Saturday, January 2, 2010

End of the Year Housekeeping

Happy New Year! Our year ended with two words... stomach flu! My sister phoned me three days before Christmas and wanted to know if I could come and get my great-nephew. She had succumbed to stomach flu (he was still recovering), and neither she nor her husband could manage the illness AND a baby. Timmy's mother was working long shifts as a nurse's aide at a local nursing home, so my husband and I were next on the list for baby care. We picked up the baby and brought him home, and we began to help him recover from his bout with this "bug" in time for our family holiday on Christmas Eve. We made it through our Christmas lunch, and then my husband began to feel sick. My mom and her husband and my grandmother decided they were already exposed, so they stayed until early evening.

The next morning around 3:30, I awoke so nauseous I could not move. I looked at the baby sleeping in his crib and thought, "I can't even get up to check on him." We managed until mid-morning, when the baby's dad arrived to get him. It was a long Christmas Day, and my husband began to gradually feel better, assuring me that within 24 hours, I would be better, too. And I was... but by December 26th, my mom's husband was down, and my grandmother was saying she was sick. She recovered the fastest of any of us, so we aren't sure if she really had the "bug" or if she ate too much rich holiday food. Either way, we were thankful she bounced back so quickly.

Meanwhile, there has been so much end of the year work to be done. I got Mam-ma re-enrolled in Medicare Part D coverage - a new provider, of course. I've begun getting the papers to apply for her supplemental assistance. I filled out several pages of information for one service, including a lengthy bank statement showing her auto-draft for utilities for the past three months. The application was returned, noting that I needed "proof" of her utility payments. Apparently highlighting her auto-drafts on a bank statement is not sufficient evidence. We determined that this supplemental assistance, which nets some $14/month, is not worth the time and trouble it takes to apply for it, so we are forfeiting. I realize that this is what the agency may hope will happen, and if my grandmother truly depended on this service, we would keep it. But we are in "divide and conquer" mode, and frankly, I just did not have the time and energy to collect - and copy - all of her utility bills, proof of her pharmacy purchases, burial insurance and more for $168. I'm something of a slow learner, I guess, since I've done exactly this for several years now. But I finally decided to cry "Uncle" on this one - and thankfully, Mam-ma agreed to it.

Meanwhile, I am very grateful that my 97-year-old grandmother is doing so well. Sure, she gives me a run for my money many days, but all in all, we're doing great. My sister-in-law lost her 90-year-old father on December 21st to a massive brain bleed. Her 91-year-old mother suffers from macular degeneration and other physical ailments. The family laughed that "together, this couple made a whole person." She couldn't see - he couldn't hear. Now decisions have to be made about how this mother will function alone - and IF she can manage in her own home with help. Mam-ma still sees well enough to embroider pillowcases, read the newspaper daily, and do routine household and personal chores. She still hears relatively well and can manage quite ably in her own home with the assistance of Home Health aides and family and friends. I realize this is a delicate, and precarious situation that could quickly change. And she does show signs of becoming more confused and forgetful. But for the moment, we are hanging on and making it all work.

I look at my little nephew and how dependent he is on us for virtually everything in his life, and then I look at my grandmother and the assistance she requires, and I realize that the two are different, yet somewhat similar. Timmy's needs are more physical - food, clothing, clean diapers - while Mam-ma's are more of the paper variety - forms to complete, errands to run, medicine to dispense, bills to pay, and more... at least for the moment. At some point, the needs may begin to look more and more alike. My sister-in-law said her prayer was always that her parents would be able to live alone in their own home until one of them fell over dead, and that is virtually how it happened. This is my prayer, too - that for as long as humanly possible, Mam-ma will be able to function in her own home, on her own terms. I'm doing all I can to make this happen... and for now, we're doing okay.

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