Category Archives: Caregivers

Come Join Me In My Kind of Town…..

My husband said this WAS bold….because of the ‘after gym’ glow. I think he meant, don’t quit your day makeup.

Mistakes are Fun!

Today you get to see one of my mistakes……..I made a video for the National Caregiving Conference, but as I’ve done since first grade in St. Aloysious Catholic School, I did not follow directions. So, I’m making another one………..but for a screw-up, it’s not bad. And the #NCC17 #NationalCaregivingConference said, “Hey, ……share it, anyway!” So, I am…because if there’s anything I do too much, it’s share!

P.S. I also think they said under their breath, “next time, read the directions.” But Sister Marie Genevieve said that a billion times and it never worked.

“You Just have to Laugh……”  ©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Laugh….and the world laughs with you……………

Okay kids….it’s time to laugh, even just a little bit…

How do you know if you are a caregiver?

  1. If you are buying wipes and you don’t have a baby…..
  2. If you have dozens of medications in your house and none of them are yours…..
  3. If you wish some of them were yours…………..
  4. If, when someone says ‘whine’, you break out a long-stemmed glass……..
  5. If you get into your car and your car takes you to a nursing home but that’s not where you were going……….
  6. If you’re so tired that you used Preparation H to brush your teeth before bed….
  7. If you have dishes in the sink, laundry in the hamper, unpaid bills, and you drop everything to take your Mom to the doctor and the hairdresser and lunch and the bank and the pharmacy and the grocery store and the dry cleaners…….
  8. If you have on two different shoes…..
  9. If you just recently started using swear words that never came out of your mouth before….
  10. If you are so well-versed in medical-speak that they ask you to check on a patient in Room 612 ……..
  11. If when you say you’re going to the Vet, you don’t mean a place where animals get medical care….
  12. If you use so many acronyms like HIPPA, AARP, HMO, DME, SNF, OT, PT, ER, that you start spelling your kids’ names instead of saying them….
  13. If date night is now every Friday night in the Emergency Room….

Or this……

 

Check with your spouse, your significant other, your friends, your therapist….you just might be one of us!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Knock Knock…Who’s there? Good info…that’s who!

I attended an Elder Law Conference recently and as usual, my head is spinning. Lots to tell you, because not one of you is getting younger.

But the big takeaway was a talk by a dementia expert, Teepa Snow, on how we are truly failing those with this disease. It’s not them who’s the problem…it’s us.  We are so hellbent on proving we know what’s best for our loved ones, that we have done nothing to understand what it feels like to be them.

I was invited to do a Virtual Reality tour of what it’s like to have dementia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go that day. But those who did said it was unbelievable. And enlightening. They quickly learned what it’s like to have someone in your face, someone yelling at you for no apparent reason, someone repeating to you when you believe you answered their question. I cannot stress enough how we need to take a good, hard look at what we, the caregivers, the health care workers, the families are doing. Ms. Snow told us there are 110 different kinds of dementia. 110. There can’t be a common answer to treatment for every single form. And locking every body up is not the answer. It is certainly not the quality of life answer for everyone.

I’m not naive. I realize that dementia has a big component of safety issues. Just spending 90 minutes with Ms. Snow, who has hours and hours of material, convinced me that as a public policy we need to re-think the concept of dementia care.

Her website is at teepsnow.com, and it’s called Positive Approach to Brain Change. If you have any family members at all who are suffering from any effects of dementia, please check out her website and her videos. They are remarkable and could be game-changing for your life right now.

And if any of you wonderful readers did not hear by now….I WON the contest to be the Keynote Speaker at the National Caregiver’s Conference. AND GUESS WHO THE SPEAKER IS RIGHT AFTER ME????  TEEPA SNOW! How great is that? I’m so excited to be meeting her once again after my Elder Law conference. Life is full of wonderful treats sometimes, isn’t it?

Since you read this far with no chuckles, I’m going to give you 3 Elder Law Knock Knock Jokes I found on the internet:

Knock Knock……….Who’s There?  Little Old Lady………Little Old Lady Who?

I didn’t know you could yodel!

Knock Knock…..Who’s there?   To………….To Who?

To WHOM!

Knock Knock….Who’s there?   Nana………….Nana Who?

Nanna You’re Business

I’m pretty sure you could use those jokes somewhere today!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2017

I know you love me….

So many of you have already voted for me to be the guest Keynote Speaker at the National Caregivers’ Conference in Chicago in November. But in case you are not a Facebook Friend or I don’t have your email. I’m posting the link here in hopes that you will mosey over to this website, scroll to the bottom on the left where the names of all the finalists are and click on my name and then click the vote button! You can certainly look at my video, but it’s not necessary. Just need your vote. Thanks for your support, I will do my best to make you proud of me, my blessed readers! Tomorrow, I promise you another hilarious story!

Vote for Your Conference Keynote

Where’s the fire?

Two weeks ago, I wrote a tale about my mother-in-law needing to move to assisted living because the fire department had been called one too many times when she left things on the stove.

I thought that was the end of my fireman stories. Until yesterday.

I went to visit my friend, Lisa, at her brand new Senior Living apartment. As hip young seniors we keep trying to turn this experience into a fun-loving event, rather than a crystal ball into our future as we look down the hallway at the walkers and scooters sitting outside apartment doors.

Every time I go there, Lisa has a new story that most assuredly will provide material for our sitcom about TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) combined with Senior Housing. It’ll be a  hoot, based on our initial research!

She’s been in this newly built apartment building for about a month, as has everyone, so the glitches are still being worked out. The biggest challenge is cooking, not because these people don’t know how to cook, but as I suspect based on my mother-in-law’s experience, because the designers of senior housing were forewarned that seniors leave things on the stove.

In response to that, the smoke alarms have been set to super-very-sensitive. So that if your tea kettle steam starts to sing, off goes the smoke alarm for the entire building. If you’ve burnt your toast, because you LIKE burnt toast (yes, there are some of us out there), the smoke alarm goes off. If you have a few items on the top of the stove that are boiling, the smoke alarm will likely accompany your potatoes, carrots and green beans.

This alarm is not just in your apartment. The entire building goes off with blinking lights and shrill clanging that does not stop until the fire department arrives and shuts it off.

And remember, this is senior housing. These aren’t sprinters who live here. They have to find their keys, get their coats and purses. Don’t even think of telling them to go outside without their purse. Sometimes they are napping and are jolted out of their beds. This has danger, broken hips and fear-of-cooking written all over it.

Lisa told me this has happened at least a half a dozen times in just the first month. I, of course, think she is prone to exaggeration.

Until we come home from our shopping trip, and everyone is out in the parking lot, lights are blaring, we can hear the fire engine several blocks away, the clanging alarm is assaulting our conversation, and I notice that there are half-naked people standing in the parking lot.

aka "Silver Lining"
aka “Silver Lining”

No, they are not Seniors. Sorry, but nobody wants to see that. They are lifeguards from the YMCA, which is attached to the senior housing building. So every time the alarm goes off, they have to clear the YMCA, which includes the pool, in November, when it’s 40 degrees outside and raining. And yes, there is always a silver lining.

Lisa’s 85-year-old neighbor approaches us with:

“Why don’t they just take out all the stoves in our apartments?”

To which another replies:

“I made chili yesterday and didn’t move from the stove until it was completely done. I was afraid to even go to the bathroom, in case it set off the fire alarm. And it wasn’t even five-alarm chili.”

Yep, this sitcom is gonna’ be a hoot!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski

Sometimes You Just Need a Lion on Your Side…….

I called the hospital today. Well, more accurately, I called the hospital billing department. The billing department is no longer in the hospital. The hospital is in Pennsylvania, where I live, and where my loved ones go to the hospital when they have a problem, medically.

The billing department is in Tennessee, where nobody, who goes to my hospital, lives or goes to if they have a problem medically or otherwise. Okay, maybe that ‘s not true, maybe some people go to Tennessee if they have a problem with say, country music, and want to see if it’s them or the music.

By putting the ‘billing department’ in Tennessee, it prevents all of us in Pennsylvania from actually going to the billing department to talk about a problem. That way no one has to discuss these problems face-to-face. So much easier, said no one, ever.

I called Tennessee today, and although the gentlemen was very nice, the problem was apparently unsolvable.

“I want to know if this bill, which started out at $4500 and is now magically down to $500 has been paid? ” I queried, for the third time in three months.

“Well, ma’am let me see. Now before I answer that question, even though you’ve given me the account number, can you give me the address on the bill, the date of birth of the patient, the date of the bill, the services rendered, the patient’s blood type and the name of their cat?” he asked ever so politely.

Okay, he didn’t ask for the blood type or the cat, but why not? My question is, why in heaven’s name do you put an account number on the bill if it means absolutely nothing in terms of information? Do you make more money by keeping me on the phone? Are you tracing the call just to make sure I’m not in Tennessee, but that I stayed in Pennsylvania where I belong?

We do-si-do all around the information, until we’re both exhausted and wish we had taken more square-dancing lessons, and finally, he says:

“Please ignore that bill ma’am the insurance company has agreed to review it.”

“Okay, but I have an estate to settle, so can I assume that the bill will be no more than the $500 you currently are requesting?”

“No, you cannot.”

Here’s where I want to find a cat, maybe a tiger or a lion, and release it into the wilds of Tennessee with the scent of this insurance company on its nose like a barrel of catnip.

“Um……….why would that be?”

“Well, what if the insurance company decides to take back all the payments they already made? Then the bill would be more.”

“Why would they do that?” I asked, “Medicare paid this over a year ago and this has been your fault for not properly submitting the balance to the other Medigap insurance carrier.”

“Well,” he replied, “we don’t know what they will do.”

‘Cause you don’t know what you’re doing……that’s really what I wanted to say.

But since he told me to ignore the bill, I’m gonna’ do just that. Probably forever.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

 

Prequel, Shmequel…just stick to the publication date……..

Sometimes I think we forget how the generation above us made a sensible life for themselves.  We fail to give our moms and dads credit for having figured out how to well…figure it out. Life has always been complicated, the addition of technology as not only a tool, but our new best friend is  making it worse. And yes, this flummoxes people like my 88-year-old Mom. But let’s not pretend it doesn’t do the same to us too.

I was trying to explain the concept of a pre-quel to my mom the other day.  My mom and sister and I have become rabid fans of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. There are like 20 of them and I’m happy to read them in whatever order the books come into my life. Some I get from the library, some I get from my friends, and I read whichever ones I haven’t read yet. And then I pass them on to my mom and my sister.

The one thing that was bugging all of us is that all of a sudden (Spoiler Alert, but probably not really if you’re a fan) is that everyone was talking to Jack about how sorry they were because his brother died. What? When did that happen? He was just alive two books ago. And how did he die? Nobody (at least not the characters) is talking.

So my mom and sister decided  to put an end to this. They are both Virgos. They cannot abide this frivolous lack of organization. My sister finally put her foot down.  We are going to look in the newest book we have, get a list of all the titles and start from the beginning.

Okay, fine.

Turns out not one of us ever read the very first book by Lee Child with Jack Reacher as his main character, the Killing Floor.  That’s where his brother, Joe Reacher dies.

Now my mom is confused, outraged and refuses to accept this.

“I ‘ve read dozens of these books, so far,” she said, “and the brother is alive in some of them. This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well,” I told her, “perhaps the author wanted to go back in time with Jack’s life and talk about  where he came from, his mom and his brother and their life together. So he had to create a pre-quel.”

That seemed to be the end of the conversation, until a few days later when we were going shopping.

“I need you to give that book, “The Killing Floor” back to me, ” she said.

“Okay, but I’m reading it. Can it wait?”

“Well, okay, but I wrote down the publication date as 1997, and I just want to see if that’s right because I’ve gone through all the Jack Reacher books I have at home and none of them are before 1997. I just don’t understand it. I must’ve written it down incorrectly.”

“What are you talking about, Mom?”

“It just can’t be right that that book was written in 1997 because his mother and brother are dead and they are alive in other books.”

Now, here’s the thing. Do not try and use Star Wars as an example of a pre-quel to your 88-year-old mother. I tried. She’s never seen any Star-Wars-anything.  Princess Leia sounds naughty, Yoda sounds like exercise and Obewon Kenobe sounds like sushi, all of which she detests.

Since pre-quels didn’t seem to exist before  Star Wars, well, you’re just going to have to figure it out.

I’m not finished The Killing Floor yet, but I’m thinking about ripping out the copyright page and dummying up one that says 2016. For my mom, for my sanity, for senior citizens book clubs everywhere, and for all readers born before 1983.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

A-rears or Ass-inine?

Yesterday, I went to the Social Security Office unannounced. It was a big risk. You could be there 20 minutes or three hours. You never know. There was only one couple in the waiting room and one lady at the window talking to a representative. Jackpot!

My number was called in less than five minutes. Clearly, the gods were on my side.

I was in the Social Security Office to check on the missing checks that were to be sent to the children of my brother-in-law. See, there ‘s a rule in Social Security. If a bank receives a check after a recipient has died, the bank must return that check to Social Security.

Now this might make sense to you. However, what you need to know is that Social Security pays in arrears.

What that means is that if  you die in October, and you receive a check in October, you are being paid for September. So that’s still your check, alive or dead. You lived all of September. You get paid for September. Admittedly, if you don’t tell Social Security that you died ( well, okay if someone else doesn’t tell them that you died), and those checks continue to go into your bank account they should be returned to Social Security.

But here’s the rub. Almost every funeral home alerts Social Security that  you’ve died and the whopping $255 death benefit will be sent to the beneficiary. It’s a nice favor that funeral homes do.

And yet, 99 times out of 100 that monthly check that the bank returned to Social Security does indeed belong to the deceased. And it would naturally flow to the estate of the deceased and dealt with accordingly. The bank can’t help it. The bank is required by law to send that check back as soon as they are notified that someone has died.

But because of this stupid rule, I had to go to the Social Security Office, get the proper form and submit the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of the children of the deceased.

And I did that….on March 27, 2016.

By August 27, 2016. five months later, the beneficiaries contacted me to tell me they had not received their checks. Which I was grateful for, since I have no way of knowing if Social Security did their job or not.

So I went to the Social Security Office after Labor Day and asked the representative if she thought it was weird that we hadn’t heard anything, hadn’t received the checks and seemed to have fallen into the black hole of lost paperwork. Of course, I had a copy of everything I submitted. She admitted that was weird.

So she looked up the case from my paperwork and said: “Oh, that case was cleared August 29th.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

She just shook her head and shrugged her shoulders and said, “well, I would just wait another week to see if those checks are delivered. And don’t lose these copies.”

Yeah. I made those copies for just such an occasion, not because Social Security told me that would be a stellar idea.

Hmmmm.

Five months to correct a thing that never should be happening. Why is this even a thing? Who made up this stupid rule, costing deceased families time and money, costing banks time and money, and especially since Social Security knows they pay in arrears.

Imagine waiting five months in your office for someone to read a paper and take action. The checks came, my beneficiaries were happy and we all just shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders.

Think of these blogs as instructional, so you don’t lose your mind and please……

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski

 

Call Me, Maybe…..for Quality Assurance

My Publisher  Extraordinaire campaigns for everyone to just ‘Be Nice.’ I would like to take her advice and suggest we start with our Veterans and their families.

Last week the Veteran’s Administration hung up on me. Granted, I wasn’t giving the guy what he wanted….but he HUNG UP ON ME….AT THE VETERAN’S ADMINISTRATION.

Those of you kind readers who follow my blog, know that I have been in a kerfuffle with the VA since January when they unceremoniously stopped my 87-year-old mother’s health insurance. They discovered a mistake they made 15 years ago, by putting her on the wrong insurance. So they just cancelled her policy. They didn’t bother to fix their mistake. They didn’t  bother to put her on the correct insurance. They didn’t even bother to tell her that they cancelled her insurance.

So, as I told you in the past, my Congressman Representative Ryan Costello (R-PA) (well actually his amazing administrator, Lisa Reynolds) helped me quickly and efficiently fix the problem. If you’re having problems with the VA or any other governmental agency, I

Your current Congress might be more helpful.
Your current Congress might be more helpful.

highly recommend you ask your Congress person to help you. Really. Don’t waste too much time trying to fix it yourself. You will be quite surprised and, hopefully, happy that  your Representative or Senator has staff who are there to help you. Try it. That’s what we pay them for, to work for us.

All that being said…..please VA don’t hang up on us. Even if you don’t like what we are saying, don’t engage in the rudest form of behavior.

I wasn’t yelling, complaining or even causing trouble. I just wanted to refrain from filing additional paperwork with the VA, if they didn’t need it, thereby making everyone’s life easier.

This is what went down:

“Hello, this is Bob from the VA, we are returning your call as requested.”

“Hi, Bob, I was calling for my Mom who has a complicated case that goes back 15 years.”

“Well,” said Bob. ” what do you want me to do? Look at 15 years of claims?”

“No, Bob,” I replied, “I just want to look at one provider, if you can search by that to see if you have already processed that claim,  I won’t resubmit it.”

“Okay,” replied Bob with a bit of exasperation, “What’s your address?”

“Do you mean my Mom’s address? Because she is the insured.”

“No,” replied Bob, getting a bit testy, “I want your address.”

“Well see Bob, that has caused problems before, because my Mom and I don’t live together and………….”

He said: “When you’re ready to give me your address, you can call back.”  And he hung up the phone.

I tried to call back, but there was a 13 minute wait time which is standard procedure when you call the VA.  Which is why Bob was returning my call in the first place, three days later.

Then I just thought, okay. I tried to help. I’m just gonna’ file this and make you do the work twice. And I may begin to implement my new practice where everyone I call for this kind of business I say before the representative can help me:

“This call is being recorded for quality assurance.”

I’ve tried it a few times. It brings silence and confusion. But no one has been rude or hung up on me since then. I say we all try it…….you know, for Veteran’s sake!

“You just have to Laugh…….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016