Monthly Archives: September 2014

It’s a Jungle out there…..

Caregivers are not permitted to take vacations. But good ones do so anyway. If you can get out of the country and be completely incommunicado that’s ideal (being incognito doesn’t hurt either).

My husband and I took a bucket list trip to Macchu Pichu in Peru. We nearly killed ourselves hiking mountains in high altitude and then melting with sweat in the Amazon jungle. No phone, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury…not really true, we stayed in some damn fine five star hotels for about five hours a night. But the only way to communicate with this caregiver was through email. In a country where you are not allowed to flush your toilet paper and must use bottled water to brush your teeth….WIFI is not high on their list. This caregiver was thrilled to be almost completely unplugged from the world for ten days.

I made sure the folks in my brother-in-law’s rehab knew that they must call my mother if any decisions needed to be made about his care. My mother gave them my sister’s phone number as well. They had enough phone  numbers to start a new yellow pages under “caregivers for Cathy’s brother-in-law.”

Baby Piranha searching for WIFI.
Baby Piranha searching for WIFI.

When I returned from conquering mountains and tarantulas, on a Saturday, there were six messages on my home phone and four on my cell phone from the rehab center. Insurance and Medicare had determined that my brother-in-law could be discharged from rehab to home, where he lives alone, even though the doctor insisted that he must remain on complete bed rest for 2 or 3 more weeks. The rehab center wanted me to know that his coverage was now terminated, three days before I returned from the jungles of Peru.

Even though they tried to call me TEN times…. with no response from me, they seemed to decide that I’m an irresponsible person. No one looked at the file to see if there was any indication of who else to call. No one took one teensy weensy step further and thought: “Gee, this is weird. That lady is in here several times a week bugging all of us for anything from therapy updates to a single sugar packet. I wonder why she is ignoring our phone calls?”


I called on Saturday and was surprised to find that at the very least, they kept him in his room, assuming he would pay for it. Now they are  working very hard to see if they can get his insurance to reconsider.

So the good news is we checked a square off our bucket list. The better news is we didn’t die doing it, no malaria and no altitude sickness, no death by diarrhea, no tarantula bites. The best news is my brother-in-law isn’t home in a bed wondering if anybody knows where he is.

You don’t get a vacation and….

“You just have to Laugh…..”

©2014 Cathy Sikorski



What’s at steak??????

In the last four months, my brother-in-law has lost somewhere between 25 and 30 pounds. That may seem like a lot, especially for those of us who have been fighting those last damn 10 pounds for years, but it has been a blessing.

He now has lost so much of his Buddha belly that he can actually turn himself a bit from side to side. This is a spectacular advancement in the world of MS and bed sores because he may now be able to spend more time in his electric  wheelchair and less time confined to bed to protect his skin from breaking down.

He, on the other hand, sees that he has been subject to lousy food and a Spartan diabetic diet.  Now, it is kind of hard to point out the beauty of lousy food and a Spartan diet. So after much praise for his ability to scooch around (yes, I do believe that is a medical term), I researched the possibility of getting some fun back onto his food tray.

He is still in rehab for a few weeks to get stronger from wound repair surgery, so I must get permission to adjust his diet. And I do. Everyone agrees his blood sugar is exemplary and he can have sugar instead of sugar substitute. His blood pressure is also stellar, so he can have salt again as well. Hip, hip hooray.

I take this as a sign that I can ‘bring’ him a special meal of his own choosing at least once a week. It’s actually getting to the point where I’m concerned that he might loose too much weight and then we have another problem. I know, the “oh you’ll get too skinny” story is usually baloney, but he has taken refusing bad food to new heights….and I don’t blame him. In fact, he would welcome baloney, but they don’t serve that…too salty.

So, as we live in the Philly area, I brought him his favorite naughty meal. It was a cheesesteak hoagie with hot peppers. That means there were condiments such as fried onions, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise all slathered on that sandwich. He ate every single bite, picked the stray onions, peppers and tomatoes off the hoagie paper, and wiped his mustache with glee.

When the aide came in for his institutional food tray and it looked like he hadn’t touched a bite, I debated whether to confess. Ah…what the hell……….

“I brought him a cheesesteak.”

“Well, good for him,” said the aide. “I don’t think one person ate today’s dinner. It was that bad.”

“So our secret is safe with you?”

“What secret?”

Sometimes you find partners in crime in the best and most unexpected places.

“You just have to Laugh….”

© 2014 Cathy Sikorski


What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage….the Cowardly Lion.

So I have to prepare a story about courage for a story slam. This may or may not be it.

I think my Mom is one of the most courageous people I know.  She had 5 kids all under the age of 10, and was pregnant with her 6th when my Army helicopter Dad died in a crash. Along with my Nana, she raised six pretty terrific kids (I can say that, I’m the middle child).The problem arises when she mixes her courage with a bit of the crazy.

As you may know, she is a big help to me in my caregiving duties. She is a nurse and was

This pic never gets old!
This pic never gets old!

often  called upon to help me with nonagenarians. She is in charge of all the meds for my brother-in-law. So this lady has got it together.

She gives great advice, except to herself. A few years ago, my mom and my brother Chip, decided to take a trip to Canada. My Mom has had a cabin there since 1972. It’s very rustic. The cabin is nestled next to a little lake. Years ago, my Mom and stepfather, and any other rustic thinking person, would go there all summer long for fishing, wildlife, nature, no electricity, no running water.  The kind of place I would not set foot in.

For the past 5 years or so, my Mom goes only occasionally. She still manages to find people who actually want to go there, but the boat dock is rotted, the trail to the lake is overgrown with weeds, she no longer has a garden the size of the Louvre, and so it’s just a short trip for a few days with those escaping technology or their spouses.

This time Mom and Chip went to check out the new floor that my brothers and brother-in-law had installed. They drove 8 hours from home. They were there approximately 45 minutes, when my Mom tripped on the lip created by the new floor and promptly broke her arm. See, she knew she broke it because she’s a nurse. That and the crack that sounded the minute she hit the floor.

My mother insisted that my brother get back in the car and drive her home 8 hours with that throbbing arm and nasty seat belt, so that she could go to a hospital near home. Now as the one who was probably going to be her temporary caregiver, that was great for me. As someone who tests the limits of courage and common sense. this 83 year old grandmother should have had some sense knocked into her before she hit the floor.

Courage or Crazy…………you be the judge. In any case………..

By the way…that picture IS  the  actual cabin. I made my Mom email it to me….THAT is the next story!

“You just have to Laugh………..”

Cathy Sikorski ©2014



You’re the Boss, Applesauce….Andy Warhol

My mother-in-law, Marie, thought I was as cool as Bruce Springsteen.  A few years ago, in one of her long stints at the hospital, the social worker arrived in her room and quickly began her assessment of the situation.

“Marie,” she demanded, “do you know what day it is?”

“No,”  Marie truthfully answered. Marie was in her 90’s and loving her assisted living facility. Every day came and went like it was Tuesday or Saturday, or who-the-hell-cares day.

“Well,” the highly trained professional asked, “do you know who the President is?”

Okey dokey….now I jumped in.

“Is this really necessary?” I wondered while looking the social worker straight in the eye.

“Well, I need to know if she’s oriented to space and time.”

You’re not oriented to space or time if you’re thinking an elderly woman from a facility is keeping up with current events.

“Ask her questions she knows the answer to, if you’re trying to find out if she’s in any way conscious.”

“Well, okay.” She turned to my mother-in-law and pointed to some of the other people who were visiting in the room.

“Who is that, Marie?”

“That’s my son, Ted.” Correct.

“And who is that lady next to him?”

“That’s his wife, Judi.” Also correct.

Then pointing to me: “And who is that lady there?”

“Her?” And Marie pointed to me as well.

“Yes, that lady?”

“Oh, that’s the Boss!”


I have become legendary. Last week in my brother-in-law’s room the social worker came in to ask some questions.

“What day is it?”

“Truthfully,” he said, “I don’t give a shit.” Score 1 for the ill and infirm.

“And who is this with you today?” she asked him, pointing in my direction.

“Oh her? Yeah, watch out for her, that’s the Boss!”

“You just have to Laugh….”

© 2014 Cathy Sikorski