Stubborn Dreams or Just Shoot Me

The older we get, the more stubborn we are. Is that good or bad? When it’s about a senior citizen losing his or her ability to take care of themselves, we say that they are belligerent and need to face reality. It’s part of the downside of life’s reality.

My buddy Bill tells me about his father-in-law who had been a quite successful eye surgeon but now was getting up in years. He was smart enough to stop doing surgery but not because he saw his skills eroding. Instead, he refused to pay the eighty three thousand dollars in medical malpractice insurance to continue to do surgery. Instead he opted for just doing regular eye exams and cleaning styes. This brought the insurance down to a more manageable eleven thousand dollars.

But then his ability to stand tall and not fall started to become an issue. His two daughters believed it was time to move to an assisted living place but he balked and refused to obey them especially since the closer one lived forty miles or so away. Bill’s wife would call every day to check up on him to make sure he was okay. Then one day, he didn’t answer the phone. She tried a few times within several hours and there still was no answer. She called the local police in his area and begged them to check out his house to make sure all was okay. Two officers responded to the request. They knocked on both the front and rear doors and there was no answer. Fearing the worst, she asked them to look through a window where they could see inside. They saw her father lying on the floor just out of the reach of the phone on a table. This was in the days before people putting cell phones in their pockets. The police broke down the door, which cost 400 dollars to fix.

That’s the thing about cops. Sometimes they don’t use their heads and overreact. I remember the time the elderly lady neighbor opposite me in our condo building had a similar fall. The fire department rushed to the scene and proceeded to use an ax to destroy the entry door and the lock. Sometimes these geniuses don’t always respond to the correct apartment and end up destroying the wrong door. In this case, to replace the door and lock cost over 1000 dollars. And I can guarantee you that the fire department did not feel a need to pay for the damages.

Bill’s father-in-law had been lying on the floor for close to 20 hours but was okay other than bruises and a twisted ankle. But it was quite clear that he could not be trusted to live alone much longer. After a short recovery period in the hospital and a follow-up stay at Bill’s house, he demanded to go back home.

Not too much later, he fell again but this time within sight of others. Bill’s wife moved him into a very nice assisted living place near them and fibbed to him that she was not using his money to pay for it. The stay didn’t last too long as he became too belligerent for the rules at this facility and was shifted to a nursing home. It was discovered that he had the Big C and never did go home again.

A baby comes into this world and doesn’t make demands. One can only presume that it appreciates being cared for. On the flip side, there is no right or wrong to family discussions on whether an older loved one should leave their home and move into a place where they can be tended to. You know the old saying- a parent can take care of three kids but three children cannot take care of one parent. Time solves these tough decisions.

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.

A Senior Moment

Having split her right femur bone in half nearly two weeks earlier, Ma was now resting comfortably at a rehab facility four blocks from my condo. She insisted that she go to a place dedicated more to helping a person regain their walking skills rather than to a “shut up and lie down” nursing home environment.

She was starting to get used to two-a-day grueling therapy sessions where she was not babied in the least bit. I thought about that movie Ruthless People where Bette Midler is kidnapped and tossed into a basement but given free reign. She uses the time to start exercising and by the time she is released looks like a sculpted athlete.

On Sundays and holidays there were no therapy sessions because the management did not want to pay extra to the therapists. This meant Ma would be sitting around doing nothing on Memorial Day Weekend.

I dropped in on the Monday holiday afternoon figuring she would be miserable watching the Cubs lose another ballgame. Instead she was not in her room. Instinctively, I went downstairs to the lower level entertainment center where I caught her watching a live (well, he wasn’t dead) musician play an electric violin accompanied by a Karaoke instrumental background music-making machine.

My sister was sitting there with Ma as well. Show business is in our family blood so the three of us unabashedly sang the words to the songs being played and we corrected along with another member of the audience the mistakes made by the entertainer on the background information to each piece. (Stuff like- Marlon Brando sang Luck Be a Lady in the Guys and Dolls movie, Sinatra sang it on a hit album.)

About a half hour after the performance was over and Ma was ensconced back in her room, I decided it was time to depart. I went down to the first floor at the entrance area and gave the attendant my name so she could record that I had left. As I was about to walk out at the electric sliding door, the two ladies who had been sitting to the right of Ma during the violinist performance stopped me. One had hair that was dyed black while the other a very white bouffant. Whitey was sitting in a kind of contraption that not only enabled her to be mobile but also provided a shelf for her to store accessories.

They both said in unison how much they enjoyed my singing voice. I told them that I wasn’t that good and figured they suffered from loss of hearing. They insisted that I was being humble. Trust me- I wasn’t. The younger one then went on to gush how she had seen the performer twice before and thought he was just grand. That’s when I knew she was definitely no judge of talent.

I asked the presumably younger one how long she had to be there. She said she had hip problems and had been in the place on and off for six months. I then turned to the white haired one and carefully tried to frame my question so it wouldn’t sound as if I thought she was stuck there for the duration.

I bravely asked, “and how long do you need to be here?” wincing as the words came out of my mouth. She replied, “oh, I’m just visiting. She’s my daughter,” while pointing to the alleged brunette.

Dementia? Forget It!

Let’s face it, unless get you hit by a truck when crossing the street or contract an incurable disease, if you live long enough you will suffer some form of dementia. One way to be overcome by dementia is if you have Alzheimer Disease. But dementia can also occur without it. There are different brain abnormalities when one has Alzheimer but not everyone is capable of making such a discernment. The symptoms are similar in that the person does not remember people or things he or she used to do. There is a greater social stigma associated with Alzheimer than dementia. Society tends to treat those afflicted with Alzheimer as a lost cause.
Continue reading “Dementia? Forget It!”

Complaint Department

When was the last time you talked to someone in the “complaint department”? In today’s world of political correctness, a friendlier term is now in use- “customer service”. Based on interaction with people who populate this ever-growing field of work, the term is most definitely an oxymoron. And you can also say that some of the customer service people are morons, too.

Just last week, I was on the phone with a representative from the phone company complaining that they increased my bill from the previous month by ten dollars. I spent some time scrutinizing the four page statement of small print to figure out that they added an extra three dollars per phone number for something called ‘line charge’ and fifty cents each for ‘linebacker’. Having two lines, that was an extra seven dollars plus three dollars in various taxes to feed politicians need to take away my money. I wouldn’t have minded if the fees were reversed because ‘linebacker’ was a polite way to say inside wiring repair insurance. I’ve needed the talents of strangers coming into my apartment to rip up a few wires now and then. They call telephone repairmen linebackers not because they also doubled as football players but at some point in their career they climbed telephone polls for recreation, I guess.
Continue reading “Complaint Department”