Friday, February 28, 2014

Sometimes Seizures Scare Me

I don’t like to admit seizures scare me but sometimes they do. 

You would think I would be used to Robert having seizures.  After all, he’s my youngest brother and he’s had them practically his entire life.
Robert's downstairs bathroom

Robert’s seizures have evolved over time from Absence Seizures when my parents first realized he had a problem to Tonic-Clonic Seizures through his middle and high school years.

After a couple of brain surgeries, he now has Complex Partial Seizures which last (for him) between 10 seconds and five minutes. 

Over time, I was able to get used to most of his seizures.  I knew what to expect. Since Robert moved in with us, my husband and I keep a log of his seizures. This log is probably why I was so detail-oriented with my Caregiving Day Log.  It’s amazing how much can happen in 10 seconds Ten seconds doesn’t seem like a long time but try writing down everything you do in 10 seconds. It’s probably a lot more than it seems.

A typical entry into Robert’s seizure log for a 10 second seizure: “While washing his face; rt hand slowly went down; head to rt.”

Typically, he has his seizure, I wait and watch to be sure it doesn’t go into a longer, more unusual seizure and then he finishes up whatever he was doing.  Robert doesn’t like to say he had a seizure and prefers to tell me he “fought it off.”  I used to correct him and tell him he did in fact have a seizure but soon realized how important it was to him to be able to believe he was fighting them off.  I no longer try to take that away from him.  I discreetly log the seizure and help him with what he was doing. 

Those seizures don’t scare me.  I am used to those and recognize they are just part of our day.  They are part of every single day.  My log for February shows Robert having more than 60 seizures – and those are just the ones Richard or I witnessed. 

This week, Robert had two seizures that were longer than usual, different in what happened during them and, frankly, scared the crap out of me. 

Both were during his morning bath.  Robert and I have developed an excellent system for his morning bath which was borne out of necessity since we don’t have a downstairs shower. Robert sits on top of the toilet and I hand him a wet washcloth. While he’s scrubbing his face, I wash his hair. I then give him a dry washcloth to dry his face and hair.  While he’s doing that I get another washcloth wet and soapy and give him that to wash the rest of himself.  Once he’s done, he stands up, holding on the grab bars, and I wash and dry his back.  He usually has a quick seizure at this point and I put a towel on his and hold him up if he starts to lean or fall backwards.

The seizure almost always lasts for 10 seconds and then he sniffs or giggles and I have him sit down to finish drying off. 

One of the scary things about seizures is they are unexpected.  I considered it a win that I could expect this seizure in the morning while washing his back.  I could prepare for it which is what we always want to do with seizures.

Wednesday was different.  Robert was standing; I was washing his back. He dropped his head like usual and I grabbed a towel and held it against him, expecting to wait 10 seconds.

Ten seconds passed and his head went further to the right and his legs gave out. As he was crumpling to the floor, I tried to hold him up to no avail. He’s 213 pounds and feels about double that when he’s dropping to the floor.  I am just not strong enough to hold him up.

I slowed his slump but couldn’t keep him up.  I called for Richard but by that time, Robert had turned his body so he was facing another wall and was already on his way down. I had him under his arms and I was doing my best to keep his back from hitting one wall and his head from hitting another wall (success with the back; not so much with the head). Richard and I  tried to move him so his back wasn’t leaning against the bookcase in the bathroom or didn’t hit his head again but his legs were jammed under him and against the toilet.  I put a towel between him and the bookcase and kept his head away from the wall.

With the three of us in this tiny bathroom and Robert’s limbs going in all directions, it looked like a Twister game gone wrong. 

My fear was he was going to break his leg.

Robert came out of his seizure after a couple of minutes but was very confused. Taz managed to squeeze into the bathroom and proceeded to lick Robert’s arm and ear. Robert was too confused to even manage to look annoyed.

It took quite a while for Richard and me to get him to move so he was in a more comfortable position. Once Robert was back seated on the toilet, I checked him for bumps and bruises and he only had a little scrape.  Thank goodness but it was extremely disconcerting and I was very upset thinking he had come close to breaking a bone. 

Thursday brought yet another different seizure. This time, I was more prepared.  Robert was having his usual seizure during his back washing and also saw his head move further to the right. I called for Richard to bring the walker, thinking I could lower him into the walker before he slumped to the floor. I kept Robert from twisting his body this time but he still slumped to the floor. This time he was on one knee, head against the wall and his other leg was scrunched under him and wedged against the wall.  This time, I feared he had broken his knee cap because his knee was extremely red. 

This seizure kept going.  Minutes ticked by and his breathing was labored, then he was moaning.  

Then, silence.

In that moment, I thought he stopped breathing and I thought of all the children and adults who have died of SUDEP.  I told Richard he stopped breathing and, because of Richard’s position, he could see Robert breathing and told me he was.

Now I could breathe again. 

Within seconds, Robert started pleading, in a soft, pained voice: “Help me. Help me. Help me.”

I could feel my heart shattering into a million pieces.

Is he hurting? Is this what is going on his head with each seizure?  How can I help him?

Richard and I were able to move him a bit and got him up on the toilet. He was extremely confused and groggy but out of the seizure long enough for me to give him an Ativan which is my go-to drug in case of the seizure clusters or a prolonged seizure. (I have Diazepam but it is administered rectally which is usually impossible.  We came close to using it this time since he had been in mid-bath but was able to take the oral medication instead.)

Robert was confused but was finally finished with his seizure. I checked him for any bruising or bumps, Taz got in a few licks and then I helped him dress, Richard prepared his breakfast.  I took him to a previously scheduled appointment with a podiatrist and then after dropping him off at Day Program, I went into work.

Richard was able to find a shower chair for us to use since a short, 10 second seizure while I am washing his back is no longer something I can prepare for. 

This morning we used the chair and it worked perfectly.  Robert didn’t have any seizures and he was able to get cleaned up easily.

The neurologist added a new medication to Robert’s regime.  If it works, we can eventually try reducing one of the other seizure medications. 

I don’t like changing his medications around but he is having way too many seizures.  We have to do something.  Robert started this medication yesterday so we will watch for any awful side-effects and hope for a reduction in his seizures.

Changing Robert’s medication scares me and these seizures scare me but I have to set aside those fears.

That is how I am going to help you, Robert.   

(Richard, my husband and co-caregiver, also wrote about this experience from his perspective which you can read on his website

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Day with a Caregiver: Updated for the #Blog4Care Carnival

Caring Across Generations is publishing a #Blog4Care Carnival at the end of March and I am thrilled to help them with their goal of showing what caregiving is like from all different perspectives.  This post opened my own eyes about a caregiving day from the perspective of a working caregiver. I am not special – I am one of millions of working caregivers who have days similar to this.

On this particular day, I was juggling taking Robert to a dental appointment and working from home.  

Richard and I recently participated in a project created by Denise Brown, founder of the non-profit, Chris MacLellan, founder of, and Rajiv Mehta, founder of Unfrazzle.

One of my favorite moments
It is easy enough to do: keep track of your caregiving day on a log provided by Denise and Raj.  Denise, Chris and Raj created the log and are asking caregivers to participate (there’s still time to do so – visit here for more information.) 

Before completing the log, I thought my caregiving day consisted of getting Robert ready for Day Program, laundry, making dinner, fostering a bond between Robert and Taz and keeping all of his medications straight (and in stock).  I wondered why I didn’t have time to write or why a trip to CVS for incontinence supplies seemed like a real treat. 

I wondered why I couldn’t write at 8:00 p.m. when I had a whole hour to wait until Robert’s last medication dose.  Instead, I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to lie in bed and watch a brainless television show with my dogs and husband or play Words with Friends.

Okay, sometimes I plop into bed as early as 7:30 and, yes, my 20 year-old self is mocking me right now. Heck, I’m pretty sure my 40 year-old self would be appalled. 

I thought I must be doing something wrong; I know I have it easy compared to many other caregivers.  Maybe I need to be more organized. Maybe I need more checklists (as many of you know - my solution for everything).

The day I kept the log, I thought it was an atypical day.  After all, Robert wasn’t going to Day Program because of a dentist appointment and I was working from home after the appointment instead of going to the office.

Here’s an excerpt of my log (the actual log has more information to keep track of and also tracks an entire day):  

Time:               Activity:

5:30 a.m.:        Wake up; discuss Richard's night and how he slept;
5:40 a.m.:        Prepare water (add thickener); dispense meds; 
                       add antibiotic;
5:45 a.m.:        Turn off oxygen & humidifier; ask Robert to get up;
5:46 a.m.:        Put Robert’s word search book in his walker basket; 
                       put glasses & pens & calendar on kitchen table;
5:47 a.m.:        Notice Robert is having a seizure while still in bed; 
                       lasts 10 seconds; watch & wait;
5:47 a.m.:        Help Robert out of bed; watch him walk to the bathroom;
5:49 a.m.:        Remove wet bed pads and put in garbage;
5:51 a.m.:        Help Robert remove his shirt, pants, briefs; 
                       put wet clothes in washer and briefs in garbage; 
                       watch Robert sit on toilet;
                       remind him to use urinal guard; 
5:56 a.m.:        Remove wet sheet & blankets from bed; put in laundry room; 
                        load washer;
6:00 a.m.:        Ask Robert how he's doing in bathroom;
6:00 a.m.:        Write down earlier seizure in his seizure log;
6:00 a.m.:        Fold blanket that isn't wet; put away in closet; put foot & head wedges into garage;
6:10 a.m.:        See Robert standing up wiping himself; I tell him to throw away the TP and ask if he needs his rear-end wiped. He says he still needs to wipe his penis; I ask him to throw away the toilet paper; we have a discussion about what he needs and I ask him to sit down to wipe. He finishes wiping;
6:15 a.m.:        Warm up water for bath; lay towels on floor; put down bowl;
6:17 a.m.:        Wet washcloth and hand to Robert; he washes his face; I wash his hair; rinse his hair; get excess water off hair and he dries his face; prepare wet cloth for him to wash whole body; give to him;
6:25 a.m.:        Add thickener to water; give Robert medication;
6:26 a.m.:        Ask Robert to stand so I can wash his back; he has to go to the bathroom again; I hand him urinal guard;
6:28 a.m.:        Take out garbage;
6:35 a.m.:        Check on Robert; ask if he's done says he has to be wiped but is holding toilet paper; told him to throw that away; he continues to sit and then begins to wipe his eye because he says it's bothering him. I wipe his eye with a washcloth;
6:37 a.m.:        Ask Robert to stand so I can wash his back; I wash and then dry his back; spray body spray on him; give direction to put hand on counter and railing to sit down;
6:38 a.m.:        Give Robert his briefs, shoes and socks and insert pad into 
6:39 a.m.:        Remove fitted sheet from mattress pad; roll up mattress pad and put out in the garage; put sheet in washer; put away sofa bed; check on Robert's progress dressing;
6:45 a.m.:        Help Robert put his briefs on;
6:46 a.m.:        Prepare jeans (put handkerchief in pocket; washcloth in other pocket; wallet, comb & fingernail clippers in pockets); add belt;
6:47 a.m.:        Check on Robert's progress; give him the jeans; help Robert 
                       put on his socks;
6:50 a.m.:        Give Robert choice of shirts (show him two, he picks one);
6:55 a.m.:        Check on Robert's progress; remind him about 
                       dentist appointment this morning;
6:56 a.m.:        Add thickener to water for next med dose; give Robert nasal spray; help him put on his shoes (I asked if he needed help, he said yes); offer to help with shirt and he declined offer;
7:05 a.m.:        Go upstairs to shower; Richard takes over watching Robert; I check/answer work emails;
7:35 a.m.:        Give Robert his medication;
7:36 a.m.:        Discuss changing pain doctors with Richard and the referral form I got for new doc;
7:40 a.m.:        Remind Robert he has a dentist appointment and needs to finish up breakfast; seems groggy and slurring words, falling asleep; seems "post-seizure" like;
7:45 a.m.:        Finish getting ready for the day (me);
8:00 a.m.:        Ask Robert if he wants to shave and brush his hair first and then brush his teeth. He says he does; I remind him of his dentist appointment and give him 10 minutes to shave and comb his hair;
8:05 a.m.:        Drink coffee that Richard made; check personal emails 
                       and texts;
8:10 a.m.:        Brush Robert's teeth; explain what to expect at the dentist;
8:20 a.m.:        Transfer clothes from washer to dryer; start another load in 
8:25 a.m.:        Put Robert's coat on; ask him to sit down for a minute; get his meds in the event of prolonged seizure while out;
8:30 a.m.:        Take Robert to the car; put him safely in; 
                        load walker in trunk;
8:40 a.m.:        Robert gets mad at me for rolling down the window when I am crossing a busy street. I explain to him the driver needs to do what they need to do for safety even if the passenger doesn't like it;
8:55 a.m.:        Arrive at dentist; walk Robert in and sit him in a lobby chair; ask him to keep his helmet on since they will call him back shortly;
9:00 a.m.:        Go out to the car to get the "car bag" in case of an accident;
9:05 a.m.:        Robert is called back; help him stand up; walk him back to the dental chair; put bed pad on chair in case of an accident; help him into chair; fold up walker, etc. and get out of the way;
9:10 a.m.;        Sit with Robert while he's getting work done; check/answer work emails as well as personal emails/texts;
10:20 a.m.:      Robert is finished; walk him to lobby and set him down;
                       I go pay;
10:30 a.m.:      Robert has accident in lobby (crap - no pad!); I take him to bathroom to change and clean up;
10:45 a.m.:      Apologize to dentist office and offer to pay for new chair or 
                       cleaning of chair;
10:46 a.m.:      Put Robert into car; put walker into trunk; look for dumpster for wet briefs/pads - 
                       no luck; put in the trunk and leave;
11:10 a.m.:      Stop for coffee!
11:15 a.m.:      At home - get Robert out of the car; his walker basket broke and I had to explain that to Robert since he was asking why it wasn't attached to his walker; walk him into the house;
11:20 a.m.:      Help Robert remove jacket; repack his car bag; 
                       start laundry with his wet clothes;
11:25 a.m.:      Notice Robert is pressing on himself which is a sign he needs to use the bathroom; I ask him if he needs to go to the bathroom and he agrees he does; help him up and into bathroom;
11:30 a.m.:      Put on gloves and take off one of the two briefs he's wearing because it is wet; replace the pad in the brief;
11:35 a.m.:      Robert is finished; wipe off bottom and hand him sanitizer wipe to wipe hands; take out the trash;
11:40 a.m.:      Take vitals because Robert is moving slow and seems groggy;
11:45 a.m.:      Check on Robert since he is shaving and brushing his hair;
11:50 a.m.:      Log onto computer - check personal emails; check news;
11:55 a.m.:      Help Robert out of bathroom; get him settled on couch; 
                       start TV show for him;
11:57 a.m.:      Fold bedding from dryer;

And that’s the morning . . .

After keeping track of all the activities in a caregiving day, I came to several realizations:

  1. Tasks may only take a minute or two but, boy, do they add up and they are never-ending;
  2. There is no typical day in caregiving.
  3. No wonder I am exhausted!
Every day in caregiving is different. Sure, there might be some of the same tasks (like laundry and helping Robert clean up in the bathroom and keeping his razor charged) but every day is different.  Some days have doctor’s appointments, some days Robert is moving extra slow and some days he is returning home excitedly telling us about his Valentine’s Day haul of cards (“They’re all from girls!  They looove me!”).

Richard and I had a video chat with Denise and Raj and discussed doing the log and the realizations we came to after keeping track of the day.  Our conversation is below.

While talking with Denise and Raj, I realized that it doesn’t make sense to compare our day to someone else’s day.  What might be easy for someone else might not be easy for me. While I might have to do something one day, I might not have to another day.  My morning log seems like a lot to some and pretty easy to others.  There are days that the tasks really aren’t that much.

Every day is different.  Every caregiving situation is different, yet we can all learn from each other because much of what we feel is the same.

Doing the Caregiving Day log also made me realize I am going to be a little kinder to myself for not getting more done or writing more.  I am also going to cherish the times that I am actually able to find the time to write and am going to appreciate what I am able to get done.  I need to remind myself that we are all doing the very best we can.

Caregiving is in the details but also about the moments. There was a moment in the afternoon that Robert made me laugh and later in the day I was able to spend a few minutes watching Family Feud with him and laughed some more. Those are the moments I want to cherish when I look back on this time caring for Robert.

Tell me about your caregiving day in the comment section and, please, contact Denise to complete the Caregiving Day Log. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Coffee with a Caregiver

Did someone say coffee?

It started with a caregiver friend keeping another caregiver company while she stays with her husband who is a patient in a hospice facility. 

The only unusual part of that friendship is that one lives in California and the other in Arkansas so “keeping company” was through texting, Facebook, sharing their hearts and a few laughs.

California Caregiver (G-J) wanted to do something different to connect with Arkansas Caregiver (Kathy), so decided to share a cup of coffee with her (a picture of it anyway – with a special note).

Kathy shared hers back – again with a note.

Then another caregiver (in Florida) shared his coffee and a note.

California Caregivers Richard and Trish (who have never missed an opportunity to be caffeinated) joined in.

A hashtag (#coffeewithacaregiver) was added and pictures were shared on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and whatever other Social Media tools caregivers use. 

More caregivers joined in from Florida to California and Denise of, based in Chicago, shared the pictures and designated Friday, February 14, 10:00 a.m. ET as #coffeewithacaregiver day!

Please have coffee with us anytime you would like to have #coffeewithacaregiver but also join us on Friday morning by sharing your picture of coffee with a note to another caregiver (or all caregivers). 

Whether taking a caree to a doctor’s appointment, rushing them to the hospital, making them dinner, calling to check on them or sitting with a loved one in their final moments, no one has to go through caregiving alone. 

Let’s go through it together.

Let’s have coffee together. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blessings and Gratitude All Around

One weekend a few months ago, Robert asked me to find his pocket phone book.  I knew we didn’t have this but I looked in his closet anyway.  I told Robert there was no pocket phone book to be found.
Robert's Bible cover

The next weekend, he asked again. I explained we didn’t have it.

This happened for several more weekends.

I finally realized he wanted a particular phone number so asked him who he wanted to call.

“My church.”

Well, goodness.  I told him I could find the phone number of the church and could call them.  He liked that idea so I called the church and left a message, not really expecting a call back. After all, Robert has been sending Christmas cards to this church for the past five years and hasn’t received a call or card back.

As gently as I could, I told Robert not to expect a response. "I'm sure they won't call" is pretty close to what I said.  

The following weekend, Robert asked for his pocket phone book.

Oh boy.  This topic is not going away.  I had to get a little tougher with my message.

I explained that we had already called the church and left a message. Robert was right there when I had called! I explained that I already looked for the pocket phone book and it was gone.

It’s gone – we do not have it.

“It’s at the other house.”

No – it’s gone; it’s gone.  It’s really gone. There’s nothing more I can do.  I’m sorry.

Silence and a stare.  Never a good combination.

That was on a Sunday. 

Monday morning, someone from Robert’s church called me. 

If ever there was a time for a hallelujah this was it!


He remembered Robert and was grateful I had called because they wondered if Robert was okay.  They had grown fond of him and had hoped for the best when he was no longer attending the church. It was great to hear how much Robert meant to this person.  He promised to have one of the pastors call Robert and we discussed the best times to call.

I was thrilled to come home and tell Robert a pastor from his church was going to call him. Robert’s eyes got a little bigger and brighter and his smile was spread across his face.

This meant so much to him; I hoped the pastor really would call and would call soon.

Two nights later, Pastor Franz called to talk with Robert but first he talked with me for quite some time.

Pastor Franz told me how much Robert meant to him and the church. He explained that Robert helped him (a pastor!) solidify his own faith way back when and he was extremely grateful we contacted him and was grateful to know how Robert was doing. Pastor Franz told me he had been on a bad path but he admired Robert’s faith and conviction and their conversations helped put him on the path to becoming a pastor.

For almost 15 years I have held a grudge against this church because a few of Robert’s church friends had convinced Robert God had cured him of epilepsy and he no longer needed to take his anti-seizure medication.  I don’t even know if this church was the same one Pastor Franz was from but I held a grudge against “Robert’s Church” anyway. As a result of this irresponsible advice, Robert had several relentless seizures while our entire family was visiting the ocean with my mom who was dying of cancer. 

To say I held a grudge is an understatement.

After talking with Pastor Franz, I put Robert on the phone.  Pastor Franz spoke with Robert for several minutes (even though it can be difficult to understand Robert over the phone) and I overheard them praying together, talking about God and Jesus. It appeared Pastor Franz was asking Robert if he needed anything but Robert didn’t quite understand him.  They eventually said their goodbyes and Robert handed me the phone again with a look of pure joy on his face.

Pastor Franz thanked me for contacting him and promised to send DVDs of their services - every week - and offered to send anything else Robert needed. 

I in turn thanked Pastor Franz for giving Robert something I can’t give him – a prayer with someone from his church whom he clearly respects.

Robert was elated the rest of the evening and I could feel my heart letting go of the grudge. It kind of didn’t want to but I thought it was time.

I am very grateful for what Pastor Franz gave Robert that evening and am grateful for his gifts of the promised DVDs which faithfully arrive in our mailbox twice a week.

I am also grateful to Pastor Franz for giving me the gift of forgiveness of people who were no doubt well-intentioned but woefully (and dangerously) uninformed. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I am Going to Yelp!

Now that work is back to the “usual busy” instead of the “I’m losing my mind busy,” I am catching up on the non-urgent appointments for Robert.

Robert's New Helmet from Hanger Prosthetics
We finally got his new helmet – just in time too.  Robert and I had gone to pick it up a few weeks ago but the wrong helmet was ordered so we had to wait for the right one to come in. (Robert needs a hard shell helmet, including a hard shell piece covering the back of his head. This piece didn’t come with the first order so a whole new helmet had to be ordered.)

A few days before the right helmet came in, the old one started coming apart and Richard had to pull out his mad MacGyver skills and, along with the most useful thing ever invented (duct tape), the helmet was able to last until the appointment to get the new one.

Robert loves the new helmet and the tech who helped us was able to fit it perfectly by inserting a super soft padding on the interior and clipping the pointed corners of the padding.  These are the little extra touches that only come from care and experience.

Robert had a dentist appointment the following morning. Robert does not have dental insurance but he has Medi-Cal (the California version of Medicaid) and Medicare.  Medi-Cal pays for four cleanings a year – if he lives in a board and care facility.  Medi-Cal doesn’t pay for any cleanings if he lives with us but does pay for a check-up once a year.  (I know – it doesn’t make any sense.)

Robert’s Regional Center rep sent me a list of dentists who take Medi-Cal and I chose a national chain near our house. I asked a few questions when setting up the appointment about the services covered and was told about a $25/year Dental-Cal plan that would cover more x-rays and check-ups throughout the year.  I thought that sounded prudent since the seizure medication Robert is on is known to be harsh on the bones and teeth. 

Even though Robert is on state-funded insurance, we have been spoiled with the excellent care he receives from his PCP, neurologists and the hospital physicians.  The doctors truly care for Robert and do not care what type of insurance he has.  The doctors all treat me and Robert with respect and truly put in the extra effort to keep Robert as healthy as possible. 

We arrived at the dental appointment twenty minutes early.  There was quite a bit of paperwork to complete ahead of time and I wanted to be sure giving them the paperwork, copies of the Durable Power of Attorney and his medication list didn’t delay the appointment start time. 

[As an aside, the health section in the paperwork included a question about “mental retardation.”  This term is offensive to me and apparently to the California legislature as well because they passed legislation a few years ago that requires the replacement of that term in medical settings with “intellectual disability.” Doing my civic duty, I kindly noted this on their paperwork.]

The receptionist was thrilled with the complete package I handed to her (although I’m certain she hadn’t yet seen my above-referenced note) and told us the dentist didn’t actually arrive until 9:00 a.m. (which was Robert’s appointment time). 

We settled into the lobby which was comfortable enough but seemed to have way too many chairs for the size of the room.  Since we were the first to arrive, we picked a chair that was easy for Robert to get in and out of while maneuvering his walker. He settled into the chair and for the next fifteen minutes worked on his Word Search puzzle.

We were called back at 9:00 by a nice, young woman who was very patient with Robert.  She was the dental assistant who was tasked with doing x-rays.  She was extremely sweet with Robert and comfortable with him which is usually a sign that someone has experience with the disabled.  Sure enough, she told me her sister was disabled and she cared for her for many years and now helps her mom care for her.  I told her how much I appreciated her being patient with Robert when doing the x-rays (he was falling asleep and moving his head which resulted in several retakes of the pictures.)  The Dental Assistant whispered she was happy she got Robert instead of some of the other DA’s who would have become frustrated and impatient with him. 

Hmm.  Red flag. 

Once the x-rays were over, we were led to a dental chair and we were able to get Robert comfortably settled in.  The dentist came over and introduced herself to me and proceeded to look at the x-rays.  She rattled off each tooth and the Dental Assistant wrote down all the existing crowns, etc. in Robert’s mouth.  The dentist went through the list again and recited all the things that were wrong and that needed to be fixed.  The Dental Assistant wrote everything down and then a gentleman came over to review the list.  The dentist clarified some of his questions and then turned to me and said, “He’ll get you a quote.” 

Really?  I was taken aback because she had not been talking with me or Robert but I heard her list off several crowns, extractions, cavities and other “issues.”  I told her that it sounded like a lot of work and I wouldn’t want to put Robert through all of that.  She said something to the effect of, “well, yeah, it is a lot” and then stepped away.  The gentleman who had taken over told me he would return in a minute with a quote. 

Red flag, red flag, red flag.

I really just wanted a check-up and a cleaning.  Robert had been getting cleanings at New Home quarterly and it had been a year since his last one.  He also had been sedated when he first moved into New Home in order to get any extractions or cavities filled.  That was three years ago and at the time, they told me Robert didn’t need anything done. 

Now Robert needs several extractions and crowns and cavities filled?

(I am not the biggest fan of New Home so it wouldn’t surprise me if the truth was somewhere in the middle.)

The guy comes back and hands me a quote for $2,000 to take care of a small fraction of what the dentist had said was wrong. 

Nowhere on the quote was a cleaning.

Red flag!!!

I asked about the cleaning, told him I wasn’t going to go through with any of the dental work at this time and asked for a full quote on everything the dentist had suggested. 

After several minutes, he returns with the revised quote.  It is $20,000 worth of dental work although with the Dental-Cal insurance it is “only” $10,000. 

These people are crazy.

The cleaning is $89 plus the $25 for Dental-Cal insurance.

I agree to the cleaning and the dentist returns with the Dental Assistant who seems to be the only caring person in the building.

The dentist still has no real communication with Robert who gets increasingly uncomfortable during the procedure.  I reassure him, tell him his gums are going to hurt a little and to relax.  The dentist continues with her work and only breaks when Robert complains about his back hurting and then a short time later has a coughing fit. 

I do my best to reassure him and tell him it will be over soon. 

While waiting for this nightmare to be over, I decided to Google this particular location and see if there were any bad reviews.

The Yelp reviews popped up and I was kicking myself for not checking them before the appointment.  All but two were horrendous (and described our experience in varying degrees).  Someone even called out the two positive reviews and said they were written by employees!

In the meantime, there are other patients in the back area with us who are apparently regulars.  They tell the employees they will see them next week, they exchange books with each other and act like this is their social gathering for the week. I wonder how much they are willing to shell out for this social hour.

Once the dentist is finished with Robert, she takes off her gloves and standing in front of me and over Robert, tells the Dental Assistant, “Well that was my challenge of the day.”

Um, I can hear you.  (And so can Robert.)

The Dental Assistant finishes up by polishing Robert’s teeth but we cannot get out of there fast enough. 

We couldn’t leave, however, because Robert had a restroom emergency which turned into a nightmare itself – he had an accident and I had left my regular car bag at home to restock it. Luckily, I had a mini-car bag in the car which contained briefs at least. 

I finally cleaned him up, cleaned up the floor, and walked out to the reception area which by now was packed.  Ah, that’s why they need all those chairs.

Several people were behind the reception desk yet not one asked to check me out.  I asked who I was supposed to pay and one of them finally, begrudgingly, agreed to take my money.

Gee, so sorry to bother you.

By the time we left, two and a half hours had passed and only fifteen minutes (if that) was for the cleaning.

Obviously, we will not return to this facility but I have learned a valuable lesson:

Remember to Yelp when needed!

I have two reviews to write: a positive review for the Sacramento location of Hanger Prosthetics for their awesome service and a not so positive review of the Rancho Cordova location of Western Dental.