On Friday, November 6th, I picked Mam-ma up for her beauty shop appointment, and the house smelled like a bakery. I knew from posts on Facebook that the children of a cousin who lives in Little Rock had called and wished Mam-ma a "Happy Birthday," and one of them mentioned he liked her sugar cookies. She replied, "Well I'll bake you some, but you'll have to come see me." When I smelled the cookies, I knew she had taken his request quite literally. She began telling me that "the kids are coming," and I cautioned her that "soon" to them probably didn't mean right away. She didn't buy it. So when I got home, I posted a comment on Facebook and let them know that Mam-ma had already made the cookies for their son. They came on Sunday, so they avoided the dog house!
As we left for the beauty shop, Mam-ma said, "My walker needs new tips on the legs." Now I think I posted here a few months ago about the ordeal of getting new legs for her walker when "all I wanted was two tennis balls." So I said, "We've been through this." Well, this was ANOTHER walker, and the tips were shot. I said, "Let's take the walker I had fixed for you a few months ago, and you use this walker outside where the tips don't matter." She said, "Okay, but THIS walker has wobbly wheels." I couldn't see it, but she reluctantly took the newer walker, and I told her that the next Friday, I would factor in time to take it by the medical supply store for a look/see.
Over the weekend, my sister and I were talking, and she said, "I'm worried about Mam-ma... she said she hadn't done well for two days." I asked if Mam-ma told her about the cards, phone calls, visits, cookie baking, laundry she had folded, etc., and she said, "Noooooooooo." That explained her exhaustion!
When I picked up Mam-ma the day after her birthday, there were several pieces of mail for me... the new Aetna formularies for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, and two letters from the Arkansas Department of Finance telling me that Mam-ma's handicapped parking sticker is expiring. I read through everything - as expected, Aetna will not cover one of Mam-ma's most expensive medications in 2010, so for the FOURTH year in a row, I am choosing a new provider and making the switch!
One morning I sat down to review the providers and see if I could figure out which insurance company might fit Mam-ma's needs. I went to http://www.medicare.gov/ and began the comparison process. First you have to enter your Medicare ID number, your birth date, the date Medicare coverage began, and a few other things. If for any reason after you advance to the next page you hit the backspace key, you lose every bit of that info and have to retype. I know... I've learned the hard way. Now once I get to the actual page for comparing providers, I have "saved" my grandmother's prescriptions for reference, and I can edit dosages and even add or subtract prescriptions if needed. However, to do this initially, I had to enter each drug individually, along with the dosage and the number of pills she takes per month. It wasn't hard for me, but then, I am not quite a "senior" yet and consider myself fairly computer savvy.
I adjusted Mam-ma's meds and added a new one and removed the old one and SAVED my info again. But before I did this, I realized that the website now offers a "My Medicare" option, where you can create a login and password, and you will be able to retrieve all of your information about Medicare coverage, including what you have spent, what is still available and allowable, and more. So I thought, "Great! If I get a login and password, maybe I won't keep losing my info each time and having to retype things." Here's what happened. I created a login - and there were specific instructions about how to make it something you will remember, but not something others might readily know. Then I gave my e-mail address and I was told that a temporary password would be sent to my e-mail account - and mailed to Mam-ma! (Won't she be tickled?!)
I checked my e-mail account, and here's the good part... to create my temporary password, I had to take the first letter of my grandmother's first name, then add the last four digits of her Social Security number, followed by the first letter of her LAST name, followed by a code that Medicare gave me in the e-mail message. Once I was logged in with this password, I could change it to anything I wanted, as long as it included at least 8 characters, a letter AND a digit, and any number of characters such as *,&, !, and others that are generally not allowable in all things Internet or computer! Now I had to laugh... what genius came up with this procedure for SENIOR CITIZENS?! It truly boggles the mind.
I now have a call pending with the Medicare office in Dallas, as I do each year, to clarify questions for which I cannot find answers on http://www.medicare.gov/. I think I know the answer, but I have to be certain!
So Friday, I picked up my grandmother for her hair appointment, and she practically met me at the door, pillowcases and embroidery thread in hand... what did I think about lavender? I told her it was fine by me. Then I started to dispense her medications into her daily pill boxes. She had not taken her night-time medicine four out of seven nights. She had missed two morning doses, and her Friday noon medication was still there - and it was almost 2:00. I discussed this with her, and she had no clue why she had not taken all of her medicine - and honestly, she didn't realize she HADN'T taken it! She had, however, worried herself silly over a "shoebox" for the church for a project for Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse Organization, called "Operation Shoebox." She and her friend Ruby had both stuffed shoeboxes full of toys, candy, toiletries, small workbooks and more, and Ruby had wrapped the boxes in padding and then covered them in colorful Christmas fabric. A couple of 5-9-year-old boys in a foreign country will get a real treat this Christmas!
Mam-ma took her noon-time medicine, and we started to the beauty shop. She showed me the old walker and said, "I just took those tips off... they were shot." I told her that I planned to get her newer walker looked at while she was having her hair done. I took her to the hairdresser's, then drove to the medical supply place. A very nice man and woman looked at the walker and declared that "Someone has put the miles on this!" The wheels were worn flat and hard... and the walker itself was completely out of alignment. They could put new wheels on it, but there was nothing to be done about the alignment. The woman said, "Since Medicare has provided her with a new walker in the last five years, they will not pay for a new one, which is $120. But I have a used one that is refurbished and perfectly good that I can sell you for $50." I told her I would take it. So I got a new walker for Mam-ma to use at church and when she goes places with Ruby, and we agreed she could use the old wobbly one with new wheels outside and in the yard. When I got home, I wrote OUTSIDE in black magic marker across the handle rails of the old one, and I put her name on the new one.
But before we could get home from the errands/beauty shop, we had to stop at the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a photo ID and new handicapped parking sticker. Mam-ma somehow qualifies for two of those hangers to place on the rear view mirror, and she wanted BOTH of them. Just as it was our turn to be served, the computers went down, so we had to wait about 20 minutes. But we got the photo ID and two hanging permits.
Back at home, I started putting away my grandmother's groceries, and she said, "I don't know why I'm so out of it." and I reminded her it was due largely to not taking her medication. She didn't answer me. I insisted she has to try harder to remember to take it and not get so busy. I finished putting away the groceries and dispensing her medicine, then I took probably 10 pieces of clothing off her clothesline - she had hung each one on a hanger and pinned it to the clothesline with TWO clothespins! That line is high - I have no idea how she did that and balanced on a walker! AND... there was a THIRD walker at her back door that I had never seen before! Counting her "good" one inside, she had FOUR walkers! I folded up the one with no tips on the legs and put it in my car... and I told her it was going away!
Here's the kicker... my husband and I went to the local high school football game later that evening, and Mam-ma's Home Health Aide, whom I've known for over a decade, asked, "Did you help Mam-ma get her peanut brittle made?" "What? Peanut brittle?" I had not heard this one. The aide went on to say that when she helped Mam-ma that morning with her bath, she said, "I wish you could stay all day and help me." "With what?" the aide asked. "Making peanut brittle!" my grandmother replied. This makes the second year she has made peanut brittle "on the sly" and tried not to let me know about it, because she thinks I will fuss at her. And I might - she handles scalding molten candy in a HEAVY saucepan, and one winter she required physical therapy on her shoulder after a Christmas season of making peanut brittle. Hers is the best around, and she will probably make close to 50 lbs. of it this year. Last year she made nearly that much and never once asked me to buy as much as a peanut, much less sugar and corn syrup. She had friends and church members keep her in supplies and help with deliveries.
Knowing all of this, it's no wonder Mam-ma isn't remembering her medications... she has too much else on her mind, from embroidery to parties to peanut brittle! The aide also told me that Mam-ma nearly killed herself making THREE BATCHES of sugar cookies for the cousins who came. But she truly did enjoy them, so I guess it was worth it.
When I left my grandmother's house, I still had to return to Wal-Mart for OUR groceries. Also on my list was another box of diapers for the baby, plus formula and baby food, and a child car safety seat. I had to laugh... as I loaded my groceries into the car, I opened a door to set the car seat inside, and there was the walker. Now if I'm not covering both ends of the spectrum, nobody is! And we get to do it all over again this week!