Chat @ Care-giving: Help Along the Way

While I’m on the subject of recommendations, let me make a couple more. Abrams-Skillman Self Storage and The Consignment Embassy.

Remember back in September when I had to hurry up and get my Mom’s stuff stored so we could get the maximum refund on her independent living apartment?  Well, I researched the locations and Mr. Bill compared the financial offers and we ended up at Abrams-Skillman Storage.

At first it was just a storage place, albeit a nice clean one with what Bill thought was the best prices.  We picked out a unit and the next day we put everything from Mom’s apartment into it.  The next time I thought about it was after the funeral.  Unfortunately that was a lot sooner than I anticipated.

Next thing I know, I’m sorting through things and deciding what to do with all of them.  I was there day after day and soon felt sort of like a regular.  The staff and I always greeted each other warmly and if I needed something, either they had something to borrow or to buy that would help me get out of whatever bind I’d sorted myself into.  They were helpful in other ways.  They kept trying to figure out what I needed before I needed it, like pointing out that the loading dock was right across from my unit and stuff like that.

Then we were down to the nitty gritty.  We asked about the auctions and they filled us in.  Then we needed an extra storage place for a day, while the auction guy did his thing, because we were saving the bedroom suite for a family member.  No problemo – they gave me one right next to my original unit and when the auction was over, they let me stay in the one that I’d moved the furniture into.  All that was very helpful and they really didn’t have to do it.  The fact that I only made $150 off the auction items wasn’t their fault.  Obviously the Storage Wars gang didn’t show up for my auction, but somebody made a killing.

Then there was The Consignment Embassy.  We’d actually consigned a mirror there once and the transaction went very smoothly.  I never went in, but Bill said they had gorgeous stuff. Anyway, out of the ten or so consignment places I dealt with, she’s one of the few that responded in a timely manner and she was the only one willing to take a stab at value before I’d hauled it to her store front.  If you’re on either side of a consignment deal, I’d recommend starting there.

If you get stuck in a place where you need some of these services, these are my recommendations.  Hope they can help you out.



Chat @ Care-giving: Treasures or Trash?

Still smarting from the Salvation Army’s caviler attitude towards my Mom’s gorgeous clothes, I found myself staring at the furniture which filled the rear of our storage unit.  What was I going to do with all of that?

We’d already been down this road a few times.  I’d sorted through my aunt’s belongings three years before, finding homes for most of her furnishings and a lion’s share of her clothes.  A few months later, I downsized Mom and Dad to an independent living apartment out of their home of four decades.  Just over a month ago, I sifted through Mom’s stuff again.  She was never going to return to her apartment, so we were storing her things until we knew which assisted living facility she would be moving to.  In the process we donated a bedroom suite and desk to one charity and gave a recliner to one of my bestie’s sons.

Since there was a long waiting list for my mom’s apartment, we rushed the move to maximize our refund and took everything to the storage facility.  I planned on sorting through it when we moved her into assisted living, but we never made it that far.  So, after the funeral, my first job was to sort through everything in storage and figure out what was there.

Some of it was easy.  The half full box of cereal – trash.  A shoe box full of used insoles – trash.  A gallon Ziplock bag of dental floss told me Mom didn’t floss as she should, but there was no reason we should ever have to buy any more – ever!  We also have a lifetime supply of Q-tips, cotton balls and Kleenex.

Some of it would be a treasure to anyone.  Mom collected porcelain and crystal whatnots.  I didn’t hesitate a moment in claiming the Lladro, Royal Doulton and such to display in my house – but I did share with my sister, my cousins and a few friends, albeit reluctantly.  Same with her jewelry.  The fine jewelry I split with my sister and the costume I spread between us, my cousins and those good friends.  My sister placed dubs on the Frankoma Ware, the lamps and Mom’s art.  I wanted a Queen Anne desk with display case and an etergere to show off my new treasures.

Still there was a five piece bedroom suite, a dining set with hutch and various living room furniture.  Acutely aware of how hard my parents worked to amass these belongings and cognizant of the fact that this was the good stuff – not that cheap stuff they pass off as furniture some places, I assumed that consigning it was a good idea.

I took lots of pictures and emailed them off to some of the better consignment stores I knew of.  From time to time Bill and I will redecorate and drop off a mirror or a chair.  We’ve had good luck.  We’ve also shopped at consignment stores and found some real winners.  Well, when you own your own moving company, I guess consignment is a good idea, but it wasn’t working out so well in this case.

The calls came in.  Yes, they’d like to sell my mom’s stuff.  All I needed to do was deliver it to them.  I knew that was the case for the odd piece I’d consigned before, but this was virtually an apartment-ful of furniture and I’d already moved it once.  No, they wouldn’t give any estimates on value of things they hadn’t seen in person.  No, they wouldn’t come to the storage unit to look it over.  The gamble was all mine – and when I delivered it, I not only had to agree to whatever price they wanted to put on it, but I had to agree to their markdown schedule.  Either that or pay to take it back to the storage unit and continue to pay for storing it.

It sounded like I did all the work and took all the risks, only to net out less than half of whatever price the consignment store eventually got.  This wasn’t sounding so good after all.

So maybe letting it go in one of the storage auctions was a better answer.  The lady at the storage place came down and guesstimated that I might net out $150-375 for the lot of it.  Was she kidding?  We’d paid more than $375 for the small dining set from IKEA and it still looked brand new.  I understood that the furniture wasn’t as valuable to them as it was to me, but I’d prefer to use it for kindling at those prices.

I posted the furniture on facebook and one of my friends was dying for it, but she’s in Wales and moving on to Canada from there.  She wasn’t sure when or if she’d actually manage to get to Dallas to pick it up.  The way things were going, I wouldn’t have minded giving it to her, but I couldn’t afford to store it until some time in perpetuity, so that was a no go, too.

If no one in the immediate family or my cousins could use these treasures, maybe someone in the wider family could.  I’ve made that call and sent the pictures.  I’m waiting to hear back.

Anyone need any kindling?

Chat @ Caregiving: Doesn’t she look good?

There’s not much you can do to sugarcoat it.  Funerals are weird and I’m glad this one is behind me.  If nothing else, the cost was outrageous.

Mom is gone and nothing is going to change that.  She’d led an exemplary life, but the last few months had taken their toll on all of us.  Her and me – especially.  I’m carrying around pounds I don’t need and the mortician got her mouth all wrong.  We were about to be seen by most of the people we knew and neither one of us was looking our best.

Perhaps that shouldn’t matter so much, but it mattered a lot to Mom.  She was my biggest fan and my worst critic.  If she didn’t like the latest version of my hair, she didn’t mince any words.  When I put on a few pounds, she called me on it.  Of course she expected me to behave appropriately, but she also expected me to look good doing it.

She expected the same thing from herself.  Deciding what she was going to wear to any given event (be it a social occasion or just a meal in the dining room of her living facilities) was an important hurdle.  She did laundry every day.  Most days she ironed. I’m a little more laid back.  One day of laundry a week is usually enough and ironing is a rarity.

For years, she’s kept me aware of what she wanted to wear for her funeral.  We usually shopped together and with the almost daily commentary she gave me concerning her wardrobe, I could have easily guessed what the outfit would be. Still, I think it made her feel good to have it pinned down exactly.  Over the last few months, she asked frequently about her most recent selection, wanting assurance that it was the right one.

It must have been.  The one thing I heard most constantly during the two day affair was how good Mom looked.  I bit my tongue frequently, to keep from pointing out how weird her mouth looked.  Mom wanted them to think she looked good and if they thought so, then I’d done my job well.

My theme over the last few years has been, “No regrets!”  I didn’t want woulda, coulda or shoulda to have any toehold on me.  There could be no if-onlys to haunt me.  God had arranged my life so that I was able to put my darling senior citizens first and He’d given me a husband who believed, with me, that it was the right thing to do.  So that’s exactly what I did.

Now, that darling husband moves to the front of the line.    I want to love him up until he thinks he must be the cat’s meow.  For him and for myself, I’m going to drop those pounds I’ve put on lately.  I’m going to get to the gym and tone up everything I’ve got.  I’m planning to do some work on myself that starts at the top of my head, goes through my heart and mind and ends up with the soles of my feet.  I might not have looked my best at Mom’s funeral, but watch this space.  It won’t be too long until you’ll have to say, “Doesn’t she look good!”

Chat @ Caregiving: A Place for Mom

It’s been a long week. For most of it, I’ve been with Mom over at Presbyterian Hospital.  Chest Pains, ambulance, emergency room and admitted for observance – the usual.  Or at least it’s becoming the usual.

One of the first things her cardiologist suggested was assisted living, but he got the same reaction I’ve been getting over the last few weeks when I made similar noises.  Then everyone who walked into her room had the same suggestion.  The universe was definitely sending her a message.  By happy hour, Mom had gotten it.

I didn’t know what the immediate future held, but I did know I’m traveling in mid-September.  If she’s moving, I had to get on the stick.  After the early morning scare and the day at the hospital, I was pretty ragged, but I couldn’t put off the urgent need to start considering assisted living facilities.  When I got home, I sat down at the computer and googled “assisted living dalllas.” The first result was A Place for Mom.

I’d heard of them.  A lady faced with just what I was facing decided the available resources weren’t resourceful enough.  She started a nationwide referral service for elder living solutions.  I’d found the place where Mom currently lives on my own, so I knew I could do this, but I didn’t want to.  I  filled in a few blanks and clicked “Start Your Search”.  I had the “what can it hurt” attitude.  If there was a way to make this easier, without adding to the cost of it, then I was all for it.  I thought I’d get a list, but what they did was promise to call.

Here’s what surprised me.  It was past usual office hours, but before I could make another click my phone rang.  It was them.  They were ready to help.  As I answered all their questions, I was looking for my “Been Here, Done This” t-shirt.  How many times over the last few years have I explained my Mom’s situation to a caregiver of some sort?  I really wish I had a recording I could play for them.  Problem is, the details change almost daily, but I get so tired of this phase of the process.

Then I got Frankie Radabaugh.  If you contact A Place for Mom, you may get someone else, but Frankie is my new best friend.  Frankie and I went through a list of facilities.  She knew some I didn’t.  I knew some she didn’t.  We hung up and I had dinner.  When I came back to the computer, Frankie had emailed me my appointment list.  I was so relieved I wanted to cry.

Back in my do-it-myself days, I’d worn myself out playing phone tag and then I played the “tell me something about your Mom” game until I was blue in the face.  It literally took DAYS to make a handful of appointments.  Then when I arrived at the appointment, we spent more time playing “tell me something about your Mom.”  In the A Place for Mom world, I showed up for the appointments and was in-and-out in thirty minutes, generally. How do you spell relief?

In the days since, I checked on a couple of places that weren’t on Frankie’s list, but she streamlined the job more than I can explain and the one’s that weren’t on her list probably aren’t going to be my answer anyway.  Mom has a couple of more days in the hospital and then she’ll be in rehab.  No one can make this decision for us, but without Frankie and A Place for Mom, I’d still be trying to set up appointments.

In case you’re wondering, A Place for Mom also handles dads, aunts, grandmas or whoever else you may need to find help for.  It’s just called A Place for Mom, because the lady who started the company was looking for her mom.  Maybe you’ll never be faced with a task like this, but if you are, start with A Place for Mom.

Chat @ Care-giving: Nothing Happens in a Vacuum

There’s no one thing about caring for my elderly family members that’s difficult, it’s all the things that make it tough. All the things at the same time, that is.  Can you identify with that?

As I write this, I’m planning for a weekend trip to Temple to visit my Aunt Edie, my ninety-one year old maiden aunt who’s on hospice.  Though she’s still living independently, the cancer is carrying her downhill rapidly.  I call her everyday and the last few times we’ve spoken, I realized she’s slurring her words more with each call.  Soon the nieces will be dividing up the responsibility of staying with her twenty-four hours a day.  This is no burden.  She’s been a true joy to me all of my life, but I do wonder how I’ll juggle the rest of my responsibilities.

Mom will be going with me on this trip, because it may be their last Mother’s Day together.  The two are not just sisters, but also one another’s best friend, yet Mom’s own condition will keep her out of the rotation, when the nieces divide up the coming weeks.  She walks with a cane.  Her hands are rendered helpless by arthritis.  She rarely drives and when she does, it’s only in her immediate neighborhood.  Still she manages to take care of herself and dad, as long as she has some help from me – and how will I offer that help, when I’m at Aunt Edie’s bedside.

On Monday, Mom will have dental surgery.  Her internist insisted she have a stress test before the surgery to insure she was healthy enough.  She was, but just barely, because as soon as she’s healed enough from the surgery, we must go to her heart specialist and decide what to do about the reduction her heart’s functionality.  Most likely, we will need to replace her worn out stents, but who will take care of Dad while she’s in the hospital and at home recuperating?

Dad has no immediate threats.  We need to get him to the pain clinic for another shot, but otherwise he’s in no danger.  But he’s ninety and he does little for himself.  He can take himself to the bathroom and shave, but Mom bathes him, helps dress him and manages everything else about his life, while he sits quietly in his chair.  We can leave him alone for an hour or so, but while Mom and I are in Temple, we have to make arrangements for his care.

Hindsight is so clear.  I began suggesting my parents move to assisted living a few years ago.  They were not incapacitated, but I didn’t want them to have to make the move in a rush.  I wanted them to have choices and participate in the decision-making.  Very recently, Mom agreed to start the process of looking for a retirement center, but only after she got the dental surgery out-of-the-way and that was before we found out about the heart issues.  If they were already there, it would solve so many other issues, but would it have been right to push them into doing something they were not yet willing to face?

As I sit here writing this, I do not know how I am going to juggle it all.  How will I be there for Aunt Edie, as well as Mom and Dad?  How will I keep house for my husband and be a wife to him?  How will I keep writing, maintain my blog and continue to send out queries to literary agents?  What if someone does want to represent me and we start working toward publication?  Will I be able to meet the deadlines that will lead to my dream?  How will I find time to be a friend to my friends?  How will I nourish my spiritual life which glues everything else together?

Even as I wonder how I will structure my life in the coming days, I count my blessings.  My husband provides well for me, so that I do not have to go to a 9-5 job five days a week, deal with a boss breathing down my neck and wonder how I’ll pay the rent.  There are no children or grandchildren for me to worry about.  My care-giving responsibilities are challenging, but they could be even more so, if my husband’s parents were also in need.  My own health is robust, as is my husband’s.  I have so much to be thankful for – and yet… And yet.

How do you do it?  Those of you who do work 9-5, have kids of your own and fight your own health battles?  When faced with many issues, any one of which could take up all of your resources, how do you juggle them all?

Chat @ Care-giving: Two Days in Traffic

Having finally wrangled cooperation out of Mom, it was time to actually drive by the retirement centers which made my list of potential properties. There were almost forty and I had them divided into roughly three groups of geographically-centered lists.  According to Mapquest, each list was going to take about an hour, but that wouldn’t include all the driving through parking lots and making the block to see something one more time.  Day One we planned to take in the properties closest to her house.  With any luck we’d get the other two lists crammed into Thursday, but if we didn’t, I planned to get it done on Friday after her hair appointment.

Day One was easy.  I put her in the car, gave her a list of the properties we would see and asked her to make any notes she wanted to on the list.  I’m glad I wasn’t trying to sell her a house.  If my real estate clients had been as stingy with their comments as my Mom was with hers, I would have never sold a single home.  People communicate differently.  Some would chat my ear off, while others made copious notes.  Mom had nothing to say and her notes related to geographical location, which I already knew, since I was the one driving.

As promised, we were done long before it was time for Dad to go to his doctor’s appointment.  I took them to one of Dad’s favorites for lunch and delivered them to the doctor right on time.  I’d successfully cleared my first hurdle.

Day Two was more difficult.  I showed up for our weekly day together,changed the sheets and headed out to take care of our usual set of errands.  On the way back to her house, I picked up some of their favorite sandwiches for lunch, to put everyone in a good mood.  Lunch eaten, groceries put away and dishes washed, I put Mom in the car for round two.  We quickly knocked out the second list of properties and I held out a carrot for tackling the final one.  One of her favorite stores was right next to one of the properties and I promised to visit the store if we tackled the list.

I also had a secondary agenda.  I’d really enjoyed a video on one of the property’s websites.  I thought Mom would find it encouraging.  Since the properties on this final list were in my neighborhood, I hoped to drop by the house and show her the video.  One thing I’d already noted however, the further we got away from her neighborhood, the more objections she had to the properties.  At least she was talking now.

My plan worked like a charm.  By the time we reached my house, she was ready for ice cream, which I just happened to have in the freezer.  My husband came down from his office right on cue and asked me if I’d told her about that great video on the computer.  Back in the car we drove by one more property and then took her for a shopping break.  Unfortunately, there’s only so many hours in the day.  Mom was getting tired and the traffic started getting bad.  Before we’d made it all the way through the list, Mom let me know, she wasn’t going to move to my side of town.  Well, you can’t win ’em all!

I took her home and then had to drive all the way back to mine.  Returning home, spilled out like a broken milk bottle, I set down at my desk and played mindless computer games until I’d released enough stress to speak politely to my husband.  I’m going to have to do something nice for that guy when I get through with this project.  Any ideas?

Chat @ Care-giving: The Day Before Moving Day

What is it about moving that creates such a stir in the cosmos?  It really doesn’t matter how much planning goes into your move, things are going to get wild.  There was nothing left to pack on the day before the move, so I left Mom alone to get her hair done and rest up some before the big day.

I sat at my desk all day, clearing off the debris that gathers when I don’t have time to sort through the clutter.  I caught up on reading all the blogs I follow.  I was having a lovely time.  I was relaxed and rested when my husband suggested I go with him to the driving range.  I don’t golf, but after years of watching tournaments with my dad, I have a pretty good idea of what somebody’s supposed to look like when they hit a golf ball.  So, I’m Bill’s golf coach.

I put my phone in my pocket,to make the daily call to my parents while Bill warmed up and that’s when I realized I had a bevy of missed calls and messages.  I groaned when I realized that I hadn’t turned my ringer back on after I’d seen a movie the night before.  I imagined my mother leaving a message calling off the move.

Rather than listening to the messages, I called my parents’ house.  Mom was out and Dad delivered the bad news.  Mom hadn’t called off the move, but she’d had an awful day.  The bank had royally screwed up her bank account.  We’d been to the bank earlier in the week to put a stop payment on a blank check my mother had lost, but instead of putting a stop payment on that check, the stop payment had been applied to all checks.

When mother arrived at her hair stylist’s, he informed her that her check from the week before had been returned.  To make it all more fun, the employee who had taken the stop payment order wasn’t available and everyone was more interested in finding someone or something to blame than they were in resolving the problem.

As if that wasn’t enough, in the midst of all the stop check phone calls, Mom found another problem.  Their dermatologist had recently removed a skin cancer on Dad’s arm and when Mom changed the bandage she discovered an infection.  So they had to go back to the dermatologist.  The dermatologist wrote a prescription and because the prescription was something out of the ordinary, no one had it.

And through it all, I was of no use whatsoever, because in this wireless world, I’d silenced my phone.  I was angry at the bank and the pharmacies, but I was mostly angry at myself.  I was also overwhelmed with guilt.

In all of this, the balancing act required to juggle all the balls of my life is the hardest part.  I knew I needed to talk to my Mom and let her vent her frustrations a little bit, but I also knew that as soon as Bill finished hitting the golf balls he expected date night to continue.  He did not want to sit by patiently while I placated my mother.  She’s already had entirely too much of my life recently.

Since our plan was to head home after the driving range and clean up for a nice dinner date, I thought I’d be able to squeeze in the phone call, but spontaneity took over and I was soon on a patio at a local mall listening to a band.  I enjoyed it for a while, but in the back of my mind, I knew I had to call my mother.  Finally, I had to say, “You continue to listen to the band.  I’ve got to call mother and it may take a little while.  She’s had some problems today, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Bill and I had two minds about the phone call.  He decided I could make it, but it should be, “I hear you had a bad day.  I’m sorry. I’ll see you in the morning.”  I knew the call would be like lancing a boil and would take a lot longer.

“Hello Mother.”  It was ten or fifteen minutes later when I finally got a word in edgewise.  I tried to apologize for the problems with my phone and but she took off in another directions.  I tried to truncate the call, but Mom needed to reiterate it all, just in case I’d missed any of the gory details.  Bill was fuming when I returned to the table.  Somewhere deep inside he understood, but it was too deep to do me much good right then.

I’d diffused the problem with my Mom, but I hadn’t made any points with my husband and he was critical to my success with the move.  We kissed and made up before the night was over, but I hated that something as stupid as forgetting to turn on a ringer had caused such drama.  Am I the only one that has this sort of thing happen?  Does the convenience of technology ever cause you trouble?  I’d really like to know that I’m not alone here.

(Faithful Readers – To celebrate the holiday season, instead of continuing with the saga of moving my parent’s to their new home, we’re taking a festive break.  Watch for a series of posts about Christmas ornaments I’ve inherited from my parents and my sweet Aunt Edie.)