Thursday, September 24, 2020

Lifeline by Deadweight Loss on Spotify!

John and Brandon's second release! 


Friday, September 18, 2020

Closing the Loop on Caregiving

I need to close the loop on a post I left hanging a while back on caregiving.  I vowed to keep my parents in their own home until they drew their last breath.  This is not a decision that many can or will make and I fully understand the issues: money, time, emotional and physical tolls. There are many cases where it’s just not even possible, especially if the person needing care is a danger to him/herself or others.  My parents were married 70 years and they were each other’s “community.”  They were responsible stewards of their money and could afford to stay at home and were good candidates for in-home care, so that’s what we did.  


Our experience with a large, national agency was obscenely costly and a couple of the people sent to care for my parents and possibly more had criminal tendencies: I discovered after my parents died that most of my mother’s good jewelry, including her wedding ring, walked out the door. The benefit to having an agency provide round-the-clock care in the home is not always the people they send, but their commitment to send somebody when your regular caregiver is unavailable.  Staffing is on them, not you. But inasmuch as they’re sending a stranger and there’s a possibility that stranger might be a bad person, it’s not really much of a benefit.  


If I had a do over, this is what I’d do assuming the goal is to keep one’s elderly relatives in their own home as long as possible.


I would begin my search for a qualified caregiver at which connects clients with private caregivers.  You can view their resumes and get a sense of whether or not they might be a good fit with your family, then begin the process of interviewing caregivers until you find the right fit.  There’s no agency collecting huge middleman fees so you’ll save a lot of money. The big agencies will brag about their background checks and scare you into thinking everyone you find on your own is going to be a felon.  Just because someone passes a background check and never spent time locked up in San Quentin doesn’t make them a nice, honest person who loves old people.  They'll also hype their "training" which in our experience was miserably lacking.


ADP Payroll


If my caregiving search involved more than one caregiver (we had five part-time employees working in shifts for round-the-clock care), I would get help with payroll and taxes, etc., at ADP which has amazing customer support and made payroll incredibly easy.  I felt it was important to do everything regarding the exchange of money properly and legally which, of course, involved paying taxes.  When COVID hit, our employees could file for unemployment, so this actually worked out very well for them!  


Lights, Cameras, Action!  


We were late to the game on this but installed cameras in my father’s bedroom the last year of his life.  We learned some things that were concerning and had to make a difficult personnel decision.  If I had do-over, I’d have cameras in most of the rooms (and still probably have my mom’s wedding ring…).  


Confronting the challenges of helping aging relatives is not for the faint of heart and there are absolutely situations that cannot be managed in the home.  But, if you choose to go that route, there are alternatives to places like, um, Home Instead… 


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Pajamas & Pain

My friend, Kathy, is a grief counselor.  I remember many years ago she told me a story about the importance of dealing with loss head on.  She used an analogy of losing a loved one and avoiding the restaurant you went to for chicken every Wednesday.  “Go there and order the chicken,” she said.  Avoiding things that hurt just messes with the healing process and prolongs pain which is inevitable, anyway. Not dealing with it doesn’t make it go away.  It just stretches it out.  I’ve embraced this as theory ever since she said it, but had a practical encounter with it this week.

I’ve spent the past 6 months slowing going through my parents’ things, a task that’s been hard on the heart. I started with non-sentimental stuff in the garage and I’m slowing working my way into the house where most of the memories reside.  But, the hardest thing I've dealt with, ironically, is sitting in the back of my car.  


My dad had a big personality packed into a small frame that got smaller with age, though getting a hat that fit his head was always a challenge. He wore pajamas with skates and snowflakes on them.  They were well worn and looked like something a little boy would wear.  Dad with his big head and his little body in those pajamas was just really cute.  On the night we rushed him to the hospital, I grabbed a bag and threw a clean t shirt and those ski pajamas in it.  I always took clean clothes to the hospital for my parents so they would have something other than the hospital gown to wear home. Sadly, this time, he wouldn't be coming home. 


That bag with those pajamas has been sitting in the back of my car since March 15.  It was covered under some shopping bags I use at ALDI and I had forgotten about it, but was cleaning out my car yesterday, picked it up and took a look inside, and it felt like my dad had just died… again. Memories flooded my brain of my dad in those little kid pajamas. So what did I do?  I zipped up the bag, put it right back where it was, shut the car door, and have thought about Kathy’s advice ever since. 


What should I do?  I should take that bag and do something with it.  It’s been six months. I could throw it out.  I could set it aside and have someone make a little quilt.  I don’t know what to do, but I do know the bag is begging for action.  Because leaving it where it is and making a mental note to deal with it another day is not ultimately good for the heart.  I’m going to find it again in a month or three and get another stab in the chest. 


So, I just kick the proverbial can down the road for now.  Maybe someone has some advice?  What would you do with that bag?  


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Caregiving: The good, the bad, the ugly

I watched a documentary called Care about the adult in-home caregiving industry that highlighted a tragically dichotomous situation in which caregivers who take care of elderly people can’t earn enough to live and the elderly people they care for are running through their life savings to pay them.  With the elderly population estimated to double by 2040 and 90% of people saying they want to stay in their own homes, it’s fair to say society has a problem that’s not going away.  

Our own journey into caregiving began in 2014 when my elderly mother suffered a stroke and could no longer move about unassisted.  This introverted, resolutely private woman went from living independently to having her space invaded by strangers 24/7.  Some of the strangers were, indeed, very strange.  In our 2 ½ years with a large, nationally known caregiving agency, we had a couple thieves, some liars and several mentally ill people including a lady who told me the first day on the job with an unsettling fire in her eyes that her husband was missing and the police think she shot him but they can’t prove it.  We also had amazing people with hearts for old people who were more “family” than biological family.  I’d say the really bad people occupied the bottom 10%, the really good people occupied the top 10%.  Everyone else?  Hit or miss and many lacked proper training.  And that’s what $220K a year will get you.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)  But before you say, wow, where can I get that job… understand that the caregivers—the people doing the heavy lifting and toileting and bathing, the cooking and cleaning, the early morning and late night shift work and those suffering the verbal and physical abuse of dementia patients—were earning poverty wages with the agency taking more than half what the caregivers earned.  For what?  I never did figure that out.  The agency provided very little value apart from finding people and scheduling them. Which got me thinking… what if we got rid of the agency? 

Next:  Caregiving On Our Own

Thursday, March 19, 2020

My Dad

Colleyville resident, Colonel John L. Kennedy, Jr., USA, Retired, a beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away peacefully on March 15, 2020 at the age of 95. 

John was born in Wheeling, West Virginia to John and Katherine Kennedy.  He attended Wheeling’s Linsly Military Institute and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1947.  John received his Master’s Degree in electrical engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

John’s distinguished military career spanned 34 years, the balance of time spent in the U.S. Army’s Air Defense Artillery Branch.  He defended our country in the Korean and Vietnam wars and supported the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.  He was twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal and was a four-time recipient of the Legion of Merit.  John’s career culminated with his work at the Pentagon on the Patriot Missile Project.

Preceded in death by his parents and beloved wife of 70 years, Margaret (Charlton) Kennedy, John is survived by children John (Maria) Kennedy, Thomas Kennedy, Sarah (Todd) Onderdonk, grandchildren Kalyanii Kennedy, John, Colin and Daniel Onderdonk, great-grandson David Kennedy, brother Edward Donald (Patricia) Kennedy, and nephew Stephen Kennedy.  He also leaves behind an amazing team of loyal caregivers and friends.  

John was curious, joyful and exceedingly kind. He loved reading about history, watching classic movies, playing classical piano, cartooning, studying astronomy, weight lifting, and his daily “happy hour.”  Heaven has gained an extraordinary man.  

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation in John’s memory to the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or the Humane Farming Association.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus Madness?

My “day job” is looking after the welfare of my 95-year-old father who lives with the support of caregivers in his own home down the street.  My dad is my oldest best friend, now deaf and wheelchair bound and wholly dependent like a young child.  When the coronavirus hit Wuhan a couple months ago, I saw the probability that this would not be a situation easily contained, and that my sweet Dad wouldn’t survive it if he caught it.  I’ve been planning and, yes, fretting ever since.  

For Valentine’s Day, I gave our caregivers and home health folks a little paper basket with a pack of Clorox wipes, travel-size Lysol Spray, some immunity boosting fizzy things and hand sanitizer.  The gift was met with some good-natured eye rolls and “that’s so you” responses.  Who gives Lysol spray for Valentine’s Day?  Um, me?  When things hit the fan, I plan for the worst and expect the worst, which is a bit of my late mother’s genes on display. I’ve lost my sense of humor and I’m driving everyone around me nuts trying to make sure that people are likewise preparing their own families for the worst.  People not taking it seriously  are testing my patience, and I’m hearing a fair amount of this:  

“When my time’s up, my time’s up.”  

“God knows when he’s taking me and I have no control over that.”

“I’m not worried, I’m praying, and God’s going to come for me at the time he chooses and I’m not in control.”

All true statements, but assuredly reckless ones in the context of the current situation if the centerpiece of “I” and “me” causes people to take a “whatever” approach to “him,” “her,” and “them.” 

I could be lectured on the sin of worry, and rightly so, because the Bible tells us not to (e.g., Phil. 4:6-7) To worry is fundamentally to lack trust in God, we’re taught, though Jesus, himself, had anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane while he wholly trusted God, didn’t he?  As it relates to the coronavirus crisis, the Bible also tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), and the people with a “whatever” mentality are putting people like my Dad at risk.  

So, forgive my lack of mirth.  I have a sense of humor and I promise I’ll get it back. Give me a pass on your judgments right now and stop waxing philosophical on our numbers being up.  I need you to concern yourself about my Dad and millions of vulnerable people the world over who need us to be putting our faith into action by taking the precautions necessary to keep others safe.  And I promise on the other end of all this, I’m going to try to self-improve and move myself from the edge of the cliff to the curb for the next crisis.  Just don’t expect to ever see me in the middle of the road. 

My favorite laptop tab:

Reminder:  There are vulnerable, elderly people among us who may not have help.  They may be frightened and unable to plan for several weeks of disruptions.  As you think about your own plans to weather the coronavirus, don't forget about them.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Guys

On Spotify... Only My Heart Can Tell by Paul Carrack