The Gallery stayed fairly quiet, with the help of the guards quietly shushing everyone, though I did hear a few people near me exclaim their surprise. Colleagues gave Senator McCain a beautiful tribute. I thought it was classy to see Senator Feinstein walk over and give her friend from across the aisle a big hug. She was the first of many Democrats to do this.
I have been to the Gallery at least a half a dozen times over the years, probably more, and have never seen all senators gathered there at once. It was a rare event and I am thrilled to have witnessed this. I saw the Democrats vote as a block. There was a tie, and I saw the President of the Senate, Vice President Pence, break the tie. The woman from China asked me if that was the President, which he is, but of the Senate. Her English was good, and after a bit she said she understood the difference. She referred to a page in the Senate handbook that explains who sits where on the floor — that book is okay to read.
No, the vote did not go the way I had longed. But to be there in person was a remarkable and most interesting experience, one I will not forget. I saw and heard Senator McCain’s speech afterwards. I watched former Presidential candidates talk to their colleagues. I listened to other visitors whisper with excitement about seeing their senators, and approving or disapproving of the votes they had cast.
I thanked our Security Guard and left the Gallery after the vote. A large contingent of police officers stood in the hallway to my right as I exited the Gallery. I assumed that they had escorted the protesters from the Gallery. I picked up all my personal items at security, and noted the very long line of folks holding Senate Gallery tickets waiting for their turn to go through security and sit in the beautiful room high above the Senate floor. Most likely, they would not see a vote where all 50 states’ Senators would be in the room, but they would witness the business of health care and of the nation.
Outside, I saw and heard more demonstrators campaigning for health care. I saw the press interviewing people on the Capitol steps and near the Capitol Building. Walking to my Senators’ office building, I grabbed a snack from the hot dog cart and ate while sitting on a low wall with a family who had just toured the Capitol. It was nice to enjoy the sunshine. The Hart office building was busy;  people walked purposefully through the building. The whole atmosphere felt charged. I registered my thoughts for the votes remaining that day with my Senators’ staffs, and they thanked me.
I was exhausted. Exhausted, but impassioned. No, politics is anything but boring.
Kathy Galgano
August 5, 2017

Silencing Senator Warren?

(Letter to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren after the Senate yesterday silenced her as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Senator Jeff Sessions and his confirmation for Attorney General.)

Dear Senator Warren:

I am so moved by your experience on the Senate floor yesterday while reading Mrs. Scott King’s words.

Frankly, each morning I wake up more disgusted than the day before at the way our government proceeds with business, bullying citizens of all ranks, shuttering programs that have benefitted so many citizens, flagrantly chastising individuals, corporations, religious and ethnic groups, the press, and anyone courageous enough to disagree and voice concern. That you were silenced on the Senate floor yesterday should not surprise me, but it does, because I choose to wake up each day not accepting this prevailing attitude, behavior and political climate as status quo.

I have taught my children that one voice matters, and that it is their responsibility to work for what is right, and to do so honorably. I am only one voice. But like you, I will not be silenced.

Senator Warren, you are an inspiration.

Thank you.

Kathy Galgano

February 8, 2017



A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words


A picture is worth a 1,000 words

January 4, 2017

Silicon Valley, CA


In Case Anybody Cares, This Is Why I Can’t Sleep

The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.

At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.

I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.

And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.

Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.

I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.

Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”

When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.

My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.

Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.

I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.

And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.

As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?

So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.

And that’s why I’m not sleeping.

Kathy Galgano

November 16, 2016




A Breath of Fresh Air

People are coming out of the woodwork to campaign for her. There’s a movement happening in my neighborhood, and it’s huge. Well, okay, it’s pretty big. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we all were cast in one of those feel-good Hallmark movies.

It’s real and the energy is palpable, and it’s wonderful.

Let’s back it up a bit. In this interminable campaign, we’ve slung garbage at ourselves and the world, and the rank air will linger. We’ve perfected “going negative” to a science. Candidates must attack in order to be taken seriously. Like it or not, it’s now part of our culture. Just watch TV; how many shows feature a group of people sitting around a table, all talking at the same time? Listening is out. We don’t debate; we point fingers in faces and yell louder. And we talk crude. Crude is in.

So now we’re exhausted. Families have turned against families, friends against friends. People are “unfriending” loved ones because they don’t see eye to eye and have lost respect for each other. There have been arguments, many arguments. It may have taken years to get everyone in the family on Facebook, but now, with one single click, we’ve cut our ties. Thanksgiving is at hand, but we’ve pared down our guest lists because we couldn’t possibly sit at the table with people who are enemies. How could we have been so blind? We were friends for ages!

And then we come back to a breath of fresh air: the local election in my neighborhood. There’s a woman running for City Council in my district. She’s amazing. Everybody here knows her. Everybody loves her. She’s the voice of optimism and know-how and tenacity and real caring. She has been working and volunteering for neighbors and kids for two and a half decades. She gets things done and really helps people. She shares her successes. And here’s something; she listens. She listens hard to what people are saying; instead of just getting the gist of the idea and forming a quick response as to why it’s never gonna work, she’s listening.

Helen could have gone negative. She had opportunities. Heck, there was a negative campaign against her. But in a way that is purely Helen Chapman, our neighborhood candidate put the facts out there. She quickly proved every word against her was false, posted the substantiating documents on her website immediately so the voters could see them for themselves, and then went on campaigning, fighting the good fight.

There is an impressive list of people and groups endorsing Helen Chapman and there’s a good reason for this. She’s the real deal. But more than that, this groundswell of neighbors coming out of the woodwork to support her, to phone bank and make assembly lines of literature and maps and to put flyers on doorknobs and to walk precincts introducing voters to the person we know to be so perfect for this job – this has been the greatest. There are family members helping and retired folks and moms and kids and old friends and new and former colleagues, and neighbors just wanting to help and people who have heard about her and who want to lend a hand. Volunteers who don’t even live in the district are participating in this positive campaign because it’s obvious that to this candidate, and pervasive throughout her campaign, people matter.

Helen is a role model. We are overjoyed that in our neck of the woods, so many of us who are coming out of the woodwork can focus on those old-fashioned Hallmark qualities of good character and honesty and a strong work ethic and positive energy and enthusiasm and a can-do spirit and successes for people, not on the backs of them. All of it. Helen has built strong relationships with the community; she’s a fabulous resource. She’s smart. Her word means something. She gets involved and stays with it for the long-run. She supports local businesses, and is adamant about using them to create her campaign materials. She’ll buy breakfast for her walkers – again supporting local businesses. Helen says that her number one special interest is her constituents, the residents of District 6 in San Jose, CA, and their concerns.

While making phone calls early in the campaign, I was asked to find out the areas of interest of voters of District 6. So when I made calls, first I introduced them to Helen, and then I asked the voters which issues specifically concerned them, their families and neighbors. Callers did not hang up on me. On the contrary, they were excited to talk to me and several people told me they were stunned; no one had ever asked them what was important to them and on their minds.

So as I leave my own woodwork today to spend the afternoon campaigning, I am enjoying that Hallmark experience of goodness. Yes, it’s a close election. Yes, we are working hard. Rancor among families and voters is pervasive nationally, but with this one race, where the candidate’s campaign slogan is “Working Together,” we embrace individuals. No unfriending here.  Oh yeah, and the air in this neighborhood, anyway, is clear and sweet.

Kathy Galgano

November 6, 2016




Wow – Political Parties are Creating Sophisticated Tools!

The Democratic National Committee has forgotten that I asked not to receive so many emails, but this one intrigued me. It was going to give me my personal “Official Democratic Record.”

Wow! The DNC had compiled a list of issues I’ve addressed, either by signing petitions or by writing letters based on their emails to me? That’s impressive. They’ve searched data bases or used computer modeling to develop a, … well, this word has gotten a bad rap,… but “profile” of things important enough to me that I have voiced my concern? Genius! What a sophisticated tool to garner my support! Very cool.

So here it is…  Drumroll Please!

“Official Democratic Record for You”

Total 2015 Donations


Okay, so I’m naïve. But thanks for the morning chuckle, DNC. I’m still not inclined to give you any cash, but you can add “Zero Funding Donor” to my list of political issues for my “Official Democratic Record.”

Still Smiling,

Kathy Galgano

September 28, 2015



After reading the news that the online dating site “Ashley Madison” was hacked, my initial thoughts focused on security. Doesn’t it feel like we are living through an epidemic of profound hacking? Internationally, banks, governments, businesses, and now dating sites have been compromised. Is nothing safe? Is nothing sacred? I heard myself breathe that deep “Here-we-go-again!” sigh. But it quickly dawned on me; this is less an issue of online security and one of online stupidity.

Ashley Madison is a site for cheaters. Hackers hold the detailed information including names, sexual fantasies and who-linked-up-with-whom for some 37 million individuals, er, idiots world-wide. “Idiots” is a strong word. The question for me is this: Why would 37 million cheaters or cheater-wannabes search online for a partner to have an affair? Is it because we all know and trust that the internet is such a safe place?

Let’s put the numbers in perspective. In the U.S., over 36 million folks watched the Oscars this year. On Memorial Day, 37 million drivers hit the road. It’s the number of roughly the population of all of California, the most populous state in the nation. Staggeringly, 37 million people internationally would trust their most private information, secrets and desires to a Web site, knowing that they can’t even bank, work, or shop at Target without their data being stolen. Go figure!

We really do have big problems.

Kathy Galgano

July 20, 2015


Welcome Guest Blogger, Rich Galgano — A DISTANCE RUNNER IN A FOREIGN LAND

I regularly hit the pavement. In snow-filled months I rely on my treadmill, or the local indoor track, when conditions are icy. Besides running, my strength training usually involves body weight exercises, resistance bands, a kettle bell, some light hand weights, and creative use of a workout ball and stairs, all of which I perform in the comfort and seclusion of my basement. Wanting to add some leg presses, hamstring curls and knee extensions with more weight, I decided to join the local gym. It’s close to the house, inexpensive, and is open a lot of hours. It also has some large mats and multiple stackable steps so I can do standing long jumps and vertical jumps.

I’ve been going a couple times a week and slowly increasing the weight on the machines. (They have a seated leg extension which is easy on my back.) On my last visit to the gym, I was ready to work the knee extension machine and started to straighten my legs. It didn’t move. I looked down and it was at maximum weight, about 270 pounds. I took 200 pounds off and did the exercise. Next I moved to the mats which are found near the aerobic equipment. I noticed a few curious glances from that area while working on some standing long jumps and flexibility exercises. I don’t think there were many track athletes there.

I headed to the free weight room to do some rotator cuff exercises. I injured the left one from all the snow shoveling and have been rehabbing it. The free weight room is next to the larger mechanical weight machines and the men working out on these machines were pretty large and muscular. This was nothing compared to the guys in the free weight section. They were HUGE and totally ripped. They were lifting hundreds of pounds, grunting while they worked. Everyone seemed to know each other.

In I walked, built not like a formidable weight lifter, but the runner that I am. Everyone started looking at me. I went over to the hand weights, grabbed the 5 pounders and started exercising. They all stopped lifting and stared at me. Trying not to notice, I kept working and after a few minutes, I finished the set. Hoping to make a better impression, I grabbed a couple 20 pound hand weights and did some curls and overhead presses, trying to make it look easy. They kept staring. Finally, I went over to the chin-up bar. I usually do six pull-ups but thought it was a good time to pull out the stops. Fortunately I was facing the wall which hid my contorted face, and managed to do ten at a steady pace, keeping my torso straight. After finishing, everyone was back at work but they were still glancing my way or looking indirectly through the many mirrors. I considered doing some push-ups, but as I had done them already, I wasn’t sure I could do an impressive number.

Next, I dropped to the floor and decided to really go for it; I did a plank — a really long plank. Three minutes. I kept my back straight, tried to hide my shaking arms and somehow managed to stay conscious.

Getting up slowly, very slowly, I stretched a bit and decided to head out. The guys were back at it. As I left, one of them nodded at me.

Strike one up for the distance runners!

Richard Galgano

March 26, 2015

Kathy’s Note: Richard has been running for over 40 years, races occasionally, and, when time permits, helps out with youth athletics. He’s also a riot! Check out his other notable and humorous posts about track and field on Kathy’s Musings: Welcome, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Think Happened on the Way to the Track Meet (published here on March 1st, 2014), and Welcome Back, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Track Meet, Part II (published March 16, 2014).