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.
My mom has become obsessed with creating photo albums for her six children from the hundreds of photos in her treasure chest. She must make 6 copies of almost every photo, or at least as the photos progress and a child is added to the history books. I have no idea why this project might be frustrating for her 88-year-old self, do you? Duh, comes to mind.
Every once in awhile, when I’m in the mood for a little frustration myself, I stop over to my mom’s house to call the VA, or fix her iPad, or fight with Verizon. Invariably, we start to look at the pictures together.
Yesterday, she showed me this photo.
My Nana is the one circled in yellow. She is about 35 years old in this picture. Her name wasn’t even Nana yet, as my mom is the cutest little 8-year-old circled in pink. I made my mom go find a photo of herself at around the age of 35.
Then I came home and looked for one of me around the same age.
I would like to posit the following: Rather than continuing to punish women for adopting a youth culture look, perhaps we are actually just trying to enjoy life, look like we are having fun, and present a ‘picture’ to the world of what we actually look like, at the age we are at. Perhaps over the last 50 years, we started rebelling against being portrayed as “Nana” before we were even done having children. Perhaps, just because we have children doesn’t mean we have to wear orthopedic shoes, bras with no support, dresses made from tablecloths, or a hairstyle that would confuse us with Grandma Moses.
Perhaps my mother’s generation actually clandestinely started a revolution where women got to enjoy their youth, even if they had 6 youths of their own running around. Maybe that’s what began way back in the ’50’s and ‘ 60’s when no one was paying attention to the everyday housewife. And maybe that’s what’s still happening today to women in their ’50’s and ’60’s when no one is still paying attention.
My Nana apparently didn’t change her look for 60 years. My mom, on the other hand, created generations of hot tomatoes! Yay, Mary Ann!
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.
Okay kids….it’s time to laugh, even just a little bit…
How do you know if you are a caregiver?
If you are buying wipes and you don’t have a baby…..
If you have dozens of medications in your house and none of them are yours…..
If you wish some of them were yours…………..
If, when someone says ‘whine’, you break out a long-stemmed glass……..
If you get into your car and your car takes you to a nursing home but that’s not where you were going……….
If you’re so tired that you used Preparation H to brush your teeth before bed….
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…….
If you have on two different shoes…..
If you just recently started using swear words that never came out of your mouth before….
If you are so well-versed in medical-speak that they ask you to check on a patient in Room 612 ……..
If when you say you’re going to the Vet, you don’t mean a place where animals get medical care….
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….
If date night is now every Friday night in the Emergency Room….
Check with your spouse, your significant other, your friends, your therapist….you just might be one of us!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have to say, we Baby Boomers can be a self-satisfied lot. There are all kinds of posts out there about how we did just fine with spankings, wooden toys that didn’t do anything, no car seats or even seat belts for that matter. Bad TV, bad diets, flammable pajamas, DDT, baby oil instead of sunscreen, none of that had a deleterious effect on us, right? We’re just fine, you young whippersnappers.
And if you Millennials had had it a bit harder like we did, walking uphill in the snow to school both ways, you wouldn’t be so lazy, entitled and clueless.
But take a second look, my friends. Our blessed Millennials may be gurus you will want to be looking to in the future. Here are my top six reasons why:
Millennials don’t work at a job for 30 years that they hate. They don’t even do it for 20 years, 10 years, or even 5 years. They know that’s stupid. If you have to work for that many years, you might as well try and be happy about going to work.
They are saving more money than we ever did. According to The Christian Science Monitor, they are better at saving and wiser about it. Money magazine agrees. You think you’re so smart? You will be happy when your Millennials can throw a few bucks to your home-health aide to keep you out of a nursing home because you didn’t save any money. They will be too, because they don’t want to be your home-health aide.
Our kids work pretty darn hard, harder than we did. According to the Boston Globe, Millennials are workaholics, probably because they are in jobs that they like. Since they are not willing to stay in a job that makes them miserable, they work harder when they find jobs they like. And they keep looking. So maybe that search for happiness isn’t so selfish after all.
Millennials actually value their work-life balance, according to Forbes. Even though they may be workaholics on one hand, on the other hand, they are known for taking pay cuts to have a work life balance. When they have families they want to be with them. This is a big plus, especially since they are saving more than any other generation before them.
They do and know how to embrace technology. Adweek tells us that they are ever-willing to learn new things. As technology is speeding us up every day, we better have someone to help us with it. I don’t know about you, but I try and find a 12-year-old every time a new app comes out or I can’t figure out how to use my iPhone.
They’re pretty freakin’ smart. Even as we have bogged them down with unimaginable student debt, they listened to us about education. They are the most educated generation ever. I like being surrounded by smart young people. Although just this week my daughter chastised me for ‘mansplaining’ something to her. I corrected her immediately: “I’m not mansplaing, I’m MOMSPLAINING.” That’s always acceptable.
So stop bad-mouthing Millennials. First of all, you raised them. Aren’t you proud of anything they’re doing? Secondly, look closer, they actually have their shit together. In many ways, much more than Baby Boomers. Finally, respect, people. Remember when you were 25 and your parents wondered if you had listened to anything they said? Millennials listened alright, and they took what they needed and left out the bad advice.
To Millennials: We’re still your parents, don’t get all up in our grills, either.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And you thought dealing with health issues wasn’t any fun!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.”
On Sat, Dec 19, 2015 at 4:30 PM ( MY NEPHEW Wrote)
Could you find it in your heart to take a few minutes out of your busy day and send me the mailing address of the ( my brother and his son)? It would be most helpful of you and I would owe you my gratitude.
Mr. J Doodles ( A NAME WE ALL CALLED HIM WHEN HE WAS A TODDLER)
Here is the requested information: (Info redacted to protect those unsuspecting relatives)
I will be sure and keep the ‘chit’ you owe me for this great burden and use it in the future when I find it most necessary!
By the way, love our thermometer, except it’s broken . I debated telling you. I don’t want you to go to any additional expense but thought you’d want to know. Hope you all have a wonderful Merry Merry Christmas. We will try and call you on Christmas day before we go to your other aunt’s for dinner. Love you all! So excited that you’re coming to thewedding!!! Love A. Cathy
Cathleen S. Sikorski, Esq.
My Darling Aunt,
I am so sorry to hear about the damage incurred by the United States Postal Service. I was quite concerned about the thermometer making the arduous northern trek unmolested, as it is such a fragile thing. Thank you for telling me about this calamity and rest assured this wrong shall be righted.
Thank you for the addresses. It makes physical correspondence with the New Jersey relatives much more convenient. You have made the impossible, possible. You can add that to your long resume of assisting others with their most dire needs. And as for the ‘chit’, you deserve it, as I am sure you have a huge pile of chit from your years of caring for those who need it. Every time I see your face I think of all of the great things that you have done for me and my family and all of the chits that face has garnered. So in my eyes, you are always chit-faced.
Thank you again, and may your holidays be filled with friends, health, and good cheer,