Tag Archives: Caregiving

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

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

It is too bad that such a doll wastes all her time being good. How can she make any money from that?Nicely, Nicely.

I know you’re not going to believe this….but the world is full of nice people. People who don’t even look nice.

This was my week:

Monday…attend a Town Hall meeting with our Republican Congressman. Now, he’s been kind of avoiding these meetings since the %$&* hit the fan. And he’s had quite a few run-ins with unhappy people since the last presidential election. Also, I had some trepidation about going to this town hall. First, my husband was going too. I didn’t know if they would make us sit on opposite sides of the aisle, because we are often that way, even in our living room. Second, I have to be honest, there’s so much anger out there, I was a little scared. But let me tell you, this audience and this Congressman were respectful, intelligent and willing to listen to everything. Well, almost everything, the audience did ‘boo’ one time quite loudly when the Congressman said he had to look at a case-by-case basis for drilling in National Parks. But everyone booed….so I found that nice.

Tuesday–My mom and I  were to meet with a representative from the American Legion who was going to help get my Dad’s name memorialized in his home town of Beacon, New York. At the last minute, my mom found the documents we were missing and the American Legion guy no longer needed to help. But this guy was going to come from the next town over just to make sure a Veteran, killed in service to his country over 55 years ago, would be solemnly recognized for his service and sacrifice. Nice, right?

Wednesday–I met with my sister and brother-in-law to help them with some legal matters. Of course they were nice, too. They better be! But the notary we went to at AAA was extraordinarily kind.  But here’s the thing, at first glance, she seemed kind of cranky.  You took one look at her and thought “uh-oh.”  She was extremely thorough, made sure everything was correct, and was not rushing us at all. And she was super nice. As we chatted for a bit between documents, and later, she revealed that she has been a long time caregiver for her parents. When they passed away, she continued, as she does today to go to the nursing home to visit her dad’s roommates. They have no other real visitors.  She said it helps her have a purpose and in some ways keep close to her dad. I don’t care what you say…that’s just nice. Really nice.

Thursday–I received an email from a total stranger who heard of me through a class I had taken. I don’t know what pleased me more…that she thought I was funny in that class or that she googled me and I seem to have taken the lessons we learned to heart and put them into action. I think I was just happy to hear from a nice person.

Friday–I received my weekly free email newsletter from Dan Blank at WeGrowMedia, Dan is kind and generous with advice and support to artists of all kinds. The best part of Dan’s newsletter today was at the end. He said this:

What can you do this week to support someone else’s dream?  and this:

What small action can you take this week to support the work of someone around you? Something that, if the dominoes fall correctly, will have them thanking you more than a decade later for the profound effect you have had on their life?

How’s that for nice? Do it. You can, you really can. There are nice people all around you, and you are one of them, too. I just know it.

So from now on…laugh and assume everyone you meet is nice…they just may prove you right!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Sometimes, I should just namaste home……

I know we are all trying to get a bit of Zen in our lives, and I’m all for it. I just recently returned to the practice of yoga. About four years ago my neck decided it didn’t want to turn left or right. I don’t know why but I had to stop yoga. My therapist thinks I’ve been holding onto a lot of bad karma, and she’s my physical therapist. I’m not saying another therapist couldn’t help, but the return to yoga certainly has. Perhaps because I take classes where all the teachers are over 80 years old.

Yesterday, I went to class, really yearning for some ‘centering.’  I had a conference call in the afternoon and some intense conversations ahead of me, so I thought a nice gentle yoga class would put my mind and body in the right place.

When I entered the soft-lit, quiet studio, the teacher was talking to another student about her upcoming family vacation at a sizable house she rented in the Poconos.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to handle it,” whined the yoga teacher, “I mean they are coming from Oregon and from Sweden and I have to do everything.”

“Well,” her friend replied, trying to console her, “you could just ask them to help.”

“I can’t do that. They’re coming from so far. So I’ve bought all the groceries and our car is full to the brim. My husband is asking how two 80-year-olds are going to get all this stuff into the house! And I’m telling him we can’t say, “Hi, Welcome to Pennsylvania and go get your own food out of the car!”

I’m thinking during this interchange, well this isn’t very namaste, now is it? This yoga teacher needs some yoga.

So she gathers her wits about her and we begin class, about 15 minutes in she instructs us to do the butterfly pose. She then relates this comforting tale.  “You know there’s a beautiful abundance of butterflies this year!” she exclaims. “My cat just loves them! But then she eats them, so I tell her no, no,  that’s not good.”

Now, I’m wishing I went to kickboxing.

She decides to water a plant half-way through the class. “All the rest of these plants are plastic, but this one is real and no one waters it!” I think I heard the plant crying, “Just let me die already.”

What I really look like doing yoga.

 

We ultimately get to ‘final relaxation.’ This is a critical part of every yoga class. Truthfully, every person who takes yoga, only comes for final relaxation. It’s like your glass of wine after going to the dentist. What? That’s not a thing? I’m pretty sure it is a thing.

We are authentically relaxing for three or four minutes. I’m feeling very serene, centered, able to take on my day when HER PHONE RINGS. Yep. The yoga teacher didn’t turn her phone off.

Okay, I thought, as I squeezed my eyelids trying to maintain tanquility, she’ll just turn it right off.

Nope. She picks up the phone and says, “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? You have to call this number.” And she proceeds to give the person a phone number.

WELL, NOW I’M NOT RELAXED.

She returns to the class with, “I’m soooooo sorry but my husband’s car broke down.”

And then she says, and I’m not kidding, “Some days, you just have to laugh……”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

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

Fun and Games with Lisa………..

What better time to try and laugh than now? I’m trying….really, I am.

My mom provides me with great material, although I don’t think she means to, and I don’t think she’s always happy to be the topic of a humor blog on a regular basis.

My friend, Lisa on the other hand,  LOVES being my topic. I was thinking of her today and all the antics we’ve been through in the last seven years since she fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I know, I know, it doesn’t sound funny, but we became the Lucy and Ethel of healthcare.

  1.  There was the time I dropped her off with our best friend, Terri to walk a few blocks to the hospital for a check-up because there was a water main break and traffic was horrendous. I thought it would take me hours to navigate the streets and park. As Lisa and Terri literally waded through the streets of Philly, I found a parking spot in 5 minutes right in front of the hospital.
  2. Then the neurologist wanted to do a stay-at-home brain scan. This is where they  wrap your head like a mummy and put some electrodes in there and record you for three days. After they wrapped her head, we decided to go to Marshall’s to look for a hat to cover her mummy-head. Not one hat would go over the wrappings, no wonder the Mummy was so mad, not a fashion was made for him. From Marshall’s we went to the park to do a photo-shoot. Yeah, I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity.
    Fun with my Mummy!

    Before and After Photo Shoot. Lisa really is quite lovely!
  3. We had to drive an hour into Philadelphia every time she needed to see her eye specialists, which was a lot.  It took us at least 10 trips before we figured out that cheap parking was right in front of the hospital and easier to get to.
  4. Then there was the time they changed the procedure to check-in to the eye clinic. They decided that people could check themselves in, using computers. The computers were tightly packed into an area where you had to stand up to use them. This doesn’t seem weird, but a lot of the people in this eye clinic use walkers and wheelchairs. They can’t fit into the space where the computer is located and if they’re in a wheelchair, they can’t reach the computer. AND remember this is an eye clinic. All of the patients are having trouble seeing. We practically peed ourselves trying to figure out how this is a good idea.
  5. Then I took her for surgery and she had to be back in the hospital at 6:00 AM the next morning. It was a long day and a quick night, so we stayed at a hotel right across the street from the hospital. I forgot we were parked in a parking garage between two big cement barriers and ripped my side-view mirror right out of its socket. It dangled from its electrical cord attached to the car. After having it bang against the door for five blocks, I folded the mirror into the car, had to keep the window open for the 50-mile drive home in February snow, and the hi-tech mirror blinked right into my face every time I needed to change lanes or turn left.
For insurance purposes only, not to remind myself how dumb I am.
Wounded in the line of duty.

 

And you thought dealing with health issues wasn’t any fun!

“You Just have to Laugh……………”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

Having Fun is Hard……

I have been working diligently on my new website as well as doing a wonderful amount of speaking engagements for the last three months. I am so happy with my work right now.  I think I forgot how old I am, having fun is hard.

I was fortunate to get a free pass to the party of the season, the Kentucky Derby, two weeks ago. This was between some intense prep for speaking and trying to work on two online classes I’m taking to be a better speaker, a booked speaker and an entertaining speaker. Steve Martin is one of my teachers. I got an email from Steve today asking me where the hell have I been? How do you expect to be funny if you don’t show up for Steve’s class? I was working on it while having fun. I did my best at the Kentucky Derby to be hilarious. Just ask my friend Jim, who saw me trip in front of 158,000 people and still keep my hat on.

 

See, Steve. Jim is laughing.

Last night at a dinner party, I was doing my best to wow the crowd with the antics of my mother and her kleptomania.

You can’t be trying out new material while taking a class, Steve.

I’m procrastinating right this minute as  I’m supposed to be practicing my talk for tonight. In an effort to ramp up my hilarity, I have changed my talk completely, added props and new stories, mostly because the venue doesn’t have PowerPoint capability so I had to come up with some new crutches. Since Steve is my mentor now, I thought emulating him would be my best effort.

I don’t know how to make balloon animals and I didn’t have time to go find an arrow like Steve’s but these turkey legs were just hanging around my house. I hope I can find just the right words to integrate this into a talk about the legal and practical issues confronting caregivers.

Never be chicken to laugh at yourself!

Perhaps it will be funny enough that I will bring a free package of Depends as a door prize for the participant who laughs the hardest.

See why I’m tired? Having fun is really hard.

By the way, that picture is with Jim’s mom. At least I have two fans!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

One Man’s Trash…is a Girl’s Night Out!

When you spend a good part of your time or life as a caregiver you find forgetting to be a common occurrence. I have classic tales about my Nana forgetting where she put her shoes, her wallet and most disturbingly…her teeth.

My mother-in-law would hide her “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button in ‘safe’ places. Every time we went to the assisted living facility we would be ready for a game of hide-n-seek with the magic button, a button she would never push anyway.

My brother-in-law would forget where he put bills, checks and insurance papers all the time. He was actually happy when I agreed to clean up all his paperwork and just take over.

Eventually, with all this stress, the caregiver starts to be the one to forget. We all experience this as we get older. I’ll admit, it makes me panic a little. When you are too close to forgetfulness you start to think it’s a bad omen if it becomes a part of your day.

Since my caregiving has dwindled quite a bit in the last few years, I take bad memory very personally, like my brain is betraying me. I know it happens to all of us, and it is definitely a symptom of stress. But I have always known it’s a source of hilarity. And today was no exception.

As you may recall we have a very long driveway. So we put our trash cans and recycling in my SUV and drive it to the end of the driveway. A few months ago our new trash hauler required us to start using a large container for trash.

My husband’s pet peeve is that large, unsightly container defiling our cul-de-sac. So several yards before we get to the end of the driveway we pick up the large trash container,  which is tucked in the woods, and wheel it down to the end of the driveway. Then we take the trash out of my car and put it in the container.

As the SUV is my car, my husband said,

“Hey, I loaded the trash in your car. Drive me down to the bin on your way to your dinner with your girlfriends.”

“Okay,” I said.

The real culprit

I stop the SUV where the bin is tucked away. My husband gets out. And I drive away.

Down the driveway, past the mailbox, through the cul-de-sac, down the steep hill to the end of the street.

My car makes a few weird noises. Now, I’m mad because I just got new tires. And my car stinks. What’s that all about?

I turn the corner, go around the bend, there’s that noise again. I look in the rearview mirror

A fun place to take your trash!

and see the trash. I was taking the trash with me on a ‘girls night out.’

I found a driveway, turned around, went back up my street to the cul-de-sac, and I see my husband slowly walking back towards the house shaking his head in disbelief.

I’m laughing so hard, it’s silent. I can’t speak. He just looks at me.

“I was waving my hands and yelling, ” he said so plaintively. “I called your cell phone and you didn’t answer. I couldn’t believe in a nano second you forgot that you had the trash in the car and just drove away.”

He’s officially worried.

“You Just have to Laugh….”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

 

 

Terrible 92’s………..

I have been steeped in getting out my book…which you will see below! And, okay, I took a vacation. But boy, do we need some laughter now, right? And it’s National Caregiver’s Month…so, you know…….the life of a caregiver never disappoints.

I was thinking about my mother-in-law the other day and how she was seemingly so content, no matter what was happening. She would read any book you gave her and would comment, “oh that was a nice book.” I used to say I think I’ll give her a copy of  “Mein Kampf” and see what she thinks. The point is that she saw the good in everything and was pretty content with her life wherever she was and whatever she was doing.

Except that one time.

She had left her stove on in her apartment one too many times and the fire department started to know her by name like Norm in “CHEERS!”.  This was not a good thing.  We bit the bullet and started to look for assisted living quarters near our home, so we could go see her on a regular basis. She lived almost an hour away, so living within 10 or 15 minutes of us seemed like a dream come true for everyone.

We found a lovely place, which she approved, sold her condo, packed up all her things, and moved all her own furniture into her new assisted living apartment.  I really hoped it felt like home. Plus, now it was so convenient I could visit her every day, my mom could visit, and my mom could bring some of her friends to visit. Plus, my mother-in-law would now be around lots of people on a daily basis and not feel so isolated.

The day came to move her in, and for the first time in the 25 years I’d been her daughter-in-law, she threw a tantrum.

“I’m not going!” she said.

“Mom,” I reasoned, “you like it there. We went lots of times and you liked your apartment, the food, the people….remember?”

“Why can’t I stay here with you?” she countered.

Indeed, why can’t she?  I don’t have any bedrooms or shower facilities on the first floor and steps were becoming impossible for this 92-year-old.

“Mom, you can see, I don’t have a bedroom or bathroom down here on the first floor.”

“Well, I could go live with your mother. She has lots of room and she could use the help.”

Use the help? Not use the ‘company.’ Use the help. What’s she going to do, be my 80-year-old Mom’s washer woman and cleaning lady?  This was not going well. Next, she may tell me she is going to get a job and her own apartment.

“Mom…..” I was stuck, I didn’t know what to say.

“I’m not going. I’m just not going, ” she pouted, and….not kidding….she stomped her foot like a toddler who doesn’t want to take a nap.

I took my only recourse.

“Get your coat. We’re leaving now. And no more shenanigans.”

Sometimes everyone responds to MOM.

The next day I went to visit. She told me I had to leave because it was lunch time and there was no room for me at her table.

“You Just Have to Laugh…..”

Cover by Dwayne Booth!!
Cover by Dwayne Booth!!

©2016 Cathy Sikorski