Monthly Archives: April 2014

Well, I DID feel pretty……

The beauty of blogging about caregiving is you get to ‘visit’ with those you have loved and cared for and lost.

I was thinking about my Aussie Aunt Jean this morning (probably because I got yet another bill for her that I had already dealt with four or five times by now ) and wanted to just spend some time thinking about our time together.

You may recall “A girl should be two things: Classy and Fabulous” Coco Chanel That was my Aunt Jean. So we were never at a loss to do some girly thing while she was visiting. Shopping was her hobby and she rarely came home empty handed. All her purses matched her shoes, and she was never afraid of sparkle and bling all the way up to 90 years old.

But like many elders, her ‘aches and pains’ became a focus for her as much as her pretty outfits.

“Can I wear that black and white zebra print blouse with these horrible Sketchers?”

“Jeannie, the adorable zebra print looks great on you. The rest of your outfit matches, and you have to wear the Sketchers because your fashion boots are not stable enough, especially with the walker.”

“How about if I change my shoes in the car before we go into the restaurant?”

We weren’t meeting anyone at the restaurant, we were just going out shopping and for lunch.

“No, I don’t want you to fall. You still have to use your walker.”

“Fine,” she said, but in a very disappointed accent.

Then the shingles arrived, and that plagued her every day. So to get her out of her  shingles funk, I decided we would go get our nails done. By the way, she always had her nails done, this was not a treat for her, like it was for me. It was a necessity.

“Let’s go get our nails done!”

“Okay,” she said and with pretty much enthusiasm.

Off we go to the nail salon. My manicurists are delightful women. They treat my Mom, my Aunt and my daughters with kindness and interest. There’s lots of conversation and commenting like: “Ooohhh, that ‘s a pretty color! “My, you look so nice today.” “Are you going somewhere special with this mani-pedi?” That last comment for me because they know I don’t take time for this for just any occasion.

So there we were being all girly-girly getting French manicures and pedis and just relaxing and having a good time.

Two days later, Aunt Jean is still really uncomfortable with those damn shingles and one of her fingers on her left hand starts to blow up like a balloon.

We go back to the emergency clinic that diagnosed her shingles a few weeks ago, thinking that somehow the shingles moved to her finger?

The female doctor lances it, and works on it pretty hard so that Aunt Jean is wincing and yelping every once in a while.

“Well, Jean, nice manicure.”

“Thank you,” she says with an air of sophistication.

“But I think you got an infected finger from that nice manicure.”

See, I try to do something that will distract from those shingles and end up right back at the doctor.

“You just have to Laugh……………”

Cathy Sikorski

Go to Girl and Go Go Gadget

Invariably, on the day you need to be in your car for 8 to 10 hours, that is the day, all hell will break loose.

My go-to Girl!
My go-to Girl!

My go-to girl is my amazing 85 year-old mom. Weird, for a caregiver, I know. But she is a former nurse and raised six kids, so she knows her stuff. She pours all the meds for my brother-in-law, she helps me out in every pinch and she loves going to the ER with me. So when she calls, I answer…immediately.



“Yes, Mom,” I say on my handsfree car phone as I’m driving 65 miles an hour down the turnpike on my mission to hit as many major cities in the metropolitan area for various necessities on Easter weekend.

“Um, I’m at L’s apartment, and his wheelchair stopped dead. Can I release it and push it down the hallway to the dining room so he can go to dinner?”

“Wait, no, you can’t push it. You are 85 for crying out loud, that wheelchair weighs a thousand pounds without the big guy in it.” (See When Wine and Wheelchairs don’t mix….)

“Look, Mom, since he had the wheelchair fixed, there’s a button on the back that sometimes disengages his controls. Can you see the button on the back?”

“No, I can’t get behind him, he kind of stopped weirdly in the middle of his room, and I can’t get behind him.”

I can’t really figure that one out, but okay, I’ll work with what I’ve got here.

“Okay, can you stand on his right side and look behind his head area. That’s where the button is. See if it’s red or green.”

“Oh, ok, yes ok it’s green, wait, now it’s red.”

“It sounds like it’s cycling through. Just turn it off and then back on and then see if he can use his own controller. And stand far away, he’s been known to take off like a bat out of hell when we are trying to figure this out.”


She fiddles with it a few times and it doesn’t seem to work. I’m still stuck between 5 eighteen wheelers on the turnpike and going nowhere near L’s apartment.

“Okay, Mom, I’m gonna’ call for reinforcements to come help.”

“What? I can’t hear you, you’re cutting out.”

“I can hear you perfectly,” I say.

“Well, I can’t hear you,” she says as her pitch rises in frustration. But of course she could or how would she know I said that?

“HANG UP, I WILL CALL YOU BACK!” Because somehow I think yelling is the answer.

My reinforcements are hard to find, so I call her back to say I’m working on it.

“Hello, Cathy?

“Yeah, Mom, I’m trying to get you help.”

“Oh, that’s ok, I was waiting for your call to tell you that as soon as you hung up it started working. He started to drive toward me, and that seemed ok, so he went to dinner.”

Ummmm…you couldn’t call me?

“Ok, well that’s good, thanks for the update.”

“Oh and Cathy?”


There’s a big hole in the wall where his headrest got imbedded into it when he went too fast in reverse, so we’re gonna have to get that fixed.”

You just have to Laugh……

Cathy Sikorski





A discussion with John Hancock……

One day a letter came from John Hancock (not the real one, I’m pretty sure he died a while ago) stating that my brother-in-law had a small long term care insurance policy in effect left over from his employment.

Every little bit helps.

So I called John Hancock to see how we could begin using the benefits, as he clearly qualifies based on the policy I had them send to me for review.

“Hello? I would like to file a claim for long term care benefits.”

“Ok, I need to ask a few questions,” said the nice polite young lady from John Hancock.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am his sister-in-law and his Power of Attorney.”

“Well, ok, you need to send us a copy of the POA.”

“Yes, I can do that, in the meantime can you send me the application for benefits.”

“Yes, I will send it to his address.”

At that point, I noticed that they had the wrong zip code for his address.

“I see you have the correct street address, but the wrong zip code. Can you correct that before you send it?”

“Oh, no, I’m sorry, I can’t change anything of his until you send me the POA.”

“But if you send it out, it will go to the wrong place.”

“Oh, yes, I see that. Well, would you like me to send the documents to your address?”

I pause for just a nano second, because experience has told me not to interrupt the ridiculous if it is in my favor.

“Yeah, sure, send it directly to me.”

I gave her my address.

“Now will you be filing that within one week?” she asked me.

“Well, he’s in the hospital for a few days, and may go to a nursing home for rehab or he may come directly  home and rehab there, ” I told her.

“Oh, well then you have to call back and request the forms after he gets home.”

“But it’s long term care insurance,” I said, “either way he will be under long term care.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t send the forms until he’s home.”

“So,” I say through tears…..of laughter, “you can’t send the forms for long term care until he’s home and not in long term care. And then you can send it to my address until I get you  a copy of the POA to correct his address.”

“Yes!” she says brightly, that’s exactly correct!”080

You just have to Laugh…..”

Cathy Sikorski

Three times is the charm…I don’t think so….

I have spent the last three Friday nights in the hospital emergency room. My brother-in-law has been suffering from pressure wounds, what we lay people would call “bed sores”. Since I’m no nurse and refuse to look at the area between his “gluteal crack and scrotum”, I had no idea it was getting worse, even with care.

On the advice of his home nurse I called the ambulance. My big mistake was I didn’t immediately call 911. You can’t just call the ambulance and say, no one is going to die in the next 10 minutes, so could you come over here and transport?. No, you must call 911 and make it as urgent as possible. Okay, I was a theater major, I can make an emergency if you need me to.

The second Friday night in the ER was because, they sent him home from the hospital too soon even though I begged them to keep him. Within 2 days of his going home and having home nurses and caregivers, and inventors of creative ways to make his wheelchair a place to sit without more bed sores, he was in pain with a draining wound and starting a fever. Five days of IV antibiotics later, they sent him home again.

The very first day the visiting nurse appeared she asked me why he wasn’t sent to rehab. Hmm, good question.

That same night, the third Friday night, he started acting a little ‘off’ around dinner time and within 2 hours, I got a call that he was exhibiting bizarre behavior. This had happened once before when he had a massive infection. I gave the home caregiver the pleasure of calling 911 and using her theatrics to get an ambulance poste haste (that’s acting talk for hurry up, someone’s sick but isn’t going to die in 10 minutes).

And this is where it gets crazy.

The first half hour in the ER, he’s got two technicians on either side of him with his arms out trying like hell to get a drop of blood out of him. He looks like a crucifixion. The entire time he’s saying in a monotone: “Ow.”

Like a hundred times: “Ow.”

“Where does it hurt?” I ask him.

“Everywhere,” he says.

That exact conversation continues for the next three hours.

After two hours of “Ow”, they tell me he’s third on the list for a CT-Scan. He starts to get a little crazy now. He’s thrashing around and my Mom and I are holding down his arms because he has IV lines in his hands and we don’t want him to accidentally rip them out. He’s already been crucified once.

Then he gets louder and now he’s saying: ” I can’t” and “Oh please” and “Ow” and we try to reassure him. He is thrashing and fighting pretty wildly now.  I have asked for a pain pill and I’m just about to pull a “Terms of Endearment” Shirley MacLaine mother of all hissy fits, when the nurse comes in with the CT-Scan tech behind her. She tries to give L a pain pill, but he won’t swallow water. The CT Scan guy disappears figuring he ain’t goin’ anywhere till he calms down, and then the Nurse high tails it all around the ER looking for CT guy to get his ass back here and take L for a scan.

Somehow they successfully scan him. NOW because all tests of urgency have been done, and there is no concern that a pain killer IV will harm him, the Nurse hunts down the doctor….who we still have not seen or talked to…..and comes in with some miracle drug that knocks him right the hell out in 60 seconds flat.

It is now almost 2 A.M. We have been there for more than 3 hours. He is finally resting, calm and not in any obvious distress. We go out to the Nurses’ station to see if they have any sense to confirm that he will be admitted. I answer all their questions. One of the doctors says let’s go back to his room so I can see if I have any more questions. I’m thinking she wants some HIPPA privacy rather than discussing this in the open hallway.

My mom and I walk into his room. He is resting so comfortably that we both let out a huge sigh of relief.

What is the first thing this doctor does?

She gently goes over to his bedside, looks down at him, puts her hand on his shoulder, shakes the hell out of him, pulls his eyelids up and yells: ” L! CAN YOU HEAR ME? L! CAN YOU OPEN YOUR EYES?”

My mom and I just look at each other and go “Ow” and walk out of the room……good luck with that Dr. Nutjob.


You just have to Laugh………..

Cathy Sikorski