What Is Really Going On Here?


Last week I called the home health care agency that was supplying my home health aide and asked them what their policy is about aides using cell phones.

In the olden days, around 1995, the standard policy was that no aide was to use her cell phone for any reason at any time while on the job. Anybody who needed the aide should call the agency, the agency would decide if it really was important and, if so, the agency would call the client who would hand the phone to the aide.

My personal policy was more lenient. If the aide’s kid’s school called, I was okay with her taking the call. Likewise, husband calls for pain meds, garage calls with estimate on the car, and so forth. Three minutes and that’s it, no problem. However, there was a big problem if some aide was arguing with her teenage daughter about going to the mall the next day.

So the reason I called the agency was because my aide was on her cell phone all the time. She would go into the bedroom to make the bed and I’d see her texting. She’d go downstairs to tend to the laundry and not come back for twice as long as it normally takes. We’d go to the grocery store and while she was supposed to be recycling the cans and bottles, I went to the pharmacy. When she didn’t come back and I went to find her, she was on her cell phone again.

So I called the agency and they said she only could use her cell phone in an emergency. Okay—define “emergency.” The first day it was the school, which called three times because she has three kids. Then it was the doctor’s office. Then it was the County Personnel Dept. She never told me who all the other calls were to or from.

The aide is a 27-year-old woman, recently divorced with a boyfriend. She has just bought her first house. She’s working two jobs. She has three kids. The second week she worked, she found out she’s pregnant. The third week, her nephew got killed in a drive-by shooting. She intended to take a Civil Service test this summer and go to nursing school in September. As she said, her life is complicated. And I don’t think she should be running her life by cell phone while she’s being paid to provide services to me. As my grandma would say, she’s bit off more than she can chew.

Then, on Thursday, we went to the grocery store together for the first time. I explained that I have myalgic encephalomyelitis and that by the end of our trip I might be exhausted and kinda-sorta snippy. I told her that the only things that would help would be (a) a drink, (b) something to eat, (c) bed rest. I asked her please not to take it personally; she should just say, “My client’s got a problem,” and leave it at that. I prepared her in advance for the situation that, in fact, did develop. Once I got out of the stress of the store, I calmed right down.

On Friday morning, when she came to work, I asked her if she would be working Monday, which was Memorial Day and therefore a minor holiday. She said yes, and we confirmed that she would be at work at 9:00 a.m. Comes Monday morning and nine o’clock, and no aide. No phone call from the aide either. At 9:15, I call the agency. They tell me that she resigned from my case Friday afternoon. Well, how about that?

The agency person says they called the county and told them. Neither the agency nor the county told me. Do you think I might have done things differently over the weekend if I knew I wasn’t going to have an aide on Monday? When an agency accepts an account then they are bound to serve that account, that is, send a replacement aide. This agency said they couldn’t. And when I asked why the aide resigned from my case, they said they didn’t know.

So I got to work to take care of myself. I hate having home health aides. I want to do it myself. On Monday, I got the sheets changed and did the dishes. Tuesday I did the laundry and took a shower. By Wednesday, things started slipping. I did the grocery shopping by myself on Thursday. Mixed up in all this week were four health care appointments. And my glucose level started rising. Remember, my glucose is driven up by stress, not diet. It was down to 434; now it’s up to 454.

Saturday I went to church and ran errands. Sunday I took a day of rest—read, slept, watched television and prayed that I’d have enough energy to get things done on Monday, but it didn’t happen.

So I called the agency and asked for a new aide. And the agency said, “We’re not re-staffing your case.”

Why not, I asked?

The reply was “You’ll have to ask the county.” Why? You made the decision; why won’t you tell me? Well, it didn’t matter how I asked—they weren’t going to tell me. I hate chicken-shit people.

So I asked why the aide had resigned from my case and was told “Because you were rude at the grocery store.” No, actually, I was sick and the aide knew it. And if I was so intolerably rude at the grocery store on Thursday then why did the aide work on Friday and say she was coming back on Monday?

What is really going on here?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability rights, Government Services, Onondaga County, Poverty, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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