Monthly Archives: July 2014

Caregiving blows hot and cold….

I’m entrenched in the rehab cycle right now. Many days to the rehab center every week are required to watch the progress of my brother-in-law, keep an eye on his care, and to make sure he’s behaving like a human being to the overworked, understaffed people running around trying to please everyone, and pretty much pleasing no one.

The very first day he entered rehab,in the dead of summer, he wasn’t there two hours and protesting royally about the heat. Now, MS sufferers really do need to be temperate. So his complaints were absolutely legitimate. To my amazement, the staff relocated him immediately to a bed where he would be next to the window and air-conditioner.

His first two roommates complained bitterly because they were freezing. My loved one had the thermostat at 60 degrees because he was alternately too hot and too cold. Ya’ think?

But the third roommate hopped on board with my brother-in-law, lickety split. They conferred daily, maybe even hourly, about how freakin’ hot it was in their room. The good news was that one guy wasn’t bundled in a sweat suit and blankets, while the other was half naked in a hospital gown embarrassing anyone who walked down the hall and peeked in mistakenly.

Flat Stanley in PA
What they want it to feel like

Every time I entered their room, the two gentlemen of Verona were commiserating about the unseemly state of the weather in their room. No matter how many times I reset the air conditioner, it wasn’t cold enough……for them. Meanwhile, anyone on the staff who was in  menopause was hanging out in their room to cool off.

By the third day of this, I was at my wit’s end trying to make these two guys happy. The only saving grace was they were enjoying the mutual complaint department. Sort of an “us against them”, giving rehab a fun kind of flavor.

Yesterday morning I entered their room and noticed that the staff had pulled the curtains closed during the night. The curtains were romantically billowing in the window forcing  the air conditioner to blow all the cold air straight up to the ceiling. I went to the window to draw open the curtains and let the cold air directly into the room. That was when I noticed the window panes had quite a bit of condensation. Looking closer, I saw the window was actually open. In fact, both windows were open. Open.

All night long, the July heat was drifting in through the open windows, allowing all the humidity to circle around and settle on their hot sweltering bodies. Ugh. Really? Someone came up with this idea as a way to cool these guys off?  I closed the windows. I asked the gentlemen to tell the staff to keep the windows closed.

The roommate quickly informed me that he thought the open windows constituted a good idea. It would allow circulation and air into the room at night. This logic reminded me of my mother-in-law.  Every time she left the house in tropical heat, she turned off the air conditioner. We told her she might as well turn off the refrigerator every time she left the house too, as that logic goes.

I return the next morning and the condensation is just waiting for me to put “Cathy was here” on the window.

Okay, so … I give up…..

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski






I can see clearly now… the pain is gone…..

This is why you have to start taking care of yourself ASAP. And, admit maybe you should just go the old fashioned way.

My friend has always enjoyed perfect vision. As she beautifully progressed into middle age, she admired all those fancy reading glasses her friends were flaunting in hopes of looking fashionable (instead of old), and bought a pair for herself. Voila! She, herself could view ever so much better her books, her Kindle, her tax returns. Okay, she thought, not so bad. These glasses are super cute. Like when we all wanted to sport those sparkly cat’s eye glasses in the 50’s and 60’s because, well, they were just peachy keen, right?

Then she began to notice that looking far away was not all that productive either. Relenting, she went to the optometrist. Lo and behold…she needed glasses. Since her vision declined both near and far, she was encouraged to get bifocals.

“But wait!” she said, “what about contact lenses?”

“Well, of course,” said her doctor, “that’s no problem. You have to come in to be fitted.”

When fitting day arrived, my friend was beaming with happiness that modern technology gave her the opportunity to keep those old lady glasses at bay.

“Here we go!” said the perky technician. “Now, open wide, put one contact lens in each eye. We will let you get used to them for a bit, and then practice a couple of times putting them in and taking them out.”

In and out the contacts went. She was impressed that the contacts felt okay in her eyes with no real discomfort.

“Oh, that’s because they are soft lenses, so easy peasy,” the technician told her. “Let’s just do it one more time and then you’re good to go.”

In they go. Out they do not go. She pinches, she pulls, she tugs at imaginary things in her left eye. Nothing happens.

The lens was still in there. It had to be. Her eyes were watering like Niagara Falls, her fingers were giving her eye a proctology exam. She poked and prodded around desperately seeking a foreign object. Her eye was really hurting now and no lens appeared on her finger.

“Oh my!” said the tech as she leaped out of her chair to get the doctor.

“Well,” the doctor said, “I must say we’ve never had this before.”

He gazed at her eye in the special machine.

“Oh, oh my, oh that can’t be good,” said the doctor.

“What? what?” said my friend, mildly in a panic, okay probably not so mildly.

“Well, it looks like you broke the lens into three pieces in your eye. So we’re going to have to numb your eye and flip your eyelid so we can fish those pieces out of there.”


Her new bifocals are really quite fashion forward.

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski


“What do women want? Shoes.” Mimi Pond

In honor of what would have been my mother-in-law’s 98th birthday, a shoe story comes to mind.

About 2 years ago, Marie got very, very ill. She was in intensive care for a few weeks. Between an infection in her big toe and dangerously low body temperature, she was in a precarious place. The conversation vacillated between surgery to remove her toe, foot or part of her leg and just seeing how she would fare at 96 years old.  (I know, when does this get funny?)

She miraculously recovered with the help of a ‘bear hug’ which is like super groovy bubble wrap that keeps you warm and brings up your body temp. And in other news, her toe took care of itself by just falling off. I know, it’s gross and horrible, but it was just the tip and the infection was then completely out of her system.

Because walking was kind of weird now, Marie had to wear special surgical shoes and regain control of her balance. She was hustled home from the hospital with peculiar shoes and instructions for physical therapy.

Her first day home, I visited her during therapy and she was quite agile and perky. I returned the next day and since it was a weekend, there was no therapy. Sitting in her  chair, she was wearing her favorite sneakers.

“Oh, no, no, Marie, that will not do,” I said.  “You need to wear the other shoes until your foot is healed and you can walk properly.”

“What other shoes?” she said. “These are my shoes.”

I wasn’t born  yesterday. In five minutes, I was hauling out the ugly, black orthopedic surgical shoes that were somehow conveniently stuffed way in the back of her closet behind suitcases and Depends packages, I displayed to her the offending footwear.

“This is what you need to wear while your foot heals.”

“Ugh,” she muttered.

Two days later, I moseyed back to the therapy room and there she ambled in the ugly shoes, but her pristine sneakers sat lovingly next to the walker waiting to be put back on Cinderella’s pining feet.

The therapist took me aside.

“She insisted on wearing her real shoes, except in therapy. It’s really not good for healing or balance. Maybe you can talk to her.”

I devised a different plan. Whilst she meandered all around the therapy room, I snatched the glass slippers like an ugly step-sister and hid them deep in the therapy room closet.

I was well versed in diversion by now and spirited her so quickly to lunch after therapy that she forgot about those sneakers. After lunch we strolled outside and then I settled her in her favorite chair for a post-repast siesta.

For the next four weeks, every time I visited Marie, she asked me the same question:

“Where did Rachel put my shoes?”

Rachel is my daughter. She had been known to play a practical joke or two on Grandma over the years. When she was a youngster, Rachel would steal Grandma’s refrigerator magnets and return them a few weeks later. One time she asked Grandma if it was ok to ‘look’ at  Grandma’s costume jewelry. That Easter, Grandma admired her own necklace around Rachel’s neck. However, at the time of this shoe incident, Rachel was firmly ensconced in graduate school in Ireland.

“Rachel, did not take your shoes, Marie. You have to wear these other ones to get better.”

“Yes, she did. Tell her I want them back.”

Simultaneously with her complete recovery, Rachel came home for a visit. When she came to see Grandma, there she was holding the shoes out like Prince Charming. What the heck….whatever works when you’re a  caregiver.

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski




I’d like to thank my Readers..and, of course World Peace

So, if you know me and my quirky husband, you know I love candy and he loves beer.

How fitting that our lucky winner was a combination of all our loves!

Mary JanesMy dear friend, who is oh generous with her time as my very patient  French teacher, Mary Jane is lucky number 33! Tres bon, n’est-ce pas?

I was so glad it wasn’t someone named “Salmon” because it may be the only thing I really hate to eat….even someone named “Brussel Sprouts” would have been welcomed with open arms!


Reader WinIf you didn’t see the “33” on the Rolling Rock, please look again. So that next time you can go around to your favorite watering holes and see if you can figure out how Mr. Quirky makes his lucky picks!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU , THANK YOU  to my AWESOMEST READERS!  I hope to continue to entertain you…..and am working hard on getting my book published so you can sit down with me for a few hours and eat candy and drink beer. Sounds good, n’est-ce pas?

“You just have to Laugh….”

Cathy Sikorski

It’s your lucky day……….

So apparently  my gorgeous, amazing readers are kind of a shy bunch. Or, they were making so many of their own laughs for 4th of July weekend that they got tears of joy in their keyboards and are now frantically trying to comment for that gift they know is rightfully theirs!

I made my hubby put his magic number in that sealed envelope. So we have to get to 50 comments before we open it. Like I said, it could be 1, it could be 50…I have no clue.

Since we are half-way there and only nice people have commented so far, I invite every previous commenter to go again…make a stampede like The Lion King, then one of you can go buy all the Hakuna Matata you want (or whatever 50 bucks would get you).

Good luck and thanks again for all your support!

“You just have to Laugh…..”

Cathy Sikorski

Happy 4th of July! A comment could be worth $50….

On this Fourth of July, in the spirit of Dependence—yes, I depend on you my adorable readers, and I want to give you all a big hug and a gift. But that would be hard, and I’m busy caregiving. However…………

This week I went over the moon when I saw I have over 500 followers! I am so grateful that you are riding this roller coaster with me either as a caregiver, friend, or the person who must always ride in the front seat, no matter how scary the ride.

So, as a special thanks, I want to bestow one lucky reader a $50 Target gift card. (I thought 500 dimes would be hard to ship). As soon as my husband returns home from golfing I’m going to have him pick a number from 1 to 50.  The commenter who is that magic number will be the appreciated reader!

It’s small potatoes for the kind and loyal readers you have become. I appreciate each and every one of you. I love your comments and  your stories about caregiving and hope you continue to share. In fact, one day we will have a sharing day with appreciation too, I think.

Now, my husband can be a quirky guy. (If you call khakis and golf shirts, with the occasional button down collar quirky) and he could pick the number 1.  So you never know. This is not a contest (the lawyer in me) it’s a gift. I just don’t know who it’s for.

If you comment 50 straight times, well, that wouldn’t be nice now would it? I reserve the right to give my gift to a nice person….so only nice people will be counted.

Happy 4th of July to you all!

“You just have to Laugh……”

Cathy Sikorski

It’s Electric!

I have a great bunch of gals in my book club. Everyone of them is in or has been in some stage of caregiving. What are the odds? Really high, actually.

With permission, I’m repeating a story one of my book club buddies relayed at lunch.

We finally released my mother from rehab a few weeks ago. She relies on oxygen now for easier breathing. At 93, she conceded to use a wheelchair most of the time, as she has trouble with her legs and her balance. Sleeping has eluded her for years, so I am watchful most nights, worrying about her wandering. Any night that we all get sleep is a grace from God.

Out of the blue, I get a call from the electric company:

“Ma’am, this is the electric company.”

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“Our grid is showing that you have a dangerous connection in the street outside your home. We need to come check that and repair it if necessary.”

“Okay, we’re here most of the time. When can you come?”

“We will be there tomorrow at 2.”

I’m thinking: Wow, tomorrow? That’s really efficient. Either this is a bigger problem than I think or this electric company in New Jersey is so much better than the one where I live in Pennsylvania.

Tomorrow arrives (even though some say it never comes) and so does 2:00. And then 2:30. And then 3:00 . You guessed it. They never show up. I chalk this up to just another utility, service call, cable company, washer repair man….you name it, not showing up like they said they would.

Since they initiated the call, I figured they would get back to me some time.

At 1:30 A.M. the phone rings at my mother’s house. I jump up to answer it so that it doesn’t wake my miraculously sleeping mother and the hired caregiver we have to help at night.

“Hello, ma’am?”

“Yeeeesssss?????” I say, barely cognizant to have a conversation.

“This is the electric company. We are outside your house and need you to go throw the main switch in your basement to turn off all your electric so we can work on the problem out in the street.”

Okay two things here:

1. Really? 2 A.M.???

2. Of course that’s the night my mother sleeps through the night, as I sit on the stoop in my p.j.’s and watch the electric repair guys.

Oh caregiving.

P.S. They told me they couldn’t fix it that night and would put a temporary blah-blah in and come back in a week or two. I mentioned that my mother was on oxygen so electricity was kind of critical. The next day the manager came in his truck, checked the problem and said it would be fixed that day (not night, day) as no elderly person should be worried about electricity. So that’s kind of cool.

(Retold with permission from a great caregiver and good friend who still has a sense of humor 🙂 )

“You just have to Laugh…………”

Cathy Sikorski