Thursday, April 26, 2012

Busy Busy

A friend down in Florida phoned and indicated she had noticed my slowed-down blogging. That was good to hear. It is nice to be missed. Especially as a writer.

I like to stay busy. However, sometimes life throws you a series of activities, duties, and responsibilities that keep you not just in your chronically behind state but rather into a stop-and-take-care-of-the-most-important-things-now state. That seems to be where I am recently. Interestingly, just pausing and limiting my activities seems to sometimes feel less busy. Focusing on the necessary, I call it. I can’t say if that is good or bad, but what has to be has to be.

Our daughter Katherine has been very ill, and one of the causes of my busyness is sitting at the dining room table with papers spread out making calls to people on various caregiver lists. This is the second time since Christmas I have had this gig.

After my first efforts, Katherine had secured an excellent night worker who transferred her very well, but almost immediately that woman was hospitalized and cannot work at this time although she asked to be allowed to work again when she gets well.

The agencies that provide the lists of caretakers for their populations (Hospice, aging, disabilities) have no obligation to provide me the lists and are just doing so as a service, and I am very grateful. Nevertheless, although the lists have recent dates on them, they are hopelessly out of date.

One woman proudly handed me a new list and said it was all updated. When I started working with it, I could see it was almost identical to the list a couple months before with its many discontinued phones. Part of that particular problem, of course, is the trend toward giving up house phones and going to cell phones. But cell phone numbers are also often discontinued, message boxes full or never set up.

Calling these potential caregivers is an interesting experience. I had to smile when I called one number and the man answering said, “She has not lived here for five years.” I figured he was an exasperated ex-husband. Maybe not. I didn’t ask.

I also get amused at the people who are looking for work who may answer the telephone with a gruff voice and maybe just one lazy-sounding syllable: Lo. Then when you explain why you are phoning, they use a completely different voice. Not so amusing, however, is my learning that some people with a very pleasing voice turn out to have assault records. I have had to admit that I cannot judge character by voices. (At one time I thought John Edwards seemed liked a kind upright man. How else could he have won someone like his wife? Obviously I cannot judge character. At least, that was before I learned about the price of his haircut, which gave him away.) Sorry for my digression.

Many on the lists are people who merely sit with the elderly or ill person. That is a necessary service often times, but in our daughter’s situation, she needs care—not just someone to visit and serve as a companion or watch her sleep. But you cannot know what services a person is offering when all that is listed is a phone number. Some people do list one line of information about themselves in terms of their training and what services they offer. Those are the ones I called first.

People on the list are often now employed, and I am grateful for their sakes that they are. Many only have part-time jobs, however. If applicants want part-time jobs to coordinate with their child-care and homemaking duties, that is great. But most want more work; yet it is difficult to coordinate your needs with someone who already works MWF or from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I think the majority of workers would like to work full-time for ordinary eight-hour shifts and be paid accordingly. Yet most people in need of a caregiver cannot afford to pay for even eight hour care, let alone the 24/7 care they may need—nor can the government agencies that help provide care. Consequently, these personal assistants and caregivers have great difficulty making a decent income.

I remember years ago when trying to help young mothers find work that many of them could only find restaurant work for two or three hours at a time and then have to drive back to work several hours later for another couple hours work during the supper rush. Driving to work twice instead of once a day ate up a lot of their income, and that was before gas was so high. These caregivers that I am calling often combine two or even three part-time jobs and, therefore, have these same gas concerns as they leave one home and hurry on to a second care-giving job in another town.

Often there is sadness in the voices of the women I call. (Most of the caregivers on the lists are women.) They need a job now because they have just lost their last job due to the death of the aged patient they had grown very fond of. Or they may be very aware that they will soon lose their client to death and consequently lose their income and ask me to call back later. There is no security in this line of work.

As wonderful as many caregivers are—and many are absolute saints—this seeking applicants for Katherine to interview has made me cynical. What many say they can do has no relation to what they really can. She has had some horrific experiences of being dropped, left hanging from a Hoyer, and other even worst offences.

I have been shocked at people who sounded as if they desperately want a job, and then that same person fails to show up for the interview appointment given them. Nor do they phone to cancel or explain. This has happened three times since Christmas. It is hard for me to realize someone could be that dishonest. The lack of consideration for my daughter’s time and efforts to get ready for the appointment makes me glad that person showed her true colors, however.

Suddenly right now Katherine does not need the care I have been busy phoning about. On Tuesday, David took her to an 8 a.m. appointment in Saint Louis with a Fellow working on a special Multiple Sclerosis study under Dr. Barbara Green with offices in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital complex. Unexpectedly, they asked Katherine to stay for tests and further consultation to see if they can stop the progression of this disease.

Today is Katherine’s birthday, and she spent it in the hospital keeping very busy with doctors and technicians in and out of her room all day. She missed the dozen roses her brother Gerry and wife Vickie sent to her home in Marion since they did not know she was in the hospital. Mary Ellen found out after she had ordered flowers to Katherine’s house, so she was able to change her order to Saint Louis. The best news today was that on Monday, she is going down the street to a rehab facility.

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