Mama Can’t Afford It

Last week a daughter of a resident asked to have her mother’s medication reviewed by the house doctor, to insure all medications were necessary. The MD was a bit annoyed by my request, unsure why he needed to review meds he, himself, had prescribed for her.

I called the daughter quickly as the doctor saw other residents.

” Hey Susan, the doctor is here today. I asked him to review your mom’s medicines….he wants to know what he is looking to adjust? ( I thought if I made it sound a bit more comprehensive and concise,her reply would be specific.)

” It’s simple, mama can not afford to pay for all those medicines. He needs to pick which ones she really needs and get rid of the rest. Matter of fact, tell him to get rid of the most expensive ones and and maybe we can afford the rest. We will just have to see.”

I knew that this news would annoy the doctor even further. But what could I really do? The daughter was fully empowered to carry out her mother’s Power of Attorney and Advance Directives. I was simply the messenger.

” Dr. Smith, the daughter stated that her mother can’t afford all of the meds, and would like to have her taken off of the unnecessary ones.” I braced for his reply.

” What is this? What do you mean? Unnecessary? What is this? If the medications she is on, have been prescribed by me, they are needed, necessary and are to be given.” His thick accent became more difficult to understand as the volume increased.

” I understand what you are saying Doctor. However, the daughter who holds her Medical Power of Attorney has told me she can not afford to pay the pharmacy bill, so she needs you to discontinue the most expensive ones.” Brace for impact number 2.

” Price? This is about price? What is this? Her mother needs the medications to stay in health. What does she want me to do? Stop them? What is the point to her being on any if she can not afford all? There is no point to this. What is it you want me to do, you tell me, Ms. Steele. I am here to make sure all the patients are healthy, not harm them. What is it you want me to do?” Whoa, hold the phone. This is NOT my decision to make…..nor should it be. I can not advise the MD of what he ” should ” do; but rather I can only convey the message to him, and back to the daughter.

Thinking quickly on me feet, I offered; ” I think it would be appropriate for the daughter to bring her mother to your office and discuss with you options….generic or samples….”

Before I could finish, he shut the chart and stood up. ” You tell daughter to bring mother to my office. I will tell her what I have told you. If she wants to stop medications, we will stop. My services will then terminate and the Hospice physician can assume her care.”

I knew the phone call back to the daughter would be just as thrilling. Brace for impact number 3.

“Hey Diane, Jessi Steele. I spoke to the doctor and he would like you to bring your mother to his office to discuss her plan of care and medications….”

” Jessi, if we could afford to pay his office co-pays, we would not even be worried about medications. Why can’t he just stop the medications? What is his problem? All these pharmacies and doctors want is money. Money, money, money. My mother lives off of her pension, social security and interest from her investments. When she is dead and gone, I know she will want to have something to give to her grandkids. But these people want money, money money, money. I pay you every month, pay them, pay for her diapers, pay for this and that and by the time I am done, she doesn’t have a dime left. So what am I supposed to do? Sell off her investments, that she worked hard for all her life to pay for medications and your place when she has no quality of life? She doesn’t know us from the man in the moon. I will call him myself and handle this.”
With that, she slammed the phone so hard it vibrated my ear. Wow.

Investments. Annuities. Afford. Grandkids. Hmmmm. My mind raced. I went to the nurses station and decided to see for myself what medications we were talking about. The list was relatively short. Hmmm. I decided to take it one step further. I called the pharmacy and priced out the meds. The total per month?? Brace for impact number 4. $51.00. Fifty-one bucks. Hmmmm.

“Mama can’t afford it or the daughter doesn’t want to pay it Which is it?”, I asked myself. I may never know the answer but I do know as time pushes forward, I expect to see more people not electing medication administration, but rather, hospice care. I know firsthand, how difficult and frustrating it is to watch a loved one slip under the control of dementia; losing the ability to recognize family and friends. But how do we make decisions that could potentially have adverse effects all because of an inheritance? Now, this would be a totally different question if indeed, mama could not afford medications or services.
But geez.


It is certainly not my place to judge anyone for the choices/ decisions they make in regards to their loved ones. I know my siblings and I did the best we could for both of our parents, even chipping in money to make ends meet. We stood by as our mother forgot who we were. We visited, supplied her with her favorite junk food and her often sought-after Mello Yellow. We made the tough decisions, always doing what we thought was the right choice….not driven by any other motivation.

Brace for impact number 5. We are all getting older, and one day…..we too, will be at the mercy of our children, grandchildren….

do unto

Got People?

I think I have discovered what is wrong with the human race. Be warned though, this may turn into one of my much needed rants! Before I take off with my ramble, remember I have dedicated my entire career to serving those in long term care facilities……I started at the bottom of the ” peon” list and worked my way up the food chain until finally landing the title of ” Administrator”. I have cleaned floors, washed dishes, scrubbed windows, washed and folded resident laundry,served plates in the dining room at meal time and plunged clogged toilets… name it, I probably have done it. I have walked on the roof of a 4 story building to hang Christmas lights, fell off of a 7 foot ladder while handing wreaths on windows, stood in knee deep sewage and sang along with the residents while playing the piano. I have had employees threaten to kill me; had a disgruntled”gang” of employees waiting for me in the parking lot; broke up a fist fight between a contractor and his employees and stood face to face with psycho/drug addicted employee who didn’t take too kindly to being fired…….Yep, I would say I have seen pretty much everything in the 25 years I have devoted to this profession.

This week, I was sweeping and mopping throughout the facility since the housekeeper decided to call in sick. As I was moving about, a visitor stopped me and asked, “Don’t you have people to do that?”
Hmmmm. Out of all the things, he could have said, why did he choose those words?

I smiled at him and replied, ” Look at the shine on that floor, doesn’t it look nice?”

” Well yeah, but why do you have do it? I’m sure you have people to do it, right? It doesn’t look good to see the boss-lady out here mopping. ” No he didn’t.

Before I could stop myself……my mouth opened and words formed and flew out……

” You know Mr. Rogers, that’s whats wrong with people today. People worry about how things look to others instead of focusing on what needs to be done and just doing it. We worry about offending someone with our actions when we know what we are doing is right. Just look at our Country. Prayer in school offends, so we take it out. The Ten Commandments offend in our government buildings, so we take them down. People prefer to sit and home and draw welfare instead of working for a living because they are “entitled”. Kids can’t say the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of school, but they can do a word search puzzle based on the trashy book 50 Shades…….Our President called Air Force One his “spiffy ride” while servicemen and women lay their lives down for the very freedom he pokes fun at…..Those people in front of me at the grocery store with the high dollar steaks don’t have to embarrass themselves by tearing the food stamp coupons out of the booklet, they now have a debit card so they don’t have to feel ” ashamed”….. So you see Mr. Rogers, I don’t give a rats rip about how it looks for me to be mopping a floor.”

With that, Mr. Rogers nodded and walked away. But come on, he knew what I was saying was the utmost truth. We live in society that has diminished work ethics, morals and values. Everyone has a sense of entitlement.

I was driving through the streets of DC this past week and noticed groups of young people who should have been in school, yet they were shooting hoops at a brand new community ” youth park”, proudly displaying their Air Jordan shoes. While sitting at a red light, I couldn’t help but notice the tent sitting in the median, obviously belonging to a homeless person. The cardboard sign displayed on the tent read ” Disabled Veteran”. Let me get this straight. The government felt if the youth had a ” park” with skateboard ramps, basketball and tennis courts, they would not join gangs of find trouble. Here is my thought. If parents would raise their own children and stop relying on the system to raise them, we wouldn’t need ” parks” to entertain them. They would be respectable young people showing respect for themselves and for others. If they didn’t, they would be punished….simple as that. The money the government spent on that ” park” could have been used for housing for the veterans that live on the street. But wait, that wouldn’t look too good, would it? We have to invest in the youth, since they are our future and besides they are entitled to it, right? All I can say is, Lord have mercy on us all.

We need to return to the nation that we once were. A Nation of People that lead by example.
We work for what we have. We take pride in our work. A society that helps those who fall on harm times to get back on their feet, but not allowing the person to prop their feet up! A society who stands for the very things this Nation was founded on….If you don’t like prayer in schools, go back to your own country and pray to whoever it is that you serve, but leave us out of it. If the Ten Commandments offend you, locate the border of this great Country and step outside of it. If you can’t control your child, jerk a knot in his bellbottoms until he learns manners and respect and stop blaming others for your own lack of parenting skills.

You see, the problem is not our Nation, but the people we have living in it. We need to simply do what we know is right, and stopping worrying about offending someone. PERIOD.

So Mr. Rogers, to answer your question, yes, I do ” have people” to do this job, but I choose to lead by example…….

Cheering For Both Teams


Friday was a very sad day for us at the facility. Willie passed away during the night; slipping quietly away from us…… For those of you who follow my blog, you know Willie’s story. He had told us numerous times that he was done with life, having nothing left to accomplish and was wanting and waiting to die. Just last March, he lost Maggie, his beloved wife. Since then, Willie has waited…..and waited…..for nothing other than death.  According to Willie, he had no family left.  No one. Just himself.       The court had appointed a guardian to oversee his affairs, which made Willie furious. I can still hear him yelling…   ” I have served my Country for all of my life, served in wars, fought off evil and lived to tell about it and now they tell me I need somebody to take care of me? To hell with you all! ”     

Willie was a strong-headed man, set in his own ways but yet determined to have the final say in all things, including his death. What he did not consider, was who would be the authority on what his wishes were; where he would be buried, service protocols and arrangements. The court appointed guardian’s ” appointment” ended upon death….so now what? We as a facility have no authority to make plans, give consent or anything else, so hmmmm.  The local funeral home had told us they could not come to pick him up until someone had signed forms, contracts and agreements.  

After a few hours of arguing on the phone with the former court appointed guardian, she agreed to contact the funeral home and have Willie picked up. We all watched as Willie departed the facility, feeling the pain of loss and the sting of death. He had become important to us, a man we loved and would miss…. I don’t know, maybe it was because we knew he didn’t have any family, so we rallied around him, becoming surrogate family to him….I just don’t know.

Leaving work Friday evening, I knew I had one more task of significance before I could go home. A little girl in our community had battled cancer since birth and had lost that battle earlier in the week. The ladies I play softball with felt that we as a ball club needed to go to the “viewing” since her mother  also played softball at the same place as we did, So we all dressed in our jersey shirts and gathered in the parking lot.Once we entered into the funeral home, the crowd of people was overwhelming. I would guess 200 people easily, waiting to pay their respects to this family. As I stood in line with my group, I noticed countless jersey clad groups, some local, some from far away….all waiting …….I personally did not know the little girl, or her family….but yet, there I stood.

My thoughts suddenly were locked on Willie. The quiet chatter of those around me faded as my mind raced…” Willie is here too, somewhere. There is nothing anywhere signifying his existence, nor his death…..why???” My thoughts would not relent….” What will happen to him? Who will see that he is given a proper funeral?…Stop thinking like this, you are here for a seven year old girl, her life cut short….Willie was 92…he lived a full life………but  grief does not see age. Willie mattered. These ball players could go see him too…..they didn’t know this little girl or her family either, yet they have come to show their support… why not…”   My thoughts were interrupted…

” Isn’t this a beautiful celebration of Stacy’s life? She would have loved to have seen all these ball players here. Lord knows she loved to watch ya’ll play every Friday night. Each of you ,were her hero. She may not have known you, but she cheered for you as you ran the bases, sliding in the dirt and creating a dust storm. You see, my daughter couldn’t run because of the cancer…but on Friday nights, you were her legs. She cheered for both teams because it was YOU, the runner, that she loved.  The running, the diving, the throwing of the gloves and the dust…oh that girl loved the dust ya’ll kicked up.   She couldn’t play ball like her mama, but with each crack of the bat, she lived the moment. I loved my little girl so much and I want to say thank you to every ball player who allowed her to live out a little of her life through you.”  
Wow. I was suddenly jarred from one reality into another.   This family will never see their daughter graduate high school, college, get married….Will had seen the world, all on his own and lived out his life….Stacy lived hers through every person who had the ability to run, catch….slide….and spit inhaled dust……….

Death is a painful event, not considerate of age, time, place or date. But, life too, is an event. It does not yield to age, time, place or date either……..But we can be considerate of the life that each of us has been given and live it to the fullest. I never knew Stacy was in the crowd, cheering, yet there she was….living her short life out….through us.  As we go through life, we should always remember that maybe we are living out someone else’s dreams…..Life is to be celebrated, lived and hey maybe we should cheer for both teams………….





Light Bulbs and Email

Have you ever had someone impact your life so much, that even after they are no longer around, they continue to speak to you in subtle ways? I have such a person that is always there, in her own folder in my email, named ” Peggles”.  For those of you who have read my book, God’s Waiting Room, the story of Peggy, the obnoxious family member, clearly stood out as an entertaining, yet forthright person.

Today, I was once again reminded of her.  Peggy’s mother, Marge, was in my care for over 8 years; even moving her mom to my facility when I changed jobs.  Yet, every time you saw Peggy, she always had something to complain about.   ” The food is too cold. The food is too hot. The bathroom is dirty. The lights are too bright. There are cigarette butts in the parking lot. Your employees are wearing their uniforms too tight. The uniform polo shirts are sloppy“…..on and on and on and on she would complain. If I saw her coming before she saw me, I would duck behind something and hide until she left! Those days, when she could not find me to express her complaints in person, she would jam my email box with a flood of emails all titled ” Concerns”.  I neatly moved her “Concerns” over to her very own folder……the ones I replied to, they too went in a folder.  She was the most annoying family member I have ever encountered. I considered her an unhappy grouch that just had to find fault with something.

You see, Peggy had a way of holding every caregiver and hot shots like me, accountable. Accountability is something no one likes……and probably why we didn’t like her. She visited her mother every single day…every single day…..sometimes TWICE !  She was not only an advocate for her mom, but for the entire facility…..pointing out what was wrong in every area and department.  It became my goal to have at least ONE DAY that she would not be able to find anything wrong, out of place or unacceptable.

I would start in the parking lot, picking up even the smallest piece of trash. I would troll the hallways, checking to see everything through Peggy’s eyes.  I engaged the staff, telling them we would celebrate if Peggy came and went without finding fault…..(pizza parties motivated them like no tomorrow).

We would fail at every attempt.

” The water temperature in mom’s room is lukewarm. I know there are laws about what it should be.”

“There is a light bulb out on the left side of the front patio”.

“The piano is extremely dusty.”

” The back bathroom on the left wing only has  2 paper towels remaining…..”


I never met the goal of perfection.  But you know what? I learned so much from Peggy. I learned to notice everything, pay attention to every detail, and show interest in every aspect of the facility.  What I considered to be a chronic-complaining problem, was actually a life lesson in progress. Tuning in to all aspects of what was going on around me, I began noticing the dust on my own piano keys in my home. I began replacing the roll of paper towels at my kitchen sink when it was down to the last one. I would stop as I was backing out of my driveway, to pick up the trash in the ditch.  I took notice of the back porch light, that had burned out, probably two centuries ago……. I began taking responsibility for the things in my life, and changed what needed to be corrected.

The facility became a better place, as myself and the staff paid attention to details. Shirts were tucked in, burned out light bulbs were changed, the piano was spotless and bathrooms were stocked. I didn’t think Peggy knew we had made her our challenge…..but she did.

” Jessi, your staff has improved a lot in the past months. You see, if you don’t take care of the building and grounds. and take pride in it and yourself, how can anyone place their loved one with confidence in your facility? Good Lord child, if you can’t take care of a thing, how can you take of a human being?”

A few years ago, I attended Peggy’s funeral. Cancer took over her body, eventually consuming her. As I sat in an overflowing church, I looked around and saw Four Star Generals, highly decorated men and women, business leaders and government officials all showing their respects to her and her family.

Peggy made a difference in my life. She made me a better person both in my personal and professional life.  Each time I open my email box, there she sits, watching. As I attempt to write a colorful  email to a family member, I have to pass by Peggy to do it. Accountable. That’s what Peggy would call it. Accountable.

I miss her…..and I hope that she glares down at me from the heavens and says….” Jessi, your staff is greatly improved, but.………….”


When Can a Person Be Forced to Receive Medical Care?

Originally posted on TIME:

Last week, the case of a Connecticut teenager, identified as Cassandra C., 17, made headlines. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Cassandra wanted to forgo chemotherapy altogether—a decision her mother reportedly supported. But in early January, child services took the 17-year-old into custody and on Jan. 8 the state Supreme Court denied the teenager’s request to not receive the drugs.

The state’s interference in a personal decision about health care provides a rare lens into when and how health officials can mandate health care. Forced treatment is rare, but it happens when people, most often minors and the mentally ill, find themselves in extenuating circumstances.

“We subscribe to the principle that people should get to make decisions for themselves almost all the time,” says Paul S. Appelbaum, a psychiatry, medicine and law professor at Columbia University. “The exceptions to that rule are rare. What we’re seeing play out in Connecticut is really…

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Mama’s Rent

Have you ever felt as if you were the only person on earth that feels a certain way about things?  Either I  have gone bonkers, or society is a few fries short of a happy meal! Let me explain.

I was approached in the hallway by one of the nurses. last week, who reported to me a conversation she had had with a family member earlier in the day. Evidently, the family wanted a detail account of every medication “mama” was taking including who ordered it, why it was being given, how often it is given and how much it cost.     The nurse explained all that was within her scope of practice….everything but the cost.  Apparently the family was very dissatisfied with this …..

” I know what you people are up to. You are just keeping mama alive so you can collect her rent money”, the,  family screamed through the phone.  The nurse, who was caught totally off guard by such a powerful accusation had no clue as to how to respond. Scrambling for an appropriate response, she stated, ” I follow the doctor’s orders. If you would like, I can connect you to the Administrator to discuss the financial side of things…..””      The family chose not to talk to me, but rather, they slammed the phone down.

The nurse began justifying to me the medication “mama” was taking…carefully explaining how the resident needed each of the pills…one for acid reflux, one for edema, one for pain, one for fluid build-up, an aspirin and  a B12 injection. Hmmm.

Let me get this straight. The family thinks we are intentionally keeping her mother alive so we can collect her “rent money.” Wow. I don’t think I have ever been accused of such!  

I decided to call the family myself and sort through her concerns. I certainly do not tolerate anyone screaming at my staff and am quick to state my opinion to those who do so.           Once on the phone with the family member, I could tell the conversation was not going to go well….

” Listen Jessi, I know you are doing the best you can over there, but look, I can’t keep paying these bills that come in, and the pharmacy bill is out of control. Some times I think you just keep half the people over that at your place alive just so you can make money off them. Admit it, you know so many of them would be better off if they died; put out of their misery, but that would affect your bottom line.”      Before I could stop myself, I switched from Administrator to all HUMAN……..

” Mrs, Simon, stop right there. I am not God. I do not control anyone’s fate; their life, nor their death. It is my duty to my profession and to my own  personal character to provide care  and to indeed keep everyone alive! But you are the daughter and Power of Attorney, so the choices you make control life and death.  Do not shift your responsiblity onto me or the staff.  Furthermore, how dare you insinuate that we keep people alive for a profit!! We not only care for every resident in our facility, but we also CARE about them as well……….”    I quickly regained the tone and volume of my voice, knowing I was treading a fine line of unprofessionalism.   Mrs. Simon seemed unmoved by my rant.

” Do you know how much I owe the pharmacy?”She asked.

Before I could answer… she ylelled ” 72 dollars and 94 cent. You may as say 73 dollars.”

I sat at my desk, holding the phone in my ear, speechless. The words I wanted to say, were far from appropriate.  Seriously? 73 dollars?money

What is wrong with people??????????????????  The world has stopped for Mrs. Simon over $72. 93 and it is the fault of the facility that her mother is still alive.    Just wow.      Let me say it again…..WOW.

If she felt so strongly about her mother not NEEDING to spend  $72.93, then why bother having her in a facility such as mine? Certainly there are much cheaper facilities, or why even bother with a facility at all. Why not drive her to an assisted suicide state and drop the hatchet?

People love to talk about their right to die……and they are right to do so. We all have an appointed time to die, BUT, we also have a right to live.

Just wow. 72 dollars and 93 cent.


The Gift

I have always heard that God’s timing is the perfect timing; and I must say that I agree. Regardless of what we need or want in life, God has already set a plan in motion for what is ” best” and the outcome has already been declared. We must simply wait for that perfect time……Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.  Before we were even born, God had a plan for each of us…..He knew the whens, wheres and hows of our lives before we were born.

I was very blessed by God to have been born into a loving, Christian home with parents that deeply loved their children. I was even more blessed, to have a man of God, a simple preacher-man who I called “dad”. I was his ever-present shadow,constantly reaching for his hand as a toddler, as I weeble-wobbled across the floor. My mother would always say,” out of 6 children, you were the most difficult. Your father was your only pacifier.” As a teenager, set in my ways and as stubborn as a mule, my mother would declare ” You are your father’s child!” It was no secret that I idolized him. Everywhere dad, went, I was right behind him. For years, I thought my name was “Shadow” because people would say…”I see you have your shadow with you!”

Every Sunday morning, I would stand by my dad at the back door, as he greeted every church-goer after the service. I learned to shake hands, nod and smile and say” It was so nice to see you today in the Lord’s House, thank you for coming”, before I knew the alphabet or could count past five. Over the years, I learned how to show genuine concern, compassion and empathy to those in need, simply by emulating dad. He taught me the definition of love in action, by doing more and saying less. He showed me by example of how to be transparent, accept criticism and to defend the belief system I had come to treasure.

The deep south in the 60’s was a difficult time with the racial issues taking the forefront of everyone’s lives. My father stood in the pulpit and preached about a God who did not see color or race. I can still hear his voice booming…” God does not care what color you are, He does not care which side of the tracks you were born on, nor is God concerned with the size of your home or bank account. God is concerned with the condition of your heart. Is it one full of love and compassion for your brothers and sisters around you, or is it riled with hatred and vanity? As for me and my house we will serve the Lord, and conduct ourselves by loving ALL of mankind…” Today, as a seasoned adult, I think that was a bold and brave move and statement for him…..a statement that could have the crosses burning in front of our own home……. That’s the kind of man dad was, uncompromising in what he believed.

Pretty much everything in life that I learned, from riding a bicycle, to bungee jumping, my dad was the one who showed me how…(well the bungee jumping, he prayed heavily to God for me to “come to my senses”, but to protect me in spite of my youth). He drove me out of state to college and held my hand as he said “goodbye”. He wrote weekly letters, filled with love and concern for me. Every Wednesday, I would receive a church bulletin from the past Sunday, neatly folded with a note from him that read ; ” Here is Sundays’ bulletin. I love you, Love, Dad.” He stood most proud the day I graduated college……I was just as proud as I introduced him around to my friends…”this is MY dad…”

He walked me down the aisle at my wedding, then took to the pulpit to perform the ceremony.

He was only a phone call away, regardless of the situation, which as I learned, life has a lot of situations. He would drive hundreds of miles to “make sure I was alright”, carefully not involving himself in my marital problems. He never judged. He simply listened and gave his advice when I asked for it. He mailed cards of encouragement, which simply read, “I love You. Love, Dad.”

Years came and went. Holidays flew by. Life happened. The darkest day of my life came on August 28,2000. My dad passed away from a short battle with prostate cancer. Suddenly, he was gone. I was lost. Distraught. Devastated. Almost destroyed. The bond my dad and I shared was deep and now it was broken………..

So many people showed up for his funeral. After the service, I stood at the door of the church with my siblings and mother, greeting and thanking those who had came. I shook hands, nodded and smiled the best I could. So many people saying so many nice things about my dad……just when I thought I would have a nervous breakdown on the spot, one of dad’s deacons from his last church, put his hand on my shoulder. ” Young lady, I knew your father for over 30 years, You are just like him. You talk like him, act like him, have that smile that he had, and you even walk like him. He lives on right there in you. I know you will always make him proud. He sure loved you.” Those words changed my life..I was like him …I was “my father’s child.”

As I sit here today, I think it was no coincidence that my dad was born on Christmas Eve. The life that he lived, the example he was, and his love for everyone was a gift from God, to me. It’s the Christmas present that God gave to me, long before I was born…and it’s a gift that lives within my heart forever.

Happy Birthday daddy…Love, Shadow

Choosing the Right C.

Saturday I went out shopping at my local Wal-Mart. I bought a few things, including a battery operated floodlight for my outdoor Nativity set. I spent over 45 minutes perusing through the lights; carefully choosing the right one. Next to the battery section to pick up 6 “C” batteries.


Batteries. Sounds simple enough, right? In my head, I could hear the Energizer Bunny beating his drums as I stared at the enormous selection……then the music from the Duracell commercial filled my head. Oh the choices.     As I made my decision, I noticed on the packaging the different types…” C 8″,  “C9″  ” C12″….on and on the numbers went up to  “C20″. Hmmm, must be something different about the varied numeric values of the C battery.    I flipped over the floodlight packaging, hoping it would specify the right “C”… help.   Twenty minutes later, I decided to ask someone who knew more than me about the specs of the common battery.   Sixty minutes later, I am surrounded by Wal-Mart employees all of which were as clueless as I was.     Hmmmmm.

If you were to ask any of my friends about my technical skills, they will all tell you I am an electronic and gadget guru.I can fix any windows based problem with ease. I can sort through Apple code-jibberish and have a Mac back up and running within minutes. Remote controlled devices…no worries….their intricate workings pose no problem to my insightful thinking.  So…….why am I still standing in aisle 9 at Wal-Mart, staring at the Battery Center, appearing dazed and confused?

I wonder how our high-tech world confuses the already confused dementia patient? The other day at work, a resident asked for a pain medication due to a flare up of her gout. The nurse replied, ” Let me check the computer and see if you can  have one now…”    As the nurse disappeared to the computer station, the resident turned to me and said, ” What does a computer have to do with giving me pills? I should have a bottle of pills….”     Good point.  But yet, due to the electronic medication dispensing system…the computer DOES decide if a pill is to be given or not.     Imagine being in the resident’s shoes….she has pain, she is accustomed to taking her own medications...yet now, a  computer dictates her pain relief.

I  am sure residents are alarmed as we take their temperature scanning their forehead.   Remember the glass, mercury filled, old fashioned thermometers??????   Blood pressures are now taken by machines and heart beats counted by finger devices…yet we wonder why the resident does not understand what we are doing!  It’s not always dementia, when a resident gives us the ” I am so confused”  blank stare.

Standing in Walmart, I too had become so confused about the who C battery business….I decided to buy the C8’s hoping, they would work …the middle age man who seemed most knowledgable had said that the number simply indicated the ” years of life” the battery would have. I felt 8 years would be a reasonable amount of time for $11.98, so the C8’s it was!

That afternoon, the neighborhood came to life. Everyone  was outside working on their Christmas lights, decorations and oversized blow-up Santa’s.  I knelt in front of my nativity, placing my new floodlight ever so carefully in the right spot….. My neighbor, Jen,came by and was admiring the Nativity, which led me to tell her all about the whole new battery rating.

” Yep, batteries now have their life-span rating on the top of the packaging. The ones I bought are the C8s. Eight years is a long time for a battery, don’t you think? ”   I felt proud of my battery packaging knowledge.

Jen gave me a very weird look. “Do what? What are talking about? I didn’t know that.”

Before I could tell the whole story, several neighbors had joined in the battery conversation…..many of which disputed my theory. Within minutes, people were emerging from their houses, each carrying their choice of batteries. We gathered in a circle, passing around the batteries as if we were cul-de-sac drug dealers; studying the packaging, flipping it over to look at the back and the front…….then passing it to the next person for analysis.

” Jessi…. he number doesn’t represent the life-span. It means HOW MANY BATTERIES ARE IN THE PACK!”Jen exclaimed.

” Seriously??? All that drama and it’s the number of batteries???????” I had to laugh…..

The moral of this story?   Never over-think the simple things in life……life is complicated enough!

The Gift is Not in The Wrapping

The Holiday season brings with it, an enormous amount of “seasonal” volunteers;those wishing to spread “holiday cheer”. I love what they do;visiting with the residents, singing songs, giving out cookies  candy and spending time with each and every resident. December seems to bring out the best in people…..

People always tell me how “busy Christmas-time” is…..which I fully relate to and understand. But, my question is this: If Christmas is a busy time of year, how can so many people find time to “spread holiday cheer”, yet for the other 11 months, there is rarely a sighting of volunteers?  Just a question of curiosity.

Back in the day when I was a little girl, I would follow my dad, who served as a pastor, to every sick and shut -in house within a 50 mile radius. Dad would sit with, pray for and console family members who had lost a loved one, showing compassion, kindness and empathy. When hard times fell on a family in the community, we as a church, would collect food , one can at a time, to give to those in need. As soon as we had enough to fill a few grocery bags, we would drive them to the home of the family, excited to be able to help in such a small way.     My father instilled in his children the value of ” giving”, regardless of the season.

I recall one event that impacted me greatly as a little girl;a life lesson that continues to manifest in my life today. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old…..a new family had moved in to the community. They had not “joined” our church, nor had any interaction with church members. Dad had incredible radar for new people moving into the small town. He made a point to find out “whereabouts” they lived, so he could stop in for an introduction, welcome them to the community and invite them to church.

Once my dad knew where the new folks lived, he decided to go visit them on a Saturday morning. Naturally, being his shadow, I was ready to go!

We drove down a very long dirt rood, somewhat muddy, to arrive at a very run down house, that surely could not be inhabited by anyone. My dad never flinched. He got out of the car, telling me to sit still until he told me otherwise.I watched as he straightened his tie, buttoned his suit coat, and slopped through the red clay to the front porch.

The woman that answered the door seemed to welcome the town pastor into her home. My dad motioned for me to join them on the porch.

” This is my youngest child, Jessi. …….” Jessi, say hello to Mrs. Moran.”

I never knew a day of shyness, and being daddy’s little girl, I copied him in as many ways as I could.

” Hi Mrs. Moran, I am pleased to meet you ma’am.” I said as I extended my hand to her.

For over an hour, we sat in Mrs. Moran’s home, listening to how she her husband had been laid off from the coal mine, so they moved down south to be near her ” husband’s people”. She explained to my dad how their two children were not adjusting too well to the new school, partly because they didn’t have pants that fit.

” You know, boys grow so fast, one day their pants fit, the next day, they are knickerbockers. They have been teased at school for what they call “high-water britches”. But we are getting by with the help of the good Lord and Jake’s job over at the plant.”  She seemed sad, but yet confident.  Dad asked her questions about her children, ages and hobbies.

As we got up to leave, dad offered a prayer  for the family….which Mrs. Moran seemed to appreciate. After that, dad us drove back home.

A few days later, as all of us kids came home from school, our mom was packing trash bags with clothes from the boys closets. She asked for their input as to what fit, what was too big or small…..she neatly folded each piece of clothing as she tucked in the trash bag. My brothers quickly sorted out their clothing….never questioning why.

The bags were loaded into the station wagon, and off my dad and I went…back down the muddy, long driveway. Knowing that the clothing was for the Moran boys, I turned to my dad , asking, ” Shouldn’t we have wrapped the clothes, or put them in boxes; something to make them look better?”     I will never forget his words.

” Jessi, what we share with others is never contained in a box, gift bag or wrapping paper. What we give to others, is the gift of love, caring and concern. It’s never the packaging that makes the gift….the gift is not in the wrapping. People can tell the difference, where the gift came from, the store or the heart.Store bought is fine, but it still has to come from the heart. Understand?”

Before I could answer, we were at the Moran’s house. Again, I was instructed to, ” sit still until told otherwise.”  Once he talked to Mrs. Moran, he motioned for me and told me to get the bags.

I carried them proudly to the door, handing them to her. I noticed inside the bag, some of my mom’s dresses, my dad’s shirts and pants, alongside of the clothing mom had gathered from my brothers.   Mrs. Moran began t cry as she repeatedly thanked my father for the “gift”. She explained to him how grateful she was and knew her boys would be so excited to have pants that fit………..She turned to me and gave me the tightest hug I have ever had in my life, whispering “thank you”…..

Years have come and gone but  the lesson of the ” gift “has never left me, I think about the gift, making sure it is the right one- heartfelt. I will always carry my father’s words deep in my heart….

So the “seasonal” volunteers are surely appreciated, but they too could benefit in knowing that the gift is not in the wrapping……..not in the month that the visit, the gifts they bring or even in the songs they sing.


The gift……comes from the heart….and is not in the wrapping.