Tag Archives: Doctor

You might be a Caregiver….Part One

Just as I was sitting down to bring you the next installment of caregiving comedy, my computer decided the last laugh would be on me. Done, died, dead. With no warning, no goodbyes, no fond farewells, just dead.

These two weeks provided lots of time to come up with all the joys that caregivers experience. So in a huge nod to Jeff Foxworthy, I bring you the first installment of:

“You might be a Caregiver……”

  1. If you know Medicare’s phone number and website without Googling….You might be a Caregiver….
  2. If your search for an Assisted Living Community for your Mom starts to look like a nice vacation spot for you and your spouse….You might be a Caregiver
  3. If you cancel your dentist appointment to attend Ice Cream Social Wednesday at your Dad’s nursing home, because you want the ice cream….You might be a Caregiver
  4. If you know your parents’ Medicare number, AARP number, United Healthcare number but not your own cell phone number…You might be a Caregiver
  5. If you feel the need to correct WebMD about all the missed additional symptoms of a urinary tract infection….You might be a Caregiver
  6. If your iPhone calendar has words on it like ‘catheters’, ‘hearing aid’, ‘urologist’, or ‘dentures’…..You might be a Caregiver
  7. If going to the Emergency Room is like Cheers where they know your first name and how you take your coffee…..You might be a Caregiver
  8. If you took the black Sharpie to your husband’s underwear to mark it for the wash instead of your Mom’s for the nursing home…..You might be a Caregiver
  9. If you’ve had more knock-down, drag-out fights with Insurance Companies, Hospitals and Doctor’s office than Muhammad Ali…..You might be a Caregiver
  10. If everyone around you thinks you are speaking in tongues because you are constantly saying, PT, OT, UTI, or DME….You might be a Caregiver

And this is only the beginning, my friends. After all, this is a new computer, so there’s lots of room for humor here now!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly…….

I have been trying for 3 weeks to get physical therapy for my brother-in-law. He is in rehab but has to stay in bed for healing purposes. My argument is that there’s no reason he can’t be doing upper body strength training and exercise to keep those muscles from getting weak.

I asked five different people and everyone was going to “get back to me.”

This is what happened when I was in the rehab center and  they actually did:

Nurse 1: “Gee I don’t know about therapy ,let me go check. I’ll come back and tell you.”

Nurse 2: “Well, we are nursing. You will have to talk to Physical Therapy. Go downstairs to the Physical Therapy room and ask for Kelly, she is the Director.

So downstairs I go. In the  Physical Therapy conference room are 5 people. They all have name badges. I talk to the one wearing the name badge ,”Kelly.”

Kelly 1: ” Well, let me look at the register. ”

She doodles around on the computer for a few minutes.

Kelly 1:”Hmmm.I thought I could tell you why your brother-in-law is not getting therapy, but I have no idea. I’m going to have to talk to my supervisor.”

Me: “Okay. I’m going back upstairs, you can get me there. By the way, who are we waiting to talk to?”

Kelly 1: “Kelly.”

Me:(very slowly and deliberately,so I get this right)”But…. aren’t…. you……. Kelly?”

Kelly 1: “Oh there are three Kellys.”

Great. Back to my brother-in-law’s room I go. I am greeted there by Nurse 2.

Nurse 2: “I found out that your brother-in-law doesn’t qualify for therapy.”

Now this is where they expect me to say, “oh,okay.” I don’t do that…… not ever, never. I say things like:

Me: “Why?”

Nurse 2: “I have no idea, I’m nursing.”

With that dandy tidbit, in comes the Social Worker, Courtney, one of the first five people I asked about physical therapy.

Courtney 1:  “We just had a meeting with Kelly(presumably Kelly2) and she said he doesn’t qualify for therapy.”

Me: “Crazy question here….why?”

Courtney 1: “Well because his surgeon said he can’t get out of bed into a chair yet.”

Me: “I know, I talked to the surgeon’s office and they don’t know why you translated that into, ‘he should turn into a useless vegetable with no muscle mass until his wound heals.’ Which is why I had the surgeon’s office call you to say he could have physical therapy of his upper body in his bed.”

SpicyNurse 2: “Oh yes. They did call me. That girl on the phone was rather ‘spicy’ demanding that he get physical therapy and that they never said he couldn’t have it.”

Spicy? Really, a doctor’s office wants their patient to get some appropriate care and that’s spicy????

With that I look at Nurse 2, she looks at Courtney 1, and well, there we are, in a spicy conundrum.

Me: “Get him therapy, now. I don’t care how many Kellys it takes.” Wondering if that was spicy enough to get something done.

That was yesterday…..waiting for a spicy response any minute now.

“You Just  have to Laugh…..”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

 

 

 

Techno and Testing………..

As I sit in the waiting room for my husband to have his colonoscopy, I am reminded of all the times I’ve been to various hospitals and doctors’ offices for tests of one kind or another as a caregiver.  Sometimes, I think we test like our patients are the next subjects in a high school science experiment.

When my mother-in-law was 86 years old, I took her to her cardiologist for a semi-annual check-up. By that time, she had a pacemaker and was required to have it tested in the office to make sure it was working properly. In the interim, they had sent her home with a machine that she was to use monthly to check the battery and operation of the pacemaker over the telephone. This was hilarious.

Marie had to take out this little box, put two wrist bands on herself, call a phone number, place the phone in an electronic phone cradle at just the right moment,  while holding some gizmo over the pacemaker on her chest, and wait for the buzz to tell her all was well. It sounds simple. But the set-up, the conversation with the technician and the ultimate getting the phone in the cradle at just the right time was a comedy of errors. Phone check-ups had to be by appointment only. I tried to get there on the exact date every month to help her, but some dates were just not possible for me. So after training my mother-in-law, this darling 86 year-old woman who lived alone and had not the slightest relationship with technology, did the best she could. I prayed she could do it, or in the alternative prayed that the pacemaker just worked until the next month.

At this bi-annual visit with her cardiologist, the good news was, her pacemaker was working just fine. Dr. Smarty Pants, however, had no trouble telling us that every month they weren’t getting the best reading, and we would need to do better. You know what I wanted to retort. But instead, I  said, “Okay.”

Marie took it personally and tried to explain how hard she worked to get it right, but by that time we were dismissed on that topic to discuss further things.

Dr. Smarty Pants was concerned that Marie’s chest X-ray showed a slight spot on her lungs. The X-ray had been taken as a standard procedure due to her heart condition and pacemaker. This spot, however seemed new and the doctor was concerned.

“It could be nothing, or it could be a sign of further pathology,” he said to us.

“Well,” I said, “exactly what would you like to do?”

“I think we should do some more tests,” he declared. “I would like to do a CAT scan, or perhaps even an MRI, and then based on those results, we may have to do a biopsy of the lung area to see what we are dealing with. And then, based on that information, well, actually, as soon as we have the results of the CAT Scan or MRI, I would probably send you to a lung specialist as this is not a cardiology issue in any event.”

“So let me get this straight. As her cardiologist, you want to send this 86 year-old woman for a CAT Scan, and MRI, a possible lung biopsy and then off to another specialist, as this isn’t really your bailiwick anyway? Do I understand that correctly?”

“Yes.”

Now my mother-in-law is just sitting there in her paper gown, probably freezing, as it is cold in there and I haven’t even taken my coat off, watching this banter .

“Let me ask you this doctor,” I said pretending I was just seeking information, but wanting to put my hands around his throat while he strangled out an answer if he were lucky enough to survive.

“Tell me a bit more about this spot on the X-ray. Is it big, is it new, what do you suspect it could be?”

“Well, it’s tiny, and we haven’t seen it before. Honestly. Sometimes it could just be a spot or speck of dust on the machine and not pathological at all. But we don’t know that for sure.”

“Okay,” I say incredulous but still pretending to be seeking only information and not the death penalty….for him…..”Let’s just say you find the worst case scenario after all those tests, the biopsies and whatever else you do….then what? My mother-in-law is 86 years old. She has a really nice quality of life. She has heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure. What exactly would you do or suggest under those circumstances?”

“Well, truthfully, I probably would just make her comfortable, she’s not really a candidate for surgery or even intensive therapies.”

“Um…hmm.. that’s what I was thinking, Doctor.” Of course, what I was really thinking was: “You’re an idiot.”

“Based on that, Doctor, I think she’s already pretty comfortable so we will pass on further testing and let nature take its course.”

My mother-in-law lived 11 more years, with nary a cough.

“You just have to Laugh…….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2015

Weighing In……………

I noticed a weird bruise on my arm last week on Thursday. By Friday it had morphed into something that looked like a bear climbing a tree. It didn’t hurt. I had no recollection of bumping into things, or drinking too much wine on Wednesday (although now that I’ve written that “Wine Wednesday” sounds pretty tempting). So I went to the doctor.

Bruise Comparison Photo
Bruise Comparison Photo

The first thing they do when they take you into the super secret area where patients are seen is tell you to “get on the scale.” I have been trying to decline this for years. If it’s my annual check up or I think I have diabetes or perhaps I have miraculously lost those last damn 10 pounds by eating chocolate cake and the new Yeungling Black and Tan Ice Cream, then and only then will I get on the scale.

I’m sorry, I may be naïve to think that all American women have a psychological battle with weight, but I know all my friends do. That stupid number can send me into a tailspin of self-loathing and regret for days. I will not have it.

This time I may have been a bit intense in my questioning and refusal to be weighed for a bruise. The nurse ratted me out to the doctor.

“We have to weigh you for insurance purposes,” said the doctor.

“I’m sorry, but the insurance company doesn’t get to play mind games with me. Do you have any idea how crazy that scale makes me?”

“I’m starting to….”

“Women the world over hate getting weighed, even on a good day. It is a sign of our possible failure to literally measure up. It makes us feel bad about our next bagel. And it makes no sense when I’m coming in for a bruise. And on top of all that, not one doctor ever comments on my weight and how that may affect my health, so I have to conclude that unless it’s critical to my visit, it’s not important to the medical community on that day either.”

The doctor looked at me like I needed Xanax at that juncture and said, “we just have to check a box on the form that says we weighed you.”

“So what happens if I refuse to be weighed?”

“We check the box marked ‘declined’.”

So there you have it ladies and gents. If you have an irrational aversion to that doctor’s scale, you can just say “no,” or better yet, “declined.”

By the way, perhaps someone should have asked why I was so stressed by something so trivial. And that’s where the caregiver craziness shows up. In the final analysis, when attempting self care……

“You just have to Laugh….”

©2014 Cathy Sikorski

 

Pizza, Pizza……………

Arising at 4 A.M. to get to my brother-in-law’s apartment before the ambulance transport so that I could quickly give him his medications before surgery, as archly instructed by the hospital staff, may have fuzzed up my mind. I’m pretty certain this was the conversation I overheard while watching and waiting for three hours before they took him into surgery:

Nurse on phone: “Yes, those were the instructions. Yes, no food or drink after 8:00 P.M.  last night.  Well, I will have to call the doctor and see if they still want  you to come in.”

Nurse on phone to Doctor:  “Your surgery for 8 AM just called. She wanted to know if she should still come in if she had pizza for breakfast.”

Nurse back on phone to patient: “The doctor says he wants you to still come in. You won’t be his first surgery, but he wants you to come in and see if he can fit you in. What? What’s that? Okay. Well, I will inform the doctor of that, but you still need to come in.”

Take with Pills in AM
Take with Pills in AM

Nurse to any other nurse who will listen: “So she just told me that she also took some opiates and some alcohol this morning too. I don’t know if that was while she was waiting for me to get back to her, or if  she forgot to tell me the first time.”

A different nurse to my brother-in-law, who has a rash around his lips from no liquid for  the last 15 hours, is starving, and has a second nurse stabbing him all over the place trying to get the IV line in so they can administer drugs to make him happy: “Your surgery has just been moved up, lucky for you the first patient had pizza.”

“Oh yeah,” says my brother-in-law, “I was feeling all kinds of lucky today.”

To their credit, not one nurse ever violated HIPPA by revealing the name of the pizza-eating, opiate-taking, breakfast-of-champions alcohol-drinking patient who cleared the way for everyone to move up the line.

“You just have to Laugh…..”

©2014 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

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