Monthly Archives: March 2014

Less Shark, More Beer……………

“L” the newly diagnosed diabetic has my mom call me to ask:

“Do you have a list of foods that are good for him to eat?”

“Why, yes, yes I do. The list is in the white folder from the hospital.  Why? What is his concern?”

“He doesn’t know if he can eat a sweet potato?”

I’m guessing because it has the word ‘sweet’ in it.

“Yes, I say, “sweet potato is ok, but white potatoes, not so much.”

“Well, ” my mom says, “he’s drinking a beer now.”


“Yeah, a beer is wheat and sugar..that’s a no.”

“He says he doesn’t care, he’s gonna’ drink it anyway.”

So………………………the potato question………………….?????

“You just have to Laugh…..”

Cathy Sikorski

Angels and Sharks…….

Shark in my beer!

Angels really are everywhere.  As are shark infested waters. You just have to be aware of both.  As I was trying to get the best possible care for “L” in the hospital this week I was ‘attacked’ and rewarded at the most unsuspecting times.



After three days of hemming and hawing about how to address his pressure sores, the surgeon did a procedure bed side and decided that he needed to go in surgically the next day. When I came to get a progress report, the caseworker informed me that “L” would have surgery at 1:00 P.M.(give or take a few hours) and then would be immediately sent home.

“No,” I said calmly, the first time.

The caseworker just looked at me with a questioning glance.

“No,” I said calmly the second time. “He’s not having surgery and then put in an ambulance on a gurney with a huge wound on his backside and then sent home where he lives alone and I have to put caregivers in place. Especially since you have no idea when  that is.”

“Well, I understand,” said the caseworker, “but the doctor said he can go home.”

“Well,” I said, “if you understand, then you can tell the doctor the he doesn’t understand, and that this patient, who is non-ambulatory and needs care cannot go home ten minutes after surgery.”

We went round and round a few more times, and it wasn’t a square dance.  Finally she left and returned with the ‘good news’ that he could stay over night after the surgery. What she didn’t know,( or maybe she did as I just was saying: “No, no, no, no, no, no….oh yeah, and no.”) was that I would probably have stood in the doorway with both arms held onto either side refusing to let them take him out.

Angels or Angelicas are everywhere.
Angels or Angelicas are everywhere.

Everything goes well, and we get him home. I entice my sister and her husband to come for a lasagna dinner. It is a sham. I want them, a nurse and a mechanic to figure out a way to invent a seat cushion that will take the pressure off  “L’s” bum. They are kind and helpful and come to L’s apartment the next night. My sister expertly moves and manipulates ‘L’ in his bed so he stays off the sores. It’s poetry in motion how she tells us what to do and how to do it. Meanwhile her husband is taking measurements and cogitating on an invention for the wheelchair seat.

Then his caregivers show up. They take the reins and say, “don’t worry, we will make sure he is turned, fed, his blood sugar is checked and he stays clean.” I am so blessed.

I come in the next day, there is “L” completely naked, having a nice lunch, and saying: “I decided it’s easier for everyone if I just stay naked.” And while on some level that’s true, I really hope the cleaning lady skips this week.

Angels and Sharks, Angels and Sharks.

“You just have to Laugh……”

Cathy Sikorski




Sailed right back into it…….

Lest   (yes, I used the word “lest”) you think a caregiver ever gets a true vacation. Think again. I do not deride my fabulous time in Key West as anything but spectacular and so needed. And I am grateful, truly I am.

A Caregiver's Dream!
A Caregiver’s Dream!

And just as I was winding down that lovely time in the sand and sun and wine and dine, the phone calls began. Trouble was brewing and you, oh mighty caregiver, you were needed pronto.

One of the several disasters going on was that Aetna, once again denied an ambulance transport. I know. I know. We are all so very tired of this same story. But it just gets better and better.

Before I left on vacation, I went to the doctor’s office, who ordered the MRI, gave them a copy of the denial and asked them to write a letter explaining that my brother-in-law is not at all ambulatory and needed the gurney so that he could be lifted on to the MRI table and then transported back home. The woman who handles that task was out to lunch. Oh please, that joke is just too ripe for the picking!

“Hello, is this Cathy?”

“Yes, this is the administrator from the doctor’s office. I did get a call from Aetna and told them we did not order an ambulance for your dad (yea, sometimes I’m his daughter, sister, wife, whatever works). And when they said a ‘Cathy’ called I told them it was his daughter. So that’s why they denied it. ”

First of all, thank you? Thank you for telling them you didn’t order the ambulance and for not explaining that you did though, order the test, and that he would need an ambulance to get there.

What I said was:

“Yes, I called Aetna because for the last three years, your office refused to do that, and so I made the call to get him to the test. You see, he’s not ambulatory so he can’t have any tests on a table unless he goes by gurney.”

“Oh that’s not true, he could go by wheelchair.”

Yep. She really said that. Or she was still out to lunch. I’m not sure which.

“Noooooooooooooo…..he can’t get out of the chair and up on the MRI table.”

Dead silence.

“Well,” said the administrator, “I’m going to have  to have to check with the doctor. We’ve never written a letter before for something like this.

See, not only have they done this before, but I actually sat at the desk with the last administrator and helped her write the letter.

“So, if the doctor approves this, in the future will you call the ambulance for any test he might order?”

“Oh no. We don’t do that.”

You have to go on vacation and then……………

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski

What do a Pediatrician and Blanche DuBois have in common?

Fun at the Pediatric Dentist!
Fun at the Pediatric Dentist!

I have been searching for 2 years for a dentist to treat my brother-in-law, “L” who has MS. The issue is that L is wheelchair bound and cannot get out of the chair at all without the assistance of at least two people or a Hoyer Lift.

The dentist, eye doctor and any other pyhysician or medical facility that we have to go to, must have a wide enough room for him to enter, leave, turn around and be treated in. Thanks in great part to the Americans With Disabilities Act, most medical facilities have come to the place where L can be accommodated. But the dentist is a challenge.

Most dental offices here in Smalltown, USA are converted homes and even if we could get into the lobby, we can’t get into the treatment room. And on top of all that, since L can ‘t move from his chair to the dental chair, many dental offices I have contacted would not see him.

To be fair, his own dentist offered to try and get the lift from the wheelchair van to come even with the outside deck of the dental office, and then maybe we could skootch him through the glass sliding doors and into treatment. And I considered it until we had snowstorm after blizzard after ice storm.

And then L broke a tooth.

Now I had to put this into high gear.

I called the MS Society, who put me in touch with a dentist who was far away. Kindly, that dentist agreed to see him, but had no openings for 3 weeks. I called my own dentist who had no access at his office, but I thought he would have a recommendation. The first office was unable to help me. The second dentist was a pediatric dentist, so I was pretty sure that was going to be a wash. Never assume.

Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Zale, agreed to see L. We entered the office and were immediately surrounded by picture books, Legos, toys for every age, and a beautiful array of kids from toddler to teen. I told L not to smile too much because the broken canine in his mouth might scare the little ones. But those kids played around the wheelchair like it was a dining room chair at home. If the toy they wanted was on the other side of L, they just looked him straight in the eye and walked around him to play.

Dr. Zale and his staff took my brother-in-law into a very large and airy treatment room, somehow got him x-rayed and fixed him right up. There was no time to do a standard cleaning so they made an appointment for him to return before I even got back to the desk to pay. He was now their actual patient!

Six weeks later, the Jeff Gordon of wheelchair drivers, my brother-in-law, hits the high speed button on his wheelchair, bonks his head on his computer and completely breaks off the new tooth. I called Dr. Zale, they got him right in and took yet another two hours to fix that smile right up. Because it had taken longer than they expected the front desk ladies said they would just send me the bill. This is the bill I received:

No Charge per Dr. Zale..
No Charge per Dr. Zale..

Sometimes you just have to be ever so grateful for the kindness of strangers,  and

You still just have to Laugh…….

Cathy Sikorski

A Girl’s gotta’ take care of herself…..

In the vein of  every caregiver has to take time for herself, I was remembering that I started my caregiving journey over 20 years ago, first with my Nana and then with my great aunt Mary. Aunt Mary was a crotchety character, probably why she crocheted 10 hours a day. She thought she was  being crotchety but she was mixing up her letters.

I went to her house a few times a week, after my Uncle Buddy died because she only had a few nieces and nephews. Her son had sadly passed away before his parents, and her grandchildren lived far away.

Again, I was designated caregiver because as a stay-at-home mom, I had nothing else to do. Said the stay-at-home mom to no one.

Aunt Mary lived 30 minutes away and required grocery shopping, prescription pick up, supervising her cleaning lady, checking her mail and paying her bills. I took  my 3 year-old with me and it was just a few hours out of our day. But after having my Nana for two winters, and discovering I was pregnant. I was starting to feel tired, old, ugly and sad.

My husband saw the downslide and suggested we go to a fancy dinner dance at the club. Yay! A new dress, nails done, hair done, pretty, pretty, pretty me.

I hired a babysitter. I began the day with a fresh outlook. I was excited for the pampering and an evening of dining and dancing. My husband and I love to dance, and it had been a while since we danced the night away.

In the spirit of thinking everyone deserved some fun, I wore that rarely seen sexy thong underwear in the back of my dresser drawer. I kind of hate thongs. They are so darn uncomfortable. But under certain circumstances I must agree.  First, the dress looked ever so much better with no panty line. Second, my husband deserved a little fantasy. Which was probably the closest he would get to fantasy because if the evening went the way I thought it would, he would be a bit tipsy, we would both be exhausted from dancing, and we would fall into bed and be snoring a duet within minutes upon our return home.

So off to the ball we went. Cinderella (that’s me…code name caregiver) danced with her Prince Charming to every single song they played. Fast, slow, samba, mamba, polka, it didn’t matter. If music was playing, we were dancing.

Oh my, so much fun. I made sure to hydrate constantly. I was the designated driver, but I didn’t want to wake up to mommyville with a dehydration headache. At some point in time, I decided a trip to the loo was in order. I went in to the ladies room feeling, hot (as in sexy) confident, happy and just darn groovy.

I go into the stall hike up my dress, go to pull down my panties. Hmmm. I remember just then I’m wearing that darn thong, and gee, I didn’t feel the need to grab my own ass the entire night.  It is then that I see I have come across a new invention. I am wearing my ‘thong’ sideways.

Do it all the time now. Too comfortable to go back to tradition.

“You  just have to Laugh…..”

Cathy Sikorski

When wine and wheelchairs DO mix…..part deux

If you have been living in the Snowmaggedon part of the US this 2014, you know how desperately we all want sunshine and warmth. My last post was from a teeny jaunt to Florida and I was somehow lulled into thinking that going away meant being away.

Day Three: My friend and I are getting ready to go out to the extra special dinner we have planned for the trip. We are going to a five star restaurant to be wined and dined. We have been lolling in the sunshine, chatting for hours and resting in the warm, balmy air of Florida.

“Hello?” I already recognize the phone number, Chestnut Knoll at Home, and know it’s not good.

“Cathy? This is your brother-in-law’s caregivers. His wheelchair is broken in the lying back position, and we can’t get it to move. And it’s time for his dinner.”

All I can picture is the poor guy laying back like in a dentist’s chair trying to get some peas into his upside down mouth.

“Okay,” I say,” let me call the wheelchair repair guy, because this is their rental that they just brought him yesterday.”

Of course, it is 5:00. I’m in a bathrobe, wet hair, no make-up, our taxi is coming in a half-hour AND, I’m pretty sure wheelchair repair guy closes at 5:00.

I call the repair office, closed. I call the salesman in my phone that I have listed as ‘wheelchair Sean’ and leave a message. I do what every caregiver does. I call my mom.

“Mom, I left messages for the wheelchair repair guy but I don’t know if they will get back to me. The caregivers suggested we get a hospital tray and put him back in bed, but I don’t think that makes sense.”

My mom is 85 years old. A REALLY GOOD 85 years old, but I can’t picture her hustling a huge hospital tray on wheels into her car and over to my brother-in-law’s for dinner.

“Okay,” she says, I’ll just go over there and help feed him.”

I call back the caregivers at my brother-in-law’s phone but they don’t answer. I call their office and we formulate a plan for Mom to feed him now, they will feed him breakfast and hopefully the repair guy will get there before lunch and they can get him back in the chair by then.

My phone rings, I’m still in my bathrobe.

“Hi.” It’s wheelchair Sean. He gives me some simple directions on how to probably fix the chair.

I call the caregivers at my brother-in-law’s phone again. Still no answer. I call the office, give them the instructions. They call me back in 2 minutes, saying crisis averted, chair fixed.

I throw the phone at my friend and tell her to call my mom probably driving in her car and tell her to go home.

“Hello?” I hear my  Mom answer, as I’m putting on a face in the bathroom, and trying to get on underwear before the taxi gets here.

My friend says to my Mom: “You can go home, the wheelchair is fixed.”

“I can go home?” my Mom says. “Yes, go home, he’s fine,” my friend tells her.

“Okay, thanks. I’ll go home,” my Mom says, “ummm, WHO is this?” Explanations ensue.

My friend and I go to an absolutely lovely dinner where we are treated like princesses. We have a bottle of wine, oysters Rockefeller…my phone rings.


“Hey, it’s your brother-in-law.”

“Hi, is everything ok?”

“Well, yeah, YOU called me. What did you want?”


“Oh, nothing,” I say and dive into my Pinot Grigio.

You just have to Laugh…….

Cathy Sikorski