Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Thursday... Again!

Funny how fast Thursdays seem to roll around. Today, my grandmother had lost her "food stamp card." She was very upset about it... looked everywhere - purse, jackets, pants pockets. I know it will turn up, but she doesn't think it will, so she set in to replace it. She called DHS, and someone gave her an 800# to call. She got a menu, which totally frustrated her, so she called ME!

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!


Carol D. O'Dell said...

Thanks for your blog.
Now with a "down-sized economy and up-sized gas prices" families have even more decisions to juggle. But you can't compromise on care for your loved ones. That mostly requires your time and your heart--things money can't buy.

I was my mother's caregiver, but really I was just her daughter. There were times, particularly toward the end of her life where I had to step in, make decisions, be the "bad" guy and insist my mother be taken care of properly by the health community.
You can't beat family (if you've got a pretty good one) for looking out for one another.
Yes, it's crazy and chaotic and as a sand-gen mom, I felt like my head would explode many days--but I'm still glad I did it--and survived! No thrived.

~Carol O'Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

Debbie Robus said...

Carol... thanks for the comments. My own mother wrote a book about her decision to place HER parents in a nursing home - and what led to that decision. It is called "When Heads and Hearts Collide," and there is a link to it on this blog.

In one spot in the book, Mother recalls how my grandmother shouted one day, "I don't want you to be my mother!" (or words to that effect) In reality, Mother had become the mother - not because she wanted to be, but because she HAD to be! So your comments and book title really spoke to me!

Please visit often and share your thoughts. I know there are a lot of Sandwich Generation members who can benefit from your insight and experience. Thanks again!

Debbie Robus

JJ said...

Hi Debbie, sounds like so many things we have been through with my Mom. She will not talk on the phone when any sort of menu comes into play and she has to decide which button to push to get what she wants.

I am extremely lucky that I have one older brother who does the other half of looking after Mom when we are gone in winter time. He and his wife do their traveling in summer when we are here. Not bad out of seven siblings that two of us share in the care.

Our problem with cards though are not with food stamp cards, as Mom will not go sign up for one because they told her at one time she could only get eleven dollars a month, and she said it was not worth the hassle. We do use Angel Food Ministries food system for her and us, which is a great deal.

Our one card problem is that Mom had a Sears card and a couple of years ago Sears in their infinite wisdom issued all their account holders Sears/Visa cards. We successfully kept the fact that the card could be used everywhere, not just at Sears a secret and Mom was very happy she could go to Sears with her new SEARS card and buy a new dress, pair of shoes, etc. etc. Of course there is always a fly in the ointment and one of our youngest sisters (set of twins) discovered that Mom had a Visa card and sat down and explained to her that she could travel with it, rent motels, buy gas for a car(namely sisters car), buy airline tickets, and on and on.

Unfortunately dear sister also got hold of Mom's checkbook and discovered how much money she had in it. Up to that point everyone thought all of Mom's money was tied up in a small investment and could not be touched by anyone without either myself or my older brother signing with Mom. Well the majority of it is tied up just that way, but Mom gets monthly interest payments into her checking account, and saves the interest payments to help with her annual insurance supplement.

Needless to say while Mom was visiting sister a hundred miles away her card was ran up to the tune of almost a thousand bucks.

You mentioned rifts in families, we figured this would be a lasting one, but sister came up with the money to pay off the credit card and the interest that was charged on it because it was about two months before we found out about what happened.

Yes it is hard to be the parent, but sometimes we have to do it. We sat Mom down and explained that any purchases on the CARD in the future would have the receipts brought to either my brother or myself as soon as the purchases were made, so they could be taken back if they were not for Mom. She was not happy, but agreed to the terms of keeping the card, and agreed that the card and checkbook both stay with us when she visits other family members. We get cash for her to take with her, and we are only a phone call away if she needs more.

It is hard to be the parent both to your own children who should have grown up years ago, and to your parents, grandparents, etc. Were we to shirk that responsibility though, it could mean disastrous results to our parents considering how many scam artists there are about these days.

Keep the stories coming Debbie, and as always if you desire to use any portion of my post, feel free to do so.