Wow, A Bank Keeps its Promise!

When was the last time your bank did good by you- admitted it made a mistake and fixed it? Mine did and my hat’s off to them.

Electronic Banking is a wonderful tool. It is an easy way to pay a bill without the hassle of sitting down writing a check, putting it in an envelop, writing the return address, licking a stamp and then going to a mailbox. Using a computer, one can simply designate when a bill is to be paid and the bank takes care of the rest. Of course, if the bank screws up paying the bill at the requested date, that can cause problems. And herein lies the story….
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Hey, baby boomer- do you know what medications your parents take?

According to a recent study most children of elderly parents are clueless to what the various colored pills are that they see their parents take when they come over to visit. This is despite the fact that these same unobservant – myself included- scions intend to take responsibility for the care of their mother and/or father when the situation should arise.

Ma asks me to pick up her medicine from the pharmacy. I think she orders seven different items although all are not actual medicines. One or two items are testing devices. I’d be the first to admit I do not remember the names of all that she orders. I just give the person behind the counter her name and indicate the number of items I am supposed to pick up. I also give them a special credit card to pay for it. She asked the pharmacy to issue her a second card in my name so I would not have to always go to her to get her card first, pick up the medicine and return her card.

Even though I don’t know her medicine list it doesn’t mean that it is not recorded somewhere. And I can get access by requesting it. A couple of years ago after Dad passed away, Ma signed some legal papers that gives me authority to handle her legal and medical obligations for her in case she cannot do it herself. I’ve forwarded these documents to insurance companies and banks so that I can readily help her out without having to go through a song and dance to get the customer service person to cooperate.

Also, how about who your parent’s Medicare Part B Supplemental Insurance Carrier- do you know who it is and their policy number?

Both my sister and I have asked Ma to write down what she takes and make the list available to us. I suggest you do the same.

The Office of the Self-Employed

By Larry Teren


There is nothing like being self-employed and working from home as long as you can stand the boss, the hours and the lack of benefits.  Continue reading “The Office of the Self-Employed”

Aluminum Foil, Wallet, Cap, Mouthwash and Mouse

alum_wal_cap“Aluminum Foil, Wallet, Cap, Mouthwash and Mouse” is not one of those questions on a logic test that aims to see if you can spot a pattern. Instead, it is the list of items I’ve written down on a piece of paper to purchase the next time I go shopping. I’m at that point in life where my mind is too cluttered with so many thoughts and ideas that go in different directions.
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Whatever Happened to Restaurant Service?

I’m the type who likes to put anything edible that has to be warmer than room temperature in a microwave and have it do its thing in five minutes or less. I then gobble up the food and wonder why my digestive tract has a difficult time breaking down what gets tossed into it.

Anyway, my niece picked a so-called fancy restaurant to celebrate her mother’s- my older sister- special birthday. I had no problem going to a restaurant. It was just that I knew it would not be a happy situation.

My brother and I arrived and noticed how dark it was inside. I knew right away that I was not gonna be happy because the entire dining area at the fancy joint was dimly lit. Was this because they didn’t want us to see what was put in front of our eyes?

They tried to fool us into believing the eatery would be a grand experience. The greeter asked us while we waited for the rest of our party near the front entrance if we wanted refreshments. I quickly caught on, being a worldly guy, that this was not an offer to swig down a bottle of pop for free. So I politely asked for a glass of water. The hostess returned with it along with a straw resting inside between the crushed ice. Hmm…
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Medicare Part B and Counting….

By Larry Teren

“Get to the Point” is usually spoken about a minute or two into a conversation between Ma and me or Ma and my older sister or Ma and my brother or my brother and me or my sister and me…. You get the idea.

As part of our bloodline, we suffer from impatience to listening to the long version of a story as opposed to hearing the bottom line. So, you can imagine what it must have been like as the four of us sat downstairs in a fancy dining room that was turned into a makeshift office for our benefit at the nursing home (excuse me- rehab) facility. Ma was now at the magical twenty day gestation period in which Medicare agrees to pay 100% of the costs for her to recover from the broken hip and aftermath surgery.

Sitting in this round table discussion along with a portion of the family- two sisters were in other cities and could not attend- was a representative from the nursing staff as well as an occupational and a physical therapist at the nursing home. All three ladies agreed that Ma was doing quite well and on the road to recovery.

The next step would be to go into the Medicare Part B phase in which Medicare covers 80% and her supplemental insurer covers the other 20%. At least, we hope so. The nurse representative explained that Medicare allows a patient up to 100 days of resources. This means that Ma can take advantage of an additional 80 days of rehabbing provided they deem it is necessary. It doesn’t need to be done consecutively. She can leave the nursing home (yes, some people actually do not in a body bag) after sixty days and still have forty more days to bargain before a calendar year is up.

In the meantime, with three of her children visiting her for now on an almost daily basis besides a handful of friends, her focus and attitude is positive. Today, I witnessed her walk half the basement hall with the therapist while she put only heel pressure on the ground.

All three ladies agree that Ma should continue with the same level of rehab treatment for another two weeks until she sees the surgeon. He will be the one to approve her to apply full pressure on her left foot down to the ground as she steps. This will make a dramatic improvement to the style of therapy she is going through. It will also most likely mean that she be allowed to stay another two weeks after that until she ‘plateaus’ with what they are able to do for her at the nursing home /rehab facility.

Then comes getting used to living at home again in a house with two floors and a basement. Ma will have to traipse up and down stairs. If she cannot handle it whatsoever, then some serious decisions on the future of living in the townhouse need to be resolved.

With all this pressure on Ma, I did not want to bother her about the letter in the mail she received at her house a day earlier. It was a statement from the hospital indicating that they billed both Medicare and her Medicare Part B supplemental insurance company for the four day stay including the surgery. There was a detailed list of around thirty different services for which they charged. The total came to over 80,000 dollars. Obviously, Medicare will tell the hospital that certain fees are overstated and that they can only expect to receive so much. This is a ridiculous cat and mouse game that goes on between health care providers and insurers. The health care providers inflate the fee knowing full well that it will be reduced. But they feel a need to state what they believe the service provided is truly worth. And I feel that I should charge 200 dollars an hour for my consulting services but then I realize no one will pay it so I charge something much more reasonable.

It will cost Ma out of pocket whatever is left on her deductible that she has not yet paid. What is not clear is what else she is responsible to pay once the deductible is met. For a person receiving very little social security, this is enough aggravation to send him or her back to the hospital or nursing home for a new round of therapy.

My brother would now say, “get to the point.” I would then answer, “okay- check back in two weeks after the doctor examines her and looks at the x-rays.”

Neurosis is Habit Forming

I’m the guy who has to click his car’s remote control twice when he locks the doors. The first time I hear that swish but it isn’t enough. I need to hear that noise that sounds like a car breaking wind as if it has trapped gas.

I’m also the guy who before retiring to the bedroom for the night has to check in the kitchen at least four times within five minutes to see if the stove and range knobs are all turned to the off position, the sink faucet is closed tightly, there are no dishes or silverware in the sink tub and that any dishes or silverware sitting on the sink counter have been wiped dry by a towel.

I check that the kitchen blinds are totally closed so no one can peek in to the fourth floor from at least one hundred feet away. The same goes with the drapes in the combination second bedroom and computer room. I also make sure that the front door is locked at both knobs and that the alarm is on. My cell phone must be turned off and connected for recharging if required.

I also must look in the mirror at least three times before retiring, standing sideways and ask myself if I’ve lost a little weight since the prior evening.

In other words- I’m nuts. I have a need to make sure everything is in order. But I don’t trust myself nor the forces of evil that wish to harm me or ruin my karma, depending on the given night.

Truthfully, it’s not just a nighttime thing. I check email at least twenty times a day because I just have to know if and when someone wants to tell me something as quickly as possible. I also look at my web browser several points during morning and afternoon to check the Dow Jones stock average. Hey, it’s the lifeblood of the economy. And I only look at my mutual fund share value if the stock market has been up for a few days; otherwise, I don’t want to know.

I don’t like walking on the lines between each sidewalk section nor the cracks within them. I check to make sure my cellphone is still sitting on the belt clip at my waist just as I did twenty minutes earlier- a person can never be too careful, right?

Like the schizophrenic said, “I gotta be me- and me.”

An Autobiography is Not Henry Ford’s Account of His Life

It’s not coincidence that the words ‘library’ and ‘liberty’ are closely related by root. Despite what some people think, the more one knows, the better he or she is. Reading books gives one knowledge that frees the mind from stupidity. Of course, there are those who might say that I am confusing knowledge with smarts.

Ever since that game Trivial Pursuit was introduced in 1979 it seems as if our culture has put a premium on all types of knowledge, even insignificant data that won’t help pay for a cup of coffee or a bottle of water.

Regardless, I’ve always respected anyone who is weighed down with mounds of trivial facts on obscure subjects. After all, I’m the guy who will tell you to make three right turns instead of a simple left turn. I have a need to let you know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. On this latter subject, don’t ask me- check it out through using a web browser.

Growing up in the 1950’s on the West Side of Chicago, my first exposure to a storehouse of knowledge and information was the Legler Regional Library Branch near the northeast corner of Pulaski and Wilcox. Being quite young at the time, I only recall Ma holding me by the hand as we walked up a whole bunch of stairs to the library front entrance.

A few years later, I remember visiting the Austin Branch Library just north of Lake Street and west of Central on, I believe, Grace. During this period, I finally received a library card and was made to understand the importance of taking good care of it as well as returning books back on time in lieu of paying a fine.

Attending college at Northeastern Illinois University in the early 1970’s, I became quite impressed with the non-book materials available at the campus library such as micro fiche and microfilm rolls of old newspapers and magazines.

By the mid 1970’s, it became more important to spend the energy on finding a decent career or at least the stepping stones to building a career. When not working, I was playing sports during evening time.

Come the new century and my body had a talking with my mind and said I had to quit the extra curricular activities. I now had more time to devote to refueling my mind with insignificant but enjoyable and entertaining data. I started the path back slowly by going once every two weeks to a book store and leafing through the discounted material section. I also decided not to waste time reading fiction. After all, life itself was strange and more often ironically funny. I didn’t need to read someone else’s made up stories. I concentrated on books of fact and information as well as biographies.

I learned that the best stories about people’s lives were the ones that the subject matter wrote himself. After all, if one is going to tell a good lie, I’d rather here it from the person who fabricated it than from someone looking from the outside in.

After a while, it dawned on me that I was wasting precious money at the book store and was better off going to the library and reading books for free. A year ago, I started by visiting every other week to borrow two biographies to read. Now it seems as if I go twice a week. The one dread is that I run out of interesting non-fiction books that tickle my fancy and am forced – gulp- to start checking out the fiction section.

To reshape a phrase spoken by Lieutenant McGarrett on Hawaiian Five-O: “Book It!”

Why There Are No Jobs

By Larry Teren


We already know that the world isn’t coming to an end but what some of us find hard to accept is that there is no longer a need for the same percentage of people in the workforce as there was during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Face it- computers have done what the experts promised years ago would happen. Data processing makes us more efficient and requires less people to do the tasks than were used to by humans manually. Continue reading “Why There Are No Jobs”

A Time for Healing

Some will tell you that time flies, others, it marches on. Shakespeare says that tomorrow creeps in a petty pace from day to day. As for Ma, she and her roommate at the rehab facility are caught in that time-worn frustrating web of hurry up and wait to get better.

On one hand, Ma is in better condition than that day nearly three weeks ago when she fell and broke her hip. On the other hand, due to the nature of the bone breakage, she is not allowed to put any weight on her left foot. So, she hops holding onto a walker twice a day in the therapy room from her wheelchair to the bed she is asked to lie down on and do muscle strengthening exercises. This can go on for two more weeks until she is permitted to progress to the next step in the road back to self-sustenance.

Later in the coming week, she will be re-evaluated and told whether the rehab will continue at the facility or as an outpatient at home. This obviously is of concern because she cannot be by herself for now. In today’s world the decision is made by those who finance the effort to help her recover. Medicare pays for the first twenty days at a 100% rate for all allowable billing. After that, Medicare pays 80% and the private insurance company that handles the part B coverage pays the remaining 20%.

The fly in the ointment is that Medicare has to be persuaded that she can recover in a realistic time frame of six to eight weeks. Otherwise, all bets are off with funding.

The lady who shares her room also improves each day. However, she has a greater road to recovery. She was found by her son laying at the bottom of the stairs in her basement after 8 hours suffering from
a partially broken neck, facial cuts, fractured arm and other surface injuries.

When I first saw her, she was lying flat on her back all bandaged up like a mummy. Now, she can sit in a wheelchair and even goes through daily therapy. Her wit is about her, too, as she readily switches between speaking in English and Swedish depending on with whom she converses. What helps make the sharing of the room pleasant for both ladies is that they are also both long-suffering Chicago Cub fans.

Ma asks me if I write about her and I nod in the affirmative. So she says, “well, make sure you spell my name right, ha ha.” Like I’m gonna screw up two letters?

Ma is impatient to go back home and to the way things used to be. She has been down this road before. Five years ago, she fell and it was her left hip and shoulder that took the brunt and both required reconstruction. At that time, it was while visiting my sister in the East coast. So she spent two months rehabbing there only to find out when she returned to Chicago that the doctors butchered their medical decision out East to ignore the shoulder and let it heal on its own. It required a re-break and more surgery.

How much can a person endure pain and the aftermath of getting better? I guess time will tell.