Friday, October 8, 2010

Fitzin It

In December my wife and I packed up and ‘moved house’, as the Brits say, from Pittsburgh, PA to New Port Richey, FL, about 30 minutes north of Tampa.  We moved not, as may be imagined after some four feet of snow fell in Pittsburgh last winter, to avoid the weather, but rather to provide live-in care for my wife’s mother.
It has not been without its challenges!
I am amazed at the way people abuse the elderly.  Some clown talked MIL into a commercial grade Kirby vacuum system with shampooer attachments.  Cost her about 3 large ($3,000.00) and weighs more than she does.  Her house is a two bedroom ranch typical of the area.  The two bedrooms, living room and small Florida/Sun room are carpeted, as is the six-foot long hallway that runs from the kitchen to the bedrooms.  Neither the bathrooms, kitchen nor dining room are carpeted.  A Hoover electric broom would do all the vacuuming this house requires.  See what I mean?
Another snake oil peddler sold her on her need to seal and coat the outside of the house and the drive way.  He charged her $5,000.00 for that and gave her a lifetime warranty.  Two years later this same guy snookered her into having him redo it for $4.500.00 and gave her a 25-year warranty.  We had it redone this year because it was peeling off the house in sheets, and whatever he used for sealant was mildewing and growing mold between the coating and the cinderblock underneath.  Guess who is now out of business and under investigation by the Florida attorney general?  MIL’s two warranty’s are worthless.  Well, actually, they were worthless the day they were signed.  Florida law sets a maximum of  twenty years for warranties for this kind of work.  MIL didn’t know that, and the live-in didn’t really care one way or the other.
Then there is the issue of what the military would call ‘friendly fire incidents’.  People MIL knew and trusted who took advantage of her naïveté. It cost us $500 to fix the peak vent on the roof repaired under ‘friendly fire’.  Friendly fire re-routed the septic system for MIL, sending overflow into a sunken 55 gallon drum instead of the drainage field.  I don’t know what it cost to have the carpets,  baseboards, and other damage repaired when the ‘friendly fire’ backed up into the house, but the guy out there right now says it will cost around $2,000.00 to fix the fix.
Fixing the fix on the car cost us about $1,600.00 and there are still a few non-essential (read: not safety related) things that need to be fixed.
I’m angered both by the snake oil salesmen who prey on the elderly, and by people MIL knew and trusted who took advantage of her.  We’ve been here since December.  In fact, it will be ten months tomorrow.  In those months, my wife and I have spent endless hours fielding phone calls from snake oil salesmen.  As soon as they realize they no longer have a nearly 80 year old woman on the line, they usually hang up.
And MIL is doing better as well.  Since we took over her live in care, there is someone here almost 24/7, she eats real freshly prepared nutritious food instead of Meals on Wheels or frozen chimichangas and burritos.  Her head is clearer than it’s been in years, her doc has reduced her insulin dosage for both morning and evening, cut out her anxiety med and pain meds, cut her cholesterol meds in half, and reduced her BP med dosages.  Her sugar levels, BP and weight have all leveled out and she’s more alert than she was ten months ago.  And, this is the coolest part, she has money in the bank.
She owns the house, and pays the house insurance and electric and water.  She doesn’t charge us rent, but we pay for everything else.  Groceries, car insurance, phone, TV, security system – we pay all that.  If her meds need a co pay, and they mostly don’t, we pay for that.  If she needs to go somewhere, we make sure she gets there.  Perhaps the biggest change is that there is no longer anyone living here who takes advantage of her and leeches off of her, and the two people who live with her now pamper her.
And, there is no minimizing that the lady has a live-in gourmet chef.  A couple of nights ago I made a sort of pierogie lasagna.  I was in the living room checking something when MIL called from the other room, “Oh David, you make sunshine!”
Oh, there are still some things that need work, but slowly and surely, we’re fitzin it.
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