take care cher

A single woman's journey as a caregiver to an elderly parent, 5 dogs, a house….and most importantly myself

The Money Pit Revisited

I know everyone doesn’t live in the house they grew up in, but I do, and the older the house gets, the more things pop-up that have to be dealt with. Many of you out there live in older homes though, so this all applies.  I feel like I’m going to be paying for the repairs and upkeep that I’ve had to do in the last year for the rest of my life.  My situation has begun to remind me of the hilarious Tom Hanks movie “The Money Pit”, where he and his girlfriend beg, borrow and steal to buy what they think is the home of their dreams, only to find it crumbling under their feet the minute the check clears.  I don’t have contractors with “I’ve Gotta Be Me” blaring on their stereo as they tear out of my driveway with my last dollar in their pocket, but I’ve forked out quite a bit this summer alone because my aging A/C system just couldn’t seem to keep up with the 100+ degree Florida Summer heat.  The last time my air guy came out, he basically told me that I needed to be prepared for the fact that the day was coming when I was going to have to replace the whole enchilada.  When I asked him how much THIS was gonna cost, he said $5,000….and then I don’t remember a whole lot after that.  Everything sort of went into slow motion and I started thinking about selling everything and going to live on the beach and covering up with sand at night.  Then the reality that my Mom and dogs wouldn’t go for that hit and I came back to consciousness.

Now I’m sure some of you don’t think this is earth shattering, but it is if you just got a new roof nine months ago that set me back $9,000!! Actually, since the house is still in my Mom’s name till she passes away, we both had to go down to the credit union and sign both our names over and over and over again to get a home equity line of credit, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally have $9k laying around.  I didn’t get a huge amount because our home isn’t worth what it used to be in the good old days, but it has left me with a small cushion to fall back on when things get tight… like last weekend when the oil and lube on my car turned into a new set of tires, total alignment and balancing, etc.  That purse I had been ogling in Dillards became a pipe dream and my grocery money was wiped out.  If it weren’t for that line of credit in times of extreme poverty due to unexpected repairs of the car, house, vet bills…you name it, then I think I WOULD be living on the beach.  I know someone out there is saying “why don’t you just sell and get something newer and in better shape?”  The bottom line is, when the home owner is an elderly person on Medicaid, they cannot touch your home, BUT, they CAN insist that if you sell, you owe them every penny unless you turn around and sink everything you made into another home.  But, I am here with my Mom because I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life in assisted living or nursing.  I want her to be in an environment that hopefully she remembers despite the dementia she suffers from, because she’s lived here 55 years.  One day at a time…

If you’re in a vaguely similar situation, especially with people that depend on you to bare the brunt of the financial responsibility, TRUST ME!!!  At least investigate getting a home equity line of credit so you have something to fall back on when the repairs/disasters keep coming and you just cannot seem to get ahead!

-Cher

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To Pee Or Not To Pee UPDATE!!!

Well, I have Dog Chow all over my face!!  My poor baby Star, who I slapped that doggie diaper on is NOT the culprit that has been peeing on my floor.  My Mom’s aide caught my elderly dog Sug peeing on the floor.  He has congestive heart failure due to heartworms and takes Lasix, so it’s tough for the old boy to hold his water sometimes.  I adopted him almost two years ago, heartworms and all, because he reminded me of my Cocker Spaniel Twinkie that contracted cancer and I had to put him to sleep.  I felt really guilty when I went home yesterday and the diaper on Sug was sopping wet.  I don’t know what to do…HELP!!  I didn’t give him Lasix this morning just to give him and my Mom’s aide a break from accidents.  I made him go out last night 3 times before bedtime and didn’t wake up to any floods, so I’m hopeful.  If anyone has any ideas for me, PLEASE let me know.

People ask me why I would put myself through adopting a senior dog with health issues, and my response is always, because I had to…it’s who I am. Sug has been with me almost two years, and if in that time I have provided him with love & kisses, comfort, security, good food & treats, and a warm, comfortable place to sleep, then I feel that I have accomplished something important.  If people weren’t so self-absorbed in this world, and would reach out and give a homeless animal love and care, there wouldn’t be nearly as much suffering, and this world would be a much better place.  I’m not saying everyone needs 5 dogs and cats, but just to help one.

This is my Sug boy!  He takes Lasix, Prednasone & Theophilline for coughing.

This is my Sug boy! He takes Lasix, Prednasone & Theophilline for coughing.

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To Pee Or Not To Pee……WHO Is The Question!

Good Day To You!

Having to take care of an entire home and yard by myself (with a little help from the guy I pay to mow), is daunting at best. In the past year I’ve had to put a new roof on the house…can you say $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$?  And just a week ago, my A/C company told me the day was coming when I would have to replace my entire A/C system to the tune of $5,000.00!!!!  Let’s take a moment of silence to pray for me…….amen!!  So obviously, I have enough stress keeping up my house, without other fun things happening that make keeping the house clean difficult at best.  After using voluminous amounts of paper towels, and mopping constantly, it’s time to take a stand and deduce WHO IS PEEING ANOTHER LAKE MICHIGAN (or here in Florida, that would be Lake Okeechobee) ON MY FLOOR WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING??? The other day, no sooner had I cleaned up one deluge, then someone else came along and did it again….IN THE SAME SPOT!!!!  Did I mention I was trying to get ready for work???  Aaarrrggghhh!!

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Star, modeling the newest fashion for male doggies, the Dingleydang Prison, or more precisely, the male diaper!

I have five dogs and I have whittled it down to two suspects.  Even though my Min Pin Bruiser likes to mark, he has a bladder the size of a grape, so him being responsible is physically impossible and my blind Cocker has never had an accident in the house.  So, I went to Petsmart yesterday, and yes I did!!!  I bought a DOGGIE DIAPER!!  It’s a drastic step, but I just cannot take it anymore and I’ve got to do something before my insurance company demands I purchase flood insurance!!!!!  I have started the wearing of the diaper with the first suspect, and I am thinking that if we can all go a week without a major deluge, my beautiful black Cocker Star is the culprit.  Star is the one that is always fighting with Bruiser, who has little man syndrome and thinks HE rules the roost…all 10 lbs. of him, and Star is also always trying to hump his brother Angel…both of which are signs of trying to establish dominance.

When I moved into my childhood home to be with my Mom, me and my Xacto knife tore up all the nasty carpet that my Dad never vacuumed, shampooed….nothing, which revealed hardwood underneath.  If you’re a caregiver to an elderly person, trust me, this is a wise move because my Mom’s hands shake and she spills everything; that’s why I serve all of her drinks in sippy cups. There have been “other” accident types by Mom that I won’t explain in detail, but suffice it to say, carpet would have made it a bigger disaster.  Also, I had ceramic tile installed in the kitchen and dining room.  If I didn’t have this type of flooring with an unstable adult and five dogs, I think I’d have to go work for Stanley Steemer!   More fun and games to come.  Until next time!

-Cher

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Walking Saved My Life

Shoes 002The secret to being somewhat in shape and healthy is finding an activity you enjoy, or face it, we won’t do it!  My salvation, particularly as a caregiver extraordinaire, is walking.  Power walking, leisurely walking, strolling….whatever I’m in the mood for and that gets me moving.  Now, you’re looking at the title of my post and I know what you’re thinking….”saved your life?? COME ON!!”  But I will stick to my title and my belief that if it weren’t for walking, I would either be in a padded room, or would have had a stroke or heart attack by now.

You know how they talk about the top 5 stressful events in life?  Well I had 3 of them happen to me all at once:  (1) A close relative died, (2) I moved (3) I started a new job.  And that doesn’t include the fact that when my Dad’s health took a turn for the worse, I literally took over caring for my insulin dependent, diabetic, dementia, and nearly blind suffering Mom overnight!  During the day, I got the help I could scrape up to stay with her and worried all day, while suffering from a “new job” learning curve and having anxiety attacks that would quietly end in the ladies room by popping half a Xanax. The icing on my day would consist of going home and arguing with her about bathing (she didn’t think she needed one for weeks at a time), cooking dinner, taking care of our animals, paying bills, and learning to harness her pill box, take her blood sugar, and doling out the proper amount of insulin while learning to properly use a hypodermic needle!  Whoosh!!  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!

The effects of all of this stress and heartache consisted of:  Eye twitching, heart palpitations, trouble breathing, insomnia, hives, migraines, drinking too much, crying jags, etc.  I would lay awake at night and my head would swim with all the new responsibilities I had taken on and I became dependent on Xanax to still my constantly whirring mind.  I’ve always been active, but I started ignoring doing any type of activity because I simply didn’t feel like I had time.  I even bought a treadmill because I felt like I couldn’t go to the gym after work and leave my Mom alone any longer, but after a time I became bored with it…it wasn’t stimulating…it wasn’t what I needed.  Of all of my physical maladies, the eye twitching drove me nuts and was VERY embarrassing when it happened in front of someone because it was OBVIOUS! Then, I read an article in Prevention about handling stress with exercise and it was like an epiphany, although in hindsight, it was common sense.  Even though I had tried the treadmill, I realized I needed to have a change of scenery and to nurture my love of the outdoors, which I had unconsciously sacrificed for the sake of my Mom.  But my epiphany included realizing I HAD to reclaim something for myself, so I did.

I immediately started “finding” time to walk around the block every night before dinner.  I would walk around my office park at lunchtime.  Wherever I could squeeze it in, I walked and walked and walked…and guess what?  The eye twitching stopped! It was a miracle…NOT!!!  It just took paying attention to myself for a moment and MY suffering, not just everyone else’s, but MINE!  It’s not Shakespeare and I’m sure you’ve heard this before…If you don’t take care of yourself, you will have NOTHING left to give others…but it’s oh soooooo true!  I now log somewhere around 10 miles a week and it feels so wonderful to just get out in the sunshine and walk…I even walk in the rain! Every step is rejuvenating and also helps to keep my backside from not getting any wider than it already is!  It irritates my Mom when I walk out for an hour, but she’ll get over it when I walk back in the door.

Caregivers need respite from their cares, worries and the massive weight on their shoulders.  If walking isn’t your thing, try swimming, singing, dancing, yodeling, underwater basketweaving…SOMETHING to save YOUR life!

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Resentment Is A Waste Of Time

Mom & Me in Happier and Healthier Times

Mom & Me in Happier and Healthier Times

After over seven years with my Mom, who is a stroke and dementia victim, and also is losing her hearing and going blind from Macular Degeneration, I find myself feeling resentful sometimes that I took on the role of her caregiver.  I lose my temper over dumb things, like the 5th time she asks me the same question over dinner, or when she wants to know what I’m saying when I’m just talking to the dogs…or worse yet, myself, which I do A LOT thank you very much!!  🙂   I get testy because she likes to ask me a question right after I leave the room and I’m on the other side of the house.   I get my panties in a twist because she wants to go to the grocery with me and sit in the car….meanwhile my $3.50/gallon gas is going bye bye because obviously I leave the car and the air running!  I get irritated when she blows her nose on my napkins at the dinner table and hoards toilet paper, napkins, kleenex, paper towels….you name it, and stuffs it in her walker!!  And ALL of this resentment about silly, petty things, makes me feel like a total BEYOTCH!!!

For all the caregivers of an elderly parent out there, you are NOT alone!  And the bottom line is, if you are with them of your own free will, and stuff starts to get to you, either re-examine your situation, or get over it and remind yourself WHY you’re there.  I have to do this daily, but in a nutshell, I’m there for a variety of reasons as follows:  I promised my Dad I would take care of her….I promised her I would never take her away from her home of 55 years….and the major reason I’m with her, is because I was fortunate enough to have exceptional parents that wiped my nose, mouth, & butt and put up with me charging clothes, make-up, you name it on their charge account without complaint, bought me a car when I probably didn’t deserve it, and paid for me to go to a school away from home and actually trusted me not to get seriously killed….or arrested!

But the most important reasons I’m with my Mom is, my parents were funny, kind, generous, big-hearted people that would give a stranger the shirt off their backs, and just about the finest people I’ve ever known.  But most importantly….a day has never gone by in my life that I doubted their love for me and that they would be there for me through thick and thin.  That being said, my living situation is the only one that allows me to look in the mirror and be able to live with myself.  Frankly, I don’t know how she puts up with my cranky self sometimes.  She can’t hear, see, or walk very well, so the days of piano playing, singing, crocheting, doing crossword puzzles, playing scrabble and gin rummy, sewing for me, and even being able to attend church and take away anything positive…those days are over.   Whoever thought of the term “Golden Years” was a delusional meth addict because that is a total crock!!!

All my Mom has is cranky old me and five dogs!!  So even if I go home tonight and am feeling less than social, I always, always, ALWAYS make a point to hug and kiss her when I walk in the door, because how can you not when she tells me she loves me the minute I walk in…she’s an angel.  I know everyone out there doesn’t have the same situation or the same wonderful memories, so analyze your feelings and situation, and do what’s best for both of you.  And if you’re anything like me, a HUMONGOUS glass of vino helps too!!   Enough for now, but next post I’m going to share some of the things I use that make her quality of life a little bit better.  It should be good for a few laughs!!!  I’d love to hear from y’all….till then.

Cher

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Dogs are the Fucking Best

This guy knows what he’s talking about!!! Dogs make alot of people look lame!

Ryan Bolton.

In light of today being National Dog Day (damn right it’s a real thing), I present to you, the best fucking thing ever—lots of photos of dogs. Happy National Dog Day!

(And yeah, I know, there’s a lot more photos of Hank than anyone else. Chop it up as bias.)

—RYAN BOLTON

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An Ode To Puppy Training

I think I’ve found a kindred spirit….

Waiting for the Karma Truck

 

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Bogey, Oh Bogey

My patience has been lost

Your puppy licks are heavenly

Your belly is just boss

 

But Bogey, dear Bogey

Your head is incredibly hard

Your habits indiscriminate

Instead of in the yard

 

I do not mind the teething

The chewing or tripped-upon toys

The relentless teasing of your brothers

For you’re still a baby boy

 

Dear Bogey, my Bogey

Why is it you can’t see

How wrong it is to squat in the kitchen

And look at me as you pee?

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My Dogs Are Bankrupting Me! Woof!!!

"Money Pit #1", Bruiser

“Money Pit #1”, Bruiser

"Money Pit #2", Princess

“Money Pit #2”, Princess

Hi There Animal Lovers!

This past weekend I had to take 2 of my 5 dogs to get their shots and heartworm/flea meds, to the tune of $377!!  Now, I’m sure many that may read this are saying “Holy Cow, are you nuts…why do you have so many dogs?” Well, the bottom line is, I went to adopt a rescued cocker spaniel 2 years ago and found out that he and his brother came as a matched set, so, I got two for the price of one!!  Honestly, I have a cocker spaniel addiction….it’s the curly ears….or the cow eyes and their sweet dispositions….or, I dunno, I just cannot help myself!!!  At the same time, I had put my name on an older dog at the dog pound that looked alot like my cocker spaniel that died of cancer.  When they called and told me he had heartworms and might not survive being neutered (I hate that term!!), I knew if I didn’t take him they would euthanize him, so…..here I am with five dogs!!  I already had two.

But you know what?  I wouldn’t trade my babies for anything!  They keep my elderly mother company and when I come home, I am met at the door by sloppy kisses and unconditional love that is so sweet, and I am convinced they are the reason my blood pressure is normal!!  With all the caregiving I do in my life, my nurse practitioner says my blood pressure should be out the roof!! How many of you out there feel the same way about your pets? How many think I’m nuts?  Go ahead, you won’t hurt my feelings!!!  i would love to hear from you.

BTW, there is an organization called Vet Wellcare that has shot clinics in Pet Supermarkets and other stores across the nation, and they are a LOT cheaper than going to the vet.  Just my two dogs shots were around $150, but last time I went to the vet and paid for an office visit, and other assorted things that got tacked on, it was over $300!!!  So for half of what you would pay the vet, Vet Wellcare will set you up.  The only downside to it is, you have to wait in line for you and your doggies turn.  Kitties are welcome too!  I live in the Tampa Bay area, and another awesome organization that is even less expensive but not convenient for where I live, is called The Animal Coalition of Tampa or ACT.  This phenomenal organization was founded and is run by Frank and Linda Hamilton and I cannot say enough about their huge hearts and commitment to making animals lives better.  Kudos to them!!  I met Frank at USF when I was pursing my MBA and him his doctorate, and I knew immediately we were kindred spirits.  He and Linda are angels!!

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