This real story takes the place of this week’s Lighten up Mondays.
Most of our utility bills are in both my husband’s name and mine. Our Frontier phone/internet bill, for whatever reason, is only in my husband’s name.
We’ve lived in our current house for over fifteen years. Approximately one year into our residency at our current address I called to make a change to our services. I found out that because only my husband’s name was on the bill, I was not permitted to even talk to the Verizon (now Frontier) customer service rep. Jerry was home at the time so I requested his presence in my office and told him he needed to talk to the utility person to authorize me to do business with the utility. He did so, they supposedly noted his permission/authorization in the file, and I was able to complete my service request with the utility. Over the years, it took at least three additional calls to Verizon/Frontier before they stopped asking my husband to intervene to authorize everything I said to them. Dilemma solved, right?
We recently upgraded our internet from Frontier’s DSL, also known as slow-poke broadband, to internet service provided by our cable TV company, Wave. The new cable modem/router was installed and voila! Instead of a Download speed of 9.6 mbps, Wave’s Download speed is a wapping 100+ mbps. The primary user of our iMac computer – that would be me, The Little Woman – is thoroughly ecstatic with the improved service.
The day after unplugging Frontier’s DSL and plugging in Wave’s extraordinarily fast internet service, I called Frontier to cancel our internet service – but still retain our landline phone service with them – and the technician said, “Is this Jerry I’m speaking to?” to which I responded, “No, I’m, Irene, Jerry’s wife.” “I’m sorry, you’re not authorized to make changes to your service, is Jerry available?”
Imagine the top being blown off a pressure cooker on my end of the phone line.
“Oh, do not go there. My husband authorized my involvement with this account almost fifteen years ago and did so repeatedly each and every time you questioned my authority to the point where you finally stopped requiring Jerry’s personal authorization.”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, but if your husband is there to make the request, we’ll take care of this for him.”
I hung up on them. Five minutes later I called back to make the cancellation of service request, speaking in a lower voice and identifying myself as Jerry, and the customer service rep simply asked Jerry’s birthdate, which I provided, and presto-chango, our cancellation of internet service request was granted. Keep in mind, in the past when I successfully was able to get through to Verizon/Frontier to talk about our account, I had to provide Jerry’s birthdate, our account number, and the private PIN provided by the utility to verify my authorization capabilities. If they had asked that of Jerry – the authorized person – he wouldn’t have known where to find such information. Why? Because The Little Woman is also the Finance Manager for the Olson household. Bills get paid utilizing bank account resources because I set up these recurring charges to be paid automatically just as so many of you do for your own household. I move money around from one account to another, set up new accounts, fund them and the like because as the household Finance Manager, I am dedicated to keeping us financially organized, healthy, and comfortable in our retirement.
Am I mad at Jerry as a result of this fiasco? Not in the least. He was out of the house when this most recent matter occurred and when I relayed it to him he said, “Oh oh, I hope you didn’t hurt anyone too badly.” He thinks this whole authorization requirement is a joke, especially since he relies on me to manage everything having to do with our finances. He knows I’m quite accomplished at taking on these tasks and is thrilled that he doesn’t have to mess with the minutiae of managing this aspect of our lives.
I guess I can say I had the last laugh, however. Lowering my voice and using language patterns that might be common for the Man of the Household allowed me to wield the authority that up until now had fully evaded The Little Woman of the Household.
He doesn’t have to.
All of us came into this world without guile, judgment, or well-practiced hidden agendas. We didn’t learn that type of negative behavior until we got older and became seasoned in the fine art of selfishness and deception. I know, those are cruel and unfair words for me to say because I’m quite certain most of us do not purposefully act in a manner that is disingenuous or self-serving. With that said, however, I also know that one hundred percent of all babies are not capable of such mind games.
Our grandson – fully reliant on his parents, grandparents, and other adults – has every reason to consciously act in a manner that always guarantees the adults in his life will serve his every need. Fortunately, he doesn’t yet know how to do that. The innocence and pureness of his untainted mind has no room for such chicanery.
When my husband (his grandpa) repeatedly makes that silly noise that draws laughter from our grandson, the little guy isn’t running the following commentary through his head: Okay, that noise is kind of boring me at this point because it is SO yesterday, but I should probably laugh each and every time so I don’t hurt the old guy’s feelings. Nope, it doesn’t even occur to him to pretend because he is genuinely tickled by it. The laughter that comes from this absolutely adorable eight-month-old person is honest and outward-serving, not inward-serving.
When his mommy drops him off at our house on the two days we watch him every week, I can oftentimes be heard saying, “Is that my grandson? Oh my goodness, it is my grandson, I’m so happy to see you!” He breaks into that delightful, heart-melting smile of his, exuding pure kindness by his obvious delight at seeing his Grammo and Grandpa. When he smiles like that I think to myself: You’ve made my day, just by being you.
Our grandson gives out kindness free of charge, a kindness that isn’t dependent on his current circumstances, regardless of what they may be. Innocence is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? A pure mind – that consequently holds only pure intentions – is one of the most valuable commodities on this earth. What a privilege it is for my husband and me to be on the receiving end of such goodness.
Many thanks go out to his parents for entrusting us with this grandparenting opportunity..
- My first job in this industry was in the corporate office of a very fine assisted living and memory care company. In time, I decided to work in one of the company’s facilities so I could spend more time with the residents and families who chose our company for their LTC needs;
- When I left the company, I took several years off to care for my father who had Alzheimer’s disease. A few years after his death, I became a certified long-term care ombudsman for the State of Washington – an advocate for vulnerable adults living in LTC settings;
- Concurrent with my ombudsman work I became a trained Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, providing a listening ear to those on the caregiving path.
Given all that experience, I’ve seen and heard of many unfortunate and nasty occurrences where residents and patients were denied the basic rights each living person should expect to receive, especially those dependent on others for their well-being and quality of life.
I’m sorry to say that some nursing homes, assisted living/memory care communities, and adult group homes do not employ sufficient staffing to meet the needs of their residents. I can confidently say that the government agencies that oversee the LTC industry are also understaffed. When complaints are called in, those government employees have to apply grease to the squeakiest wheels and must turn their fire hoses on the most out of control fires in their case files.
That’s where you and I come in.
We must be the squeakiest darn wheels we can be so our complaint(s) are attended to.
We also need to be the hottest, most devastating fire imaginable so that our vulnerable loved one’s rights are respected.
Nursing home call lights are being ignored so that residents/patients are left to defecate and urinate in their adult sanitary garments on a routine basis. Not only is such an act demeaning to the poor soul with no option but to let go of his/her bodily wastes, but said wastes are sure to cause skin breakdown and a urinary tract infection that is not only extraordinarily painful but can also be life-threatening.
What does the family member/good friend do about this indignity? They need to complain vehemently to the administrator of said facility and when she/he does nothing or very little, family and friends contact the local area’s LTC ombudsman program. This website will direct you to ombudsman resources right where you live: National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
Your local ombudsman program will investigate, work with the facility’s staff, and if need be, get the full force of the law to come to the defense of those in need. State ombudsman programs are staffed by paid and volunteer employees, therefore their staffing levels are usually higher than many government agencies. These ombudsmen all receive the same extensive training required for such a vital role. Once you’ve reached a dead end at the facility, ombudsmen are your most active line of defense. They are passionate about what they do and they will ceaselessly advocate for you and your loved ones. Their proximity to appropriate resources and their intimate knowledge of residents’ rights laws makes them an approachable and viable alternative for the common man’s (yours and my) needs. Caveat: if you suspect criminal activities such as physical or sexual assault law enforcement needs to be immediately involved in the matter. Additionally, severe lack of care that endangers the lives and well-being of adults more likely than not will also require law enforcement involvement.
Adults in long-term care settings are a reflection of you and me. By that I mean they were once active and self-reliant adults, just like many of you reading this piece, but they now find themselves unable to fend for themselves and need you and me to step in for them. Imagine, if you will, being in their shoes, unable to speak up for yourself. If you or I ever find ourselves in a similarly vulnerable situation, wouldn’t you want an advocate to step in on your behalf?
Advocacy for vulnerable adults falls on all of our shoulders. You can make a difference in the life of your loved one. Won’t you please step up to become their most important advocate?
Lucas has several grandparents and even some great-grandparents who dote on him to no end. Aunties, Uncles, Great Aunties and Great Uncles, so many loving family members so that he will never want for love. We all go out of our way to assure his happiness and well-being, especially now while he is so dependent on us for each day of his life.
All three of our daughters had active grandparents in their lives. These weren’t just long-distance relatives who sent them cards now and then; they were tactile, involved family members who added greatly to their day-to-day lives.
I didn’t have grandparents, well, that’s not true, I had two grandmothers and one grandfather but only saw them for a total of maybe six times in my entire life. My dad’s father died before my mother and father were even married so there was no chance of me ever making his acquaintance. Grandpa Desaulniers died in a hospital when a doctor administered the wrong medicine to him, a medicine that killed him even though Grandpa’s reason for being admitted to the hospital was an extremely minor one. I never had the privilege of experiencing his kindness but I am certain Grandpa D’s character was also reflected in the way my father treated me, my brother and sister, and my mother.
And his addition to all of our lives? A kindness that nurtures us adults and provides us with yet another reason to be glad that we’re alive in this world – a world that doesn’t always reward us so kindly.
November is National Caregiver Appreciation Month, a time to recognize the long hours, sacrifice, and love all caregivers bring to the task of caring for a loved one with dementia or any long-term illness. In honor of their efforts, AlzAuthors is hosting an eBook sale and giveaway! This is a terrific way for caregivers who are looking for knowledge, guidance, and support to find carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire them every day.care
Consider this information from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.
- Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women, and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
- 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
- Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
Starting today through November 21st, you can take advantage of this excellent opportunity to check out some of our books at reduced prices, ranging from free to $2.99. We offer a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s literature. Many of our books are also available in paperback and audio, so be sure to check them out too. As a matter of fact, my novel is available on Kindle for just $2.99 through November 21st and if you prefer a paperback copy, my publisher is offering it at half price on my publisher’s site. Check it outhere!
According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures research, there are more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some have assembled a team of family and friends so the responsibilities are evenly spread out, but that is not always the case. The solo caregiver manages—or tries to manage—everything on his own.
That’s where those who are on the outside looking in can become a caregiver’s hero.
OFFER TANGIBLE ASSISTANCE. We will never be wrong in assuming the caregiver needs help so rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything” we can ask, “What exactly do you need?” If we remember what we needed when we were on the mend from illness or surgery we should be able to come up with an endless list of concrete gifts of assistance.
MEALS. You need to cook for yourself and/or your household anyway so make a double recipe, pack that extra portion in a disposable dish, freeze it, and keep doing that for a week and deliver one full week’s worth of frozen meals to the caregiver who, receiving your food offerings, can look forward to not having to be creative in the kitchen at the end of the caregiving day. Engage others to sign up for this dinner on wheels program so the responsibilities are spread out amongst many.
ERRANDS. You’re running to the store for a few items; take the time to ask Sam if there’s anything he might need while you’re out. He may need a half-gallon of milk—and he might have needed it for the past several days—but embarking on that task proved impossible for him. With very little effort on your part you can make a huge difference in Sam’s well-being. Maybe the needed item is toilet paper; acquiring that for him makes you a genuine hero!
CHORES. The last task a time-strapped caregiver considers doing is housework or yardwork. You will not insult your friend or neighbor by offering to vacuum their house or clean their bathrooms. Or perhaps it’s a lawn that needs mowing or a flower bed, weeding; that sprucing up will provide the caregiver with a virtual—and literal—fresh view of their circumstances.
OTHER OPTIONS. Sam may turn down home improvement offers but he might say, “What I could really use right now is some help figuring out Nancy’s health insurance statements.” Or he might say, “My wife’s not much of a conversationalist anymore, I’d give anything to have an hour to talk with someone who is. Could you stop by later today for a visit? I’ll even talk politics if it means having someone else to talk to.”
WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. The family caregiver has so much going on physically and emotionally, offers of assistance can be the salve that gets them through each day.
Grief: Your caregiving friend is grieving the loss of a person who is still with him. Unlike the sudden death of a family member, the Alzheimer’s caregiver suffers the prolonged loss of their loved one—oftentimes called ambiguous loss—because although physically present, the person with dementia is continuously leaving their loved one.
Exhaustion. Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on the solo caregiver and they are killers. The solo caregiver must put their needs above those of the one for whom they are providing care and sometimes they need you, the outsider, to help them prioritize those needs. Just like the airlines’ seatbelt instructions, the person meeting the need requires attention before the one requiring it.
BOTTOM LINE. You have so much to offer the time-strapped family caregiver; your gifts of kindness are more valuable than you could ever imagine.
Do you want additional insight into what caregivers with whom you are acquainted are facing? You can order Requiem for the status quo at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. And if you have already read my debut novel, please consider leaving a review on the online retailer’s website of your choice.
- Bionic hip
- Loss of independence
- Healthcare TLC
I received a new right hip this past Monday afternoon which rendered me fully dependent on the staff of a local hospital, Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. As a two-night inpatient at the hospital, I was reliant on staff for absolutely all of my needs.
If you can imagine everything you do during the course of a day requiring at least one medical person to provide intimate assistance, you can easily imagine all the tasks incumbent upon the nurses, certified nursing assistants(CNA), physical therapy personnel, food delivery staff, and even someone such as Barbara the housekeeper, at your beck and call.
My personality is such that I’d much rather be giving than receiving. Each time I pushed the nurse call button I carefully considered whether such a request was warranted: bladder full to rupturing, yeah, warranted; refill of my patient water carafe? Maybe I could wait and encumber the next person who walks into my room.
From the time I checked in for surgery at 11:30 Monday morning until I was discharged at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, each person with whom I came in contact was fully dedicated to serving my needs. They noticed if my blankets were pushed asunder in my bed and straightened them comfortably around my body. When shuffling with my walker to the bathroom while wearing my backless hospital-issued gown they discreetly covered me up and made sure my dignity was kept intact.
Then there was the aforementioned employee who after knocking on my door said, “It’s just me, Barbara the housekeeper.” Upon granting the 60-something-year-old admission to my room, she said, “I want to be sure your room is clean and acceptable. You don’t need to do a thing, just lay there – and you (my husband) sit comfortably in the folding chair and I’ll work around you.”
I engage absolutely everyone I come across in conversation so it was quite natural for me to converse with Barbara the housekeeper. I asked her how long she had been working at Evergreen and it had been quite some time. “You must have seen lots of changes over the years.”
“Yeah, of course I have, but it’s good. I like what I do. I like all the people I get to meet over the course of a day.”
“I’m sure you’ve met those who, because of their circumstances, weren’t exactly the most friendly people you’ve encountered in your life.”
“Aw, sure, but you get that everywhere, not just in a place like this.”
True, so very true. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, each of us has a choice of whether to make or break someone’s day. I can tell you that there was not one employee at the hospital who broke my day, rather, each person made my stay there as palatable as it could possibly be. Mind you, the dings of call lights going off all day and all night from the nurses’ station directly across from my room weren’t the highlight of my stay, but those dings are far easier to accept when you realize that you initiated your share of call dings yourself and benefited from the responses of the dedicated medical personnel who had to answer such pleadings.
All in all, I’d have to say that if you have to go through the pain of getting a new and improved hip in order to lead a more comfortable life going forward, being treated with kindness during the process certainly renders the recovery far more appetizing. This former patient has no complaints whatsoever. She was treated like a queen.