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Monday, March 18, 2013

Home Health... Hindrance or Aide?

Let's continue with some more upbeat posts, shall we?

As I promised you in the previous post,  the Home Health Aide saga has some rather amusing moments. So let's begin.

I had heard for a while about the possibility of getting a homecare worker due to Dovi's disability. I was wary, however; I didn't feel like having an aide underfoot every day. After the constant flow of EI therapists and then Res Hab counselors, it was a relief to have our home and privacy back. But I realized that we sorely needed that extra bit of help at the end of the day. Dovi came home from the counselor between 5:30 and 6:00 and tended to destroy the house until my husband came home from work at 6:45. I always felt bad for my husband that he couldn't sit down and eat a decent dinner because he wanted to see Dovi in bed first - it's hard to eat with him jumping around and climbing onto the countertops. It would be a dream to have someone be with Dovi for that hour, keep him occupied in the bath, and put him in pajamas, while my husband and I ate dinner. Then, the aide could do some light cleaning - Dovi's messes, of course, and maybe his laundry and a little grocery shopping... It would be amazing.

But I knew that it was too good to be true, in all likelihood; I have had plenty of elderly relatives who had aides and it's a major hit-or-miss. Many of them are lazy, some of the steal, and some are annoying. It's rare to have a perfect fit. The likelihood of finding someone who was both good with kids and enjoyed cleaning was slim. I made sure to specify to the caseworker at the agency what I was looking for. It took only 2 days and they found someone for me. Her name, they said, was Danuta.

The initial visiting nurse had asked me how many hours a day I needed help. Since Dovi usually came home at 5:30, I told her from 4 to 8 pm; the aide could clean up Dovi's messes from 4 - 5:30 and then take over and play with him until she would do his supper, bath, and bedtime, and then finish cleaning up after him. I waited anxiously at 4:00 to see this mysterious Danuta and hoped she wouldn't be too annoying.

The last thing I expected at my door was a stooped, Polish woman in her 70's. What??? How would she even have the energy for Dovi? But I let her in, sat her down, and started explaining what the job entailed. I explained what Dovi was all about, asked her if she'd worked with children before, and she looked at me as if I was from the moon - of course she had worked with children before. And old people. And disabled adults. She had done everything. "Missus, what do you want me to do?"

I looked around the kitchen and asked her if she wanted to wash some dishes and clean up a little. She then proceeded to clean up my entire house for the next four hours. She washed all the floors. She cleaned the bathrooms. I was in shock. 4 hours of free cleaning help daily? It was a dream.

Danuta came every day, Sunday through Friday, and proceeded to repeat the same routine. The house was absolutely spotless. It didn't matter anymore that Dovi flung things and pulverized food. Handy dandy Dana came to the rescue at 5 p.m. (I told her she had time to come at 5; the house wasn't that filthy to need four hours of cleaning daily)! I dismissed my Sunday cleaning lady, and hardly had anything to give Wendy to clean on Tuesdays; I was delighted that I could devote Wendy's hours to Pesach cleaning. Dana was thorough. She did things Wendy didn't. She showed me how to wash the kitchen floor with Cascade powder and hot water. She made me buy dish drainers for both sinks. My husband walked in from work every evening and couldn't believe his eyes. The house was calmer then ever before, cleaner than it had ever been, and Dana wasn't a bother at all. It seemed we had hit the jackpot.

The only problem was - she had absolutely no interest in Dovi. None, whatsoever. She didn't look his way, other than a perfunctory smile. I was confused. Wasn't her job, first an foremost, to take care of Dovi's needs? Cleaning the house was secondary; a nice bonus if there was still some time after Dovi was in bed. Her priority wasn't supposed to be cleaning the house spotless nightly. Something was off.

I asked her once if she minded watching him in the bath and she refused. "Lady, I don't like to sit. Give me something to do." She didn't wash the floors with a mop, nor on her hands and knees, just bent over from the waist. She was a hard worker who refused to rest for a moment. She also had a fount of fascinating stories; she had worked in a famous country club in New Jersey and had met President Clinton and some showbiz people. She once squirted floor cleaner all over a life sized painting of  Hitler in some rich person's house. "My people were killed too!" She came from someplace in Poland - I believe Rzezsow (Reisha), which is not far from Lizensk. She had worked for a disabled man who almost killed her. This job, she told me, was her favorite of all. She had tears in her eyes when I offered her food and drink. She virtually didn't know how to respond to kindness; she had been mistreated at her previous job and was so happy to work for a stable, kind family.

We appreciated the clean house. But the dinnertime strain still remained; my husband came home to a clean house, but he still couldn't sit down to eat until Dovi was bathed and in bed. You might ask why I didn't do it? Dovi usually refuses to eat when I feed him, and he obeys my husband a lot more than me, so even if he's in the bath, I still need my husband to do the heavy lifting (he's not lightweight!) and help me feed him. I resigned myself to the status quo of the situation and was grateful that at least the house remained clean.

Even more odd was that Dana was annoyed when Dovi apparently thwarted her cleaning efforts. Just as she finished washing the kitchen floor, Dovi crumbled up some cookies. I was sitting on the floor, waist deep in books I was cleaning for Pesach, fielding a phone crisis (Chaim was at OT and the volunteer to bring him back home hadn't shown and I was trying to find a substitute), when Dana came over and began complaining about Dovi. "Missis, you need to control your children better!" I looked at her, stunned, and explained to her that Dovi had autism and sensory issues and I couldn't control his need to crumble food. She waved it all away. "There is nothing wrong with your son. He is so smart. Look! He's doing it on purpose." What? Had I stepped into some bad movie? What was going on here? "Dana - why do you think you are working here? You're not my free cleaning lady! Because of Dovi, I need you to help me. Dovi does not know what he is doing." I explained to her that he couldn't talk - she thought he did, because he babbles - and that he's going for therapy and we hope he'll improve. "Therapy toilet. Therapy garbage. Only Mommy talking good." I bit my tongue; this woman obviously had no clue what autism was, and the agency had apparently dropped the ball and not explained her job to her. I was mystified.

The honeymoon lasted for all of two weeks. One Friday, I was half asleep (I nap Friday mornings) and though I heard the downstairs bell ring. I climbed out of bed, dizzy and disoriented, and it took me a while to ring the buzzer. I waited, and waited - but Dana didn't show up. Thankfully the house was pretty clean, but I was puzzled what was going on. I called and called her all day, but there was no answer. Hoping it was just a fluke, I puzzled about it all Shabbos. Motzei Shabbos I finally reached her and asked her what was going on. "Missis! I was so embarrassed! I rang and rang your bell for fifteen minutes and you didn't open!" Baloney... but oh well. I apologized to her and asked her if she was coming on Sunday, as usual. "No, Missis. I don't need this job. I shlep on the train, I make $9 an hour, and then I'm so embarrassed, standing there and you no open door? No thank you."


What a strange, strange bird. How does one quit their job because no one opened the door? Was she for real?

I wouldn't miss her. But I needed help desperately! I had sent away my Sunday cleaning help - and it was before Pesach!

I managed somehow on Sunday. On Monday, I finally reached the agency. Ophelia, my contact, apologized profusely and promised they would find someone else for me.

Something terrible happened that Monday. I hurt my finger terribly. I stumbled over the threshold of my porch and hit my finger on the steel porch door. I was in so much pain I could barely breathe. I cried in shock; not enough that I was severely behind with my Pesach cleaning, was without an aide for Dovi / help in the house, and now I injured my finger?

My finger was in a splint for a while; after Pesach I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with a torn metacarpophalangeal tendon.

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I was worried that I wouldn't regain movement in that finger, but thank G-d, after many months of limited mobility in my pinky finger, it healed completely.

For some more comic relief, here is a funny list I compiled to show people when I was stopped with inevitable questions:


1. What’s that thing on your finger?
a. Latest fashion statement
b. Uncomfortable, shvitzy splint

2. What happened?
a. Nothing; I’m practicing 9-fingered typing
b. I tore a metacarpophalangeal ligament or tendon

3. Wow! How?
a. I injured it while bravely fighting off a burglar
b. I tripped over my own feet and banged it on a steel door

4. Whoa. where?
a. At The Museum of the Famous Clumsy Klutz
b. Um, on my porch

5. Yikes. When?
a. This morning.
b. 3 ½ weeks ago. Who has time to take care of such stuff before Pesach???

6. True. so Who bandaged it?
a. Hatzulah
b. Dr. Berlin

7. How long do you have to wear it?
a. As long as people stop me to ask VOOS IZ GESHANE?
b. 8 days

8. Does it hurt?
a. Nah, why would it? A torn tendon doesnt hurt.
b. Are you kidding??? Every time my hits something I scream like a baby.

9. Wow. How are you gonna type now?
a. I’ll hire trained monkeys for that.
b. it’s ctully hrd. i cnt type the letter . it’s not such n importnt letter nywy. 

10. Can you find some humor at least in this situation?
a. What, this quiz wasnt funny enough?
b. Of course. Were you in camp in 1993? I was the teacher of Bunk... זרת (pinky)


The next day, I got a temporary substitute aide for 2 days until a permanent person was found. Now let me ask you a multiple choice question:

11. Based on my track record of wacky, zany stories, do you think there is a mind-boggling story to tell about that temporary substitute aide?
a. Nah.
b. Hoo Boy. Just Wait.


  1. Wow, what a woman!

    I'm fairly positive you tore a ligament, not a tendon, based on your description :) Lucky for you- a tendon rupture is a lot more complicated.

  2. I am literally LOL. You're a funny lady. Looking forward to the next chapter in the saga of the HHA.

  3. I am so glad you decided to continue this blog.


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