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.