Monday, September 28, 2009

Joy is Contagious

There is a growing body of research showing that emotions are contagious. We probably have all recognized this at one time or another but now there is actual proof that physiological changes take place when one person “catches” an emotion from another person.

It seems obvious enough now. One person starts laughing hysterically about something and soon others are joining in without knowing why in the world they are bent over laughing until their stomach hurts and their face is wet from crying.

I was fortunate enough last night to have “caught” joy. I had been out of town for a few days for a work-related conference, came home and spent some much needed snuggle time with my dogs and cats and saw a movie with my husband (he’s not as snuggly as my fluffy dogs, okay?!). I also planned to go see Robert since, by my calculation, he was nearly out of “nighttime underwear” and it had been a few days since I had seen him. I like to check in on him to spend time with him but also to be sure he has enough supplies, his room is tidy and his sheets are dry.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I Prefer to be Called Robert"

I have called my youngest brother by many names throughout the years: Rob, Robbie, hon, sweetie – even the occasional “kiddo” (okay, I’m not so proud of that one). “Robbie” was my favorite since he was so young when we called him that and he still had his silky fine, wavy brown hair and cute little chubby cheeks pierced with huge dimples. Even as he grew into adulthood he was called “Robert” only by telemarketers.

Now, at age 44, he tells everyone “I prefer to be called Robert.” Okay, fine, I’ll try to remember that. Sheesh, I didn’t realize I had to be so formal. Plus, who wants to sound like a telemarketer? As the older sister, I kind of thought I earned the privilege of calling him whatever I’d like to.

“Hey, Rob, do you want ketchup on your burger?”

“I prefer to be called Robert.”

“Okay but I’ve got a hot burger right off the grill and I’m wondering if you want ketchup, Rob.”

“I prefer to be called Robert.”

“Okay, okay. Robert. Do you want ketchup?”

“There’s no cheese?”

Oh goodness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Changing an Address with a Government Agency

Robert is 44 years old, has had a lifetime of uncontrolled seizures caused by debilitating epilepsy and receives government assistance. He’s also my brother. Robert receives Social Security benefits, SSI (state disability), Medi-Cal and Medicare. We live in California. I am very grateful for the financial assistance Robert receives but am extremely concerned for those needing government assistance and not having an advocate to assist them in getting the necessary benefits.

Robert has become mentally as well as physically disabled due to years and years of seizure activity in his brain, the brain surgeries (yes, that’s plural) as well as the plethora of medications he takes to somewhat stabilize his condition. I say “somewhat” quite generously because he can drop like a rock without warning and has spent many nights in the emergency room after doing so. He now wears a hard shell helmet which has diminished the need for stitches on a regular basis but he can still get pretty banged up.

Robert was, amazingly, able to live with a companion for many years. She also has epilepsy and they were able to help care for one another. However, Robert’s condition deteriorated enough that it was no longer even remotely safe for him to live on his own. He now lives in a residential care facility near me.