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Archive for November, 2015

Much done on Black Friday

November 28th, 2015 at 07:34 am

Here's what I did yesterday (a lot!)

1. Filled up the gas tank.

2. Went to WalMart to pick up some catfood and Special Kitty cat litter, reportedly "99% dust-free.) I've come to the conclusion that Waldo has asthma, not allergies, based on watching a You Tube video of same. He had a very bad attack a week ago and I want to try to eliminate the dust clouds I've noticed from the BJs boxes of cat litter. It's cheap, but very dusty, and I don't like breathing it in either.

I was expecting an absolute ZOO at around 10 am but strangely, it wasn't crowded at all. The place that WAS packed was JoAnn Fabrics.

3. Went to Lowes to see if there was anything I wanted to buy with my $100 gift card earned as part of my Citi Thank You Premier cc reward. I wound up buying 2 poinsettias (Black Friday special of $1 each)..1 for my office and 1 for mom... and some LED light bulbs and caulk.

4. JoAnn Fabrics: Bought 3 shadow box frames to frame some matted pieces of my mother's art that I like very much. As a weaver, she wove her share of baskets, but these are framed and mostly flat renditions of baskets with weaving, feathers and braiding..which I would post here if only the photo feature here worked.

5. Deposited a small check at bank from a class action settlement.

6. I was able to get the medium sized Priority Mail shipping tubes at Post Office that I needed to ship some weaving accessories to buyers on Facebook destash site.

7. Grocery shopping at Big Y.

8. Washed my car.

9. Vacuumed my car....glad to be able to do this as it could be the last time until spring.

10. Wearing a dust mask, I poured a galvanized garbage can full of old, dusty cracked corn birdseed into 2 garbage bags, destined for the landfill. I'd let this sit at least a year and forgot about it; i noticed it was sort of clumpy...maybe moldy? and little maggot worms in there. I suppose the birds would love the worms but not sure if safe to eat, so I'm throwing it out.

11. Swept up yet more leaves that tend to collect at head of driveway as it's surrounded by stone walls on 2 sides and the side of my garage on the 3rd side. Filled the wheelbarrow with them.

Last night I watched the 1st episode of a History channel show called Alone, another survival type reality show where 10 men get dropped off, separately, in remote parts of Vancouver Island. The 1st of the 10 dropped out of the contest after spending a night in his tent and 2 bears came huffing along in the darkness. He had no weapons other than his ax and you could see he nearly wet his pants, which I would do as well. He said that getting "stalked" wasn't worth it and he just wanted to be home with his wife and daughter, forget the half million price. I most wholeheartedly agree. I could barely stand to watch it, it was so nervewracking.

Vet bill killed my November spending

November 27th, 2015 at 06:38 am

I tallied up my November income and expenses a few days early. Unfortunately, the vet bills for the extraction of Waldo's 6 teeth, plus the bloodwork for his thyroid, came to $800. So instead of having a little something left over at month's end, expenses exceeded income by $152. It was only the 2nd time this year my total monthly expenses exceeded $3,000.

So year to date (not counting my auto 401k deductions), I've saved just $8,505 in after tax savings. That means I have just one month left this year to save $2,495, the amount I need to save if I'm to hit my target of saving $11,000 in after tax savings in 2015 (see sidebar at left).

Quite frankly, I don't think I'll be able to save that, given that it's holiday time and that means more spending on me and others. I have to watch the spending on myself as I find myself often doing that to make myself feel better vis a vis my mother.

I did earn about $209 this month from the continued sale of my mother's yarns and weaving accessories, $58 in credit card rewards and $69 in freelance editing but that wasn't enough to put me in positive territory. Also of note is that it cost me just $199 to get a half tank of oil, SOO much lower than usual. Without the drop in oil prices I'd be even more in the hole.

A nicely timed spike in the stock market would be much appreciated right now.

Productive, Art-Filled Today; Now I can Relax

November 21st, 2015 at 12:35 pm

My weekends are as busy as the weekdays!

I headed out the door with my agenda for the day:

1. I returned my mother's room key to Maplewoods. As mentioned, I FINALLY found the long missing key in the bottom of an opened box of pantiliners, which I could have easily thrown away! This is a hallmark of dementia...putting things away in places they don't belong. I have also found snacks I've brought for my mom wrapped up inside a sock. But anyway, I'm so glad not to have to pay the $250 "lost key" fee.

2. Returned some oatmeal (wrong kind) I'd ordered online to Walmart. So much for saving time.

3. Headed up to art gallery #1 about a half hour from here, on the west side of the lake, where my mother has shown for years. I planned to take back about 8 pieces my mother had there before she got ill because I didn't know what pieces were there and I was worried I'd lose track of them; plus, they've been there forever and they haven't sold.

Once I was there, and she gave me a big hug hello, I decided to take just one piece I liked a lot; the rest I'll keep there through the holiday shopping season and then take them back. I also dropped off a matted piece of my mom's so the proprietor could frame it for me. It's not cheap...costing me $75...but it's a fairly large piece and an unusual, rectangular size that is not standard. This woman's been so nice to me I wanted to give her some business. I also gave her a box of about 20 glass panes that I can't do anything with and perhaps she can use in her business. I'll be excited to get the framed piece back in a few weeks and may bring another one to frame, because 1) you can't sell matted, unframed pieces, generally speaking and 2) the longer these things sit on the floor, the more likely they'll get damaged, and thus unsellable. So while I'm making a good salary and earning money, why not frame the best matted pieces, one by one?

After that I headed to gallery #2, east of the lake, which is more of a combination gift shop newly expanded to include the work of local artists. I brought a box of my mother's small works there, tiny framed pieces we priced at no more than $50 or $60. As I was cleaning and examining what I was going to bring, there were a few I had to set aside because they had little scratches or imperfections. It just underscored by desire to sell these, even with a 40% commission. So I left about a dozen pieces with her. This was my first time meeting the woman who owned the shop, and once again as has happened with SO many women about my age, we started talking about our experiences with aging parents. She gave me a hug as I was leaving. I love that complete strangers can come to understand and care about another in just the course of a very brief conversation.

I stopped in at Whole Foods because I've had a real yearning for quality organic apples and I figured they've have a better selection.

Then I stopped at Caraluzzi's and purchased my groceries with my Amex card, spending about $23 and I'll get $10 back as a statement credit.

When I got home I was feeling very satisfied to get some things I'd really been wanting to do for a while. I made myself lunch of a tofu-turkey dog and brussels sprouts, turned on HSN and before you knew it i treated myself to an Italian gold coin pendant on HSN. Smile

I took a peek at my 401k balance and am thrilled it now exceeds $33,000 after just 15 months of contributions. It's beginning to feel substantial.

Some of that money was from contributions made in 2014, though, so I haven't met my $34,000 in savings goal (see my profile on the side) with just the 401k. I think I may make it when I include taxable savings, which I'll have to look at when I do my year-end numbers.

Tomorrow I'll visit my mother, make my sweet potato/black bean/cilantro dish, a favorite, take a long walk and that's about it!

The Case of the Missing Key

November 17th, 2015 at 06:16 am

When your loved one has dementia, you really have to laugh at this stuff. Because there's not usually much humor to be found. But this did bring a smile to my heart.

After my mother's hip fracture, when I decided to move my mother out of the tony Maplewood and into Masonicare, which has an attached rehab and skilled nursing facility on site, I reread the many documents I'd signed in a daze upon admission to Maplewood. Among the clauses that caught my eye was the pronouncement that you'd be charged $250 each for any lost room keys.

I returned my key but I could not find my mother's. She always wore it on a little plastic spiral wristlet thing.

I suppose finding it...or not...is inconsequential at this point since all my mother's assets will be sucked up by Masonicare and then the state will pick up most of her expenses.

Still, I worried about where that key was and I did NOT want to pay an outrageous "lost key" fee. I personally packed up everything in my mother's room at Maplewood and could not find it in her dresser drawers, her handbag, the closet, etc.

As I set most of the same stuff back up in her new space at Masonicare assisted living, I hoped to uncover it, but did not. After her 3 days there and the 2 week stint at Masonicare's geriatric psychiatric hospital unit, I packed up her stuff yet again, bringing it from Masonicare assisted living to my home because at that point I knew she had to go into the nursing home.

I haven't made much progress sorting through stuff because I've been swamped with paperwork for her admission to nursing home, healthcare matters, financial matters and of course my f/t job.

Still, I was determined to find the damn key. At one point I found an unusually large key and although it wasn't on Maplewood's trademark wristlet, I thought my mother could have managed to remove it from the wristlet and that this might be it. So I eagerly stopped over at Maplewood with my dad, but no, they told me that wasn't their key.

I inquired at the front desk there whether one of their nurses removed it from my mother's wrist when she was brought to the hospital Labor Day weekend. the front desk sent out an email, got no response, then someone said we don't know, we have to look into it and I never heard from them again. (So typical.)

I basically gave up on ever finding the room key and I figured it would be futile to call the hospital about it.

Lo and behold, I found the key this morning. It was in the bottom of an opened box of Equate pantiliners. If I weren't so frugal, I could have easily tossed that box and never found it. Or, since it was opened, it could have easily fallen out and dropped who knows where.

There is a sad memory associated with those pantiliners. I remember when I first moved my mother to Maplewood, pre-hip fracture, when she was urgently asking me to get her some pantiliners. I didn't even know she used them although the funny thing is, i use them daily and I guess she did too. (Sorry, TMI?) Anyway, these were the pantiliners I'd bought her. I remember a few months later I thought she might be running low so I brought over another box and sadly, she did not seem to know what they were for. That's how quickly you can lose your mind.

Anyway, I've already alerted the business manager over there so i don't get charged any "missing key" fee.

Amex Small Business Offer Has Shrunk & Work-Related Stuff

November 16th, 2015 at 04:33 pm

This year it's spend $10 or more at a small business and get $10 back. I enrolled my Amex Blue Cash Everyday card. My local grocer is considered a small business so that's where I'll go as they have the best produce.

I also enrolled in Amex's offer of "Spend $60 or more at Amazon by 12/31/15 and you'll get $15 back." Easy peasy. I buy stuff at Amazon every month so I can use my $30 gift cards earned from my credit card forums and to avoid paying for shipping, I usually go over that a little. So the Amex offer will make it even more worthwhile.

Tomorrow's my work at home day. I have to get Waldo to the vet to get his teeth pulled. I was supposed to have done that last week, but he was avoiding me after I squirted meds in his mouth twice and brought him to vet once already. But he MUST go.

I have to say my employer, a large bank, is very flexible as to employees' work schedules. Most people work at home to one degree or another, and you don't need any special reason to do so. In my case, my boss was resistant to the idea a while back but relented when I made an impassioned case more recently that I needed time to manage my mother's affairs from home.

Today, I won another concession from my new boss, in that I wanted to be able to take a longer mid-day break on my 2 work at home days so I could see my mother at the nursing home and help ensure she gets some kind of walking exercise, so critical to build strength and avoid further falls. I can't go after 5 due to sundowning syndrom. So I asked to have from 1:30 to 3 pm off those days and then I would work til 6 pm to make up for the extra hour. My new boss agreed, and I haven't even met her yet. She's in one of our Mass. offices and I will likely be driving up there next Monday to meet my new group. If not Monday, then right after Thanksgiving.

I feel a little uncomfortable asking for a "favor" like that when I'm brand new to them, but I have established a record at this bank after 2 years there, and my old boss "raved" about me to the new one, according to the new one.

What I would REALLY like to ask for next is a reprieve from having to travel up there for various quarterly meetings. Its 6 hours of driving and a nearly full work day in a single day, driving home in the dark on unfamiliar roads...it makes for an exhausting day and it usually takes me a day to recover. I'm getting too old for all that. I could use as my excuse that I don't feel comfortable being so inaccessible should something happen with my mother. I don't know if I should do that or not. People have been very sympathetic as many there know what I'm going through. I do still feel like we're in crisis mode from one day to the next; it seems like it's just one fire after another.

I told my "old" boss today (who I still do work for, it's just that she's no longer who I report to) how appreciative I was for the company's flexibility in this regard and I think she in turn appreciated hearing that. I stopped short of saying that if it were any other company, I probably would have quit or scaled back my workweek at this point because I seriously question whether I could have done everything I have done without those 2 work at home days.

I've come to the conclusion that the American healthcare system for caring for the elderly is just plain inadequate and is failing miserably. Nursing homes don't have the money or staffing to be able to provide one on one assistance, and so my mother keeps falling. I'm almost afraid to call tonight to see if anyone got around to assembling the expensive chair I purchased that was delivered last Thursday but was still sitting in 2 boxes in a hallway as of Saturday. I mean, it feels like i must get on everyone's case to get anything done. People just don't feel a particular sense of urgency about my mother's situation. Everything happens on Masonicare time. It would be no different at any other nursing home, I'm sure of it.

The concept of "rehab" is a total joke, and while you might manage to recover from a surgery/injury DESPITE their rehab, if you were in your 30s, 40s or 50s, someone in their 80s has no hope of recovering their former physical or mental abilities with an hour a day of exercise, sitting in a wheelchair or lying in bed the other 23 hours. What a joke.

The food is terrible, and despite written orders from me of no sugary desserts after lunch, after dinner, or sugary fruit drinks, they put a plate of 2 yodels in front on my mother at lunch the other day. Who knows how much more she's getting when I'm not around?

I purchased a book on special diets for Alzheimers patients, written by a doctor who specializes it hat field. The number one thing he recommends? No SUGAR.
The dietitian I plan to give it to for Christmas will no doubt be pissed at me; she seemed a little defensive when she attended a group care meeting for my mother a few months ago.

Thanksgiving will be a quiet affair. They have a turkey lunch there, don't know how special it will be, but I will join my mother for lunch and bring a special 3-nut pie I know she likes for our own private dessert. Well, maybe I'll share the rest with whatever staff is stuck there that day. I'm already planning on giving out small boxes of chocolate truffles to the staff there with notes thanking them for looking after mom at Xmas. If it results in a little more kindness or attention for my mom, it will have served its purpose.

I don't know if my friend Dave would want to go to a restaurant somewhere with me later in the day. He joined me, my sister and mother at a restaurant last year. He has 2 brothers but they both have their own families and I guess he preferred not to see them. So I'll leave that possibility open. I do have the Friday after Thanksgiving off.

As for the rest of the year, I used up nearly all of my 22 or so PTO (Paid Time Off) days on my mother this year, except for 2 days I used to go to Rockport Mass on my own private mini vacation on the sea. I have a half day off after Christmas, but since my boss will be out for 2 entire weeks, I plan to work at home most of the time and since so many people take time off, it will nearly feel like a non-workday except that I can't leave the house.

Today was a pretty good day

November 11th, 2015 at 04:08 pm

I wanted to get the car over to mechanic by 8 a.m. today for an oil change, and so he could look at one tire that keeps losing air pressure when it gets cold. It's a real pain in the butt....I'm rushing around trying to get out of the house and get to work, and then I drive about a mile and the low air pressure light comes on, forcing me to pull over in some parking lot and fool around with my cheap little air compressor so I don't damage any tires. I bought one from AARP and it sucks. There have been times I couldn't pull the hose off the valve stem and I wound up damaging the valve stem which then had to be replaced. You get what you pay for. If I get another air compressor, it will be the type you screw onto the valve stem, NOT the kind where you press down a plastic tab to lock the air compressor hose onto the nozzle.

I've already taken it in twice to a certain tire place last winter, and still I'm having problems with it. I got the oil changed but I'd forgotten this guy doesn't do anything tire-related, so since I got out of there by 8:30 a.m., I rushed over to the tire place to see if I could get it taken care of. There were already 5 people ahead of me and I knew I had a 10 a.m. appointment to do the nursing home paperwork to admit my mother, so the tire issue will have to wait til Saturday morning...early again.

Seems my oil changes will all be around $50 now, instead of the $25 or $30 I've paid for years. Being a newer car (2013), the car takes synthetic oil, which is more expensive. But you can also drive it for 7 or 8,000 miles instead of 3 to 5,000 miles, which I intend to do.

After leaving the tire place, I still had some time before my 10 a.m. appointment left so I made a quick stop at Walmart for catfood.

Then I went to Masonicare and got all the paperwork done in about a half hour. Wasn't thrilled to learn that once my mother goes on Medicaid, not ALL her expenses will be picked up. There may be prescription copays, and if my mother were to go to the hospital for more than 14 days, Medicaid would no longer pay for her room at the nursing home and then I would have to decide if I wanted to private pay to hold the room for her to the tune of $423 a day. If I decided not to, I'd run the risk of there possibly not being a bed open at the nursing home when my mother was finally released. Not something I'd want to risk, but the money would now be coming out of my pocket, since this would all be happening after I spent down my mother's assets. A sobering thought.

K. said this kind of scenario is very rare, and that she'd have to be very sick to stay in hospital for more than 2 weeks and if she was that sick she'd probably go into hospice.

Also, Medicaid allows you to keep $60 a month from Social Security payments in a separate account for miscellaneous expenses. So if I needed to buy her clothes, or if I wanted to pay for things like prescription co-pays out of that money, I could, although I could also just let the money accumulate month to month as long as it didn't rise above $1,600, at which point Medicaid would say my mother is no longer eligible for Medicaid. So you have to make sure the money doesn't pile up too much.

The other thing she warned me about is that if my mother ever has to go see a doctor (her primary care doc will be the staff doctor there, and they do have an in-house dentist and podiatrist and rheumatologist), I would either have to bring her to the outside doc myself or pay exorbitant fees to have a service take her. Not sure why the fees are exorbitant.

After I took care of the paperwork, I brought a small suitcase of winter clothes for my mother to the 2nd floor and some other stuff. I have more to bring but a little at a time. I think I can hang art on the wall by her bed, but it will be more limited than the assisted living place and I'll need to hang it all higher on the wall she wouldn't accidentally hit it.

I am still mulling over interest expressed by the nursing home to hang my mother's work in some places like the lobby. I'd prefer to hang it on the 2nd floor since that's where she is and she'd see it there often...perhaps in the small dining room where she's been eating, although it can get kind of crowded in there. K. had suggested the lobby, which my mother would only see if I was wheeling her around on one of my visits.

I hung out with my mother for 2 hours and walked her down the hall and back, which seemed to tire her out. On the advice of a social worker, I had purchased her a few camisoles from Aero store for about $5 each and I brought one of them in to see if it fit, which it seemed to (a medium) but wondering if it will shrink a lot if it's 95% cotton and 5% spandex. So not sure if I should return the other 2 I bought. The social worker who recommended them (more comfortable than a bra and offers some sense of modesty) said make sure to get extra large, becus this is a teen store and they run small, I guess, though my mother is pretty small.

So I helped her get the cami on and then a different sweater that she'd made and shirt that I'd brought over. I know all of her favorite colors, so I brought over the light blues and turquoises and pale pinks that go well with her white hair. Smile She did seem to enjoy seeing her own clothes.

After that I went home and my dad came over around 12:30 p.m. I brought him to a Verizon store so he could buy more minutes (yeah, I know), then to that warehouse tool shop for something, then to Tractor Supply for a wheel they didn't have but he got birdseed, I dropped off some more of mom's books as donations to the library and then finally around 2 pm we got to Red Lobster where I used a gift card I had for lunch for both of us.

I enjoyed the ordinariness of running errands with my dad, which I haven't done a whole lot of in my life due to my parents' divorce, but more than that it gave us time to just talk about random things, which I always find interesting. I always like to learn a little something new. Today he talked a little bout when he served in the Korean War. A fitting topic since today is Veterans Day. He was a Navy Seaman First Class and he worked with a crew of 7 on a small salvage ship out of Bayonne, NJ, not far from where he lived. He only served 2 of the 4 years he was supposed to serve because my grandmother (his mother) petitioned through the Red Cross or something for an early release because my grandfather had a heart attack and in those days, the treatment for a heart attack was a year's bed rest!! I never knew this happened, but my grandfather spent a year in bed. So my grandmother was forced to take over my grandfather's service station/garage business and I'm sure it must've been a handful. So I guess she said she needed her son home to help with the family business, and they let him go.

Although it was a very tiring day, it did at the same time recharge my batteries.

Tomorrow it's back to work but working from home. Smile Smile Smile

I think I saw a BOBCAT in my yard!

November 8th, 2015 at 01:25 pm

I was just enjoying a pumpkin bread pudding I made when I heard Luther behind run rapidly out of the room. That usually happens when Luther has seen another animal outside.

I went to the window and sure enough, I saw the back of an animal perched on the crest of the small hill my house sits on. It was maybe 20 feet from my front door. It seemed to be surveying the front yard. First I thought it must be a fox but the coloring was all wrong. The foxes here have reddish/tan coats. I did once see a mangy fox with a gray coat, but this animal I was seeing today had thick black and gray hair and tufted ears.

I went to grab my camera and when I returned to the window I saw it running down the lawn out of sight toward a woodsy area along the road.

I think it was a bobcat! Bobcat sightings are not at all unusual in my area, and photos of them pop up regularly in the local papers.

So exciting!

Other weekend news:

Yesterday my friend Dave helped me pack up all my mother's belongings from her assisted living room at Masonicare into his van. It all barely fit. Then we unloaded it. I was looking forward to a relaxing and well deserved lunch with him afterwards, my treat, but I think he was tired and he wanted to head home.

This morning I ran down to Trader Joe's around 8:30 a.m. just so I could grab some frozen julienned root vegetables. I called ahead to make sure they had them. They are a seasonal item and last year I was so disappointed when I had them once but couldn't get them again, so this time I grabbed 6 bags. Smile

I mulched all the leaves on the lawn with my mower and things look fairly tidy, now that most of the leaves are finally off the trees. I also swept leaves and pine needles off my long driveway, filling the wheelbarrow at least 4 times.

I still have a half dozen potted plants on my front stairs, so I put them all in the garage to over winter til next spring. I left the pumpkins out.

I made a double batch of my granola for the coming weeks. I programmed the new remote control for my garage door. Easy peasy. I took a 40-minute walk and stopped to chat with my neighbor, who was walking his dog down the road.

I hung up a few more of my mother's art on the walls to get them off the floor. I did some rearranging in my family room, where, after dragging my sofa out to the sun room with Dave yesterday (I hope to sell it on Facebook for $50 as Make a Home Foundation apparently didn't want it), we moved the twin bed I'd bought for my mother when I thought she'd be living in assisted living place. I put a throw and a bunch of pillows on the bed and it looks like a daybed. It will be really nice when it gets hot next summer and I can sleep downstairs for a change with the breezes from the sunroom coming in.

I have $500 in gift cards burning a hole in my pocket. Aside from about $50 spent at Walmart online today for some new carbon monoxide detectors, oatmeal and hair color, I just haven't had a chance to spend much of it.

Focusing on the positives

November 6th, 2015 at 04:08 pm

With so much crap going on, I was relieved to enjoy a few small victories of late.

Here's the biggie:

I brought Waldo to the vet Tuesday and he discovered an infection in his mouth and some teeth that have to be pulled. He gave him some antibiotics at the office and gave me a syringe to do the rest myself. Uh, yeah. A dropperful of bad-tasting meds in Waldo's mouth? I don't think so. I did manage to give him the meds twice (he's supposed to get them twice a day), but he was so traumatized by it that he began jumping off the bed and hiding under it whenever I walked into to the bedroom. I felt terrible, and I wondered how I'd get him back to the vet for the teeth extraction this Tuesday.

I asked the vet if the meds were something I might put in his food, like I do now with his thyroid medication, and he said no,, it tastes real bad and that he had himself tasted it once. So I dropped the idea then, but after the two terrible episodes giving Waldo his meds, I decided to pick up a can of tuna fish on my way home tonight. I mixed just a half a dropperful of his meds with a liberal amount of tuna juice, and guess what? He lapped it all up, with relish! Success! I got him to lap up the 2nd half of the dropperful with some more tuna juice.

Can't tell you how relieve I am that I don't have to traumatize Waldo anymore!!! Phew. What a relief. I didn't know how much it was stressing me out until he drank that tuna juice.

The next big success, in my book, is that today I was able to order a "scoot" chair for my mother and with their Quick Ship program she should have it by end of next week.

She'll be discharged to Masonicare my town this Monday so she'll just have to go without it for 5 days and hopefully no falls in the meantime.

It cost $1400 but it doesn't matter because the money's coming out of my mother's funds, which in any event will be completely sucked up by the nursing home in the next 10 months. The chair sits very low to the ground and can be inclined quite a bit, making it harder for someone to get up out of the chair from a sitting position. It's not a guarantee she'll never fall again, but it seemed to make a very big difference.

Anyway, this chair is so popular they can't keep it in stock. It's made in Canada. Note to self: Buy their stock. But by going with the vinyl version instead of fabric, they had 2 in stock so I got one of the two. The social worker at Wallingford spoke very highly of it.

The same nurse suggested I look into adjustable height beds, for the same reason, preventing falls, and lo and behold this is one thing Masonicare in my hometown already has, so I don't have to buy one of those.

I was hoping next Wednesday, a paid holiday for me cus it's Veterans Day, would be a day to myself, but I had to schedule doing all the paperwork for the nursing home admission with Kristen there that day. It will just be in the a.m. so hopefully I can relax after that. Relax being a relative term.

The other bit of good news is that the woman at Masonicare assisted living said yes, we can donate my mother's 2nd dresser to them. This will make tomorrow's move so much easier. (We donated the matching other dresser to Maplewood when we moved her out of there. It was my friend Dave's suggestion, and a good one. Those dressers are like 50 years old. They're in great shape and very undated looking becus they have plain maple fronts and no hardware, but I JUST DONT HAVE ROOM FOR THEM. So they're gone. We'll only have to move the twin bed/headboard (I just bought it for mom last May) and I will use bed as a daybed, and a very nice old table my mother used as her dining room table. And the clothes, and the art on the walls.

I NEVER WANT TO MOVE STUFF AGAIN.

I think this time, after the move, Dave and I can actually go out and enjoy some lunch. I do plan on driving out to see my mother in Wallingford later in the day, even though she's coming back here Monday, just becus I haven't seen her since last weekend.

Picking out mom's final resting place

November 5th, 2015 at 10:09 am

First, I am not trying to be morbid, but if you are younger than me you may not have had the need the make these sorts of arrangements. If you think it may trouble you to read this, please stop now.

At some point, especially if you're a woman, you likely will need to plan for someone's death and maybe, like me, you're wondering how these things really work.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know my mother's still with us, but post-surgery with the Alzheimer's, she hasn't been doing so well and I guess her marked mental deterioration since Labor Day spurred me to start making some of these arrangements.

I called the local village cemetery in my hometown. If the photo feature on this site was working, I would happily insert photos so you could see just how beautiful this small cemetery is. It's very close to the center of town yet it's off a quiet dirt road. From the road you look upward to see the rising slope of the land and tombstones dating back to 1711 dotting the landscape.

The oldest stones are closest to the road and as you climb the hill, the dates become later and later. There are some beautiful old cedar trees here and there and an old black wrought iron gate. Some of Newtown's best known residents are buried here and the town historian sometimes does tours here.

I have admired this cemetery many times as I passed by on my walks through town. I picked it for my mom because I thought I might like to visit the gravesite from time to time for comfort, and I could almost walk here from my home.

Picking out and paying for the plot took all of 15 minutes. I spoke to the superintendent first on the phone, and we agreed to meet there today on my lunch break. (I'm working from home today. I've done a lot of things on my lunch break, but this is a first.) He was an old geezer and he met me just over the crest of the hill, further from the road.

I parked my car down by an adjacent park and walked up. My first thought was that this was such an old cemetery, and I remembered my mother's early comments when I brought her to live at Maplewood assisted living that everyone there was "so old." I wondered if she might have the same complaint about being buried in a cemetery with graves dating back to pre-Revolutionary times!

The cemetery superintendent rolled out a map of the gravesites. I chose the first site he showed me. He motioned with his hand that there were other plots I could choose from "over there," but honestly, it was all just one big open field and not much to distinguish it from where we stood, except for one thing.

As we stood there, I noticed the name on an adjacent stone of one of the 20 first-graders killed in the mass shooting here in 2012. The superintendent pointed out that there were, in fact, 4 or 5 of those young children buried right there, pretty much surrounding the grave site I had chosen.

Perhaps it would give me mother pleasure to know she was surrounded by little children, I don't know, but this is the site I chose. I signed the paperwork, got some in return and wrote out the check for $1300 ($900 for the plot which can hold 4 cremated remains, plus $400 to open and close the grave) on the gate of his pickup truck. I plan to have my own ashes buried there as well.

And that was pretty much it. I thought I was going to be all teary-eyed and weepy before, during and/or after, but I really just feel a little sad.

As I walked back down the hill toward the road and my car, there was a lovely view of the pond at the park across the street. It was an unusually warm November day and I could have picked a worse day to do this.

I am relieved to have done this and hope to get the tombstone inscribed and placed next. As I understand, you can get everything on the stone except for the final date, and have that done later.

After I deal with the tombstone, I guess I will call the local funeral home to deal with the cremation, funeral service, minister and urn choice.

Love you, mom.

It's that time of year....

November 4th, 2015 at 04:39 pm

...open enrollment, I mean.

It was easiest to just keep my traditional 80/20 health insurance plan through Cigna. It's just $137 a month for premiums, and another $14 or so for dental. The other choice would been an HSA high deductible plan which philosophically doesn't appeal to me.

I have the opportunity to earn up to $250 in 2016 in gift cards for doing easy wellness things I would do anyway, like get a physical and a mammogram. And new next year, I'll be saving $240 off my monthly premiums for the year just for having gotten a flu shot and a biometric screening.

I also get short-term disability at no charge and I'll continue contributing 25% or so to my Roth 401k. The company has begun matching to the tune of 6% of my paycheck which I think is pretty good.

I really can't complain about this job. The only thing I hate is driving 6 up and back from Boston area each quarter for various meetings. Now I'll have to make that drive alone because I now work with a new team of people.

While on the healthcare front, I received some shocking news today. There was a man probably in his late 50s/early 60s who had done contract work for the bank where I work for probably 6 months or so, and then they let him go when the contract expired. He sat near me. His manager had reason to call him back and that's when he told her he'd just learned he had esophageal cancer and it had spread thru his body. He died a short time later. I was so shocked. We all take our health for granted.

In other news...
The verdict is in. The head of nursing at Masonicare said she thought my mother' s needs would be better met in their skilled nursing area, aka nursing home. I guess they're right. The monthly cost with 2 12-hour shift aides and assisted living rent would have been $22,204 a MONTH. At the nursing home, my costs will be $12,866 a month. So the money will be spent down more slowly, giving me more time to get my Title 19 house in order.

I do plan to try to get Masonicare to pay for a special "scoot" chair they used in their other facility where my mother's been the last 2 weeks. It sits very low to the ground, similar to those chairs you see people use at the beach. It seemed to work well becus it's much harder for someone to get up out of the chair...While my mother fell 3 times in short order upon arriving at this facility, once they put her in the chair, the falls seemed to stop.

Now when I put my mom in their assisted living area, they told me I had a choice, that medicare would pay for either her wheelchair or her walker, but not both. Obviously I let them pay for the wheelchair, which was more expensive than the $120 walker that I paid out of pocket.

Now my mother already had a history of falls at that time, and yet no one suggested to me that I buy a scoot chair instead. If I had known they existed, I would have let medicare pay for the scoot chair instead of the wheelchair becus I believe it is much safer and could keep my mother from fracturing her hip again.

I plan to try to get masonicare to pay for this chair. Imagine it costs $1 or $2,000. But considering they could have suggested I get this, but didn't, and considering I will be forking over $200,000 to them during the course of the next 1.7 years, the least they could do is pay for the scoot chair. Don't you agree?

When I mentioned what a huge hassle the whole experience had been with the agency aides (the 1st one quitting after 1 night and the other barely hanging in there for 3 days), the head of nursing agreed with me and assured me all her needs could be met in-house. Of course, this would be a huge coup for them because they will be getting all the money, not the agency I got the aides from.

Many families I'm sure suck most of the assets out of the estate before the 5-year look back and so the nursing homes don't get always get much money from their patients. In my case they will, because though I tried once to gently talk to my mother about basically giving us her money for this very reason (like she got her mother to do prior to my grandmother going into a nursing home) my mother was reluctant and a little fearful about doing so and I didn't push it. I don't think she could really visualize how all these things might come to pass. I couldn't even really talk to her about because as soon as I mentioned the word "nursing home," she got upset and the conversation went nowhere.

So in a little while I'm calling my friend Dave and hopefully he'll come through for me one more time to help me empty out my mother's room that we just moved her stuff into about 3 weeks ago now. This will be the last and final move. This year as a whole will be one I remember as an exhausting series of moving my mother's stuff, out of the condo, into Maplewood, into Masonicare and then out of Masonicare.

I hope that once we move my mother back and she settles in, and after I finalize burial plans, tombstone inscription, funeral plans and Title 19 paperwork and my mother's taxes, things will finally settle down for real. There is still all the stuff overflowing in my house but that's of somewhat lesser importance. So maybe by late February I can catch a break.

Waldo will soon be toothless

November 3rd, 2015 at 04:12 pm

I had a vet appointment scheduled for Waldo this afternoon because his allergies have been super bad. They were bad all summer, but I kept all the windows closed (no AC) for the most part and ran my air purifier nonstop.

But things really didn't improve this fall and I could often see his nose was totally plugged up with snots and I felt his appetite was a little off, probably becus he couldn't smell the food.

I procrastinated a while about bringing him in because it is very hard to get him there. I have to plan out how I will grab him, and I only get one chance. If he squiggles out of my grasp, he'll run and hide for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I DID manage to get him there and I'm glad I did. He got his allergy shot but he also got a shot of antibiotics because the vet said his teeth were bad and he had an infection going which was probably making him pretty uncomfortable. (I couldn't tell from his behavior.)

I have some liquid antibiotics I'm supposed to squirt in his mouth twice a day, but I highly doubt I'll be able to do that, given his extreme cautiousness and timidity.

But I need to get the infection under control because in a week I must return to vet to have a few teeth pulled and to do his bloodwork to make sure his thyroid levels are where they should be. (He's already on meds for that.)

It's going to be real difficult to administer his new liquid meds, and no one can help me do it. He's never let another human near him in the 6 years I've had him. After a few times of me grabbing him, I'm sure he won't trust me, but I have to try.

He was so shook up from the vet visit. Of course, there was a lunging pit bull there when we were. I gave Waldo half my wild sockeye salmon at dinnertime for a treat, and he appreciated it.

In other news, today, I also inquired about rates at the local cemetery and scheduled a visit this Thursday to pick out a spot and pay for it. My mother will be cremated and I plan to pick a full sized plot that could accommodate up to 4 cremated remains. I never thought of making my arrangements for myself, but I might as well go there too. It occurred to me that when my father dies, he could go there too, but how ironic...divorce kept my family separated all these years, but in death we could all be reunited. Smile

Anyway, this is a very picturesque cemetery that I often admired as I walked by on one of my walks. It dates back to the 1600s and is very peaceful.

This is just one of several unpleasant tasks I'm facing. It needs to be done now so I don't have to do it later when my mother passes. I also have to make arrangements with a funeral home. I'll leave that for next week.

Quite frankly, the thought of shooting up someone's veins full of embalming fluid is extremely distasteful to me, and very invasive sounding. Not to mention, what do all those chemicals do in the ground? Also, I never liked seeing the dead body all made up and on display at wakes, and so I don't intend to do that with my mother (or myself). I know it probably helps some people with closure to see the body, but anyway, this is one reason I'm choosing to go with cremation, so there is nothing to see. However, I think it would be a comfort at times to have a place to visit, and I can't bear the thought of either keeping the ashes in my home or having the responsibility of scattering them anywhere, so this is why I am buying the plot for the ashen remains.

Although we are talking about an incinerator here, cremation is generally considered to be more "green" than traditional burial, which is important to me. It's also quite a bit cheaper because you're not paying a funeral director to do their thing nor are you having to buy an expensive casket.

I am so weary of all this stuff and am feeling burnt out, depressed and generally very sad. My mother will probably be discharged end of week or Monday but have to wait i guess til tomorrow to get the word from head of nursing whether my mother could return to assisted living (most likely with the live-in aide or 2 12-hour shift aides) or skilled nursing.

Skilled nursing would be a whole lot easier for me to manage but what i've been saying all along is that as long as i still have funds, i want to do what i think will make my mother most comfortable, and that would be her own room, with her own paintings and furnishings, in assisted living, with its living room-like common room and so on. Much less institutional than the nursing home.

The aides thing for the brief time i had them was of course a huge pain in the ass with the 1 quitting and the other one just barely holding on. If they say okay but you must have the aide/aides, it's going to have to work pretty well. I just can't keep putting out fires or leaving work, even when working from home, on and on.

Although it's so much more expensive, the 2 12-hour shift aides might be better in other ways. I wouldn't have to worry about paying them a separate weekly grocery stipend, or where they'd cook their meals or hang their clothes or their personal stuff in my mother's bathroom because they wouldn't actually be living there like a full 24-hour live-in aide.

I could have greater confidence that the night shift aide would also actually be awake and more capable of dealing with my mother if she was up all night, because at the end of her shift she'd be going home and be relieved by someone else. But what if she left my mother sleeping in her room and got bored and decided to go into the common area/living room to talk with another aide or watch TV and then my mother got up in the middle of the night and fell? How could I even monitor whether that could happen?

I want my life back but have to keep reminding myself that the costs will be so high with assisted living AND the aide or aides that this scenario will only last 10 months or so. So it won't last forever, assuming my mother doesn't have another medical crisis like a fall and fracture.

Right now they're saying at the hospital unit that she's still having periods of delirium, and this could still take time (like weeks or months) to clear. Apparently this is a result of the anesthesia. She also has another UTI, which really does a number on elderly women mentally.

When I visited my mother there last Saturday, we had lunch at a table with a lovely 94-year-old woman. I felt sorry for her. She told me her husband had died 8 years ago and talked about what a wonderful life they had together. He was a college professor at Cornell in Ithaca, NY and they lived on the college campus. She had been living in Mystic, CT, a beautiful town, but she had been brought to this facility where my mother is because they thought she was depressed. She has 3 daughters, in their 60s, but 2 are on the west coast and one in Massachusetts and she never sees them.

9 Years Here...Wow

November 1st, 2015 at 02:06 pm

I looked at the date I started my original blog here (Wild Blue Yonder) and see that I began in 2006. That's 9 years on Saving Advice. WOW.

Some things just stick, I guess.

I made a rare trip to the mall this morning. I got a replacement garage door opener at Sears to replace the one I got about 8 years ago which suddenly stopped working, even after replacing the battery.

I haven't tried programming the thing yet; maybe I'll wait and ask my friend Dave to do it.

I also hit Aero-whatever the name of that store is and picked up 3 camisoles for my mother at $5 each, a good buy.

I also got some lovely dessert dishes at William Sonoma with a gift card I earned from Citi Thank You Premier card. They were marked down to $9 each and have lovely fruit images on them.

I bought a top at Macy's but forgot to use my Macy's gift card (from the same credit card.

I went to Trader Joe's and got a bunch of groceries, looking in vain for the frozen julienned root vegetables (beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips) but couldn't find them. I LOVED these.

Also filled up the gas tank.

This afternoon I mowed more leaves on the lawn and then swept up a lot of leaves on the driveway. I disturbed a small salamander under the damp leaves on my stone stairs, so I carefully put him near the stone wall in loose mulch and put some leaves over him.

I have been rather obsessively playing Luminosity games. My favorites are the Choo Choo train (attention) and of course the vocabulary games.

I am making a pumpkin bread pudding in the slow cooker now. Hope it turns out good. I wanted to use up some of the stale bread in my freezer cus it was taking up too much space.