Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fair and Balanced

I unload a lot on this blog about the frustrations of having my mother living with me and all her health issues that the last, oh, eight years have seen landing on our collective doorstep. It's only fair that I also include those things that go amazingly right because, let's face it, it doesn't happen often and it's good to be reminded that, as Tolkein put it, the darkness is only a small and passing thing. There is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.

My mother has had a medical aid here in our apartment since she was discharged from the rehabilitation center in late 2008. This is one of several benefits she receives under her Medical Medicaid qualification and it is priceless, truly. Isabelle, Mom's aid for the last two years, has been a real blessing in many ways but, as in all personal interactions, everything wasn't perfect. Among other things, her lack of conversational English was greatly prohibitive to any significant collaboration between her and my mother. She was very, very good to my Mom and they share a real and genuine affection, but there were bumps.

Isabelle went on vacation in early August and we had Mara for a week, and she was terrific but scheduling issues prevented her from staying more than a week. This was right at the time when I was going on vacation. Thankfully, Velka came to work with Mom and she couldn't be more perfect. With a little scheduling creativity, we were able to retain Veilka permanently. Unfortunately, the agency handled the situation with Isabelle poorly and there were some hurt feelings in the end. I volunteered to be the bad guy and the agency – and my mom – leaped at the option. Fine by me.

Velka is a dream. She is outgoing and positive. She chats with my mom and is a real companion to her. She monitors her medication and her new, multiple treatments for hands, feet, and lungs that Mom has to go do each day, and – Lord be praised – she proactively insists on and monitors Mom's exercises to the point of counting the reps and keeping her focused. The difference in Mom is atomic. This is best catalogued by the fact that her text messages to me have decreased from 15+ some days (and that's not an exaggeration) to 2 – maybe. Last week, while I was chauffeuring my grandfather to the VA clinic in center city Philadelphia , Velka's fan belt broke and she wasn't able to make it to the apartment. Throughout the day, she sent repeated text messages to Mom to check on her and make sure she'd taken her meds and eaten when she should showing an above and beyond commitment to her charge. Frankly, she checked in with my mom more than I did that day.

Now when I get home at night, Mom isn't climbing the walls, desperate to talk to someone (me) when all I want is the telly, the kitties, and some peace and quiet after a day editing pharma. And things get done! My sister's Christmas gifts are now packed and ready to be shipped – just in time for this Christmas. Mom's bedroom is transformed into organization – well, maybe organization is pushing it, but I can walk in and not trip over a thousand things and that's genius. And Mom herself has improved dramatically.

It's amazing how something so simple as having the right person in place at the right time can make such a huge difference.

See, I can manage fair and balanced. Some of the time.


  1. Okay Velka sounds like a goddess. When my grandma had a fall this year, she was put in a nursing facility which was dreadful. We were able to take her to her apartment and have health aids attend her when we could not be there.

    While all were adequate, Carolyn was the miracle worker. She was personable, friendly, industrious, and set my grandma at ease. While my grandmother's fall was a total accident it had shaken her confidence and made her anxious. While in the nursing home she called my mom or me repeatedly in the middle of the night. Once Carolyn was in place at the apartment, it was Welcome Back, Sleep for us because she felt confident that Carolyn would be there to help her.

    While she's independent now, she truly misses Carolyn. We all greet her with a hug when we see her.

  2. Oh Lora, how I know what you mean. One of the best things about having the aide is NOT having it be my name that Mom shouts out repeatedly through the day. They really are life-savers in so many ways.

    I've had those midnight calls too. Most memorable was during Mom's at-the-edge-of-death weekend in 2008. I had left the hospital at about 11:30 PM after being bedside without sleep for 2 days and 2 hours later the ICU nurse was calling me back b/c Mom was hysterical. Wound up sitting by the bed till 5AM, sight reading hymns from an old hymnal in the near dark until she could rest more calmly.

    It takes special strength to live/manage such massive life changes to a parent's well-being, particularly difficult to realize you've very much become the parent to your parent.

    I'm so glad your mom has improved so much. I'm certain you and your sister and Carolyn were simply invaluable to her during her invalid period.