Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things left undone.

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -Pablo Picasso

What things do you have left undone? Unfortunately, my first thoughts upon hearing this quote were not even about my own objectives, but those of my parents. My father has several disabilities and is house-bound, and my mother has been his caretaker since 1975.

My father's cellphone is his link to the world when my mom is at work during the day. Although they have a house phone that he could use to call 911 in case of an emergency, he isn't very adept at calling other numbers. My dad has problems dialing and likes being able to read the screen on the cellphone. Unfortunately, his cell broke due to water damage a few weeks ago, and he had been without a cellphone since then. So why didn't my mom just take his phone to her cellular provide and figure out their options for getting a replacement?

Caregivers get burnout, and it can be difficult to prevent this from occurring. My mom has been taking care of my dad (to varying degrees, depending on his health) since his strokes over 30 years ago. I do what I can for my parents, even moving back in with them a couple of times over the years. Now that I am in my own house with The Boy, that tactic is no longer a realistic option. I need to figure out new ways I can help them.

What my parents and others in situations like theirs can benefit from are government services. Even in tough economic times like this, there are still options available. But first you need to apply for them. There can be a lot of paperwork involved and long waiting lists, but ultimately some services are better than no services. Websites like and can help you find local services to apply for.

Getting your affairs in order is also vitally important. These are the sort of issues people never want to talk about, but believe me, you want to talk about these things before it is too late.

What I have left undone is sitting down with my mother and helping her make her way through all of this paperwork. She works crazy hours, usually seven days a week, and she does her best at work and at home. However, this is a big task and a major initial time commitment. While I can't do it for her, I can certainly do my best to help her figure it out. That way my father can receive better care, my mom can be less stressed, and I can feel like I've done something significant for my parents.

So, what happened with the cellphone? The Boy and I drove out to see my parents one weekend and walked my mother through getting him a replacement cellphone. The guy at AT&T was very considerate, and once we told him what we wanted - a large, non-flip cellphone with easy to utilize buttons for a person with disabilities - he actually ended up steering us right out of his store. It turns out we could go to Wal-Mart or a similar store to buy one of the cheap $20 AT&T "Go" phones that are intended for pre-pay service. Then we just needed to put my dad's SIM card in the new phone, and it would function as his normal monthly-contract phone rather than a Go phone.

My mom was relieved, and very appreciative that we were able to help her out. My dad is thrilled he has a phone again. I'm glad we were able to help. Just wish I could do more.

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