Tag 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.

Peace and Love to all Caregivers…………

Yesterday, I had the privilege of consulting with an attorney and his clients, who are dealing with the death of their elderly father and the need to place their mother in a dementia facility.

I just want to reiterate here how precious each and every true caregiver is. If you are caring for a parent, a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend, you are an unsung hero. You are likely losing time from work, money from Social Security, work, or retirement benefits. You are probably tired, angry, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and sad at least some bit of every day. I saw this in these clients. And I recognized it in myself from days gone by.

You are also filled with joy, comfort, love, and solace that you have the opportunity to provide so deeply for someone you love. Those emotions aren’t always on the surface. But you know they are there. Because these clients were now former caregivers for their Dad and current caregivers for their Mom they were experiencing all of this simultaneously.

All the hard work they were doing was right in front of us. Our conversation was complex and detailed. The wife had a file 5 inches thick with paperwork.

And yet… at some point….we were discussing very difficult decisions and how their Mom was ready to die as well.  So I told them my constant conversation with my mother-in-law:

“Marie would say to me often, ‘Just bring the box, I’m ready,’ I related.

“And I would say to her, ‘Marie, I would, but the problem is, you can’t climb in the box, someone has to put you in, and with my bad back, I just can’t do that.’

Marie and I would chuckle and the conversation would change.

Which is just what happened here. One chuckle was enough for all of us to keep moving forward in our quest to help them and their elder with difficult decisions.

To all you caregivers, may today bring you a bit of laughter, a smile from someone or just a full heart, for you are certainly doing that for someone else. And for that, I thank you.

Maybe laughter is the best medicine.

“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

When in Doubt…..Baked Goods!

I was having dinner with a friend last night who lives far away from me.  She was telling me about her parents and caregiving. I was flattered that this very busy, corporate woman had obviously taken the time to read several of my blog posts because she was very familiar with my ups and downs as a caregiver, attorney, and speaker.

The joy of this is that she was willing to share with me her hilarious story of taking her parents to a seminar on joint replacement since her mom was about to have knee replacement surgery.

As the nurse practitioner was speeding through extensive PowerPoint slides, my friend was furiously writing down notes to be able to deal with possible side effects, rehabilitation, medication and the personality changes that we all deal with when our elders have surgery…like, “I hate you because I don’t want to go to therapy and this hurts, and I haven’t gone to the bathroom for days on this pain medication.”

Meanwhile, her parents are chit-chatting with other future replacement recipients and asking their daughter to grab a brownie or two from the nice snack table that the hospital has put out to lure people to this presentation.

My take-away from this:

  1. Just because you’re caregiving at home, don’t think lots of other people aren’t doing it from work, from afar, or from their mobile phones.
  2. Caregivers love laughing at each other’s stories. We even know it’s funny while it’s happening, even though we may not be laughing until days, months or weeks later.
  3. You never know who might benefit from your caregiving plight. My Nana was right: Misery loves Company. I feel certain Nana didn’t make that up. It sounds like something Shakespeare probably said.  My five siblings and I must’ve made Nana pretty miserable ’cause we sure heard that a lot.
  4. As I suspected, Brownies solve everything.

Thanks to my friend for sharing. I love hearing all your hilarious tales. Never be afraid to be  It helps. I promise.

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY WEEKEND!!!

“You Just have to Laugh…”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

The Eyes Have It……………….

I thought I would return for a moment to my caregiver roots and relay a story told to me by my Mom, yesterday.

My beautiful mother has been having some vision issues lately. She had cataract surgery a few years ago and has been seeing quite nicely, even without her glasses, since then. Recently, she noticed that her eyes were watering more than usual, and since she was happy about everything in her life (and why wouldn’t she be with a daughter like me), she was pretty sure she wasn’t crying for no good reason.

She went to the eye doctor. After a  thorough examination, the doctor declared my mother to have “dry eye” syndrome and also interference with her vision from droopy eye lids.

Now some people would be kind of excited about the prospect of a doctor declaring you a victim of droopy eye lids.  No one wants to look like a basset hound, not even a basset hound, I’m pretty sure.

See, if a doctor will state that it is medically necessary for you to have eyelid surgery for better vision or to correct the flow of your tears, you can have plastic surgery on your eyes and your medical insurance will pay for it! My friend, Lisa, who actually noticed her drooping eye problem affecting her vision has been fighting with physicians for months now to get it fixed.

My mother was then referred to an eye surgeon to look into correcting the cataract surgery as well as the droopy eye lids.

This is how the conversation went down:

Doctor: What seems to be the problem?

Mom: My vision has begun to get cloudy on the edges and I really can’t see well.

Doctor: Well, you know, with aging we just have to accept that things aren’t perfect.

See how pretty she is!
See how pretty she is!

Mom (a bright woman who is indeed aware that she is 87 years old): I certainly know that by now. But I was told that sometimes with cataract surgery fluid can get behind the lens and it needs to be repaired with a laser.

Doctor: Well I don’t see that with you.  I think you just need to wash your eyes real well with soap and water.

Mom looks at him like he’s a lunatic.

Doctor: Warm water, just use warm water.

Mom: I was sent to you by my eye doctor, and she saw that the cataract might have fluid behind it, so I wonder why there’s a difference?

Doctor: Well, I suppose I could do another test just to make sure.

Mom: Yes, let’s do that.

Cue Jeopardy theme song as Mom has test and waits to be called back into the doctor’s office

Doctor (with a chuckle): Well, well, well, I was certainly wrong about that!

Mom: What does that mean?

Doctor: You definitely are a candidate for the laser surgery, in fact in both eyes. But I would have to do one eye first, let it heal and then do the other eye. It’s kind of a pain to have to come back.

Mom: I’ll let you know.

Mom to me after relaying this conversation:

“First of all, (here she bursts into laughter), I don’t think I’m going to wash my eyes out with soap and water. And he didn’t even correct himself or say, “Oh I didn’t mean that!”. Second, so what if I have to come back two or three times? What else am I doing? I’m 87 years old. I would like to see!

Yesterday, my sister took her back to her eye doctor to get a new referral.

I wonder why people think age equals stupidity? I also wonder where that doctor got his medical degree and if he was last in his class. Nobody ever puts that on their wall, do they?

“You Just have to Laugh…………”

©2016 Cathy Sikorski

One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters… Charles Baudelaire

Saturday was my birthday. I wanted wine and song. My daughter called from Ireland to wish me a grand year, and suggested I check the internet machine for our local beloved troubadour to see where he was playing. Miraculously, he was playing at a WINERY from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. In twenty minutes, my husband and I were at a wine tasting bar listening to great music. Serendipity rocks.

For 10 bucks we could taste all 17 wines on the menu. A designated driver was named (not me) and I, the birthday girl went for it.  Now, Pennsylvania wines are usually quite awful, especially if you love wine. So we were pleasantly surprised when we enjoyed the flavor of some of these wines. The vintner was very proud. The chatter continued on in a  lively and humorous fashion. We were all having fun. It turns out that my husband and the vitner graduated from the same high school in the same year. They actually know each other, but the intervening 2 score years (nice way of preserving their dignity) changed their remembrance of one another.

Okay, so I’m tipsy, singing, meeting new people, drinking some not half-bad wine, and my phone jangles. Well, it’s my birthday, so people have been contacting me all day. I pick it up with a big ass wine smile and say:

“Hello!”

“Hello, is this Cathy?”

“Yep, it sure is…who is this?”

“This is the cardiologist from the hospital. I want to discuss your brother-in-law’s condition.”

Uh-oh.

Can I tell you, that it was the most lucid and coherent conversation I have ever had with a physician.

I answered all his questions, gave him a supremely detailed medical history, discussed current medication, the possibility of new medication, the long term effects of those new meds, and what the physician would require in the future in terms of follow up and testing. All while standing outside in a snowbank because of the music and raucous crowd in the winery.

I asked every freaking question that came to mind, I questioned the doctor’s  thought process concerning my brother-in-law’s medical history and future. I was rocking that conversation like I just graduated from medical school.

Clearly, I need to drink  more wine.

“You just have to Laugh……..”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

Or we’re gonna’ go round and round……..

Sometimes a girl has just gotta’ dance. Whilst deep in the Rumba, the dance of love, according to our ballroom dance instructor, I actually turned off my cell phone. I take this ballroom dancing seriously, since I read it is the number one hobby that can stave off dementia. Plus, my husband can’t believe I have found an activity we can do together where children, siblings, parents, caregivees, nurses, insurance companies and doctors can’t get in touch with me.

After 90 minutes of “slow……..quick, quick” and wine and cookies (okay, there are other perks to ballroom dancing), my husband and I are happily re-connected, refreshed and ready to go home.

As we leave the dance floor and enter the parking lot, it’s snowing like a blizzard out there on November 13th. This should have been my first clue of disaster.

Fine. I’m refreshed, I can deal with the first frostbite of the year. Then I checked my phone.

Two calls from my brother-in-law. Two messages and a few other missed calls and texts from his caregivers. Uh oh.

The good news is my brother-in-law called. At least I know he can dial his new phone. He insisted I bought a completely useless phone that he couldn’t operate. So there’s that.

I cringed for the bad news as I listened to the messages:

Message 1:

“Cathy, this is ‘L’, nobody got me out of bed for dinner, and no one delivered my meal either.”

Message 2:

“Cathy, it’s an hour later. Don’t know if you got my first message. I didn’t get dinner. Wish someone would have warned me that  I wasn’t getting dinner tonight. I guess I’ll be ok.”

It’s now 90 minutes after the second message…the exact amount of time it takes to learn the dance of love with 6 variations. I call him back. No answer. Either he has passed out from hunger, someone came to his rescue, or he gave up and went to sleep.

I text the last caregiver who I know was with him to give him his night meds. No response. I make an executive decision to let it go until morning. Based on his overall weight and eating habits, I’m pretty certain missing one meal won’t end his time here on earth.

The next morning on my way to his facility, I called his caregivers. I wasn’t planning on taking this side trip to see him, but I wanted to reassure him that I received his phone messages and was taking care of business. They assured me that someone had set up his meal for dinner. I’m not so sure. My brother-in-law doesn’t have dementia. He just generally only thinks about things he cares about and leaves the rest to me.

When I get to his room, after breakfast, (I wanted him to be fed and in a good mood………I learned a thing or two from having toddlers), I asked him if he ever got dinner last night.

“You called me twice last night to say no one brought you dinner, remember? Did you have dinner or not?”

He looks at me like I have the head of Medusa, or am speaking in Italian.

“I don’t remember calling you or if I got dinner, but I just had breakfast, so what’s the big deal?

I just Rumba my way out of the room………….slow….quick, quick…..slow….quick, quick.

“You just have to Laugh…………….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2014

You’re the Boss, Applesauce….Andy Warhol

My mother-in-law, Marie, thought I was as cool as Bruce Springsteen.  A few years ago, in one of her long stints at the hospital, the social worker arrived in her room and quickly began her assessment of the situation.

“Marie,” she demanded, “do you know what day it is?”

“No,”  Marie truthfully answered. Marie was in her 90’s and loving her assisted living facility. Every day came and went like it was Tuesday or Saturday, or who-the-hell-cares day.

“Well,” the highly trained professional asked, “do you know who the President is?”

Okey dokey….now I jumped in.

“Is this really necessary?” I wondered while looking the social worker straight in the eye.

“Well, I need to know if she’s oriented to space and time.”

You’re not oriented to space or time if you’re thinking an elderly woman from a facility is keeping up with current events.

“Ask her questions she knows the answer to, if you’re trying to find out if she’s in any way conscious.”

“Well, okay.” She turned to my mother-in-law and pointed to some of the other people who were visiting in the room.

“Who is that, Marie?”

“That’s my son, Ted.” Correct.

“And who is that lady next to him?”

“That’s his wife, Judi.” Also correct.

Then pointing to me: “And who is that lady there?”

“Her?” And Marie pointed to me as well.

“Yes, that lady?”

“Oh, that’s the Boss!”

Boom!

I have become legendary. Last week in my brother-in-law’s room the social worker came in to ask some questions.

“What day is it?”

“Truthfully,” he said, “I don’t give a shit.” Score 1 for the ill and infirm.

“And who is this with you today?” she asked him, pointing in my direction.

“Oh her? Yeah, watch out for her, that’s the Boss!”

“You just have to Laugh….”

© 2014 Cathy Sikorski