Tag Archives: Elder Care

Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

For the last five months, I pretty much put my life on hold because, well, life happened.

Suddenly, my world revolved around caregiving.

With three members of my family  (including the dog) undergoing operations that involved a lengthy recovery, my daily routine changed dramatically as I became the caregiver. As such, I was nurse, physical therapist, medicine dispenser, pulse taker, meal preparer and deliverer, bandage changer, appointment driver, and most of all, resident worrier.

I am happy to say, however, that all three patients have recovered, and our lives have resumed their normal ebb and flow.

I learned an important lesson during this time, though. Caregiving can be a full-time occupation without a training manual. It is alternately terrifying and lonely.

Caregiving is not a once and done deal. Most of us will be caregivers several times in our lifetimes. For some, it will be many times over.

Like my friend Cathy Sikorski, a funny, sharp and compassionate woman who has been a caregiver for seven different family members and friends over the last 25 years. Cathy’s first book, Showering With Nana: Confessions of a Serial Caregiver, is a memoir that is both touching and hilarious about the time she cared for her 92 year-old grandmother with a 2 year-old daughter toddling around the house. Cathy has the writing chops to bring you to laughter and tears simultaneously. I loved Showering with Nana and reviewed it here.

Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

Cathy is also an attorney who has focused her practice on elder care, so she understands caregiving from both a personal and a legal standpoint. Her latest book, Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving, provides practical information about caregiving for others as well as what you need to know about your own care — and your legal rights — as you age.

Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

No matter what age you are now, are you prepared for what lies ahead for both you and your loved ones? Do you have a Power of Attorney and a Living Will? Do you understand Social Security? Do you know the difference between Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap?

I am at the stage of my life where I need to know about these things, and figuring it all out can be nightmarish. Navigating the healthcare system is akin to being lost in a cornfield maze. I am an educated woman, but reading about this stuff makes my eyes glaze over in acronym misery. Cathy makes it more palatable with her plain speak tinged with humor style of writing.

Because she has gone through the hassles of making endless phone calls and getting nowhere, of filing claims that end up lost, of filling out pages of paperwork and dealing with incompetent administrators, she saves us a good chunk of the frustration by giving us a roadmap with clear directions.

Was this helpful? You bet. Caregiving is less onerous when you’re aware of the systems in place that can help during a difficult time, since the last thing you want to do is deal with it then.

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Book Buzz: Showering with Nana

Giggling my way through Cathy Sikorski’s memoir, Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (Killer) … Caregiver, I recalled hearing an old Irish proverb that goes like this:

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

Sikorski, who cared for her 92 year-old grandmother and two year-old daughter Rachel simultaneously, would undoubtedly agree.

Showering with Nana

Co-opted to care for Nana for six months, Sikorski entered this agreement with a mix of apprehension and acquiescence. This was her beloved grandmother who  had taken care of her and her five siblings for decades with total love in their multi-generational home. As an elder care lawyer, Sikorski was attuned to the needs and rhythms of the nonagenarian demographic.

But nothing could have prepared her for what was to come.

Showering with Nana

In a diary format, Sikorski takes us along on this bumpy ride in which every day presents a challenge or five. Early on she discovered that toddlers and nonagenarians actually have a lot in common.

  • They wear diapers. And poop in said diapers.
  • Naps are a daily necessity.
  • If all else fails, ice cream is an effective bribery tool.
  • They must be watched constantly. Or else all hell can break loose.

Which is precisely what happened.

There was the time Sikorski came upon Rachel playing happily in the bathtub while Nana was in the process of scrubbing it (the tub, not Rachel) with Comet. In horror, Sikorski saw her daughter covered in the caustic powder and sucking on a toilet brush. Nana in her equanimity looked at her and said, “See? Now the shower’s clean and so is the baby. A double duty.”

And then the trip to the mall. What better way to occupy a toddler and an elderly person for a couple of hours? Only Sikorski lost Nana during the two minutes she looked away and had mall security doing a shakedown.

Or the time when she noticed Nana and Rachel munching on a snack and discovered it was dog food.

Funniest of all are the episodes of diaper stories. When you’ve got one of your charges in Huggies and the other in Depends, there is a lot of sh*t happening. It was one of these predicaments that led to the title of the book. But you’ll have to read it to find out.

Through it all Sikorski learns a lot about patience, inner strength and what it means to be tired all the time. But most of all, she learned that whenever possible, laughter is the best recourse.

Showering with Nana is a funny book, but it also pulls the heartstrings. Sikorski is a terrific writer and communicates her range of emotions, from frustration to tenderness to anger and then back to frustration. She writes dialogue so well, I could hear Nana calling her “honey girl” and I could hear Rachel’s sweet little toddler voice announcing “I find Nana’s pottyboot.” (pocketbook)

For anyone going through a difficult time, especially with aging parents or grandparents, this book will lift the spirits.

And show us that when life gets tough, the tough figure out how to laugh.

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Book Buzz: Bettyville

Can a story about elder care be told with equal parts love, humor and pathos? And can you really go home again?

Yes and yes. Case in point: “Bettyville,” a tender memoir by George Hodgman, about moving back to his hometown of Paris, Missouri to care for his ailing 91 year-old mother.

Bettyville: A Memoir

Hodgman, who worked as an editor at Vanity Fair and several publishing houses, moved back home from Manhattan when his mother’s health had declined to the point of needing full-time assistance. On the waiting list at a local assisted care facility, she was ultimately rejected. Instead of returning to New York, Hodgman moved in and became Betty’s caretaker.


Mother and son found themselves at a crossroads — he lost his job, and she lost her independence– and became room mates, finding that life isn’t always easy for two willful people used to getting their own way.

Hodgman chronicles the joys and stresses of  this new chapter in his life. With affection and respect, he candidly describes Betty’s struggles while championing her resilience: her insistence on writing words down to remember them, of keeping her weekly bridge game and playing piano once a month at church. The mother-son banter provides a context for their complicated relationship of butting heads, percolating with silent resentment, then reconnecting.

With a sharp eye to detail and his self-deprecating wit, Hodgman recounts growing up in a household filled with both love and tacit disapproval, of living with secrets and unexpressed emotions that would haunt him throughout his life, of an adulthood as a work-obsessed editor wrestling with self-doubt and periods of drug addiction, of living in New York City when the AIDS crisis first took hold, of seeing many friends get sick and die.

For Hodgman, who is gay, the geographic transition is exacerbated by the culture shock of moving from New York City to an area without an active gay presence, and moreover, a slice of American pie that no longer exists. To his dismay, the once thriving town of Mom and Pop stores has been a victim of the Walmartization (my word) of America.

However, he appreciates what is still good and nurturing about a community that, though dwindling, still rallies around him and his mother, providing the support and occasional casserole so deeply appreciated.

Honest about his own mixed feelings, Hodgman’s adoration for Betty never wavers. How true this relationship rings to me, the good and bad, the ups and downs, the spectrum of emotions he pinpoints so acutely.

Ultimately, he discovers that patience, love and acceptance are what really matter. And we are a product of our parents, for better or worse. As he says,

 “We have sometimes struggled with words, but I am Betty’s boy. There are so many things I will carry when I leave Bettyville with my old suitcase.”

I think Betty would like that.


I am so happy to be able to give a copy of ‘Bettyville” to one of my readers. Please leave a comment and a winner will be chosen randomly. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of “Bettyville” from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I do.

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