Thursday, May 29, 2008
I called the 800# and went through the menu to the desk for lost or stolen cards, and the person who answered, Gloria, asked for the Social Security number. I gave it and my grandmother's name... Willie Dove... and Gloria said, "Willie is your husband?" "No," I replied, "she is my grandmother. I have her durable Power of Attorney." "Well you are not listed on my records," Gloria answered. I've heard this before, but since I have been handling all of my grandmothers business affairs since 2003-2004, it is very frustrating when they tell me I am not listed or authorized. "I can't give you any information, since you are not listed in your grandmother's records." I nicely explained that my grandmother is 95, she has lost her card, and she could not navigate the menu. She is upset to the point that she says she "is sick." Gloria says, "I understand, but unfortunately, I cannot give you any information without your grandmother's authorization." So I asked, "Then how do we resolve this?" Gloria explained that all she needed was an authorization from my grandmother. "Hold on," I told her, "I think I can fix this."
I picked up my cell phone and dialed my Mam-ma. After several rounds of "Mam-ma, Mam-ma" and her saying, "Hello? Hello?" I got her to answer me. "Mam-ma," I told her, "this lady in the Food Stamp office needs to ask you if it is okay for her to talk to me about your card. So I am going to hold the phone to my other phone, and you can answer her questions. I turned up the volume on my cell phone, and I immediately heard my grandmother... "Hello? Hello?" I told her to hold on. Gloria cannot hear her. Mam-ma tells me she is practically yelling! I asked her to listen again, and this time, Gloria attempts to ask a question. The whole time, Mam-ma is talking... "What is it you want to ask me? This is Xxxxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx (giving her full name)." I once again stopped her and told her, within earshot of Gloria on my cordless landline, "Mam-ma... this lady wants to know if you will authorize her to talk to me about your food stamp card." At a volume approaching screaming, Mam-ma says, "ABSOLUTELY!" Gloria starts to laugh and says, "I heard that!" That was all that I needed from my grandmother, so I told her to hang up and I would call her back later.
THEN... believe it or not... Gloria said, "I just need to verify your grandmother's address." I gave it to her, and she says, "Nooooooo... that's not what we have on file." I explained that she has lived at that address since 1988, and Gloria says, "Well, I have an address in Heber Springs, but that's not it. I show a Debbie Robus as the contact." She couldn't see me rolling my eyes, but I told her, "That's ME! You must have my address... XXXX Xxxxxxx Drive." Yes, she says that is what is listed. I explain that my grandmother's address is different (and I do not tell her that I have since moved and no longer live at that address myself). She says she can only deliver the new card to the address on record. Since most of my mail is still forwarded, AND I know the people who live in our old house, I tell her yes, that address will work. She says, "I just need to verify who I am talking to." I had to laugh, as I told her, "Debbie Robus... the person in your records." She says, "Okay... I had to ask." So, a new card is to come in about 7 days, hopefully. The card presently has $26 on it, which I told Gloria just as well be $26,000 to my grandmother, and she replied, "Well, of course!"
Meanwhile, I stopped in to see a friend of mine today at her store, and she was really frustrated. "I don't want to be part of the 'Sandwich Generation'!" she said, looking very frustrated. Her parents need to downsize, but that would mean moving from and/or selling family land - land that has been in her family for generations. Her older siblings are balking. "Don't sell the land!" they cry from several states away. The ultimate care of her parents and their needs has fallen to her, it seems. I told her that, unfair as it is, that's usually how it goes. I tried to be as supportive as I could, but I know her frustration - and there are no easy answers.
On a local morning show this week, a psychologist discussed how disputes over land and property and personal belongings often spell "the beginning of the end" for families. Hurtful things are said and done, and sadly, sometimes the damage is irreparable.
So here's a question for you... how are YOU handling the issue of personal property, downsizing those in your care (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) Are your siblings or other relatives cooperating and being supportive? Is the person in your care cooperating and acting agreeably? Let us hear from you. We can all learn from each other's experiences... share yours and help somebody else!
And finally, I learned today of yet another senior citizen who "didn't think it could happen to them" and now finds themselves the victim of a fall that has resulted in almost spontaneous need for added care, medical attention, and possibly even a move to be nearer to loved ones who can look after them. Preparations? There have been none. What about you? How have you prepared for this day? Have you buried your head in the sand and hoped it doesn't come? Or have you made some arrangements and laid some groundwork so that if/when, heaven forbid, something DOES happen, you are at least somewhat prepared. Share your ideas and thoughts on this issue, as well!
Esther always replied, "I know Morris, but that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars." One year Esther and Morris went to the fair, and Morris said, "Esther, I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter, I might never get another chance."
To this, Esther replied, "Morris that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars."
The pilot overheard the couple and said, "Folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire rideand not say a word, I won't charge you! But if you say one word, it's fifty dollars."
Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuvers, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word.
When they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said, "By golly,I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I'm impressed!"
Morris replied, "Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out, but you know, fifty dollars is fifty dollars!"
Thursday, May 22, 2008
My dad died 6 hrs before his 80th birthday. My mom turns 82 on Sunday. No matter how much we do, it seems like (for me at least) that we should be doing more. Do you think anyone would notice if I ran away? Thanks for listening.
Here was my reply: Carol... I am sorry that your mother is not well. However, don't be so hard on yourself - or her. Truly, at this age, it's like the little child whose fever spikes... one minute they ARE fine, and the next, they are in full blown CHF or something else. My grandmother attended a birthday party one Saturday afternoon and was "fine". She was "fine" at 7:30 p.m. when she telephoned my sister and cousin. At 9:30 p.m., she was seriously ill with vomiting and diarrhea that landed her in the hospital for 5 days and the nursing home for 2 weeks of rehab... and she is just NOW becoming her "old self." When she was admitted to the hospital that night, her lab work showed she had a UTI, pneumonia, and strep throat, in addition to the virulent diarrhea and vomiting. She had symptoms of NONE of this 3 hours earlier.So yes, some of it is upbringing. Some of it is stubbornness, and some of it is just plain ole aging. At any rate, it isn't any fun, and I'm so sorry this has happened. I wish you well and hope your mother will soon feel better - and you as well!
On another front, my husband's brother John and his wife Elaine traveled almost 4 hours on Mother's Day weekend to visit her parents. As an only child, Elaine is quickly becoming responsible for many things that her parents can no longer address on their own. Her mother recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and I think her dad is getting close to 90 himself. Recent storms and tornadoes caused damage to their yard and the roof of their house (creating leaks in spots), so it fell to Elaine - and John - to see that the repairs were made.
While working in the yard the Friday before Mother's Day, Elaine's mother started inside the house, and something happened and she fell. She broke two ribs and hurt her shoulder - and x-rays this week revealed that she has also broken two bones in the top of her foot just behind her toes. The doctor has bandaged the foot and told her to stay off of it as much as possible - and to use a rolling walker when she DOES go anywhere. This woman also has macular degeneration and can barely see, so she is really disabled. Because she takes the blood thinner Coumadin, the only pain medication prescribed has been some extra strength Tylenol, and she is in a lot of pain.
My sister-in-law is frustrated, of course. She is a leader in a community-wide Bible study group in her city, and she devotes much of her week to work on her lessons, caring for those in her group (and others) and taking care of her family and friends. The Bible study group doesn't meet in the summer, and they just broke for summer break. She told me, "I had so many projects and plans to accomplish this summer, and now it looks like I will spend much of it with my parents." I feel her pain, don't you?! She knows she is not alone, but when this situation first hits you, you feel a little like you have had the breath knocked out of you - and more than a little overwhelmed. I know she will get her "sea legs" and be fine. But if you are just having your world turned upside down by a parent who has become suddenly ill or infirm in some way, know that you are not alone - and that we are here to support you and encourage you as much as possible.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I wanted to find out if they were about to refuse coverage on these drugs, so I phoned the Humana help line. I was told that no information could be given to me because I was not on "the list," and I would have to have my grandmother give permission for info to be released to me. I explained that I have Durable Power of Attorney, and my grandmother was at HER home, and I was at mine. The girl said, "Well maybe you could go to your grandmother's house and call us back - we are here until 8 p.m." I told her that was not happening that day, but that I WOULD be calling back. So today, I went early to Mam-ma's. I got on the phone to Humana and had her sit by her other phone to give the authorization when asked, so that I could get answers to my questions. It never happened. The rep - Spencer - answered all of my questions without hesitation and never asked to speak to anyone else. He never mentioned authorization or any such thing, and he assured me that Mam-ma's drugs are covered, and I am not to worry! I made good notes of the conversation and thanked him!
Meanwhile, Mam-ma had a bill from the hospital for her stay in February. The bill was for $135.50. Since she has Medicare and Medicaid, I figured maybe this was the remainder that Medicaid would cover, and it just had not been filed yet. But I told her I would call the hospital and find out. Medicare and Medicaid have both paid all they will on her $10,000+ bill - she does indeed owe the hospital $135.50. For what, exactly, I am not sure, but I wrote the check. I figured on the overall bill, that was not that much, but so much for "full coverage."
On to the optometrist's office to pay $24 for protective coating on Mam-ma's new glasses. That, too is a story - she was told that her glasses were covered by Medicaid, and the Medicaid lab made them, but when my mother took my grandmother to get her glasses yesterday, the lady in the lab said that Medicaid had refused payment. After some finagling (and I suspect "absorption" by the optometrist), it was determined that Mam-ma would not owe anything for the glasses, but the coating would be $24. That was how it was the last time we got glasses for her, so I was okay with that. I wrote the check!
Finally, Mam-ma had a letter from her primary care physician's office with a print-out of lab work from blood drawn two weeks or so ago when we visited. The note at the bottom said she needs to take potassium, and we needed to call the clinic and speak with the lab tech and get a prescription ordered. It also said we needed to visit the doctor on May 22nd for a six-month check-up, and again on June 12th for a 6-week follow-up on her most recent visit. I didn't recognize the May 22nd date, but I told Mam-ma, "We're not going on May 22nd."
I called the clinic and asked the doctor's wife (who is a receptionist there) about the appointments and the letter from the lab. She had already cancelled the May 22 appointment. She put me through to Toni, the lab tech (I thought) who said, "I will order the potassium, but we need to draw blood on your grandmother - you need to bring her in." I told her we were coming June 12th, and she said, "Yes, but this needs to be done now - her B12 and something else (I didn't understand her) are low - she may be anemic." I tried to be nice, but I told her it seemed funny to me that we were there 2 or 3 weeks ago for blood work, and we were just now learning that she had a problem. AND... she got a B-12 shot from her Home Health nurse today. I asked, "If this was so urgent, why didn't someone call us?" She quickly shot back, "Oh, we DID call, on April 21st and again on the 29th and May 5th, and on the 8th of May I sent the letter." I asked why nobody called ME, and she said, "You're not on the records." Now how on earth am I not on my grandmother's records at the clinic after all this time? I guess the same way they still had her chart showing she was taking Lisinopril that was discontinued after a month in 2006 because she couldn't tolerate it!
So, I told the girl on the phone we would come after Mam-ma got her hair done at the beauty shop. I hurriedly did our grocery shopping at Wal-Mart - both hers and mine. I swung by the pharmacy and picked up Mam-ma's prescriptions, then went to get her at the beauty salon. I realized our cold groceries would never last in the humidity while we sat at the clinic, so we drove to my house and I put away my cold things while Mam-ma visited with Greg and looked at the view out our windows. She hugged Greg and said, "I don't know why you don't come to see me!" Greg was caught off guard and mumbled, "I don't know either!" Welcome to my world!!!
Then we headed to Mam-ma's house to put away HER milk and frozen food. On the way, we passed a produce stand that has opened near my house. Mam-ma said, "Sometime I would like to go there." I said, "Let's do it now." She said, "No, we don't have time." I told her we did have time, and she said, "then let's go!" We turned around and went back, and she bought a quart of strawberries and a cantaloupe to share with her friend Ruby. I bought fresh okra, tomatoes and strawberries. Mam-ma said she would like to go there often. I told her maybe we could go there some on Thursdays. She said, "That would be great!"
We took Mam-ma's groceries home, and THEN we went to the clinic to give them some blood! The receptionist called us pretty quickly to the lab, where the technician was frowning and visibly irritated. She said, "I wish they had let me talk with you... I am so sorry. I can draw blood today, but now that she is starting on potassium, she will have to return next week for a follow-up blood test to see how it's doing, and we can do it all at once." I said, "I thought I talked to Toni - are you Toni?" She said yes, but that they had connected me to Rae, a nurse. I said, "She insisted this was urgent and we had to come right away! She also said she didn't have my phone number and that you had called several times." The lab tech said that they did not have my number on the records in the lab, but now they do, and she was very apologetic, and that the test for anemia was not urgent. I told her if it was not necessary to stick Mam-ma today, then we had no problem with waiting a week. I asked Mam-ma if that was okay with her, and she said, "ABSOLUTELY!" So the girl apologized again, and we left, and we will swing by there next Thursday after the hair appointment.
Now the thing that gets me is... they KNOW my grandmother. She lives a few blocks from their clinic. They know she is 95 and hard of hearing and might not always hear her phone. If you feel a person is anemic and needs potassium, would you really only call 2-3 times in 3 weeks and then MAIL A LETTER? It's not rocket science! In this little town of 6000 people, those folks at the clinic know me - they know they can call me if they can't reach my grandmother. Some of the people in that office attend my church and many attend Mam-ma's church! They KNOW us! What if this had been even more dire than low potassium and/or possible anemia? Would they have just sent a letter and waited for us to respond? As we were leaving the clinic, Mam-ma saw Dr. Bivins, and he spoke and asked us how we were, and she told him, "If y'all don't stop taking my blood, I'm going to start charging you for it!" Dr. B said that would be okay if they figured out a use for it! Greg had told Mam-ma that it was a shame that THEY charge HER for giving them the blood, so she was all geared up to share that little anecdote about charging the clinic. I was just thankful that was all she told him. She started her sentence with "I tell ye what..." and that can be a landmine... especially with Dr. B... he is the one she told that her friend was "almost as big as you are" (and she was not being complimentary!)
Driving home, Mam-ma said, "Sometime, I want you to drive me down to the lake so I can see the flooding. People keep telling me how bad it is, and I haven't seen it." I just turned the corner and headed for the lake. She said, "But you don't have time today." I told her today was as good as any, and we toured three neighborhoods - Sandy Beach, Ausley Circle and Anderson Circle. She was amazed and satisfied, and home we went. She said she had "work to do" - putting away her groceries, putting potassium tablets in her daily medicine boxes, and fixing cantaloupe and leftovers for Ruby to eat supper with her. She thanked me for all of my help and even said, "I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you to do these things for me."
All in all, today was a "good" day! I'll take what I can get!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I noticed that her Wednesday night medicines were still in their little box, and it was now Thursday. "Mam-ma," I asked, "did you not take your medicine last night?" She said she did... INSISTED that she did. "Well, it's still in here," I replied. She muttered something about starting with Sunday and going through the box, and ended with a loud, "I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING AND WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO TAKE!" Obviously she is not paying attention to the fact that you take Wednesday's medicines on WEDNESDAY, but I decided to let that go for now.
I determined that my grandmother needed one prescription, but several others were running low, so I decided to order refills on those at the same time. I phoned the pharmacy from my grandmother's kitchen. I gave the clerk scrip numbers for most of the medications, but there was no number for the Coreg. The clerk asked, "Do you have a number for that one?" I explained that no, I didn't because my grandmother had poured the prescription into a bigger bottle that had no number. From across the house I hear my grandmother screaming, "IF YOU WOULD JUST LET ME HANDLE THIS, I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING!" I gently explained that it was okay, that we would find a number. By this time, she is in the kitchen digging through a box of receipts from the pharmacy atop her refrigerator. However, the receipt for Coreg was last year's and she now has a new prescription number, so that didn't help. I just didn't tell her... I talked to the pharmacy and put the receipts back on top of the fridge.
I left my grandmother at the beauty shop and went to the grocery store and pharmacy. When I returned, she was ready to leave, and as she walked toward me, she shook her finger at me and said, "Why didn't you tell me it was your momma's birthday?" (She had forgotten my mother's birthday on April 19th. She forgot it last year, also, along with mine in July, my husband's this May, and my brother-in-law's back in March. She also forgot my dad's, which would be April 18th. In fact, this year on April 18th, she noted the date as she recorded her BP reading, and I just didn't comment. I felt if I mentioned it, or my mother's birthday the following day, she would be upset - particularly that she forgot them.) Apparently one of my mother's friends came into the beauty salon and announced that she and Mom had just had lunch to celebrate Mother's birthday. So, I muttered something to her about not realizing Mam-ma forgot this year (a bit of a lie), and that it was okay. Well, it wasn't okay with her, and she has gone on and on about it for days to me, my mom, my sister, and who knows who else! Her comment is always, "I've NEVER done that before. I don't know why I forgot! It just breaks my heart." See why I didn't tell her she had forgotten? Mom said that yesterday a card arrived in the mail with $25 in it - the exact amount Mom had given Mam-ma for Mother's Day! So, they traded money! ha!
Just recently my grandmother told my mother that she had been talking to the man who mows her yard, and he said he was in his late 60's, and she told him that her son (my dad) died two or 3 years ago, and she couldn't remember how old he was. My dad died in 1999 at age 63. Mother said she would have figured Mam-ma could tell to the day, hour, and minute how long her only son had been gone - how old he was when he died and how old he would be now. We see signs her memory is fading.
Friday evening there was a Mother-Daughter tea at my church. I took my mother, my mother-in-law, and my grandmother. Friday afternoon, Mam-ma called and asked if it would be okay for her to wear a teal colored pantsuit. I told her to wear whatever she liked. She said, "Well, I don't really have anything 'springy' to wear." I asked about a beautiful purple pantsuit she has that looks great on her, and she said, "You mean that lavender outfit? It has to go on over my head and will mess up my hair." I told her not to wear it - the teal would be fine - "don't mess up your hair." She said, "Well, I don't want you to be ashamed of me!" I assured her that would not happen. When I picked my grandmother up for the tea, she was decked out in - you guessed it - lavender! Someone told her at the tea how pretty she looked, and she said, "Well, Debbie said to wear this lavender, so I did what Debbie told me to do!" But the kicker was when a dear friend of my mother's came to our table to visit. As she turned to leave, my grandmother said to Mom, "She is crazy as a loon. She won't remember a thing you told her." Thankfully, IF this woman heard - and Mom is certain she did - it won't phase her. But my husband said, somewhat in gest, "You can't take your Mam-ma out in public any more!"
Tomorrow, I have to go early and try to contact Humana about coverage of two of Mam-ma's medications. She has to give permission over the phone for Humana to talk to me! Mam-ma also got a bill from the hospital that is worrying her - I don't think it is something she truly owes, but she believes she does, and she is worried about her money. She also got new eye glasses this week, and there was a glitch in that order, and she owes money for tinting. I'm sure she will remind me about that payment. And she is wondering where her Economic Stimulus check is... I saw last night on the news where she will be getting it around July 4th. Whew, boy... wish me luck!
I know I am not alone in this journey. My sister-in-law went to her parents' this weekend to celebrate Mother's Day and to help them clean up their yard. Recent storms damaged their roof and some trees in the yard. While they were working outside Friday, my sister-in-law's mother fell going into the house and broke two ribs and injured her shoulder. She is 90. She insisted she was okay until Saturday, when a trip to the walk-in clinic and x-rays revealed the broken ribs. Because this lady is on Coumadin (a blood thinner), she was only given Extra Strength Tylenol for pain, and she is really hurting. My sister-in-law is making the four-hour trip to check on her this weekend. She is an only child, but thankfully, there are lots of relatives, friends, and neighbors in her home town to fill in the gaps with her mom.
Another lady in her 90's - a dear friend of ours from church, got HER Coumadin out of whack last week and fell. She hit her head, and her husband said she "looks like she lives with an abuser!" He got her to the local ER, but she lost a lot of blood because of the Coumadin making her blood so thin. I think it was a pretty scary event. I asked the husband if I could help them - they have no children - maybe bring some food, and he said, "Lord no! Please don't bring food! We will never eat all that has been brought already!" Give God a praise for a great church family who are seeing after these two dear souls. They could be us someday!
And finally, there is my cousin's wife, who brought her aunt to the tea Friday night. This 87-year-old dynamo has been battling a bronchial infection and was worried about coughing and feeling poorly during the tea, but she really wanted to go. Her solution? "I'll just take a big dose of my cough syrup!" My cousin said this cough syrup was loaded with all sorts of "goodies," and could easily cause her aunt to be unsteady on her feet (i.e. "drunk!") or possibly fall. She nixed the cough syrup idea!
I look at these folks, struggling to maintain their independence as their lives start to spiral out of control, and I think, "Someday that will be us!" I wonder, are we learning anything in this journey?
Sunday, May 4, 2008
A fellow "Deli" member has written me this week to share some thoughts about her experiences caring for her mother, who lived to be almost 101. She experienced troubles with family members over money and the family home and says: "I feel my brother thought he was doing the right thing when he had everything signed over to him. He wanted the money and just didn't want the responsibility. If he would have provided Mom with decent care, I don't think anyone would have challenged him. There was history in our family of a lot of corruption with the brothers so all makes sense when you put the pieces together."
The Nursing Homes in my home state actually are pretty good. I had an issue about the method of acquiring prescribed medication for Mom while she was in the Home but basically, the care of her was outstanding. I visited her once or twice a day and took her out for our wheelchair walks often. That meant I was aware of her care and the Home was aware of my presence.
I just got an email from a friend who left her home to move into her Mom's home to care for her. She and her husband lived in the home for a few years until her Mom died. Then her husband was diagnosed with cancer so she provided all the support and care for him until he died this past winter. She did this while caring for her granddaughter whose Mom can't care for at this time. Now...her email is telling me that she has four lumps and they are all malignant. She will go in for surgery next Thursday. Yet...she is being so positive!! She wants to get it over with because she has an ATV/camp trip planned and her granddaughter will be the 5th or 7th Indian Princess to reign in the family, so there's other travel involved.
Your feedback has been great! Thanks for keeping in touch. Your website is a wonderful site to vent for anyone who is involved in the care, custody and control of their loved one. Hats off to you!
My grandmother is busy planning a "Chicken Foot" domino party at her house for Tuesday of this week - seven women whose median age is 89! They will play, eat chips, dips, cookies and sweets and while away the afternoon. Good fun!
We had killer tornadoes come through our state on Friday. Thankfully Mam-ma didn't try to go to her storm cellar. She made a spot in her closet; however, she told my sister later that she "kept coming out to look at the clouds!" After the storms passed, she swept her garage and driveway, and pressure hosed her front porch! Yep, she is definitely better!
Hope the week is a quiet one in your Deli!