Thursday, December 31, 2009
Today, I'm sorting through all the reviews of the last year 2009 and the last decade the zeros or whatever it's being called. There were some really crummy events that occurred in both time spans. A lot of bad things happened around the world and in our nation. There were plenty of positive stories, but the dark and dangerous stories tend to captivate our attention long-term.
I never have figured that one out. We all claim to want positive news, but its the really crappy news that sticks in our head. "First baby of the new year" is most often overlooked for the "Carjacking on Main Street" headline.
The AP's annual poll came up with several stories for 2009 I can agree with No. 1 -- The economy. Despite trillions of tax dollars, we still hemorrhaged jobs, banks failed and stocks faltered. It seems like the economy is working to right itself (if we haven't shored it up with more bubbles). I'll keep my fingers crossed.
No. 2 is Obama's inauguration. I agree that was a great day, but I think the struggles after that historic day might make for a better top story. I've lost count of all the tasks on his to do list such as save the economy, create jobs, regulate the banking industry, save the auto industry, patch up the health care system, fight terrorists and oh yeah, work out two wars. It makes me get out of breathe just typing all of that up. And, it's not a complete list. There is so much to do.
No. 3 is health care reform. I'm hoping that one works out in 2010. We need it.
After the No. 3 item, I get a little fuzzy with the AP's list. It continues with the auto industry, swine flu, Afghanistan, Michael Jackson's death, Fort Hood Rampage, Edward Kennedy's death and Miracle on the Hudson.
It's all a personal preference, but I think the Fort Hood Rampage and the Miracle on the Hudson should be a lot higher.
What is your top story from 2009 or fromt he decade?
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.
I haven't read the proposed bills. From the sounds of it, most congressmen haven't done this either. So, I can't tell whether I am in good or bad company on this issue.
I know many people hate the idea of healthcare reform. The debate on the issue has really fallen into a dark pit (to put it nicely). The townhalls on the issue turned into violent shouting matches. My friend Rick sent me a nice commentary piece on the reform topic, which talked about how many of the arguments against past government improvements were being recycled in the 2009 debate.
When my husband Andy tore out the old metal cabinets in our 1940s era kitchen, he discovered a newspaper from 1958. It was apparently the year of the last remodel. The newspaper had an article about health care reform of that day. There was talk about Medicare and the Veterans Administration system. The article shared concerns by physicians and politicians that the proposed changes would created a socialized medical system and would be bad for America. I would share more details, but the newspaper yellowed from decades fell apart.
I'm not sure how the bill will impact us in 2010, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I'm going to keep an open mind about it and hope others will too. I won't be afraid to speak out about problems I have with it, but I also want to give it a chance.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The report found that the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman. The juggling act occurs every day as these woman face arriving to work late or having to take time off to be a caregiver. "For a fifth of caregivers, the demands were so intense they had to take a leave of absence from work," according to Cynthia Ramnarace's report on the study.
Ramnarace's report on the study highlights some of the statistics and realities of today's caregiver. Barbara McVicker, who is author of Stuck in the Middle and is @barbaramcvicker on Twitter, is also quoted in the report.
With the increasing age of Americans, caregiving issues will only become more of a hot button topic with employees, employers and families. Some people choose to leave the workforce altogether — creating a void in some fields. Others just keep on juggling their responsibilities with the help of family, paid caregivers and health care facilities.
Caregiving is both demanding and rewarding. Whether you are one now or may be on in the future, this new study offers a good starting point for a family conversation. What will you do when a loved one needs a caregiver?
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The Orlando Sentinel's story doesn't hold any punches. Care will be rationed. It will be up to hospitals -- not family members -- to decide who gets treatment and who does not.
I almost missed this story. It never seemed to make the top headline. It wasn't a "most e-mailed" favorite. I had to Google it three different ways to find the original newspaper report. This story isn't really on the radar. I'm surprised, because the health care reform debate still rages.
I am still wondering why. This is pretty dire stuff.
The document, drawn up by a team from across Florida that included Orange
County Health Director Dr. Kevin Sherin, addresses one of the most delicate
issues in medicine: what to do if the number of severely ill people needing
ventilators and other treatment dramatically exceeds what is available.
The goal, the plan says, is to focus care on patients whose lives could be saved and who would be most likely to function better if they were given whatever resources
were available. It says those decisions are not to be made based on patients'
perceived social worth or social role, but the plan calls for different rules
for some populations.
The fact that a state health board is considering such measures, shows how serious the swine flu is. It also points to a weakness in our system -- we may not have enough medical equipment to help those in need.
While I don't hear a lot of chatter on the report right now, I'm sure people will be commenting later. I immediately thought about my late husband Jimmy. His breathing was compromised and he had to use a tracheotomy to help him breathe. If I read the news article right, he probably would have been on the list to be refused treatment. Thankfully, we never were put in that situation.
During this swine flu season, I worry about the families who may face a situation like this "plan" outlined in Florida. I pray it won't come to this rationing of care, but without the proper equipment -- it sounds like it could be a reality.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Now, President Obama said it's good for the economy. He made the statements in his Saturday radio and Internet address. The Washington Times as a report here.
I'm no economist, so I don't understand all he intricacies of this. I do know that health care coverage often is a key factor in how people make decisions. How many people say, "I work for the insurance." How many more people say, "I provide the insurance coverage for our family."
People often take jobs based solely on the insurance coverage. People often avoid going to the doctor, because they know one medical visit without coverage can doom them with a life of pre-existing conditions noted on health insurance applications.
As unemployment skyrockets, people are looking at ways to go into business for themselves. A huge roadblock is health insurance.
I've had to get a personal policy before. You have to fill out tons of paperwork and show the paper trail of coverage. (Note: When you leave a job, those certificates of coverage are very important). The cost isn't the best. The coverage is adequate. My personal experience is fairly benign, because I'm in good health. A person with on-going medical conditions are in a pickle.
The president says that health care reform could stimulate the economy, because people would be able to begin small business ventures. These businesses would create jobs and pay salaries and taxes. (Well, the recent report that a large percentage of Americans don't pay taxes is a separate story).
I understand the naysayers clearly. We have a huge unemployment rate. Millions of real people are out of work and can't seem to find work. How will health care reform help the economy?
I say it's a non-traditional route, needs to be done anyway and why not give it a try.
I know probably not the most sound reasoning, but you know I'm tired of hearing terrible stories. You know the ones where someone has insurance and they can't get service, because the company figures out a way to not pay for the service or change the copay. When people express outrage (or the media gets involved), suddenly the patient's treatment is covered or at minimum affordable. It all sounds fishy - like that scary R-word politicians are throwing around - rationing.
I want to see reform in my lifetime. There are millions of people who need access to medical care. So, for just a brief spell, I will dream of a world where health care reform equals a good economy.
After a day and a half (there were a few interruptions like work and sleep), I finished the book. Starbuck shared her story of adoption, relationship, faith and her unwavering smile. The smile was sort of the pasted on kind. She tried to give the appearance that everything was OK. She really did a marvelous job of holding things together by her own account. The reality is that she had a lot of issues about her relationships with her growing number of parents - those who chose her and those who didn't.
Starbuck's search for faith and "a father who does not fail" challenged me as a reader, because throughout her search she is surrounded by a Christian community - college, friends, churches, seminary and faith-based programs.
To be immersed in faith (and church) and to still have these issues, rattled me. Her honesty about how she struggled and dealt with the issues, settled me.
(Initially, I thought the information about my purchase of the book seemed silly here. After doing a search of today's news about the new FTC rules about reviews (it's up to you whether you deem this one or not) -- it's good to point out that I bought the book from my personal piggy bank.)
Now, off to something completely different ... The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (Dear FTC - I borrowed this one from a friend).
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
"Every time this case is brought to the attention of the Court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case."
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I clicked The New York Times link and immediately writer Timothy Egan had me hooked. He found a perfect story to share how we die in this current system. An 88-year-old woman, the mother of a governor and physician, had to make a choice. Die at the hospital or die at home?
She chose her home and her family over the hospital complex. Medicare didn't help with this choice. Her son noted that while Medicare would pay for the tests and treatments in the hospital it wouldn't pay for the $18 an hour non-hospice worker to help his mother during her last four months of life.
Egan's piece also takes an interesting look at an issue that people don't want to talk about. He wrote: "More sensible voices have since joined the debate, asking how we reform a system that lavishes most of its benefits on a cure for the 'disease' of aging."
Another nugget from Egan's piece: About $67 billion — nearly a third of the money spent by Medicare — goes to patients in the last two years of life. The need to spend less money at the end of life “is the elephant in the room,” Evan Thomas wrote in “The Case for Killing Granny,” the cover story in last week’s Newsweek. “Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it.”
This summer, the debate became supercharged with rhetoric as the threat of "death panels" was tossed around like a tennis ball. From my personal experience as a caregiver, I have read many stories about government, hospital and insurance intervention on choices that should be left up to the individual. Those stories were from more than four years ago. So, this issue isn't new.
I'm all about living, but we as a nation really need to take a look at how we die.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
- Ask a friend to stay with your spouse or parent, so you can take a nap or recharge.
- Get a sibling to come over 30 minutes early, so you can take a break.
- Steal a few moments for yourself to do something like sit on the porch or read a chapter of a book.
- Remember most people really mean it when they offer to help. Maybe you don't need his or her help right now, but ask them later when you do need it.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Trying to help out, I thought about creating a site for Mom on the www.caringbridge.com Web site. I had heard about it. I found people with Locked-in Syndrome on the site. It's a great way to create a free site to allow friends and well wishers to check in on your progress during and after a surgery.
I was excited about the site until I noticed that on the right-hand side of the screen is a place to donate to Caring Bridge. I have never noticed this while looking for updates for other people, but it stopped me in my tracks while creating my mom's site.
My problem with it? Well, I feared people would think that my family is seeking donations for my mom. I worried (a trait directly passed down from my mother) that people might mistakenly make a donation to Caring Bridge thinking it was for my mother. I understand why Caring Bridge seeks donations. It is a fabulous site.
I created the site and passed it along to my Mom and Dad for their perusal. I added a note about the donation function. They also did not like this.
I couldn't figure out how to remove the donation material, so I deactivated the site for my mom.
I wanted to use the Caring Bridge site, because it seemed like an easy way to keep everyone updated. Now, we'll regroup using phones, e-mail and Facebook to update friends and family about Mom's progress. We fortunately have a variety of ways to keep in touch with people. We can do all of this from our iPhones, too.
I will continue to use the Caring Bridge to keep up with people. I think it's a wonderful site. It just wasn't right for my family this time.
How do you stay in touch with people after a surgery or illness? Do you know of any sites I should check out?
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wait. I thought the Internet was supposed to make it easier to find information. It does, but you have to know some of the tools to use. Whether you love or hate Google, shouldn't factor into the equation. You need to figure out how to use Google to your advantage.
The classic Google search on http://www.google.com/ is helpful. Most days you can get the information you need with a few clicks from your keyboard. Take the search a step further with a Google alert. Go to Google's homepage and sign up for an alert. The alerts are listed under the "more" section under the "even more" section.
You don't need a Google GMail account to set up an alert. Google will kindly send you an alert to any e-mail address. You set the alert up to search whatever phrase or words you need searched. For example, I set up a search for locked-in syndrome. On a daily basis, I get a digest of stories published on the Internet through blogs, newspapers and medical research groups about locked-in syndrome.
I'll warn you the search keys in on the words, not the context. I may be looking for stories about people who are locked-in their bodies -- mute and paralyzed -- while the search engine is looking for the words "locked-in." I've been pleased with how the alerts work for me in finding people, research and new innovations to help those with locked-in syndrome.
Caregivers have enough work to do, so I think it's a good idea to let Google alerts handle some of the heavy lifting. Sign up for an alert and see how it works for you.
How will you or how do you use Google Alerts?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My mother is having multiple back surgeries in August. Within moments of finding out the date, I checked airline tickets. I waffled in my head, "Should I go or should I not?"
I consulted with my twin sister Tracy. The angst revolved mostly around the fact that I know I can't do anything if I go. I'll be waiting in the waiting room with everyone else. Looking at my schedule, there was a window of opportunity to go. Ticket prices weren't outrageous. My husband was supportive. He even offered to get out of a business trip. It was my choice.
While my sister and sister-in-law decided I should consider coming later "when the work begins," I decided I needed to go. My mom has always been a pessimist. She doesn't talk about her surgery and situation in a hopeful way. It's not a guilt trip either.
Some people are wired to be "glass half empty" folks. My mom is one of them. While being the distant child at 1,450-miles away, I am confident that the procedure is a good choice for my mother. Her physician believes she is a good candidate. My mother's health has deteriorated so much that she really has no other viable options left. She tried everything to prevent surgery. In the end, the alternatives didn't work.
To be honest, in my own care giving experience was that I didn't need people to help in those early hours and days. I needed help later. The same is true for my mom, who will return home following her surgery with the help of my father and any the minimum resources available through Medicare. My sister and brother each have spouses, children and work schedules to manage.
I feel helpless being so far away and not being able to help when they need it. They are building a wheelchair ramp at my parents' home this weekend. While my dad doesn't seem to think it will be that big of a deal following the surgery, I have my doubts. Being a full-time caregiver is a difficult job. I know my sister and sister-in-law will be there on the front lines to help.
So, what do I do? For now, I booked an airline ticket with a cancellation insurance policy - in case the hospital or doctor has to change the date. Then, I'll be there with my family for a week. We'll see what happens and what I need to do after that.
After about 10 days of the heat wave, I vowed to quit talking about the weather. I discovered not talking about the weather is very similar to how one loses weight. It requires a lifestyle change. It's not a fad. It takes effort to change the way to live and breathe the weather.
I have tried several different strategies to ignore the weather:
1. Don't focus on the numbers. With the Texas winds, walking outside feels like an opening the oven door anyway. Does it really matter if it is 98 or 105?
2. Smile Politely. Someone else may make small talk about the weather, but I don't have to talk about it. I can use a strategy I learned years ago when taking customer complaints. Just listen. Don't talk.
3. Change the subject. After someone begins talking about the weather, I'll redirect the conversation to something completely different. "Did you see those flowers in bloom?" I'll warn you discussions about plants may open up the "I've got allergies" can of worms. Of course, the great thing is that you are not talking about the weather.
While I haven't been 100 percent successful, I have discovered new conversations growing from my aversion to weather-related topics. My success rate has been more like 70 percent. The problem is that I don't mind striking up a conversation with someone and one of my worn out jokes involves the heat.
Someone inevitably asks me is this my first summer in Del Rio. It is not, but it is the hottest in my two-summer existence in Texas. "What do you think about the heat?"
"It's great," I say. "To, me Hell would be a cold place."
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Every day Americans are playing Russian roulette with their health and financial well being, because they are uninsured or underinsured. The New York Times’ Reed Abelson wrote a story that sadly illustrates this point.
A couple had hospital care coverage but it wasn’t enough to cover all the procedures and fees associated with the husband’s care. The fine print detailed how much of the care received in the hospital was not covered. Both the insured and the hospital say they checked on the services provided, but at the end of the day the insurance provider did not cover most services.
How many of you read your insurance policies? I’ve been guilty of not doing this.
When you are healthy, the finer detail of whether or not the policy covers nursing home coverage easily escapes you. It wasn’t until Jimmy had his stroke at age 33 that those details were important. I didn’t recognize the subtle differences between skilled nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The number of days the policy would pay for didn’t register with me, until we were counting days.
We were fortunate. While we didn’t have long-term care coverage, we were able to utilize all the benefits allowed in our insurance plan. The company I worked for was supportive of the treatment, which made it 110 percent easier.
Jimmy could have been eligible for a Medicaid-funded nursing home, but none would accept him. Most demurred saying they didn’t accept patients with a tracheotomy tube. Others told us Jimmy’s care would be more expensive than the Medicaid reimbursement. No nursing home really wanted a young patient, who could potentially drain its bottom line for years.
Our only option was for Jimmy to go to a state nursing home for combat veterans. They assured us they were there to serve veterans like Jimmy, who was active duty in the Gulf War. The care was shaky I expected it to be fatal for Jimmy, but he survived. Especially after the nursing home hired private nurses and CNAs to care for Jimmy.
The number of near-death experiences that unfolded at the veterans’ home is another story. His time there allowed us to get our financial house in order, in hopes that Jimmy could stay at a Medicaid funded nursing home.
I saved my credit, because I needed it. For Jimmy, we lost all concern about his credit score. It was a number that held no value as compared to blood oxygen level, temperature and body weight.
The couple in the New York Times’ piece ended up filing bankruptcy, because their unpaid medical bills approached $200,000. They are a perfect example of folks, who don’t have enough insurance coverage. They thought their insurance coverage covered all the details. It didn’t.
Now it’s up to lawmakers to create the fine print of the “new and improved” health care system. Families with and without health care are waiting to read the details.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Several people I knew were certain the world would explode, if Barack Obama were elected. I kept reassuring them it would not. I laughed to myself as I looked around the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico on November 5, 2008. Everything was normal. Andy and I sat there among college-aged students and families. The world had not been shaken.
It’s different in other parts of the world. In Iran, they did what we did. They went to vote, but the results are in question. Forget the “hanging chads” in Florida. Little pieces of paper can’t compare to what the people of Iran are facing.
Some Iranians feel like the election was rigged. Government leaders deny it, but the level of mistrust is high. The idea that “every vote counts” doesn’t hold the same meaning there as it does here in the United States.
Americans have always believed in protests (and revolutions), it’s in our DNA. We rarely anticipate the government taking action to shed the blood of protesters. It is possible for peaceful protests to become violent at the hands of government police. Ask the Civil Rights protesters?
In Iran, peaceful protests are taking place in defiance of government leaders. They are now deemed “illegal.” One Web site reports Iranian police and militia are clashing with “terrorist groups."
The stories from Iran are heartbreaking and downright scary. And, it’s difficult to tell the truthful stories from the fake ones. The Iranian government took steps to stop the flow of information, but it continues to trickle out through Internet sites, cell phones and Twitter.
The more I read, the more I wonder if I would have the courage to do what the protesters are doing right now. The protesters are taking to the streets not knowing whether they will return home or not.
I’ve had the courage to step up to the plate in the past. I’ve done it as a journalist and as an advocate for a family member, but I’ve also done it in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The movie was great, until it happened. The screen went blank and the emergency lights flooded white light throughout the once darkened theater. On a normal day, it’s a bad thing when a room goes dark. In a movie theater, it’s a bad thing when the lights come on abruptly.