Cathy Sikorski, author of Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving, is an elder law attorney who writes from her experiences with clients in her chosen area of law as well as from her life experience as a self-professed “serial caregiver” for more than 25 years. This is a short book, jam-packed with important information that elder law attorneys wish everyone — individuals, caregivers, and caregivers-to-be — would pay attention to. The information is delivered in a humorous way, with a light hand, grounded in accuracy. The book is easy to read and structured so that one can go back to review sections that become relevant as one’s journey as a caregiver or as a senior progresses. The author’s specific examples of situations in which attorneys, individuals, and caregivers find themselves are side-splittingly funny but also leave the reader with those “I know what she is talking about” moments. Seeing the humorous side helps smooth frustrations — at least sometimes. Sikorski explains legal matters in comfortable language that neither talks down to nor talks over the reader, always injecting humor along the way.
Sikorski begins the book by explaining how the title evolved as she simultaneously provided care for her 92-year-old grandmother and her 2-year-old daughter. Sikorski shares what she learned along her journey, and the journey of her clients, in a straightforward and down-to-earth manner. Throughout the book, she emphasizes that planning is key and, moreover, that knowledge is power. Many fail to plan, believing that planning is unnecessary. Sikorski presents information on planning succinctly and clearly, giving the reader up-to-date information they need to know.
Part 1, “Start Here and Now,” begins with the chapter “What Should I Have Already Done?” Sikorski discusses power of attorney documents, both financial and health care powers of attorney, and living wills. She also discusses the differences between the two types of powers of attorney and a living will and touches on long-term care insurance. Sikorski peppers her exposition with examples that make it easier for the layperson to understand. Chapter 2 takes the reader through the complicated worlds of Medicare, Medicaid, and Medigap and discusses what each means and how to find out more given a person’s particular situation. Chapter 3 discusses money, especially when Medicaid might become necessary. Sikorski emphasizes frequently, especially in this chapter, the need for the assistance of an elder law attorney to avoid making costly mistakes. Chapter 4 delves into the murky waters of Social Security benefits and lists resources for readers to enable them to learn more.
Part 2 is titled “You might be a caregiver …” . Chapter 5, “Now Will You Talk to Me?” is a primer on how to cut through red tape with insurance companies, not just for the benefit of the people caregivers help but also for the benefit of caregivers themselves. Most of us, as attorneys or as caregivers, have entered that twilight zone in which the person on the other end of the line (or letter) apparently speaks a language that differs from ours. This situation can be so much more fraught for new caregivers. Sikorski likely will make the reader laugh and nod his or her head as the familiarity of the situation sinks in. Chapter 6 gives tips on how to ask for help. Most caregivers need assistance but often do not know how to ask for it, or they assume that others know when they need it. Chapter 7, “The Seven Dwarfs of Hidden Symptoms,” addresses symptoms of medical problems, especially the dangerous and sneaky urinary tract infection and what happens when it is not recognized in time. In Chapter 8, Sikorski implores caregivers to stop paying medical bills without researching their validity. Chapter 9 is about patience — what it is and how to achieve it. She extolls 60 ways to find and hold onto patience. Chapter 10 explores methods to care for caregivers, and Chapter 11 talks about how to make employment actually work for them. Many caregivers are employed, and many employers employ caregivers, but the two groups need to discuss how to accommodate one another, making a difficult situation “work” for both (pun intended). Chapter 12, “Ain’t No Shame in Laughing,” sums everything up.
This book is a good read as well as a handy resource for elder law attorneys to recommend to clients, especially new caregivers thrust into the caregiving role. It also gives attorneys a commonsense way of explaining legal matters to clients. Several times I heard my own words echoed in Sikorski’s comments. This practical guide can help caregivers muddle through the complex issues of caregiving and encourages them to find humor in their situations.