Tag Archives: Caregiver

You might be a Caregiver….Part One

Just as I was sitting down to bring you the next installment of caregiving comedy, my computer decided the last laugh would be on me. Done, died, dead. With no warning, no goodbyes, no fond farewells, just dead.

These two weeks provided lots of time to come up with all the joys that caregivers experience. So in a huge nod to Jeff Foxworthy, I bring you the first installment of:

“You might be a Caregiver……”

  1. If you know Medicare’s phone number and website without Googling….You might be a Caregiver….
  2. If your search for an Assisted Living Community for your Mom starts to look like a nice vacation spot for you and your spouse….You might be a Caregiver
  3. If you cancel your dentist appointment to attend Ice Cream Social Wednesday at your Dad’s nursing home, because you want the ice cream….You might be a Caregiver
  4. If you know your parents’ Medicare number, AARP number, United Healthcare number but not your own cell phone number…You might be a Caregiver
  5. If you feel the need to correct WebMD about all the missed additional symptoms of a urinary tract infection….You might be a Caregiver
  6. If your iPhone calendar has words on it like ‘catheters’, ‘hearing aid’, ‘urologist’, or ‘dentures’…..You might be a Caregiver
  7. If going to the Emergency Room is like Cheers where they know your first name and how you take your coffee…..You might be a Caregiver
  8. If you took the black Sharpie to your husband’s underwear to mark it for the wash instead of your Mom’s for the nursing home…..You might be a Caregiver
  9. If you’ve had more knock-down, drag-out fights with Insurance Companies, Hospitals and Doctor’s office than Muhammad Ali…..You might be a Caregiver
  10. If everyone around you thinks you are speaking in tongues because you are constantly saying, PT, OT, UTI, or DME….You might be a Caregiver

And this is only the beginning, my friends. After all, this is a new computer, so there’s lots of room for humor here now!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

Hello…it’s me….

I just returned from three weeks away to get a good head start on my next book.

I have been running from one person to another who just needs to see me. I don’t care how far technology has come, people want to actually see you. My mom, my friends, my book club, my uncle, my sisters, even my cleaning lady. And I want to see them.  It has made an impact on me. I realize that human contact, not just phones, or email or even Skype take the place of eye to eye, hand on the arm, hugs and kisses. Actually talking in person to someone can make your life better.

Never more so was this clear,  yesterday when I sat with my Mom as we made yet another phone call to the Veterans Administration. It was not frustrating or anger-inducing as I have recounted in the past, but it was a hoot.

It was reminiscent of a phone call I had made just days earlier to Medicare.

This was the Medicare call with a robot voice who was trying to get me to the right place:

Robovoice: Please state the purpose of your call.

Me: “Claims”

Robovoice: I heard ‘disability’ . Is that correct?

Me: “No, Claims.”

Robovoice: I heard ‘enrollment’ . Is that correct?

Me: “No, Ugh. I just want to talk to someone!”

Robovoice: I heard eligibility. Is that correct?

Lest you think I’m making this up, my friend was in the room listening, so she can confirm that this was a real conversation. I hung up and started all over again. My friend said, ” well there’s a blog.”

With my Mom and the VA however, we used this great service where they called us back rather than keep us on hold. In 10 minutes, a real person was on the phone answering our questions. She was kind, courteous and extremely helpful in leading us to the correct information.

The only problem was the phone connection was so terrible that she and I had to repeat every single sentence. I don’t know why, but neither of us got crazy over this. We just kept repeating. Finally, she said she could send me an email to make sure we had what we needed. Of course, do I have an easy email address? No, why would I?

This is how that conversation went:

Me: My email address is my name. I’ll spell it c-a-t-h-y

VA  lady: Is that J-R-P-P-I?

Me: No, it’s C, my  name is Cathy.

VA lady: Okay, Jathy

Me: No, it’s C, like in chocolate. (Now I know ‘military C’ is Charlie. I have no idea why I said chocolate)

VA lady: OH “C”! Okay you’re name is Cathy!

Me: Yes, My last name is Sikorski.

Hello? Hello?
Hello? Hello?

My mother sitting next to me says: “Oh God, this will never work!”

I just jump in and spell my last name : S as in Sam, I as in Ink, K as in Kitchen, O as in Olive, R as in Radish, S as in Sam, K as in Kitchen, I as in Ink. I don’t know the rest of the military alphabet. This is my  version.

VA Lady: Okay, I’ll send you the email.

Me: You will send it by mail?

VA Lady; No, the email, I’ll send the email.

I had no hope of this ever happening.

And five minutes later, there it was in my inbox.

If only we could have seen each other, it would have been so much better. But my Mom and I had a great laugh as we sat together at her kitchen table.

“You Just have to Laugh….”

© Cathy Sikorski 2016

Want a Laugh? Call the VA……

Although my caregiving duties have changed some, I still, like many a dutiful daughter have to deal with issues of the elderly.

As I warned you a few weeks ago, my Mom is steeped in a battle with the Veterans Administration.  They reneged on her insurance about a month ago. This insurance is for widows of Veterans. My mother was placed on this policy 15  years ago. She’s used it for all her health needs since then, until that  fateful day when they discovered their error. For points of clarity, my Mom was put on Insurance Plan A and should have been placed on Insurance Plan B.

As you can imagine, in the world of government bureaucracy, this is no easy fix. Nobody knows what to do or how to repair this problem.

What they do know how to do is create all kinds of havoc that sends little old 87 year-old ladies into shock and apoplexy.

They have begun to  take back all their insurance payments over the last year or so, thereby causing my mother to receive bills from all her medical providers day after day after day.  You may not know this about the elder generation, but if they get a bill, they pay it. Case closed. Even though these bills will eventually be paid by Insurance B, this generation can not abide being beholden to anyone, especially their doctor.

After yet another three and a half hours on the phone with fwo divisions of the Veterans Administration…Insurance A and Insurance B customer service, and  DEERS   (Defense Enrollment Eligibility System) a department from the Department of Defense, I had my Mom actually hear a customer service rep tell her not to pay any bills until this is resolved.

The first guy was named Kirk. He asked me if I had spoken to him three days ago. I assured him I had not since I was out of the country.

“Hmm” he said, because I ‘m sure I had a call from some lady about this same problem, which I never heard of until this week.I guess Insurance A is running a review of all their insureds to see who is on the wrong program…hahahha..”

Yeah. Hilarious.Oh, and by the way, I think my mother may have inadvertently started this shake down of widows from the VA about a month ago.

Person number 2 , after our second 20 minutes on hold, was David. He, too, was flummoxed by this account of our woes and told us that he could only suggest we call DEERS, because It looks like DEERS needs to confirm that my father died on October 10, 1961.

Person number 3. after a very brief 10 minute hold was Bill. Bill was ever so kind. He could see that this was a grand problem. He couldn’t understand why the two insurance companies,under the VA would not accept a death certificate (yes, my amazing, organized- with-every-shred-of-paper-ever-touching-her-fingers-Mom has  a death certificate from 1961). Then Bill searched the records and said because the ‘incident’ (meaning my father’s death on active duty) was so long ago they would have to put in  a request to …you guessed it….the Veterans Administration, to confirm my Dad’s death.

One more transfer to another department of the VA, with a lovely 20 minute wait to Stuart.  It was almost taking as long to explain this journey as it was to be on hold, but explain it I did. And, this is a true story, mind you, while searching the data base of all the information under my Mom’s name and my Dad’s name, I think Stuart thought he put me on hold. Alas, this is what I heard in his exasperated voice:

Only I KNOW the ANSWER...she said.
How do you spell “Cluster$#!!

“What a cluster fuck!”

Yep, I burst out laughing, ’cause well, yeah…indeed.

The journey continues with me filing some documents they’ve asked for, waiting for a confirmation that my Dad has been dead for 55 years to come from the Veteran’s Administration to my Mom, so that we can then send it to the VA insurance.

That’s how it has to be done they tell me. The VA can’t send it the the VA, the widow has to do it. And at least a few more weeks of comedic material for a blog called..

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

Just checking………

As my life changes now from caregiver to Executor, trust me. the frustrations and the sense of humor still need to be in place.

I spent two hours yesterday calling all the places that send money to my brother-in-law to thank them, but notify them that he has passed away.

I called two pension plans, one health insurance company, one drug insurance company, and one health insurance reimbursement company. Five phone calls shouldn’t take that long. However, there is no “press 9” if your loved one has passed away. By the time I was transferred to each appropriate department and repeated my story over and over again, I started to feel the ghost of caregiver frustration rearing her ugly head.

Truthfully, most customer service people were quite kind and sympathetic.

But there’s always one, isn’t there?

The health insurance reimbursement company was set up by my brother-in-law’s former employer to reimburse each individual for their health insurance premium as a temporary benefit when the employer no longer wanted to be in the health insurance business. This started last year when I had to wade through 64 health plans to pick the best one and then send in a cancelled check to have reimbursement sent directly to my brother-in-law’s checking account. I am certain that I had to fax my Power of Attorney documents to this company so that I could conduct this business while my brother-in-law was in the hospital.

The second person I am transferred to deems herself helpful in this way:

“I can’t find your Power of Attorney document in my system.”

“That’s okay,” I replied, “because I’m just calling to let you know that my brother-in-law passed away.”

“Well,” she said tartly, “I think you have to call back and speak to customer service about that.”

“Okay,” I said slowly and a bit confused, “but will they take care of this then?”

“Well, I don’t know!” she sputtered, “but your Power of Attorney isn’t any good for dead people.”

Oh my God, did she really say that? Actually, I say that all the time in my lectures where I’m teaching about what you need to do get your affairs in order, but still….really?

“I know,” I told her, “because I’m also the executor.”

“Huh,” she mumbled, “Well, I don’t see any executor papers here in the file.”

“I know that too, he just passed away a week ago,” I said slowly and patiently, or so I thought. ” I just wanted to inform you so that you stop putting money in his checking account.”

“Well, we can’t just do that. Did you call his former employer?”

“Why, yes I did, with no difficulty.”

What she's really doing while talking to me.
What she’s really doing while talking to me.

“Well then,” she said with exasperation, ” they will take care of it.”

“So I DON’T have to call customer service?” I inquired.

“The employer will take care of it,” she said.

“Look, I just want you to note that so you don’t keep putting money into his account. Is that possible?”

“No.”

I didn’t tell her I was closing those accounts. I’m just smiling knowing those checks would be swimming around in the direct deposit atmosphere for who knows how long.

And I did not call customer service.

’cause well………….in these times,

“You Just have to Laugh…………”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

 

Techno and Testing………..

As I sit in the waiting room for my husband to have his colonoscopy, I am reminded of all the times I’ve been to various hospitals and doctors’ offices for tests of one kind or another as a caregiver.  Sometimes, I think we test like our patients are the next subjects in a high school science experiment.

When my mother-in-law was 86 years old, I took her to her cardiologist for a semi-annual check-up. By that time, she had a pacemaker and was required to have it tested in the office to make sure it was working properly. In the interim, they had sent her home with a machine that she was to use monthly to check the battery and operation of the pacemaker over the telephone. This was hilarious.

Marie had to take out this little box, put two wrist bands on herself, call a phone number, place the phone in an electronic phone cradle at just the right moment,  while holding some gizmo over the pacemaker on her chest, and wait for the buzz to tell her all was well. It sounds simple. But the set-up, the conversation with the technician and the ultimate getting the phone in the cradle at just the right time was a comedy of errors. Phone check-ups had to be by appointment only. I tried to get there on the exact date every month to help her, but some dates were just not possible for me. So after training my mother-in-law, this darling 86 year-old woman who lived alone and had not the slightest relationship with technology, did the best she could. I prayed she could do it, or in the alternative prayed that the pacemaker just worked until the next month.

At this bi-annual visit with her cardiologist, the good news was, her pacemaker was working just fine. Dr. Smarty Pants, however, had no trouble telling us that every month they weren’t getting the best reading, and we would need to do better. You know what I wanted to retort. But instead, I  said, “Okay.”

Marie took it personally and tried to explain how hard she worked to get it right, but by that time we were dismissed on that topic to discuss further things.

Dr. Smarty Pants was concerned that Marie’s chest X-ray showed a slight spot on her lungs. The X-ray had been taken as a standard procedure due to her heart condition and pacemaker. This spot, however seemed new and the doctor was concerned.

“It could be nothing, or it could be a sign of further pathology,” he said to us.

“Well,” I said, “exactly what would you like to do?”

“I think we should do some more tests,” he declared. “I would like to do a CAT scan, or perhaps even an MRI, and then based on those results, we may have to do a biopsy of the lung area to see what we are dealing with. And then, based on that information, well, actually, as soon as we have the results of the CAT Scan or MRI, I would probably send you to a lung specialist as this is not a cardiology issue in any event.”

“So let me get this straight. As her cardiologist, you want to send this 86 year-old woman for a CAT Scan, and MRI, a possible lung biopsy and then off to another specialist, as this isn’t really your bailiwick anyway? Do I understand that correctly?”

“Yes.”

Now my mother-in-law is just sitting there in her paper gown, probably freezing, as it is cold in there and I haven’t even taken my coat off, watching this banter .

“Let me ask you this doctor,” I said pretending I was just seeking information, but wanting to put my hands around his throat while he strangled out an answer if he were lucky enough to survive.

“Tell me a bit more about this spot on the X-ray. Is it big, is it new, what do you suspect it could be?”

“Well, it’s tiny, and we haven’t seen it before. Honestly. Sometimes it could just be a spot or speck of dust on the machine and not pathological at all. But we don’t know that for sure.”

“Okay,” I say incredulous but still pretending to be seeking only information and not the death penalty….for him…..”Let’s just say you find the worst case scenario after all those tests, the biopsies and whatever else you do….then what? My mother-in-law is 86 years old. She has a really nice quality of life. She has heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure. What exactly would you do or suggest under those circumstances?”

“Well, truthfully, I probably would just make her comfortable, she’s not really a candidate for surgery or even intensive therapies.”

“Um…hmm.. that’s what I was thinking, Doctor.” Of course, what I was really thinking was: “You’re an idiot.”

“Based on that, Doctor, I think she’s already pretty comfortable so we will pass on further testing and let nature take its course.”

My mother-in-law lived 11 more years, with nary a cough.

“You just have to Laugh…….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2015

I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake… Lewis Black

My friend needed a companion to take her for eye surgery in the city.  It necessitated an overnight stay at the Sheraton because she had to return early the next day for a post-surgical check.

I slept on her very comfortable sofa the night before as we had a 4:00 AM alarm. As is the custom, no one really slept the night before, in spite of a few glasses of wine, for fear that we would miss our window of opportunity to get into the city by 6:00 AM.

The surgical waiting area was a beehive of activity. They took my friend back to ‘get ready’ 2 hours later. This was the Ford factory of eye surgery. Without coffee.

Yes. I said without coffee.

This place had at least 25 people waiting when we arrived before 6:00 AM. These numbers kept multiplying like rabbits every five minutes. Half of us were not having surgery, didn’t need to be fasting, and there wasn’t even a waft of coffee in this hospital.

Since none of the patients could eat or drink since midnight, I didn’t want to start a lack-of-food-fight, so I waited until my patient went back to the mysterious green room of surgery and politely asked,

“Um… is there some place I can get coffee?”

Which probably sounded like: “Um…s’ere smplc ickan goot COFFEE?” as I was stuffing a power bar in my mouth that I found in the bottom of my purse and waited two hours to eat so as not to offend my friend. I was done worrying about these other starving people.

“Coffee?” said the attendant.

“Oh yeah, go back down through the maze and walk about 5 miles through the next two buildings to the cafeteria. She really, truly said “5 miles.”  I don’t know if she wanted to save all the coffee for herself, but 5 miles would not daunt me.

As I turned the 13th corner and saw the Starbucks sign greeting all who entered the cafeteria, it was just like in the movies. Angels were singing, everyone around was smiling, a welcoming white light beckoned all to the green mermaid.

As it turned out, I waited another 3 hours for my friend to be finished, so that one Venti barely covered the trek.

We were both exhausted by the time we checked into the Sheraton. We decadently ordered room service of  Greek omelets and fruit salad which were only $7.95 each. We didn’t have high hopes for cheap room service but we were too pooped to venture out. My power bar had long worn off and my surgical companion was starving by now. Surprisingly, our meals were pretty magnificent. Yay, Sheraton Hotels!

And then we slept like the dead.

The ordeal was more draining than we realized. Since room service was so cheap we sprung for a movie…not cheap…and watched Birdman. Yowsa! That film had us talking for hours, so much so that we just went back to sleep early.

My friend slept well, but me, not so much. Again, I was worried that we would miss our appointment, even though we were 2 minutes away. The weather people were calling for possible snow, and I wanted to get her home safe and sound, with attendant groceries in case she would be snowed in for a few days.

I guess I was tired. I’m sure I was distracted. I am absolutely certain coffee deprivation was to blame.

I was so pleased with our ability to get packed and check out and be on our way. The weather system wasn’t going to happen at least until the afternoon and we were rocking our schedule. We hopped into my car in the parking garage. The place was almost empty of cars, which was the opposite of when we had parked the afternoon before.

I got my eye-patched friend situated in the car, threw my bags in, got out my parking pass, and promptly backed out so close to the cement column that the crushing sound of my side view mirror against my door reminded me of the trash compactors of old. I could only pull forward to stop the insanity. There dangled my mirror, limp, lifeless, devoid of plastic protection, crushed.

Wounded  because of coffee
Wounded because of coffee

At the hospital, my friend asked for extra surgical tape to help her driver  fashion a splint for my crushed mirror. I devised a solution that angled the mirror into the driver’s side window so it wouldn’t bang against the door. We drove home in 28 degree weather on the expressway with our hats and gloves on, and the window open.

The high tech side view mirror flashed a big yellow blinker right in my face every time I wanted to turn left or merge. I was blinded by the flash as well as  by the fact that I didn’t realize how highly trained I was to use that mirror to merge. It was scary, dangerous driving.

My friend sat next to me with her big, huge surgical sunglasses on, trying to help so that we didn’t have yet another accident and said:

“Wow, this is the blind leading the blind.”

“You just have to Laugh….”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

A Caregiver Confesses…………

Not every day in a caregiver’s life is worthy of a pat on the back. Last week the visiting nurse called me with her weekiy update:

“Hi Cathy, all is well with your brother-in-law,but I’m calling today as his advocate.”

Uh-oh. What does that mean? Immediately, my hackles go up. I don’t actually know what hackles are, if I have them or when they go up and down. But I do know that some red flag is waving behind my eyeballs, and I have become defensive before she even says her next sentence. And here’s why. I am his advocate. Not you. First, I am a professional advocate. Second, I am the one who goes to bat for him almost on a  daily basis. And third, if you are telling me you are advocating for him to me….that must mean you are about to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

“Okay,” I say calmly, “what’s up?”

“Since you’ve put him back on bed rest, he is frustrated and really angry. He doesn’t want to be in bed most of the day. He needs to be in his wheelchair and out and about with his friends. He needs to go to the dining room for every meal and have that independence.”

And here’s where I’m not so happy with myself….but this is only the first part of my confession.

“Let me tell you something (not a good way to start an open-minded conversation). He  just returned home from 10 months in and out of the hospital with 6 of those months straight in a nursing home.In just four days after being home, he began to have bed sores again and problems with open wounds. I feel pretty certain that he does not want to go back to either of those places and so since I know that bed rest was the only solution, I instituted that. Within 10 days of you seeing him, those wounds have significantly healed and he is almost able to return to his normal routine.”

“Well,” she replied, “I’m sure that’s what he needs.”

“I am not trying to make his life harder. Quite the contrary. But I will be sure and let him know that you have advocated for him.”

“Okay, thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!” she said as she got off the phone at breakneck speed.

The Thanksgiving remark sort of slapped me back to reality as well. I was feeling less grateful for her help and more needy of explaining my part in this Passion Play.

And then I misbehaved.

I went over to my brother-in-law’s apartment to discuss his advocate. I waited until the next day, so I could explain to him that I’m not a monster, I’m not insensitive to the fact that lying in bed most of the day is boring, not fun and makes for a long day. I only have his best interests at heart, and I don’t want him to end up back in any place but his home, where he is as happy as he can be.

When I arrived, he was watching TV in his chair.

“Hey,” I said, “your nurse tells me your mad at me.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I don’t want to be in bed so much. ”

And this is where all my sensitivity training, my caregiver’s heart and I’m pretty sure my 26 years as a Mom comes in to soothe and explain how all my hard work for him is truly in his own best interests, that I love him and want him to be healthy and safe and happy and that sometimes that road is a little bumpy.

“Get over it, ” I said.

I thought he would just have to laugh…..and guess what…he actually did………

©Cathy Sikorski

 

 

Stroke of genius?

I called my 86 year old Mom for help.

“Hey, Mom, I need a picture of your cabin in Canada.”

“Okay,” she said, “come over and get it.”

“No,” I told her, “I want you to get it off your computer, and email it to me.”

“Oh, ummm….where is that?”

“Where is your computer?”

“No, don’t be ridiculous. Where is the picture on my computer?”

“I don’t know. Don’t you?”

Maybe I did have to go over there and get it.

“Okay, let’s start at the computer. Are you on your iPad or your desktop?”

“Let me go to the big computer, the picture has to be on there because your

In folder marked "Canada"
In folder marked “Canada”

brother-in-law made it my screensaver.”

I hear her sneakers tweak around the kitchen floor, her bedroom door makes a little squeak as she opens it, and the whirr of her desktop hums through the phone line as she boots up.

“Okay, now what do I do?” she asks matter-of-factly. She calmly clicks on all the buttons I direct her to. We get all the way to the photos stored on her desk top and we are at an impasse.

“Mom, do you know where the photo is stored? Like, what folder is it in?”

“Well, I guess it’s in the one marked ‘Canada’, does that sound right?”

“Just try it. See if it’s in there.”

For some reason, I don’t hear any computer buttons clicking on the other end of the line. Silence, with a little breathing is the only sound coming through.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“What are you doing? I thought you were looking in the file marked ‘Canada’. Did you find it?”

Now she’s exasperated. Technology has won again. She is frustrated and annoyed, and I have no idea why.

“Ugh….I have been waiting and waiting for the keyboard to come up so I can look for the picture.”

“Wait…what? I don’t know what…..Wait….are you on your iPad or your computer”

“I’m on the computer. I told you that’s where the picture probably is.”

I realize that this octogenarian is trying her best to be in the 21st century. She has willingly taken on a desktop and an iPad. She puts up with her children trying to train her like an organ monkey over the phone, and sometimes it’s just too many things to remember. Plus naming every button as a “square thingy that looks like a tv,” or a “the blue e thingy,” usually ends up with a trip to Mom’s house anyway.

” Um….Mom, look down at your fingers, there’s your keyboard. It doesn’t come up on the screen like the iPad. You’re using the actual keyboard.”

“Oh.”

We both burst out laughing. She does indeed send the picture.

Caregivers need to give credit where credit is due and…..

“You just have to Laugh….”

©2014 Cathy Sikorski

What’s at steak??????

In the last four months, my brother-in-law has lost somewhere between 25 and 30 pounds. That may seem like a lot, especially for those of us who have been fighting those last damn 10 pounds for years, but it has been a blessing.

He now has lost so much of his Buddha belly that he can actually turn himself a bit from side to side. This is a spectacular advancement in the world of MS and bed sores because he may now be able to spend more time in his electric  wheelchair and less time confined to bed to protect his skin from breaking down.

He, on the other hand, sees that he has been subject to lousy food and a Spartan diabetic diet.  Now, it is kind of hard to point out the beauty of lousy food and a Spartan diet. So after much praise for his ability to scooch around (yes, I do believe that is a medical term), I researched the possibility of getting some fun back onto his food tray.

He is still in rehab for a few weeks to get stronger from wound repair surgery, so I must get permission to adjust his diet. And I do. Everyone agrees his blood sugar is exemplary and he can have sugar instead of sugar substitute. His blood pressure is also stellar, so he can have salt again as well. Hip, hip hooray.

I take this as a sign that I can ‘bring’ him a special meal of his own choosing at least once a week. It’s actually getting to the point where I’m concerned that he might loose too much weight and then we have another problem. I know, the “oh you’ll get too skinny” story is usually baloney, but he has taken refusing bad food to new heights….and I don’t blame him. In fact, he would welcome baloney, but they don’t serve that…too salty.

So, as we live in the Philly area, I brought him his favorite naughty meal. It was a cheesesteak hoagie with hot peppers. That means there were condiments such as fried onions, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise all slathered on that sandwich. He ate every single bite, picked the stray onions, peppers and tomatoes off the hoagie paper, and wiped his mustache with glee.

When the aide came in for his institutional food tray and it looked like he hadn’t touched a bite, I debated whether to confess. Ah…what the hell……….

“I brought him a cheesesteak.”

“Well, good for him,” said the aide. “I don’t think one person ate today’s dinner. It was that bad.”

“So our secret is safe with you?”

“What secret?”

Sometimes you find partners in crime in the best and most unexpected places.

“You just have to Laugh….”

© 2014 Cathy Sikorski

 

Caregiving blows hot and cold….

I’m entrenched in the rehab cycle right now. Many days to the rehab center every week are required to watch the progress of my brother-in-law, keep an eye on his care, and to make sure he’s behaving like a human being to the overworked, understaffed people running around trying to please everyone, and pretty much pleasing no one.

The very first day he entered rehab,in the dead of summer, he wasn’t there two hours and protesting royally about the heat. Now, MS sufferers really do need to be temperate. So his complaints were absolutely legitimate. To my amazement, the staff relocated him immediately to a bed where he would be next to the window and air-conditioner.

His first two roommates complained bitterly because they were freezing. My loved one had the thermostat at 60 degrees because he was alternately too hot and too cold. Ya’ think?

But the third roommate hopped on board with my brother-in-law, lickety split. They conferred daily, maybe even hourly, about how freakin’ hot it was in their room. The good news was that one guy wasn’t bundled in a sweat suit and blankets, while the other was half naked in a hospital gown embarrassing anyone who walked down the hall and peeked in mistakenly.

Flat Stanley in PA
What they want it to feel like

Every time I entered their room, the two gentlemen of Verona were commiserating about the unseemly state of the weather in their room. No matter how many times I reset the air conditioner, it wasn’t cold enough……for them. Meanwhile, anyone on the staff who was in  menopause was hanging out in their room to cool off.

By the third day of this, I was at my wit’s end trying to make these two guys happy. The only saving grace was they were enjoying the mutual complaint department. Sort of an “us against them”, giving rehab a fun kind of flavor.

Yesterday morning I entered their room and noticed that the staff had pulled the curtains closed during the night. The curtains were romantically billowing in the window forcing  the air conditioner to blow all the cold air straight up to the ceiling. I went to the window to draw open the curtains and let the cold air directly into the room. That was when I noticed the window panes had quite a bit of condensation. Looking closer, I saw the window was actually open. In fact, both windows were open. Open.

All night long, the July heat was drifting in through the open windows, allowing all the humidity to circle around and settle on their hot sweltering bodies. Ugh. Really? Someone came up with this idea as a way to cool these guys off?  I closed the windows. I asked the gentlemen to tell the staff to keep the windows closed.

The roommate quickly informed me that he thought the open windows constituted a good idea. It would allow circulation and air into the room at night. This logic reminded me of my mother-in-law.  Every time she left the house in tropical heat, she turned off the air conditioner. We told her she might as well turn off the refrigerator every time she left the house too, as that logic goes.

I return the next morning and the condensation is just waiting for me to put “Cathy was here” on the window.

Okay, so … I give up…..

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski