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.

 

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Chat @ Care-giving: The Place for Mom

Straight from visiting Parson’s House Assisted Living Facility, I went to Caruth Haven Court and remember, at the time, I was thinking that Mom might be in assisted living for years.  She hadn’t had the code episode yet.

Though I grew up in East Dallas and thought I knew the Central/Northwest Highway area by heart (after all that’s where Northpark is and I LOVE Northpark), I didn’t know about Caruth Haven Court.  When I take Bodecker in that direction, I’m always on my way to Old Town, which means I jog to the right. To get to Caruth Haven Court, you stay on Bodecker.

After arriving, I had a chat with the marketing person in what they call the Family Room, which was also an example of one of their apartments.  It was quite nice, but also quite small.  I was interested in other choices.  We took a look around.  Everything outside the small apartments looked perfect, but I knew Mom’s vision of her assisted living space was bigger than what was available.  There was one floor plan that I thought would work, but none were available.  I thought another floor plan seemed adequate, but I doubted Mom would.

What I liked best was the dining room.  They were having lunch as I strolled through and it was easy to imagine my mom in the space.  Dining rooms had been the hardest part of assisted living for me to swallow.  In some of the facilities they were just downright depressing, but this was open, airy and full of people who looked just like Mom.  Sure there were wheel chairs and canes and oxygen tanks, but they seemed less overpowering at Caruth Haven Court than at other dining rooms.

I’m a very transparent shopper, so I told them exactly what I was thinking.  I explained the reason I liked Parson’s House, as well as it’s geographic undesirability.  I also mentioned the other two places I still had to see, but I admitted that all things considered, Caruth Haven Court was in the lead.  They didn’t have my first choice of floor plan available and of the only other possible choice they just had one.  I wasn’t ready to put down a deposit, but I did ask for first right of refusal.

Then we had the code episode.  Hospice loomed on the horizon.  On the recommendation of Mom’s doctor we moved to Walnut Place.  He suggested keeping her there, even if we were able to get her well enough to go into assisted living, but Mom decided pretty quickly that Walnut Place was not what she wanted to call home.  Don’t get me wrong, for rehab, Walnut Place was extraordinary and they were a true blessing when Mom moved to the nursing floor, but Mom had visions of a different kind of life for herself.

I became a virtual basket case.  I was caught between the reality of Mom’s true condition and offering her the hope she needed to carry on.  Her only chance was to believe that if she worked really, really hard at her rehab, I’d find her a lovely place to live out her life.  I needed to return to Caruth Haven Court and think about what her life would be like if she were on hospice there. If you are already on hospice, then you can’t move there, but you can go on hospice after you get there.  This time I took Bill with me.  My judgement was clouded and erratic.

Bill could see Mom living there also and he loved their cookies.  When you take a tour, they give you a big stack of remarkable chocolate chip cookies.  I liked them, but Bill loved them.  I’d donated the stack I got from my first visit to him and he was ecstatic when they gave us another stack for the tour we took together.  But we couldn’t commit right then.  There was one other facility within the geographic boundaries that might work and I wanted Bill to see them.  Unfortunately, there was only one apartment available that fit our criteria.  Even though he thought I was right, Caruth Haven Court was probably the right place, he didn’t want to put down a deposit.  We just arranged to have the first right of refusal on that apartment.

The next morning I received a bouquet of flowers from Caruth Haven Court.  Not some big arm-twisting arrangement, just a small thoughtful vase with a sweet card.  It didn’t twist my arm, but it did touch my heart.  I was having some difficult days.

Our visit to the other property was two days later and we’d barely begun when I got the call that someone else was considering “Mom’s” apartment at Caruth Haven Court.  We finished our tour, but at the end we raced back to Caruth Haven Court and put down a deposit.  I was euphoric when I returned to Walnut Place to share the news with Mom.

But she wasn’t feeling well.  The nausea she’d been fighting all week was worse.  We were on our way to hospice.  By the beginning of the next week, I had to call Caruth Haven Court and tell them Mom wouldn’t be coming.  Even if she made it through the crisis that made me call hospice, she’d never be well enough to enjoy Caruth Haven Court’s dining room the way I imagined she would.

One would think that this would be the end of my story, but it wasn’t, because when you choose Caruth Haven Court you become family.  Even though Mom never made it there, they’d gotten to know me and through me, they were looking forward to having Ruth (and her extensive wardrobe) at their facility.  The saleslady continued to call me and check on me in the coming days.  She even dropped by one day to see me at Mom’s bedside.  The deposit was returned to me with no fuss and no ado.  That’s why I had to take time to tell you about Caruth Haven Court.  If you have a loved one in the Dallas area that needs assisted living, you need to visit Caruth Haven Court.  That’s where Ruth would have gone if things had gone the way she wanted it and that’s where you’ll be treated like family.

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 @ Care-giving: The Challenges of Giving

So, after delivering the medical equipment to DME Exchange, it was time to give away Mom’s clothing. Clothing is tough, especially when it came to her.  If the expression “clothes make the man” ever applied to anyone, it was my mom, even if she was a woman.  She labored over the purchase of each item, labored to pay for each item and labored over the care of each item.

I looked into consigning it, because Mom only bought the best, but consignment shops want you to have each item freshly cleaned.  I can understand why, but it would take a small fortune to dry clean eight wardrobe boxes, two suitcases and numerous boxes full of clothes.  There were a few pieces that were still in the dry cleaning bag and several more that still had the tags on them, but if I was donating, I planned to donate it all.

I must say that I was impressed with the business end of this transaction. I found the Salvation Army on the internet, called the 1-800 number and soon had an appointment for a pick up. Since they were meeting me at the storage facility, they even offered to call an hour ahead, to give me a chance to get there. I was also given a number to call on the morning of the appointment to get an estimated window for the pick up.

Pick up day seemed to be going well. I called that morning and got the 1-3 time slot. They called me an hour before they came, which was within the window and showed up in the time frame they promised. The truck was very nice and the gentlemen were very polite.

Then things didn’t go so well. I told the original person I spoke to I had eight wardrobe boxes of clothes. In case you didn’t know, wardrobe boxes cost between $15 and $25 according to where you get them and what size they are. If someone is making you a donation of eight wardrobe boxes, chances are the clothes inside weren’t on the clearance rack at Target or Walmart. My mom was a clothes horse with a discount at Dillard’s. She’d retired from there. The boxes I got held between twenty and thirty outfits and I’d say the average cost of the good stuff was about $250 on sale with Mom’s discount. Of course, not all the boxes had that much value, but even the casual clothes robes were nice.

The truck driver opened the back of his truck and it was readily apparent he hadn’t been given any packing lessons. Things were tossed in there willy nilly. I’ll admit, some of the stuff looked as if it should have been taken to the dumpster rather than picked up for donation, but that was none of my business. I hesitantly asked him if he thought he had enough room for my stuff, using an outflung arm to encompass half of a large storage unit. “Sure,” he said, as he tossed the first wardrobe box on top of the other donations.

I nearly had a heart attack. I’ll admit. I’m a clothes horse, too. My mother was half my size and much more conservative in her taste, but I appreciated what she had. As the abused box sailed in the air, I envisioned the hangers coming off the bar inside, snagging button holes and tearing them. Everything we were donating was in pristine condition.  I hated to think of lace getting ripped, sweaters snagged and everything wrinkled.

I swallowed down my fury and said, “I’m sure people donate a lot of junk, but…”  I gave him my estimate of the value.  As he tossed another box in, he said, “They have to come out of the box at the processing center anyway.”  I wanted to punch out his lights, but he didn’t know me and he didn’t know Mom.  He obviously didn’t know how to pack a truck or appreciate the value of what he was handling either.  I gritted my teeth and hoped something in the boxes would be worth salvaging when they got to the center.

After treating my donations like two cents worth of dog excrement, they turned politely to me and said, “We appreciate your donation.”  Oh yeah, which one?  The one I had before you got here or the one you’re going to take to the center. People always hear what you do, not what you say.

I suppose the driver and his sidekick were part of the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation program.  Well, I suggest they rehabilitate their attitude towards the donations.  For one thing, the items they pick up will be of greater value if they aren’t damaged during the pick up and transportation.  For another, maybe the rehabilitatees might have more appreciation of their own possessions if they’re taught to respect the donations that come in.  And finally, it will take a very long time for for me to think about donating to the Salvation Army  – if ever.

If you know of a place that really appreciates donations of good clothing, I’d like to know about them!

 

Chat @ Care-giving: Executrix of the Will

I know I’m lucky. My sister doesn’t give me any lip about anything I’m doing concerning Mom’s estate. In fact, she actually appreciates it all. It’s the rest of the world that’s giving me fits.

Let’s start with notifying all the interested parties that Mom’s passed away.  This is not a jolly task by anyone’s stretch of the imagination.  Making calls and navigating phone trees is just about one of my least favorite things in the world, even if what I’m doing bears no relation to a loved one’s death.  Doing so to tell the world my mom died puts it in the column of tortuous.

I’ll begin with the kudos.  Once I actually got through to a human, the government OPM (Office of Personnel Management) and Blue Cross Blue Shield were actually quite wonderful to deal with.  Fidelity Investments has a whole department set aside to handle these calls.  Sympathy was extended and I could hear care in the voices of those I spoke with.  Same with Farmer’s Insurance.

That wasn’t so with some places I called.  For instance, canceling my mom’s store cards.  You know JCPenney’s, Dillard’s etc.  In this age of identity theft, cancelling these accounts is as important as notifying Social Security (the funeral home handles that for you).  Here’s the problem, store credit cards are handled by GE Credit and they’re not very nice.  You know who handles the cancellation of an account when someone dies?  The collection department!  Need I say more?

And you can’t cancel all the accounts with one call.  First you have to go through the individual store’s customer service department and then they transfer you to the mean GE people, where yet another rude collection agent shakes you down.  Perhaps if my Mom’s accounts were in arrears, this might have been necessary, but Mom and Dad always paid off their accounts, in full, as soon as they got the bill.  And to boot, she’s been on the medical merry-go-round for so long that it had been months since she’d used any of the cards.  In essence, I was doing them a favor by notifying them, but they thought the shoe was on the other foot.

There was one store that handled things differently and that was Macy’s.  I was able to cancel the card with no hassle what so ever and got a confirmation letter in the mail.  I’ve never been a big fan of Macy’s.  I’ve sort of been mad ever since they took over Foley’s, but I see them in a whole new light.  I may just have to start buying things there.

Handling other financial institutions, like banks and that sort of thing has been fairly painless.  (Accolades go to Capital One, Comerica and Fidelity.)  They all seemed to understand that this was an unpleasant task and did their best to make it easier.

Then came the donations.  First, I want to let you know about a great resource.  I had a wide variety of medical equipment, from a wheelchair and wheeled walker to other tools to assist the aged and handicapped.  I wanted to be sure these things would go to someone who actually needed it, so I hit the internet.  I discovered DME Exchange of Dallas.  They accepted donations on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so on the appointed day I loaded bath chairs, potty chairs and all the other stuff into the car -banging myself in the head pretty good along the way.  (Can you get a concussion from a walker to the face?)

I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of this as I drove across town with a throbbing forehead.  I found the place in a nondescript office complex and went in to figure out the drill.  I suddenly became very important.  The workers in the office were thrilled that I’d brought them some equipment.  One lady was so grateful she cried and the other one was in ecstasy.  Every item I donated was something they desperately needed.  Boy, did that little chore feel good.

The next day I met that charity that does “the most good” at the storage facility.  Things didn’t go as well with that.  I’ll tell you about that another day.

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 @ Caregiving: They call me Jane Ann

Confession – if you have some dopey nickname that embarrasses the heck out of you, I’m jealous.  I’ve never had one. That may not be my fault.  When I was a kid, my parents moved around a lot.  I’d be someplace for a couple of years and then move on.  People barely had time to learn my real name, much less figure out a nickname for me.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t picked on from time to time.  The very first question kids usually asked me was, “Where’s Tarzan?” More than a few adults did, too.  Another favorite was a reference to the Dick, Jane and Sally reader.  Something like, “See Spot.  See Spot run from Jane’s ugly face.”  The one I hated most was “Plain Jane,” because I really, honestly, was about as plain as you could get and I hated it. I guess with so many easy pickings, I didn’t need a nickname.

After I became an adult, a couple of people tried calling me Janie, but by then it was way too late.  I didn’t feel like Janie and I didn’t mind telling you so.  Of course, Janie wouldn’t really be a nickname, just a diminutive – and I’m no Janie.

Jane Ann isn’t a nickname either.  It’s my actual given name.  It’s rarely used – with one exception.  If you’re a Cave or related to me through my dad, then you call me Jane Ann. I’m not sure how that came about, because with the exception of one other cousin, everyone else does just fine with a single name.  Somehow Gene Alton and I needed both of our names.

In this busy world of facebook and email, I don’t see my cousins very often.  Moving around so much as a kid, I didn’t get in the habit of visiting them frequently and now we’re spread out all over creation.  Granted, some of them do live in the Metroplex, but we haven’t woven one another into our lives.  Maybe that’s something I should fix, but I did see them this weekend.  We said farewell to Uncle Malcolm.

I didn’t notice the Jane Anns so much at the family visitation.  There were many tears shed and hugs shared, but in the busy bustle of greetings, the Jane Anns were lost.  Sunday night was different.

My Uncle Malcolm was a well-loved preacher that devoted much of his life to folks in this part of Texas, so as you can imagine, the funeral chapel was jam packed.  Mr. Last Minute, my sweet husband, had even gotten us there early, but seats were at a premium.  That’s when I heard, “PSSSST Jane Ann.”  My cousins were inviting me to the family section.  Of course, I was family, but there was something very dear about hearing the old moniker, the one they alone use.

I’m proud of my family and I’m glad they have a special name for me.  They call me Jane Ann.