Thursday, February 25, 2010

and I can't get health care, health care off my mind

     I hope most of you heard Keith Olberman's remarkable comments on CNBC about his father who has suffered the tortures of end of life health care. Tubes and stents and tracheotomies and surgeries, all the horrors of life in the care of fine doctors, whose sole mission seemed to be to keep his father alive!

     The comments were aimed at the recalcitrant Republicans who are making a public option, pre-existing conditions and escalating insurance premiums impossible to enact.

     Mr.  Olberman has medicare and the finest part D policy, but the out of pocket expense have been huge. For that family, money is not the issue, at all. For most Americans, it would be.  It is.

     I live with the issue of death and dying lurking somewhere in my mind. I think most ninety year old people are aware of its possibility! I am not worried about it, and my children and I have  talked it through and are on the same page. So is my doctor.

     No heroic measures! Do not resuscitate! Call Hospice to allow me to die with dignity. It's as simple and humane as that. It is all on paper, in my file at the doctor's office, in a desk drawer at my house, and with my power(ful) attorney, which is what my daughter, who has my power of attorney, calls herself.

     Designated Daughter, the book we wrote together, was the memoir of our journey from the early good years when she became my companion after Bob died to the later years when I began to fail, the bad years. I felt the book was the rehearsal for my death, only I recovered from Hospice and am still around.

     So ,we have finished rehearsing; we are ready for the main event. It won't be soon, but we will be ready. I only wish the very smart Keith Olberman and all the physicians had been able to relieve his father of his terrible physical suffering and admit that when it is time, it is time.

     My grandmother ( I cannot even calculate the year she made the observation) said there should be a sign of every hospital's front door: "Abandon Hope all Ye who enter here". I don't know if she was a pessimistic kind of woman; I know she was a smart woman.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's my fault if I get an ulcer

     I have spent the entire morning on the phone and the computer, trying to do two simple things: order a magazine subscription as a gift and order some easy-open caps from my new prescription provider.

     Unfortunately, I made it much harder for myself than I needed to.

     There was one of those tear out forms in my magazine on a pre-paid postal card. My identity is hardly worth having, but I was hesitant to send my credit-card info out into the great unknown. So, without thinking about putting it in an envelope, I decided to call the magazine. I was asked to leave my number and they would call me back. But, they didn't. So, I called the editor, who couldn't have been nicer. Had the situation been reversed, I am sure I would have been annoyed at the chutzpah of a reader, making a nuisance call like that. But he transferred me over to the subscription manager, who also asked me to leave a message. Feeling more frustrated than before, I went on line and placed the order, but there was no place that asked for my credit card info.  So, I called again, leaving a message that I wanted to pay for what I had ordered. When he called me back, the manager took my card number over the phone. He was mildly surprised that I had gone to so much trouble to pay for what I ordered.

     This has to be some shady world we live in.

     Next, I tackled the drug provider. Surrounded by all my needed information, I waited and waited and waited to speak to someone who could send me the right size , easy-open caps for my bottles. While I was endlessly hearing that an agent would be with me shortly, my call was interrupted by my CPA who had a few matters she wanted to discuss.

     After our conversation, I went online again, and tried to order the caps. Following directions of page after page, I still came up empty. We don't even need the damned caps for a week or two.  Finally, after lunch I found another phone number, and,just like that I spoke to a helpful woman who is ordering them for me today.

     I'm really not going to get an ulcer, but how many ulcers have I given to the people I do business with?  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Health Care Hazard

     I am having a most unfortunate problem with the health care system. Not nearly as difficult a problem as the Republicans are making for Obama. Annoying, though. Very annoying.

     I am not even sure of the questions to ask to find the solution, or even what to do if I finally frame the questions.

     First off, know that the problem has nothing to do with my provider. Medigold is an HMO under the auspices of Mt. Carmel Hospitals. They do everything right; we joined when it was first offered eleven years ago and have not had a problem through MDs and RXs and Hospice and Home Health Care, routine visits or ordering meds through the mail. They are very available on the phone. Everyone should be so lucky!

     At first, I thought that the constant ringing of my phone, only to hear the beep, beep of a Fax machine was the fault of my phone provider. After many attempts to use my *60 to block the calls, I eventually went far enough up the chain, to corporate, to report this. They sent a technician to the house, and it took him a long time to block the three numbers who had been frequent callers.

     One of the barriers to blocking the calls is to insert the offending number super-fast. I have a caregiver who can do it; I simply cannot. I suggested that perhaps the blocker might be given three-seconds more to make the report. It is still barely one-second.

     Now I have six blocked numbers, and they all have been made by health-related facilities.

      One the first faxers was Ohio Psychiatric Hospital. I called them on their real phone and was given a helpful hint.He thought the person running the fax machine had not used the 1 or the 614 before dialing, and by being one digit off, the call came through to me. I so alerted Altercare and blocked them.  I thought I had blocked Monterey Nursing Home, but they are at it again.  Consulting the yellow pages, I find multiple Montereys in the state of Ohio. Different facilities, different personnel, different fax numbers.

     My theory is that they are all ordering medication. Some have pre-set their machines to send at 1:00 a.m. My phone has been quiet all morning. But when this happens again, I am only allowed 14 more numbers to block.

     Would I change my phone number ?  Never.

     Could I add an amendment to the Health Care bill that all medical supply companies, all pharmacies, everywhere use the same fax number, which then would be able to direct them to a specific supplier? Who would care how long the queue? Who would care how long Fax 1 waited to be sent to the supplier of their choice?

     If only I had a congressman who would listen to me.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Facebook and the dueling grandmothers

     It is just a basic fact of life.  Let's face it (or rather let's Facebook it).  There is nary a grandmother who doesn't want to show off her grandchildren, and now we all have a new, much more effective way to do it. There they are, lovely grandchild after grandchild; They come to us in profile pictures, and posts, and, e-mails, too.

     I remember baby brag-books. Most grandmothers carried one; whisked out of purses at first greeting. There are many different opinions about the internet, the many constructive ways it can be used. Admittedly,  frivolous uses, time-wasting uses also exist. Think forwarded jokes. But it certainly is a fine way to share your kids. Only to your friends, but now you have more" friends" in cyberspace who touch you every day than you have in real life.

     There are a lot of sweet babies out there, but none as cute as mine.  There I have said it. 

     In the interest of full disclosure, as they say , I must confess that I am not talking about my absolutely magnificent grandchildren, because they are in a completely different age category. I,  for their competition, will enter them in the 20-30 year old category. But I do not know how to post a picture. Let alone put this blog on my Facebook page.

      It is as a great-grandmother, that I join the competition with Zach 5 and Nate, 2. 

       And I have a very good chance of winning this competition because both of their parents are technology wizards. ( This is not bragging about my granddaughter and her husband. Didn't I just say my grandchildren cannot be in the competition, because they don't qualify, age-wise?)

      Maggie and Jon post so many beautiful photos that I  look forward to each day. I could win on quantity alone.  I can see the funny things they say and the notes Zach writes  I am their Wede and I can feel them near, even if there is most of the country between us.

       I can hear my daughter, the grandmother, shouting with joy. I am declaring her  the winner.

       And, I am the only judge in this contest.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Everybody talks about

     The weather. Always have, always will. From the meaningless "how do you like this heat," to the inane "this is some snow," it is a sure conversation starter.

     But I am really not blogging about the ten inches on my lawn, or repeat how blessed I am that my caregivers are making it to me in a Level 2 emergency. Yet, the truth is that the snow is almost up to the mailbox on its' high stand at the top of my drive, and these wonderful women continue to be true to they're calling and to me.

     When Bob called last evening, as the snow was  continuing to fall, he asked what was my level of anxiety.  I answered honestly; Zero.

     By now, you are scratching your head and wondering why in the world am I even writing, saying a lot of nothing.

     I am writing because I cannot not write!  I can Facebook or real book,  Shadow Tag, by Louise Erdrich. It is making me think a lot. These are weird people; do they love or hate each other, they are destroying their children in the tension. It is a lot more interesting than how I have chosen to spend this half hour.

     But write I must.  It is not my Judeo-Christian work ethic or my need to be creative.

     It seems to be a basic need. 

     Now I feel better.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Funny Valentines

     I am sitting next to a picture of the Tuesday luncheon group. Bob, Chuck, Westy and Bob L.  Mary lent it to me so I could have it copied.  Corde had found it at her mothers. It is hard to tell where it was taken, but it looks as if it might be one of the incarnations of the old Broad-Nel.  My funny valentine is smiling broadly, and if it only had audio, I think he would be saying something, making all of them smile.

     As I began to write about my funny valentine, I thought it would have more currency if I went to my "P-Q" file in the bottom left drawer of Debby's old bedroom, where I thought I might find some old valentines Bob had sent me, filed under Personal.

      What I found was a lifetime of love, not only from Bob but all of my children, as well. There are beautiful letters Bob wrote me, and even one he wrote to Harry when he was coming home on leave, December 1941. He said he was going to ask me to marry him but was worried about "shipping out."

     There were such clever notes, when he gave me my first cell phone, and answering machine, and microwave.  And the Cartier watch that I have worn for twenty-five years.

     He thanked me for always laughing at his humor. There was no way I could have done otherwise. They were funny, even on the second and third hearing.

     The file is really thick, for there are treasured messages from all of you. Bob's Esquire column about the woman in the photograph, a message left by the coffee machine by D.G. in the terrible months we were taking care of Bob, and many, many letters from Tim, and his marvelous poem about my old Baker desk at my 70th birthday gathering.

     Notes from the grandchildren, records of their accomplishments. I wrestled it out of the drawer myself; I am going to need help putting it back.

     I also unearthed a beautiful note from Jack Roth when I was sick, and from Lindsey, not even for a special occasion.

     For giving me a lifetime of joy, and an afternoon of happy tears, this is my valentine to you.

     To all the funny valentines: Bob and my children, Bob, D.G., and Tim. And to their children, Amanda, Nick, Maggie, Tucker and Hannah. And to Maggie's children, Zach and Nate,  this Blog's for you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

about loyalty, and commitment, and high personal standards

     When Bob died, those long years ago, I made one of the best decisions I have ever made. I bought long term health care insurance. As always, I over- analysed and studied and compared policies and, in the end, based my choice as much on the salesman as on the benefits. I had been thoughtful, but also, it turned out, lucky!

     Wedeb90 is not just the blog title,  but an accurate description. I am 90; I think I am pretty good for 90, but there are too many things I cannot do. Little things. Open the top of a fresh bottle of water--or even walk to the refrigerator to get the water. Change a roll of toilet paper. Manage my check book. Get the morning paper at the door. After years of being able to do almost everything, it is difficult not to do anything.

      But I have my wonderful care-givers and this blog is an effort to express my appreciation for them. It's not only how well they do their job; they are all STNA (state-tested nurses assistants) and each one is good at dressing and bathing and cooking. They bring to their work a greater gift. The gift of themselves.  They are Jehovah's Witnesses and they live all the ethical canons of the Bible.

     Not only in their professional role, but in their personal life, they do justice, are merciful, and walk humbly with Jehovah. Honest to a fault, dedicated to their client, they have managed in this second terrible Ohio winter to be here on time and on duty in blizzards and on ice-covered roads. 

     I read that some mailmen have abandoned their route until the streets are safer. I'm glad that they are lightening up a little on that "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" bit. Yet nothing will stay my people from their appointed rounds.

     To put a more personal face on this, let me tell you a little about them.  Rosie came from Jamaica, six years ago, and now has a degree in Health Information Management.  Lise is from Rwanda and is about to enter college to become a LPN.  Michelle has been doing this work for some years and her experience should qualify her for an advanced medical degree of some kind, too.  And Jackie is the strength behind them all, doing the staffing and scheduling and the transportation, when needed, and buying me bulk items on her Sam's Club card.

     For all those dedicated people who work their way through school, I doff my hat.  I am the recipient of that work ethic, and in that, I am blessed.

     But the best part is that they are my friends. We laugh together and, on occasion, cry. I welcome them each with joy, and I hope they are as happy to see me as I am to see them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On writing--and reading

      Writing,  whether it turns out well or not, is extraordinarily hard to do. A long list of authors will tell you that they suffer pangs of doubt and some say they do not enjoy writing very much. Geoff Dyer said he thought it would be the "inventing" part of a novel he would like, but he likes re-writing better. Joyce Carol Oates quotes D.H. Lawrence who explained, writing to his mother, as "Art for my sake". Be that as it may, the real reason we all write is so that someone might read it.

     If you are lucky enough to be published, you constantly check your Amazon standings. That can make you feel awful if you are in the five-digit category or wonderful if there are a few readers' comments to validate that what you are doing has been helpful.

     So, the bottom line is that we write to be read. And in this wonderful city of Columbus, Ohio, we have the #1 Library in the country.  There is nothing that the library cannot do. We can order books on line, they tell you when they are ready to be picked up. There is always a real, live person who will help you on the most esoteric questions.

     Andrew Carnegie's gift to build libraries, free of charge for every body, is , to me, the most important philanthropic gift ever given. Our downtown library received a building grant of $200,000 in 1901. Those wide marble stairs were there, and the circulation desk was through the front door, on the right of the foyer.  I grew up loving that library and I love it still. It encouraged me to be a reader and---ultimately a writer.  I was 80 when my first book was published. Thank you, Mr. Carnegie and  thank you, too, Pat Losinski, the executive of the current library system, for your stewardship.  In this time of shrinking finances everywhere, you are working miracles with the miserly 2.22% of the much-diminished total general tax revenue that is your budget share.

     If your have any interest in what I have read since Christmas, or what I have on order from the library, or what I have read on my Kindle, I'll be happy to e mail you.   Not that any one of you needs my list, but I would also welcome suggestions.

     I have a bad feeling that this second try of The Lost Blog seems un-spontaneous. Because it is.  Good words, once lost, just cannot be recaptured.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Friends. Retitled A Beautiful Friendship

     I thought for a long time about what this title should be. Casual friends? No, that's not what this was, this friendship. Un-casual? What does that mean? Ships that pass in the night? Completely wrong description.

     So let me tell you about Mary Collins and maybe you could help me with just the right words to describe what she meant to me, and, I think, what I meant to her.

      A Texas reader did just that. She commented that it was a beautiful friendship, begun in a beauty parlor and it was, indeed, beautiful. That adjective does it for me.

     Mary lived in the same little community as I, but in this neighborhood, older ladies who don't walk too well never meet each other. Mary was my age exactly, and we went to the same beauty parlor with back to back appointments with the same excellent beautician.

     We met there every week for years. We chatted, mostly inconsequential things.  Her son took care of her, he did the grocery shopping and the cooking and the driving, and she lived with him. In the beginning of our friendship, I was still driving, but he dropped her off and then picked her up.

     As time went on, Mary had more and more difficulty walking, and so Jan, the son, bought her a transport wheel chair. I was still walking, but no longer driving, and so I needed to be driven to my appointment. Most of the time, the duty fell to my daughter; once or twice, I had a visiting son drive me.

     Mary seemed to be on a kind of plateau; I started to slip downward. My last visit to the beauty parlor, my back pain was intense. By then, I had a caregiver to help with my meals and my dressing and showering. Eventually, in 2008 I was in Hospice care, and then gradually, miraculously, almost recovered. Or as recovered as you get at 89.  It took much longer to get mortally sick than it did to get amazingly better.

      Mary died last week, just after her ninety-eth birthday. Jan called to tell me, which was so exceptionally kind of him. He said he didn't want me to read it in the paper. I knew she had fallen and things weren't good. The obituary was long and lovely, and she had had a family devoted to her.  The picture was a recent one ( which I think obit pictures should be), but once, a few years ago she had brought a picture of herself as a beautiful young woman. That is the picture I like to remember.

     Would we have been friends if our paths had crossed seventy years ago?  Probably not; different interests on different paths.

     But she was truly my friend, as our paths converged, and I cried with Jan when he called. I will miss her weekly smile, and her good humor.

     Rest in Peace, Mary. And I know your hair will look lovely forever.