Happy Father’s Day

Friday was one of the toughest days ever.  On our way to Doggie Fun Land (the dog park in Ferrysburg) Sue got VERY excited in the car.  Now Pal is a great car rider, he just lays down and takes a nap knowing that there will be excitement when we get where we are going.  Sue on the other hand is always excited, and knows that we’d get there faster if I would just let her drive.  But on this occasion Sue was beyond excited – she was nearly out of her mind.

As we turned the corner, I saw why she was in such a state.  We pulled into traffic behind Dad’s old car and the folks who bought it from us.  Sue had heard Dad’s car and KNEW that was where her Daddy was.  Soon, they turned one way while we kept on another way.  The keening sound that Sue made cut through me like a million sharp knives.  I don’t think that anything has ever hurt me so badly as the sound that she made, knowing that she was in pain and wanted to be with her Daddy.  I was so impacted that I had to pull over and gather myself before I could drive any further.

Of course, Sue being a dog, she lives in the moment.  So by the time we got to Doggie Fun Land, she was ready to run and play.  I wish I could have recovered as quickly.

Today, Father’s Day, was the toughest holiday since Dad passed.  It was even tougher than Thanksgiving, Christmas, Dad’s birthday, or mine.  Since my younger brother

John with Barkley and Alexander

John with Barkley and Alexander

John passed away in 2004, Father’s Day has been a special occasion for Dad, Sue, & I.  This year, with just Sue, Pal, and I it seemed a very lonely day.

If you know me, then you know how dearly I loved, and still love, my father.  If you don’t know me, then words can never tell you.

But I want to share these words anyway.  In 2007 I was still working part time at WGHN– and of course I was working on Father’s Day.  Before I left for work that morning, I placed a card and a pile of gifts on the dining room table.  I also left him a note.  The note is reproduced below, without any further comment.

Mel and his first puppy Sue

Mel and his first puppy Sue

Dad,

I know that I’m doing more for Father’s Day this year than what we’ve traditionally done.  Partially that’s because I’m so grateful for all that you’ve done for me, and partially because I’m a little guilty about how little I’ve done for you.  Certainly some of it is a side effect of how scared I was about losing you in February.  But mostly it is just because I love you.

You’ve always seemed superhuman to me.  The strength of your character and the gentleness of your nature still inspire awe in me.  And when I look back from the lofty heights of my 47 years (yes, you should read some sarcasm in that) at how much you had accomplished in life by age 47, and how little I have accomplished, I am humbled.

Probably the single greatest thing that you did for both John and I was that you allowed us the space to be children when we were children and that you allowed us even more space to be our own selves when we became adults.  Recently I’ve thought a lot about that, and how I haven’t really given the same back to you.  I’ve always expected perfection from you.  And while you generally deliver on that score, I let myself become frustrated and even angry when those occasions arise when you are simply a human being.  That isn’t fair, and it isn’t right.  It has been a limiting factor in our tremendous friendship, and I am sorry for all the times that I’ve allowed my attitude to impact our relationship.

I know that you aren’t some comic book superhero who always does right.  I know that you are simply a man who always tries to do right.  And that is a far more precious and valuable thing.  I know that you forgive me for this, you always do – and I appreciate your indulgence more than I’ll ever be able to say or even show.  I will try harder to allow you the space to be your own self, and a human being.  But there will always be a little corner of myself that enjoys pretending that you really are that comic book superhero.

I wrote this all down and stuck it in a card for you to read while I am at work so that we could avoid one of those awkward, mushy moments.  But that doesn’t make it any less real.  Thank you for being my father, I love you.  Happy Father’s Day!

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Happy Birthday Dad

Hey Boss,

I just wanted to write you a quick note as the dogs and I wrap up the preparations for your birthday tomorrow. It sounds a bit strange to me to be celebrating your birthday more than four months after your passing, but I decided that it will make me happy to celebrate you – and the special love that we shared.

We are going to start the day with a trip to Doggie Fun Land in Ferrysburg.  After dropping the dogs at home, I’ll pop over to Orchard Market to pick-up a big old porterhouse steak and some of those little cupcakes that you always enjoyed.  I debated about baking a cake for you, as I did every year, but I’ve been doing really well with my blood sugar lately and I don’t want to mess that up.

In the afternoon, Pal has an appointment at Harborfront Hospital for Animals.  He just turned nine this month and he’s due for his annual physical.  It just seemed appropriate on your birthday to take an old man to an appointment with a doctor.  Paladin graciously offered to fill in for you.

After his visit, we’ll stop in at the City Farmer to pick up a box of peanut butter bones for the dogs.  They are still Sue’s favorite food to play with, and she teases Pal and I mercilessly when she has one in her mouth.

Then it will be home to make dinner.  I’ll grill up the steak just the way you liked it – marinated in Worcestershire sauce and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I’m going to split it three ways with Sue and Pal.  I’m also going to share the cupcakes with them.  You should see Sue and Pal on a sugar buzz!  When I came home from your memorial service, I put the leftover cake on the kitchen counter while I changed.  When I came back into the kitchen, there were two happy looking dogs laying on the kitchen floor with some cardboard and plastic wrap between them.  About half an hour later, the two of them were running around the house like young pups – playing with all of the toys, teasing each other, barking at each other, and just having a great time.

After they eat their 9:30 treats, the three of us will snuggle in together on Pal’s couch for our moment of Irish Setter Zen.  And we will sing happy birthday to you.

It won’t be the party that we’ve thrown for you the last several years.  I haven’t invited anybody over, I didn’t buy balloons, or any of that party stuff.

It is still pretty lonely in the house without you, but as I promised you, Sue, Pal and I are taking care of each other.

Happy Birthday Dad!  We will always celebrate your memory.

Every Day Is Like Christmas

Our Charlie Brown Christmas TreeThis is our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. I bought this just before Christmas last year.  It just seemed to fit our lives, our Christmas decorations, our living room, and our lives.

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965 – I was four years old.  I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve watched it every year since.

A Charlie Brown Christmas blu-rayWatching Dad’s reaction to the tree, I bought him a copy on blu-ray for Christmas last year.  We’ve probably watched it a dozen times since then.  There is just something about this classic that makes you feel good – even if it isn’t Christmas time.

When it came time to take down the Christmas decorations last season, Dad and I decided that the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree should stay up year-round.  So it became the centerpiece decoration in our living room.

Sue wearing a Christmas Wreath

Sweet Sue

With every thing that is going on with our lives and Dad’s health – we decided that we should stop for a moment each day and remember the great gifts that we have.  We have each other.  We have a roof over our heads and enough food to eat.  Dad has a tremendous insurance plan that covers whatever medical care he needs.  We have Sue – the love of Dad’s life and a tremendous blessing all by herself.

At the time, we were also fostering dogs for a rescue group – so we were sharing our gifts every day with those less fortunate.  We’ve since adopted Paladin, which put us at the limit for animals in the Village of Spring Lake and removed us from the fostering business – but we are overjoyed to be able to share our blessings every day with the most recent addition to our family.

At our house, everyday is Christmas Day – and we have the Christmas Tree to prove it!

Last June the doctor sat Dad & I down.  With a look of deep seriousness on his face he gazed deeply into Dad’s eyes and said “I very much doubt that you will live to see Christmas.”  I tried my best not to look at Dad, but I couldn’t help myself.  I looked over at him and we both started giggling like school girls.  The moment could not be contained, and soon we were both roaring with laughter!  The poor confused doctor said “That certainly is not the reaction I expected.”

As Dad & I wiped the tears of laughter away, Dad stated simply, between chuckles, “EVERY day is Christmas at our house!”

So, if you come to visit us – or even if you only visit through reading this blog – remember that EVERY day can be Christmas if you want it to be.  And please take a moment to appreciate the gifts that you have, and share them with others.

What The Hospice Companies Don’t Want You To Know

In which Dad & I continue our education regarding corporate health care.

Dad likes doctors who speak plainly to him.  It’s a big part of what he likes about Dr. Primary (his primary care doctor), Dr. Pisser (his urologist), Dr. Onco (his oncologist), Dr. Tootsie (his podiatrist), and even Dr. Twitchy (his neurologist).  In fact all of these doctors have been specifically chosen as much for their ability to communicate with Dad as for their medical skills.

not actually Dr. Primary

Not actually Dr. Primary

So it was actually a bit of a relief to Dad when Dr. Primary told him “you probably won’t see Christmas this year.”  It can’t be put much more plainly than that.  Dr. Primary also suggested that it was time that we got Dad into a hospice program.

Now, since we’ve been through this once before with in-home care (you can read all about that thrilling episode here), we knew that Dr. Primary would refer us to Dr. Asshat’s Lying Thieving Hopsice Company.  And sure enough, as we walked out of the office Miss Useful (the scheduler) offered to set us up for an “intake visit” from Dr. Asshat’s Lying Thieving Hospice Company.  I nearly declined on the spot, since I knew that there was no way we would be using

this is actually Dr. Asshat

This may actually be Dr. Asshat

Dr. Asshat’s Lying Thieving Hospice Company.  But then again I thought, why not waste some of their time – and they may provide a useful comparison point.  So we set up the visit with Dr. Asshat’s Lying Thieving Hospice Company.

As soon as we got home, I googled up other hospice companies in our area.  I decided that Happy Hospice company looked like a good candidate, so I called Miss Useful (and only had to talk to 5 of the Useless C’s before I could talk to her) and asked her to also set up an “intake visit” with Happy Hospice.

Now the fun begins!  Miss Useful informs me that it isn’t usually

The Tree of Hospice Caring

The Tree of Hospice Caring

done this way.  Usually she only writes one referral and that is the company that we would use.  This of course pisses me off.  So I bluff.  I remind her that the law requires her to write the referral to whatever agency or agencies that WE choose (I have no idea if this is true or not – but it worked)!  So she backs off and does what I asked.  Score one for the home team.

The visit with the woman from Lying Thieving Hospice Co. actually goes pretty smoothly and even starts on time.  She paints a wonderful picture of the caring team of professionals who would look out for Dad’s best interest for the remainder of his life.  She assures me that that the Lying Thieving Hospice Company is nothing like those lying thieving bastards at the Lying Thieving Nursing Company.  Even though Dr. Asshat is the “Medical Director” for both firms, she assures me that they are nothing alike.  I give her all of Dad’s information, including his list of medications.  She looks it all over, declares that everything is wonderful – and if Dad will just sign on the dotted line we can start making the magic happen.

Won't this be wonderful

The happy picture of a caring hospice worker

Of course she is very unhappy when I tell her that we will also be hearing the sales pitch from the Happy Hospice Company and that we won’t be signing anything until after we evaluate our options.  She has “never heard of such a thing” and leaves in a bit of a huff.

The following day we get our visit from the Happy Hospice Company.  Five minutes before the scheduled time, this woman calls us and tells us that she will be running half an hour late.  She doesn’t ask if that will be O.K. with us – she just informs us that she’ll be late.  She arrives at T+30, and proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes talking on her cell phone in the driveway.  She then comes in and informs us that we’ll get started as soon as the nurse arrives.  At T+60 the nurse arrives.  I inform them that this is a bad sign, if they can’t be on time when they are trying to sell us their services, how are they going to treat us after we’ve signed up?  She informs me that this is not a sales call, it is an “intake visit” and the purpose of the visit is to sign us up and get the service started.  I’m not sure how that is actually different from a sales call, but whatever.

I’ll give the Happy Hospice Co. nurse credit.  She looks over Dad’s list of medications (the same list that I provided to the Lying Thieving Hospice Co. worker) and informs us that we will “of course have to discontinue the Zometa.”

it builds strong bones

Zometa - it builds strong bones

Zometa is a drug that Dad gets through an IV once a month.  It doesn’t actually do anything with regards to the cancer cells that are rampaging through Dad’s blood stream.  What it does is strengthen Dad’s bones so that they are better able to resist the cancer cells from eating away his bones or setting up housekeeping in his bones.  It is good to keep the cancer out of the bones, as it can be VERY painful if the cancer metastasizes in the bone.

This is a very expensive medication – about $1,200 per treatment.  But as we’ve previously covered, Dad has great insurance that pays for this treatment.  I explain to the Happy Hospice nurse that Dad’s insurance will cover the treatment, so we don’t see any need to stop it.

And this is where I get my next lesson in the business of health care.  The nurse explains to me that once Dad enters into a hospice program, Medicare picks up all of the costs.  However, any Medicare supplement that you have will no longer cover any treatment related to whatever caused you to enter hospice.

At this point I decide that we need to regroup and study the situation some more.  So I send the ladies from the Happy Hospice Company on their way (they too are disappointed that we won’t sign anything) and start researching some more.

This issue is particularly troubling to me, since the Lying Thieving Hospice Co. didn’t seem to have any issue with Dad remaining on the Zometa.  But, as their name implies, the Lying Thieving Hospice Co. isn’t exactly known for their honesty.  So I call them up and ask specifically about Dad’s Zometa treatment.  The charming and delightful person at the Lying Thieving Hospice Co. informs me that “of course he’ll have to stop the Zometa, it isn’t covered.”  Wow!  It sure would be nice of them to tell us that before they ask us to sign on the bottom line.  They decide that they should schedule Dr. Asshat himself to come to our house the next day to explain it to me.

In the meantime I do some more research.  The nurse from the Happy Hospice Company was telling the truth – as far as she went.  Of course she didn’t tell the whole truth.

the whole purpose of hospice

Hospice Mission Statement

“Standard” hospice companies work exactly as she explained.  When you enter hospice, Medicare takes over the complete cost of hospice.  Any Medicare supplement that you happen to have is no longer in effect for the disease that caused you to enter hospice.  And since standard Medicare doesn’t cover Zometa, you can’t have it if you are in a “standard” hospice program.  Actually that isn’t entirely true – the “standard” hospice company could still let you have the treatment.  But Medicare won’t reimburse them for the cost of the treatment.  So the hospice company would have to pay for it out of the per diem that Medicare pays them for everyday that you are in the program.  But since this would cut into the profit margins, no “standard” hospice program will let you have the treatment.  Remember, it isn’t about the quality of care or quality of life – it is all about the profit margins!

But my research tells me that if you select an “open access” hospice program instead of a “standard” hospice program – you get to keep your insurance!  This sounds like what we need.  In fact, it sounds like how hospice should work.

keep gubmint outta my healthcare

A Common Insurance for Hospice Patients

Most people who need hospice care, I’m assuming, are on Medicare already.  And if they are smart or fortunate, they have a Medicare supplement.  So why would you not be able to use your Medicare supplement to help pay for medical care that you want or need?  Can anybody explain this?  How does this make sense?

The following day, Dr. Asshat arrives to explain things to us.  First, he explains that while Dad cannot have further Zometa treatments, there are oral medications that work “almost as well” that he could still receive from the Lying Thieving Hospice Company.  Then he proceeds to tell us that Zometa is “a bad medication for your father.”

Now hold up there a minute doc!  If Zometa is a “bad medication” then why would we want an oral substitute that works “almost as well?”  Would “almost as well” mean “not quite as bad?”  What are you talking about?  I held that thought and instead asked “Why does Dr. Onco keep him on the treatment if it is a bad medication?”

Dr. Asshat’s well thought out answer to my question was simply “I’m not going to argue the literature with you, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”  EXCUSE ME!  EXCUSE F’n ME!  Who do you think you are?

But I knew that open rage wouldn’t really help Dad, so I managed to hold my tongue for a change and instead asked about “open access hospice.”  You know, the kind of hospice where Dad could still use his insurance to pay for the Zometa treatments?  Dr. Asshat, in his eternal wisdom says “I’ve never heard of that.  I don’t believe that anybody would actually do that.  It would be illegal.”

alternate literature

I don't know doc, can we look here?

Now I’m not a doctor with a degree.  I probably don’t understand “the literature.”  I’m not the Medical Director of two different Lying Thieving health care companies.  But I do know how to use Google.  You, gentle reader, probably do too.  So go ahead, google up “open access hospice” and see what you can find.  That’s right, you’ll find literally hundreds of “open access” hospice companies.  Apparently they are all illegal, if you believe that Dr. Asshat has a clue.

We have since regrouped, and located three different open access hospice companies that service our area.  We have interviewed the first of the three already, and we were very impressed.  Keep your fingers crossed for us in this search.

And here are some tips and tricks if you need to find hospice care for yourself or a loved one.

* Read up on everything you can about hospice.  There are reportedly lots of good hospice companies, and I can tell you first hand that there are lots of bad ones.

* Use your yellow pages.  Google only gave me two hospice companies that serve our area – Lying Thieving Hospice & Happy Hospice.  The yellow pages gave me five companies.

* If you have a Medicare supplement, or other private insurance, you REALLY want to find an open access hospice company.  DO NOT settle for anything else.  You have insurance, you should be able to use it.

* Check, double check, and triple check EVERYTHING.  These companies will do or say anything to get your business.  Do not simply trust the referral from your doctors office.  There are lots of options – find the best one for you and your loved ones.

* Make sure that the hospice company that you select provides an emergency kit of some sort.  This emergency kit usually contains medications to ease breathing and manage pain.  They often include some form of morphine.  This kit could be a big time blessing in the case of emergency pain.  Do you really want to wait half an hour for the nurse to arrive, or do you want to (at their direction) get your loved one some relief NOW?  Believe it or not, not every hospice supplies such a kit.  Make sure that yours does, and make sure that you know what is in it.

* During the sales call (or even before if possible) provide the hospice company with a complete list of medications.  Make sure that they understand and verify YOUR desires with regards to current medications.  YOU must dictate to them, do not let them dictate to you!

* There are lots of good websites that give suggestions about choosing a hospice provider.  None of them that I’ve found mention “open access.”  But they do have lots of good ideas.  Read them all!  This is a very important decision.  Make it carefully.

As usual, the names of the health care providers & companies have been changed mostly for my amusement.  If you want to know any of their real names, e-mail me privately.

Prop It Up

Lying, Thieving, & Nursing

This is a true story, albeit one that is nearly a year old. I share it here, not so much on it’s own merit but so that I can link to it as a background item for a future post. The names of the medical providers have been changed mostly for my amusement.

For those who don’t know, I am the caregiver for my father. He is in the late stages of prostate cancer, and the middle stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I moved in with him in December of 2005 to help him enjoy his life to the fullest in whatever time remains.

About a year ago, I had reached the end of my rope. Dad had progressed to the point where he could no longer be left alone at all. So I was “on duty” 24 x 7 x 365. And it had gotten to be too much for me.

Dad has a wonderful primary care physician, we’ll call him Dr. Primary. Dr. Primary has done a fantastic job with Dad, working to make life as good for Dad as possible. Dr. Primary is amazing, but he works out of a practice operated by Dr. Asshat. From the name I’ve chosen to use for him, you can imagine what I think of Dr. Asshat.

In an apparent effort to offset the awesomeness of Dr. Primary, Dr. Asshat has chosen to staff the office largely with a group of the most incompetent, unpleasant, uncaring, unprofessional women I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. I refer to them collectively as the Useless Cs – since they simply aren’t worth the effort required to name them individually. There are some exceptions, particularly Dr. Asshat’s Scheduler, Miss Useful.

When I reached the end of my rope, I called the office and asked to speak with Miss Useful. I had to go through three of the Useless Cs before I could speak to Miss Useful, so it was less onerous than usual. I explained my predicament to Miss Useful. She said that she knew exactly what we needed – some in-home care from LTN Co. She offered to send somebody from LTN Co. to our home to make arrangements to help me care for Dad.

a wonderful caring health care professional

The Wonderful Nurse Ratched

At 30 minutes past the appointed hour, a woman that I’ll refer to as Nurse Ratched arrived. Now I must apologize to the the more famous fictional Nurse Ratched, who by comparison is a wonderful, warm, caring, health care professional.

I explained the situation to Nurse Ratched.  She explained that she didn’t think that they could do a whole lot for us.  She also explained that whatever they could do for us, we would have to arrange for the dogs to be outside the entire time, as none of their staff would put up with dogs.  I explained that since I was looking for some way to get 3 or 4 hours away from caring for Dad at a time, that putting the dogs outside (especially in the midst of a Michigan winter) was not an option.  I was ready to dismiss Nurse Ratched and LTN Co. at that point.  But Nurse Ratched insisted that since she was there she would have to physically examine Dad for her report.  So we agreed that she could examine Dad, but of course before she could do that, she needed to see Dad’s insurance cards.

Now Dad had put in a long career as a teacher and one of the benefits of a career teaching in the State of Michigan is an exceptionally comprehensive medical plan – even in retirement.  She took one look at his insurance cards and her eyes lit up!  “Oh, we can ‘skill him up,’ we can do PT, OT, we’ll get him a bath aide, we’ll have the social worker stop by,…” she exclaimed as she ticked off every single item on her checklist of services that they could provide.  Of course the one thing that she didn’t mention was some respite for me!

But she was on a roll now!  She actually threw out the calendar page that I had printed out for her showing all of Dad’s appointments, my appointments, etc.  She started making out her own calendar for us, showing what days that Dad would be receiving physical therapy, occupational therapy, visits from the social worker, bath days, and of course “skilled nursing” visits.

Now at this point Dad did not need “skilled nursing.”  And he still doesn’t need it today.  He has some balance issues, so he needs help pulling his pants up; he uses a walker to get around so he needs help getting a glass of water to put by his chair; and his medications & chemotherapy were causing violent bouts of diarrhea – which at a minimum caused him to need help pulling his pants back up.  None of which requires “skilled nursing.”

wads of cash

This is what LTN Co. is all about!

But Nurse Ratched was not interested in what Dad needed.  She was solely interested in maximizing what LTN Co. could bill Dad’s insurance.  So the parade began.

PT came in to evaluate him, OT came in to evaluate him, the “skilled nurse” (Nurse Ratched herself) came in.  All of which tired Dad out and provided no benefit to either of us.

The saddest and most comical of them all was Shower Girl.  On her first visit she laid out for me the list of things that I needed to have ready for her when she arrived to give Dad a shower.  Towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, etc, etc.  I also had to have Dad undressed and ready for the shower when she arrived.

Now we have a walk in shower for Dad and he is perfectly capable of showering himself.  Because of his balance issues he likes to have somebody around while he takes a shower, just in case he should slip in the shower.  I highly doubted that 90 lbs. of Shower Girl would help, but at this point we were clueless and just went along with the program.

When Shower Girl returned several days later for Dad’s first shower, I had everything ready as specified.  I had Dad undressed and sitting just outside the bathroom covered in a blanket to keep him warm.  When she finally arrived 45 minutes after the scheduled time, she proceeded to bitch me out about not having everything laid out for her in the bathroom.  I let her bitch and then told her that when she was done, I would appreciate it if she would walk the four steps from the bathroom and drop the towels and washcloths in the open washing machine.  She actually said to me “We’ll see if I have time for that!”  Which of course she didn’t.

Before Dad’s insurance began paying for the assistance of Shower Girl, it took me half an hour to get Dad undressed, into the shower, cleaned up, out of the shower, dried off, dressed, and the towels & washcloths into the washing machine – at Dad’s convience.  With the benefit of Shower Girl, I still spent 15 minutes getting Dad ready, 45 minutes waiting around for her to arrive, and another 15 minutes cleaning up after her.  What a deal!

The first big club over my head clue came one Tuesday morning. On Tuesday mornings, Miss Tidy comes in to do laundry, dishes, and some light housekeeping. Dad found her through the local Council On Aging.  Miss Tidy came in for about 3 hours each Tuesday morning and accomplished these tasks in a cheerful manner and Dad always enjoyed her coming.  On this particular Tuesday Nurse Ratched also arrived to “skill ‘im up.”  I decided that while Nurse Ratched was there to provide skilled nursing care, and Miss Tidy was there to show Nurse Ratched where things were located – I could get away for a quick errand.  I was gone for a grand total of 15 minutes.  When I returned home, Nurse Ratched was standing alone in the living room, on her cell phone, bitching at somebody because “he had an accident and blew my whole schedule.  I’ll have to reschedule his ‘skill’ because I can’t just stand around wasting time on him.”  Meanwhile Miss Tidy was in the bathroom helping Dad get cleaned up after his accident.  This is NOT Miss Tidy’s job.  It IS Nurse Ratched’s job.  Miss Tidy earns $10 per hour.  Dad’s insurance was being billed $55 per hour for Nurse Ratched’s “skill.”  I’ll bet that Nurse Ratched makes more than Miss Tidy’s $10 per hour out of the deal.  Yet Miss Tidy is actually HELPING Dad, while Nurse Ratched is bitching about her time being wasted.  I think I just bought a vowel.

The only useful service provided by LTN Co. was the social worker Davey.  Davey actually took the time to speak with Dad.  I explained to Davey that we really didn’t want all of this nonsensical “care” tiring Dad out and adding no benefit – all we were really looking for was somebody to provide some basic assistance so that I could get out of the house for a bit.  Davey told us that LTN Co. could provide that service at a cost of $25 per hour and that they would not bill Dad’s insurance for it.  Instead, Davey suggested that we should call the local Council On Aging.  There we could get the same “aid” to come in for $10/hour – and the aid would keep all of the $10.  If we went through LTN Co. the aid would get $9/hour while LTN Co. pocketed $16.

So now I felt like a real chump.  I had made Dad’s life miserable for nothing.  We called the Council on Aging and made arrangements for an aid – who would actually do what we wanted & needed at a bargain rate.  I made the call to Nurse Ratched and let her know that we were stopping EVERYTHING with LTN Co. immediately.  She started to go down the list with me.  The conversation went like this:

Nurse Ratched: PT?

Me: Cancel it!

Nurse Ratched: I’m sorry we can’t, Doctor ordered it.  OT?

Me: Cancel it!

Nurse Ratched: I’m sorry we can’t, Doctor ordered it.  Shower Girl?

and so on through every service on her list.  She finished the conversation by telling me that she would “have to confer with Doctor.”

The next time somebody from LTN Co. showed up at the door, I told them to go away and shut the door.  Within minutes I received a phone call from Dr. Asshat.  He was very upset that we were “non-compliant” with the therapies that he ordered.  Hold On – THE THERAPIES THAT HE ORDERED?!?!?!  WTF?

As Dr. Asshat had never actually seen or spoken to either Dad or I, I asked him on what basis he ordered anything?  And had he ever actually dealt with the slimy disgusting creatures at LTN Co?  He explained to me that he had ordered all of this crap in his role as the Medical Director of LTN Co. based on Nurse Ratched’s “work up.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  Dr. Asshat’s clinic recommended LTN Co.  LTN Co. couldn’t “do anything for us” until after they found out that Dad had Cadillac insurance.  Then magically Dr. Asshat “ordered” a bunch of therapies and skilled nursing that Dad neither wanted or needed – and that actually reduced his quality of life!  And then Dr. Asshat had the audacity to bitch me out for being “non-compliant!”

At least we got an education about how the medical racket works.  This education would become very important later when Dr. Primary recommended that it was time for Dad to enroll in Hospice – which he ordered from LTH Co. (where Dr. Asshat is also the Medical Director).  But that’s a post for another day.

Oh, and LTN Co?  Where did I come up with that name for the Lying Thieving Nursing Company?  Gee – I don’t know.

Prop It Up

Christmas Update

I received my Christmas present from Dad today!  It is awesome.  He (with help from my amazing sister-in-law Karla) had a photographer come to the house and take his portrait.  At the last instant, our current S.O.S. foster dog Shemp stuck his head in Dad’s lap.  The way it lit up Dad’s face really captures the essence of Dad.

This may be the best Christmas gift ever.  Take a look…

Mel and Shemp

My Christmas Present

A New Year’s Confession

O.K. maybe this should be titled “A New Year’s Admission.”  Because there really isn’t anything to confess here, just an admission that I need to make to myself.

Dad as O.D. in the Army circa 1954

Dad as O.D. in the Army circa 1954

I have become a Caregiver with a capital “C.”  Being a Caregiver has come to define me.  It is more than what I do with my days, it has become who I am.  It consumes my thoughts, my time, and my energy.  It has impacted every aspect of my life and my relationships with other people.

I’m not 100% sure how it happened, but there can be no doubt that it has happened.  Three years ago, after making some bad business and life decisions, Dad and I decided that it made the most sense for me to move in with him.  It would allow me to save some money while I got my life back together and I could give him some help around the house.

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