Where Were You When Your Mother Died?

I met your mom a few short weeks ago. She said she had just moved from a hoity-toity place that she really liked but she needed even more care.
 
Your mom asked me how many children I had. When I told her I was single and did not have any children, she said,”I’m sorry.” I  asked why she said that, and she replied, “Because I think you’ve missed a lot.”

I saw the photo collage on her door with your pictures and your kids’ pictures. Lots of faces on there.

Where were you when your mom was wheeled into the nursing home dining room wearing her purse  awkwardly around her neck?  (Old habits die hard.)

Where were you the last night I saw her when she cried out in pain as the nurse very gently rolled her to the dinner table? Where were you a few minutes later as she begged me to get  her a glass of water?

I  really wanted to  help her.  I could see how much pain she was in. I always said hi to her because she was one of the ladies who knew where she was and still had her mind. But I couldn’t get her  any water because  I didn’t know her medical condition.

Your mother was bleeding onto her terrycloth bib. It was so very sad to hear her helpless pleas fall on deaf ears. The  aides weres busy with other residents.  The nurse was off to another task.  I tried to get someone to respond. I think it was a weekend evening — you never know what to expect on on those shifts.

A couple of days ago I noticed your Mom’s nameplate was taken down. I checked the resident list and her name was gone. Your picture hung on the door for a few more days. I see the door is still closed today…I guess you haven’t had a chance to empty the room yet. Probably busy making  funeral plans.

Your mother must have loved you very much. I’m sure she was proud of you.  I saw your name in her obituary. Apparently she was pretty sick when you moved her there last month.

Where were you when your mother died?

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Potty Talk at the Dinner Table

“I had a good BM this morning. Even they said it was good.”

That’s good news, Mom.

“Every time I do something, they write it down. I don’t know what they’re studying.”

Just another suppertime conversation at the nursing home.

No Sense of Urgency at the Nursing Home or Dogs Are More Fun Than Old People

When I get old, I hope someone leaves me at the kennel instead of a nursing home. I think I’ll get better care.

Nearly every day I turn on the news and someone had rescued a bunch of neglected dogs and lots of people come forward to feed them and nurse them back to good health. If there’s a flood, a power outage, a hurricane, an economic crisis — big pleas go out for help to take care of the misplaced pets.

Friday night,  I go to mom’s nursing home and they are serving peanut butter. Hey –don’t you guys know the big recall of peanut butter included shipments to nursing homes? What reassurance do we have that the kitchen has checked out the source? My mom’s “meal preference” says “no chicken.” Yet she was given a chicken sandwich on Thursday night.

At the kennel, dogs are walked and played with (for an extra fee), fed, oooed and aawed over.

I bet the pet food with peanut butter has been pitched at the kennel.

At the nursing home, patients are talked at:

“How’s your dinner?”

“What?”

“Good, I’m glad  you liked it.”

Mom can’t pull chicken off the bone when you serve the drummies. It’s not that she doesn’t like chicken. But  you’re not listening anyway — as you serve her chicken soup, chicken sandwiches, etc.

“Your mom keeps crying. We need to do something about her meds.”

Yea…like get ’em down her throat. Thursday nite, they plopped out on the floor. Friday — I wheeled her down to your station and showed you she had a full mouth of meds sitting on her tongue. I got ’em down her throat. ICE CREAM works better than apple sauce. It also takes more than one spoonful. You’re probably not supposed to be crushing all of those meds in the first place. Does anybody read the warnings?

Last night after dinner Mrs. G. is sitting in her room and she tells me she has a new problem.  She just got out of the hospital last week. She  hasn’t had her oxygen all day. Someone’s supposed to come. soon.  I guess her daughter was celebrating Valentine’s Day. She came in the afternoon and the flower arrangement was lovely. She usually comes after dinner. I see the aide and ask about the oxygen. “The nurse is going to take care of that.”

Mrs. G said her eyes are blurry. Eyes need oxygen. It’s even more important as you age. I go home wondering about the connection. I look it up this morning on the Internet. What kind of nurses are these? Who’s training them? Who cares about the elderly?

Give me the life of a dog. It’s gotta be better than this.

Does Your Marketing – and Branding – Suck?

We hear a lot about marketing, branding, blah, blah, blah. As the economy continues to toughen up – small businesses will have to work even harder to attract and retain clients.

Branding is more than just slapping a pretty logo on your product or brochures — then sitting back waiting for customers to beat down your door. Branding is about EVERYTHING you do.

A year ago, as my mother’s health continued to decline, I attended a “senior fair” sponsored by a law office specializing in estate planning. Several vendors had tables and there were a variety of speakers on a wide range of subjects. One of the speakers was from a company offering home health care services at my mother’s senior apartment building. The speaker made some interesting comments, and after she left the podium, I asked if she would be available for questions after the next speaker finished. “Yes, we have a table.”

Another 30 or 45 minutes passed before the other speaker finished, then I went searching for her table and asked the organizers to help me locate her. I guess the opportunity to finish work early on a Friday afternoon was just too big a temptation as she had closed up shop before the event had concluded.

Fast forward to the fall. Since her company was the most highly recommended of the two company’s located at my mom’s apartment building, we had contracted with them to provided morning and evening assistance with dressing and medicine administration.

My mother had a stroke in September, moved to one nursing home and then another in October. Cash flow was a bit of a problem, but I did send a small payment in  October and the balance due in November. The company did not send any statements, make a phone call, etc. –the payments were sent because we knew the money was owed.

Yesterday I received a second copy of the September invoice — not a statement. Attached was a sticky note with a handwritten message that the company had received payments, but we still owed money. The last sentence read “My accountant advised me this would be the last statement sent for this invoice before going to Collections.” The note was not signed.

The  invoice was the type that comes right out of Word, so it has a cookie cutter look to it. That’s fine for a small business. But nobody bothered to make the effort to look professional and turn it into a statement showing the monies received — they just stuck a blue sticky note on it.

Here is my response to the company:

I have received an invoice for  my mother.  There is no email on the invoice, so I am using this one.

Your company is looking for an additional $401.

As you are well aware, Mrs. Mom did not receive services for the full month of September.

According to my records,  your company has been paid  in full for August (including the increase in package) and for all of the days she lived at the apartment building in September up to and including the day of her departure.

The checks sent in October and November were sent not in response to any invoice — but because we knew we had received services and wanted to pay my mother’s account in full for all services ordered and received.Your current invoice clearly shows it was your policy prior to November 1, 2008, for clients to receive refunds when they did not receive services.

FYI – while she was there, some of the services we contracted  for were not performed. For example, I posted a reminder on the bathroom mirror and complained to your staff several times that I had frequently found nasty dirty denture water still sitting in her denture cup at the end of the day — even though all I requested was that it be dumped and rinsed out for just a second or so every morning. Not only that, I counted the denture tablets and they were not being used — no surprise since the same nasty water was still there. Made me wonder if they removed her dentures at all.

Also, there were many nites when I dressed Mom — with no expectation that there would be a refund — although your staff indicated there would be. We did not ask or expect one.

Generally, your employees were very nice and caring.

Instead of chasing ambulances to the hospital seeking additional income for new services — I would suggest you contact your client’s families for feedback while the person is still at the apartment to see if all services are being performed adequately.

In my opinion, the time to conduct your company’s marketing (such as customer satisfaction calls) is when your client is living at the apartment –not when you see an opportunity to make more money when a crisis has occurred. Your visits to see my mom at the hospital came across to me as a sales pitch and it really felt quite inappropriate.

Tell that to your accountant.

(editor’s note – I have removed proper names to protect my mother’s privacy.)

An Answer To My Mom’s Prayers

Yesterday while visiting my mother at the nursing home, she told me that every day she says a little prayer asking God for me to stop by and see her. Then I show up and she knows her prayer has been answered.

I smiled when she told me this.

“You’re laughing at me, but it’s true.”

She’s so sweet. Now the pressure is on to keep the faith.

The Coat Stayed In The Closet

Christmas has come and gone and now it’s on to a new year. I think I lot of us are ready for some good news.

I didn’t bother to put up a Christmas tree this year. There are plenty of nice trees of all sizes throughout Mom’s nursing home, so I really didn’t need one at home. I wheeled Mom through the halls and we stopped and looked at them throughout December. Mom’s eyesight isn’t too good — part of the dementia — so it’s hard to tell how much she could really see on each tree. She would agree they were pretty as I pointed out different ornaments on each one.

Even mom got tired of all of the kids singing groups traipsing through the activity room all month long. Come January, I’m sure there won’t be any more girl scout troupes or elementary school piano recitals.

Mom often comes up with witty little comments. Sometimes she makes observations that miss the mark. She’s still my mom and wants to share her dinner with me and tells me to eat one of her cookies.

It’s tough to come up with things to talk about. I ask Mom lots of questions about the past and sometimes her answers are surprising as she reached into her memory and comes up with a story I have not heard before.  I asked Mom about her memories of Christmas as a child. Her eyes were closed and a smile came across her face as she recalled that one year her big brother Robert had made her a toy kitchen cabinet. This would have been during the Depression.

The evening news on Christmas Eve carried a story about 95 year old woman who had been left outside to die in the cold at a nursing home the night before.  Someone wanted to turn up the TV to hear the details…but I shook my head “no” to protect my mom from the news.

There was a lot more excitement in the air and Mom sensed that Christmas was upon us because she asked me if she had a winter coat there. “I might need it to go out.” I didn’t  have the heart to tell her it was going to be staying in the closet.

Holiday Treats at the Nursing Home

Mom’s nursing home held a little holiday party for the residents and their families yesterday. They served egg nog, which was a real treat as Mom and I always shared a carton at Christmas time. I think we are the only ones in the family who liked it. We each drank two cups.

The activities “guy” arrived in a Santa suit, and of course he knew every resident’s name as he greeted each one and posed for a quick picture. I didn’t know how much they would get out of  a visit from Santa, but anything that breaks up the day is a good thing.

Santa had on a very good-looking red suit – one our table mates commented that it was a very nice, rich looking material.  Some of the Santa suits you see are kind of cheesey and cheap looking. I noted that St. Nick looked pretty good as he was more trim than some I had seen in the past and that this was  more in keeping with our health conscious times.

As Santa approached mom, who is now confined to a wheelchair — to my surprise not only did she have a big smile on her face  – but she was stretching out her arms and reaching for a hug!  I think my mouth dropped open and I held back some tears as I watched her respond with such joy to something as simple and timeless as a visit from Santa Claus. She was the only one I saw respond with such obvious outward excitement.

After Santa gave Mom her hug and posed for a picture, her turned to the next lady, “Virginia!”

As Santa and Virginia smiled for the camera, I announced to the room, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Several people laughed and I think just about everyone in the room was smiling. It was a good day.

Saving For “Retirement” Is Easy Compared To This

We hear a lot from the so-called financial experts about the importance of saving for retirement.
Retirement is easy. You need food, shelter, and clothing. The challenge is to save for long-term illness.

Many of the elderly of our county require a lot of extra care. Many of these people were healthy all of their lives before dementia, Alzheimer’s, or physical ailments arrived on the scene. Not only do they need a lot of personal and medical care, they need help with managing finances, shopping, doing the research on care providers, etc.

Retiring to a sunbelt state is easy. Stepping in to look after the care of an elderly parent…now THAT is the real challenge. And if your family member (parent, aunt, sister, etc.) didn’t earn a lot of money, or did not manage the money, ie save some of it, you are in for some real fun and stress.

You want to give them the best of care, but when money is limited…plus you need to work for a living, you are going to have to make a choice.

A friend recently mentioned an illness with her 60 something single sister who still works, but is addicted to TV shopping shows. Now her sister is worried about high deductibles on her health insurance. My friend said how she spent her money (filling her home with crap from home shopping network) is her business.

My reply: not if you have to take care of her when she’s sick.

Baby Daddy’s Appearance To Glorify Teen Pregnancy

They are saying on the news that the Palin baby daddy will accompany the family to the Republican convention.
To me, this is glorifying teen pregnancy. This is poor judgment in my opinion. There is no reason to pull this whole relationship into the public eye like this. Let the family work this out privately back home in Alaska.

This shows a lack of judgment on Palin’s part and places a lot of pressure and stress on two young lives.

And if she should happen to miscarry, who do you think will be blamed? The news media – not the Republicans, or Palin, or McCain.

This shows a distinct lack of family values.

He’s Called The Baby Daddy

He’s called the “baby daddy.” It’s time to add this term to the dictionary as it’s use is well established. Maybe it’s already officially added.

In case the Republicans and the news media haven’t noticed, the biological father of the young pregnant daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin should now be referred to as the “baby daddy.”

I regularly hear this phrase at work, and it’s no longer confined to the African-American population where it originated.

I think McCain was looking to add some hip-ness to the Republican party when he tapped Sarah as his Veep, but he doesn’t even know the language.

Sarah seems a little hip, but it’s not going to rub off on McCain just by association.

By the way, what’s up with that hairdo, Sarah? With that loose hair hanging out on top, it looks a little too scruffy for the position you are aspiring too. I bet you wouldn’t have worn it that way on the runway.

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