Dealing With Immigrants

Yesterday, Peg and I experienced the joy of being dumped by our caretaker. Dolly is a good woman, but has no patience whatsoever. Caring for a person in late stage dementia requires unlimited brain power, creativity, psychology, and kindness. Dolly had good brain power, but not what it takes to deal with an Alzheimer’s client. Dolly showed signs of kindness, but lacked compassion. To Dolly the job of caring for Peg was a process. She knew the steps, but failed in her ability to deal with a person who decides she wants no part of her process. I’m reading a book titled Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s by Joanne Koenig Coste. When I reached the chapter on dealing with personal hygiene and toileting Dolly failed miserably. Costa reports that this is a universal difficulty for all Alzheimer’s people. These two functions cause the patient to become combative, angry, and hateful. In Peg’s case, I witnessed her coming apart on Dolly with aggressive shoving, wild swinging, and foul language delivered in a vicious tone I never heard come from her before.  For the past week I have been seriously deliberating firing Dolly in favor of someone who might be more compassionate and who knows how to redirect Peg when she digs in her heels.


Dolly came to us through an agency  that deals exclusively with Eastern European immigrants. Dolly has been in the USA for 25 years, and has been caring for old people ever since.  She speaks English, is a permanent resident, but not a citizen. She never wanted a formal day off, but insisted on being able to cut out for several hours when she needed to run errands. She kept an apartment in Chicago even though she received room and board as part of her compensation. She  never wanted to be paid by check, only cash. My guess is that she is one of the many employed in the USA that enjoy the benefits but do not support the system.

As we began to get acquainted with her,  I learned a little about her back ground. She has a daughter, one grand daughter, and a husband still living in her homeland. With some quick math and a guess at her age she first came to America when she was thirty-five or forty. I wondered and still do about what kind of woman leaves her husband and her only child to come to America to make money? She professed to have a degree in Economics. That sounds great doesn’t it, but she now makes in a single day, what a person with a degree in economics makes in a month in her homeland.

Dolly went to her apartment three times in three weeks. Each time she returned with several bags of groceries from a homeland deli near where she lived. It didn’t matter if Peg and I didn’t like the foods she brought into the house, she needed these things to live, and American food is less nourishing than food from her homeland. On the very first day she spent with us the soup pot was on the stove loaded with beef bones. She simmered the bones for six hours. What happens when you do that is the broth becomes very thick and when it cools it becomes a gelatin loaded with collagen protein.


I had to look this up, because Dolly also tried to convert me to her diet the whole time she was here. Collagen protein has numerous health benefits one of which is lubrication of the joints. The gel stuff is typical of East European countries. My parents made the same stuff. I remember watching Mom do it, except she used pigs feet and pigs knuckles as the bone source. My dad loved it. As healthy as collagen protein might have been for joints, Dad’s biggest problem in later years was worn out knees and hips. So much for the benefits of collagen protein on joint health. Dolly’s breakfast every morning consisted go six egg yolks and one egg white scrambled. Alongside was a generous slice of the gelatin concoction and a slab of unsalted butter, weird. She kept telling me to throw out all mine and Peg’s pills, and use her diet instead.

Her last shopping excursion happened last Friday. She came home with over a hundred dollars worth of exotic European food. One of them was about five pounds of a special blood sausage the Polish call kishka. As she unloaded her foods and hurriedly put them into the fridge she kept jabbering away about how American food is so lousy. I finally reached a reaction point, and calmly said, “you know Dolly, I often wonder why you came to America.” She was stunned. She looked at me and was speechless. Later that evening she declared she had to return to her apartment for something. Peg was in bed by then and I said fine. She returned a couple of hours later.


The following morning I had a Lions Club function. I was prepping to leave at 9:20 to make it by ten. I had told this to both Peg and Dolly several times during the week. She came out of her room and declared she needed to go to Walgreen’s for something. I reminded her of my meeting, and asked if she could put it off until I returned at three. She looked at me with a dumb look. Peg needed my attention so I spent the next fifteen minutes with her. It was now time to leave. I searched the house for Dolly and could not find her. Her car was gone, I checked her closet and most of her clothing was gone too. She returned at 10:30 very apologetic telling me she got lost in Frankfort. By now, I was ready to let her go, but knew better than to make it happen before my day was finished.

The Lions had a booth at the Annual Frankfort Community Showcase. I was there to perform free vision screenings on kids. It was good day, we screened seventeen kids, our blood drive netted 22 pints of blood, and our Peace Poster display grabbed a lot of attention. I even recruited a potential member. Whenever I am at such an event, I look at my phone often to see if Peg has called. This day I had a call from the agency I hired Dolly through. Oh no, she beat me to it, I thought. I got home at two-thirty and the first words from her mouth was a story about having to leave immediately to return to the homeland to take care of her husband who needed heart surgery.


Thankfully, the agency had a new lady lined up to fill Dolly’s void. The new lady is from yet another East European country. Today we went grocery shopping. I told her we shop at Jewel. She told me never shop at Jewel their produce is never fresh and their prices are too high. I facetiously said what about Mariano’s. She said, “oh yes they are the best.” They are also the most expensive, I thought to myself. She pushed Peg around in a transport chair as we shopped for her ethnic palate. Near the end she asked “are there any European deli’s around Frankfort?” Oh shit,” I said to myself, “here I go again.”


After returning from Mariano’s I put all the groceries away and it occurred to me that I did not see the blood sausage. I triple checked all the fridge spaces and the freezers. Gone, the blood sausage was gone. The light went on, that’s why she went to her apartment on Friday. I got even though, because her final pay was a check.


Who’s Got the Kishka?


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