Ok.. health care reform for god’s sake

I get it, I get it.  Health care reform is important to everyone and nobody understands it.  What strikes me however, is the level of hysteria reflected in the debates.  Everyone in the House of Representatives spoke as if the world would stop turning if… whichever outcome you didn’t agree with.  Although I am a dyed in the wool lefty, I agree with Boehner on one thing, it seems unlikely that anyone has read all the of the pending bills and the amendments that accomnpany them.  What I saw was democracy in action, and government run amok, all in the same room.  Seeing a democratically elected majority pass landmark legislation that was part of their campaign promises was a good thing.  Seeing legislators hurl epithets and generally act like animals with no manners was not.  It is not okay to express you beliefs in such a way that you lie to and generally scare the crap out of most ordinary Americans. We have lost the ability, it appears, to hold a civil debate. I find it most disturbing that the Republicans appear to have decided that no matter what they believe in, they will just vote no.  In some ways I thought it was heartening that there were a number of dems that voted against the bill. Our government was built the way it was so that nobody would hold absolute power, that’s a good thing no matter what you believe. Nobody is ever all right or all wrong and none of us have all the answers. Absolute power is the definition of fascism and the world has seen enough of that. Bless those few who seem to be trying to hold a real discussion in the middle of the maelstrom, on either side of the aisle. They are the true legislators; they might actually represent the voters in their district, not just the vocal majority no matter how slight. Whatever you think about the health care reform bills, the truth as always is somewhere in the middle, there is some good, some not so good and the world will not come to an end.

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American Idle

At work, at home, I am around people who embody the worst of the new American work ethic. Where I work is fundamentally a call center. Unlike many call centers we are internal and have other departments of people who are not call reps. But our sales reps are telephone sales people. They don’t think so, however. They apparently think they are special in many ways. We implemented a new phone system that is capable of tracking the work of each rep and each area, each department. Of course everyone hates this new system becuase it is demonstrating the extent to which they spend work time time . . . not working. The reps don’t like this because . . . now they have to work. All those extra cigarette breaks, not so much. All that time on the cell phone, not so much. All the extra time spent not on the phone, not so much. It is strange to me that people come to work expecting not to work. If you are working, who cares if the phone tracks how much you work, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Idle or entitled? So after a hard day of listening to the employees complain about having to work for their paychecks, I come home. And I find my father’s caregiver in the familiar spot . . . the sofa in front of the television. When I am getting ready for work there is always a push on the first arrival to clean up whatever dishes my teenager has left in the sink from the night before. After that come long hours of nothing as my dad doesn’t get up until 10 or 11 most days. Cigarettes and television mostly I think. Then maybe a trip to the bank, my dad’s tennis lesson, the post office. Back to more cigarettes and tv. I laid out the job when I hired everyone. Told them I had expectations beyond watching my dad watch tv since there was so little to do. Then I made the occasional suggestion. Sometimes followed sometimes not. Then I made a list, put it on a little whiteboard. Mostly ignored. Its not all bad. It is more a matter of doing what the person likes and nothing else, and a matter of not doing things well. But after all, how hard is it to wipe the cabinets down? Or wash a toilet or run a damp mop over a bare floor? The highlights are the time I spend every day putting things back where they belong (how long do you have to be aorund til you know where things go?) or when it seems an imposition to request that the tv volume be lowered or that we might be able to use our sofa. But these are my expectations, not my dad’s. He is fine with all of it as long as they leave him alone, drive him where he wants to go and clean up after him; and it is ultimately his call but… who expects to be paid for a full day of tv watching? Idle or entitled?

Alzheimers~Competence~Memory

So my dad feels strongly about keeping control of his money.  I can understand that.  I feel strongly about keeping control of my money too.  Balancing his checkbook takes a really long time; I mean a really really long time.  The last go round took him all day and he was lying in wait for me when I got home to try to find the several (very several) hundred dollar error.  When I got it down to slightly less than two hundred, we just took the bank balance and called it a day.  I couldn’t find the error.  Even going through his fifteen year old pad on which he has written every check he ever wrote – except the ones he forgot to write down.

The check balancing thing doesn’t seem a matter of bad memory or incompetence, it seems a matter of alienation.  He looks at the thing and it seems foreign to him, and familiar all at the same time.  Then there are all the people out to get him, notably doctors.  All the doctors really don’t know what they are doing.  They are in cahoots with me to prevent him from driving, controlling his money, or ever getting better.  His feeling is that without their interference he would be flying a plane, working, winning tennis tournaments and driving across the country.  Age has nothing to do with it.  And all those pills intended to “help” him just cause diarrhea.
This has been quite the discussion.  We took him off all meds and then talked about what was critical to take and they added those in one at a time.  So far so good.  And he ended up so healthy that they permanently stopped several of his meds.  He was down to 3 kind of critical ones for his memory and his prostate.  No diarrhea.  For months, and months.  He took them in the hospital, he took them in rehab, he took them when he came home… for a while.  Now he doesn’t take them, and the caregivers are afraid of him so they don’t insist; not that it would do any good.  He is competent enough to know he doesn’t want to take his meds, even if he cna’t remember what they are supposed to be good for.
Diarrhea is back, couldn’t be the flu, has to be the meds so it is the last excuse to completely quit taking them (he was still good for a few times a week). He has a diagnosis of Alzheimers, early stage; and his memory is not so great (short term especially), but when is a person incompetent?  How do you know when the alienation becomes so great that the familiarity is overwhelmed?
I see it happening more and more.  His computer is a foreign country despite the millions of times he has clicked the same clicks.  The remote control is becoming more difficult.  Where “things” are is a constant battle of repetition.  But he gets up in the morning, feeds himself, dresses himself and pays his bills (often several times).
So… where’s the line?

Personal Earthquakes

At 6:30 a.m. my teenager is standing over my barely awake self saying “mom”, “mom”.  At the 8th or 10th repetition, it finally gets through.  I open one eye… “WHAT”, I say.  Take a wild guess .. . he needs money. Check written, personal SAT earthquake, the first of the day, averted.  The teenager leaves and the caregiver for my dad arrives.  “He’s been really bad” she says.  What she means is that he has been cranky and annoying with her because she is annoying and it is wearing on him.  Of course he is also generally cranky and annoying.  Nevertheless, she is having a personal crisis of insecurity because my father, who has alzheimer’s disease among other things, is cranky.  This is her life’s work, you would think she would be used to old folks and their ups and downs but no… she takes everything personally.  So I, coffee cup in hand, dressed in half my work clothes (top half and panties, very attractive) have to stop and soothe her feelings.  For this I am paying her a pretty penny.  For her money she will spend most of the rest of the day playing Farmville and avoiding my dad.  Second personal earthquake survived, for now.  Finally I get the rest of my uniform on manage to get out the door with my purse, briefcase, lunch and various items that will require me to stop on my way home or at lunch at an assortment of establishments.  Everything gets thrown in the back seat before I drop it in the driveway, third personal earthquake of the day averted; and the most peaceful part of the day begins… the ride to work.  I love the ride to work, public radio and I only have to answer the phone if I like the person on the other end.  Upon arrival at work there are a variety of faux crises awaiting me, they are averted but don’t really count as a person earthquake, more like a minor tremor.  The fourth personal earthquake of the day isn’t really avoided when I lose my temper with an unutterably rude co-worker.  This is an ongoing and cumulative earthquake.  I am generally able to let it slide, sometimes it just blows so one personal earthquake marginally survived.  The day progresses with an unusual level of idiocy but finally ends.  My second favorite time of day, the ride home; public radio and I only call the people I like and only if I feel like it.  I arrive home and teenager, husband and father are practically lined up (not literally) waiting to ask “what’s for dinner”.  Instead of saying “I don’t know, what is for dinner”, I manage to figure out what will be for dinner, read mail, listen to voicemail and balance my father’s checkbook all at the same time.  That counts as a personal earthquake averted for him.  My fifth comes as dinner is finally on the table at about 8:30 p.m. and I’m not sure if that counts as avoided, averted or barely survived.  At this point the teenager has eaten so much snack that he is no longer hungry, I am too tired to be hungry; but my dad and my husband eat like hungry lions.  Finally back in a shirt and panties I have to check on my dad’s computer (he has pushed the same wrong key for the 1407th time), explain when his long term care insurance check is going to come and why there are “black boxes” on his tv screen (our cable company has started putting up the phone number when sometime calls the house, he cannot fathom this).  I will consider this my sixth personal earthquake of the day survived and the infrastructure rebuilt, ready for a new day.  I fall into bed with a little mindless tv, answer e-mail, check facebook, get annoyed by the stupidity and finally, finally, fall asleep.  I am ready for tomorrow’s earthquakes.