I love being a foster care provider for handicapped adults. I love Nettie and Cecilia fiercely, protectively and I am so grateful that our family has had the opportunity to have them as part of our family. And I will be forever grateful that our family had the chance to know and love and care for Old Gertrude. (Some days I long to hear her funny sayings, to french braid that thin old hair, and fry up some scrapple for breakfast.) I believe that the delight that I have enjoyed as a care provider is one of the ways that God has confirmed in my heart that it is what He wants me to do.
But I HATE the paperwork that goes with being a provider. And over the last couple of years, there has been a gradual increase in the forms we need to file, the records we need to keep, and the deadlines that are imposed. The thing is, I do like well kept records. If I must write a report every month on Cecilia and Nettie, saying what they did, how they participated, and what I did to help them realize their hopes and dreams, I try to make it complete. And interesting. Often my social reports are lengthy.
And then there are medication reports that detail the medications refilled, how many refills are left, and were they taken according to prescription. Nettie takes 20 pills a day divided between five different times. Cecilia takes 17, divided between three. This has to all be accounted for. And any doctor visits must be documented and a form signed by the doctor and turned in. Anything having to do with the medical aspects of their care has to be carefully documented. And rightly so. At least, I guess.
And then there is the financial reports. Every single penny must be accounted for, must be used for an acceptable expenditure and receipts must be provided. A monthly bank statement must be filed for each individual. Nothing belonging to one person can be on another receipt. Nothing purchased along with family groceries is to be counted. This is the report I labor over most of all because Nettie is always out of money at the end of the month. Cecilia always has too much. Sometimes I feel like my head is spinning round and round and round.
And then there is a compliance report that I need to file each month, too. What is the water temperature? When did I take it? Is it between 110 and 115 degrees? Did I do the fire drill? Are the fire extinguishers working? Do I have disaster supplies? Are exits clear of clutter? Many other questions, including whether I got my paper work all in in a timely fashion and then a daily log as to whether my individuals spend part of every day in our home. This one just became more compulsory because Medicaid has decided that they are not going to pay us unless we fill this particular sheet out and have it to their office by the 5th of the month for the previous month.
December was a really big month for me. I labored long and hard over the reports because there were so many things going on. I put all the reports except the compliance report (which gets faxed) in the same brown manila envelope, put the proper label on it and sent them to my case manager. Whew! That was done. I was so pleased with the social reports because of the happy things that had gone on, but the financial records were a bit more challenging. I was very relieved when everything was finally done.
A few months later I got a phone call from my case manager, asking me to please file my December paperwork. I couldn’t believe my ears.
“We don’t have none of it,” said my case manager.
“But I did it,” I protested. “I KNOW I did it!!!”
“Well, Ms. Yutzy, if you say you did it, I believe you,” she said. “They’ll just have to figure it out.”
“Well, I KNOW I did it,” I said, more than a little perturbed. (How could anyone lose my precious paperwork???)
My case manager knew that I was upset. “Just don’t worry about it, Mrs. Yutzy.” she said matter of factly. “I know it’s all gonna’ be alright.”
But about a month ago, she called me again.
“Ms. Yutzy, your paperwork hasn’t turned up. Are you sure you sent it?”
“I’m SURE I sent it. I have Stamps.com for my postage, and I remember printing that postage and getting the envelopes into the mail.”
“Well, we don’t have them, so what you’re gonna’ have to do is, you’re going to have get copies of the spending records and of the bank statement and send them in.”
“I don’t keep copies of that,” I said. “I have so much paperwork that I just cannot make copies of everything. I figured once I’ve sent it, then it is in your hands.”
“You don’t have copies?” She asked, like she couldn’t believe it. “Well, then you’re going to have to write a whole new one and just make up the receipts and I will sign off on them. Just do it to the best of your ability.”
“I just can’t do that,” I said. “I have no idea of what I spent that money on. I did it once. I shouldn’t have to do it again.”
“No, you shouldn’t. But we must have something in the record. Just do the best you can.”
I don’t know when anything has irritated me so completely nor frustrated me into such inertia. I just didn’t want to do this. I began thinking about things and trying to piece the month together somewhat. I took both of my ladies into the bank so that we could get copies of the December bank statements. When I saw the statements and pulled out a calendar, I began to have some hope. But I still didn’t want to do it. I was just so irritated with the whole mess.
Even more irritating to me was the fact that when I talked to my nurse, I discovered that someone had passed on to her ALL of the medical records for the month. So someone had to have had my precious paperwork at some point to have turned over all the medical reporting from the month.
“Yes, Ms. Yutzy, it’s probably sitting on someone’s desk right now and someone will come across it. But for now, we don’t have it and we have to satisfy the higher ups, so you still have to do it. Just do the best you can. Please.”
How I chafed! How I grumbled! How I procrastinated! I was sick. We had a family reunion. It was difficult getting things in order afterwards. I decided to make one more appeal. I have a good friend in administration that I needed to discuss something else with, and so I called her and in the course of the conversation, bewailed my lack appreciation for what I was being made to do.
“Maybe you could do something for me,” I said hopefully. “I just really don’t think it is at all fair for me to have to do this when I already did it and someone else is the one who messed up.”
“I know,” she said, “but I don’t think there is anything you can do. I am sure you have to do it. Sorry!’
Why this pushed me over the edge, I don’t know, but I had had enough. I needed a word picture so that she would know how utterly unfair this was, how completely irritated I was and how I felt like I wasn’t really being heard.
“I’m telling you,” I said rather heatedly, “this makes me so cross I want to go into “J’s” office (head of financial records), lie down on the floor and KICK!” That should show them. A mental picture of unflappable Ms. Yutzy lying on the floor and kicking should for sure impress them with how aggravated I was.
There was silence. Then:
“‘J’s’ father just passed away. She won’t be in all week.”
Ouch. Somewhere in my gut, I felt the old familiar “oh, no! What have I done? There goes the wind right out of my sails” feeling. I felt so ashamed of my rant, so sorry for “J” and her family.
There are things a whole lot more stressful, more important, more devastating than having to redo a month of paperwork. Like losing a Daddy. I had great cause to repent and wish that I could get my words back. But they were out there. I apologized and ended the conversation as quickly as possible.
The next day, in the flush of remorse, I got busy and worked on my paperwork and as of Saturday morning, it was all caught up. It wasn’t quite as challenging as I thought it was going to be. I put it out for the mail with an incredibly light heart.
In Sunday School this week, we were asked what one thing we would do differently this past week so that our lives would more accurately reflect the values of living in light of Eternity. I immediately thought of those hasty words and realized that so often, out of a selfish heart, I say things that don’t really speak Jesus to those around me. Sometimes the desire to be understood, or the desire to impress, or the desire to change the way something is going that makes things harder for me takes over and it feels like I need to use these words (that I really do love so much!) to make my point, convince my opponents, or somehow elevate my reputation.
And when I was reviewing that paragraph I was struck by how many personal pronouns were used, and how often the word “desire” popped up. It can’t be all about Jesus when I want it all about me.
I’m not saying that Jesus wanted them to lose my paperwork. And I believe that He understands that this isn’t much fun. But —
I’m pretty sure that He stands ready to help me have the right attitude about it and that how I respond is always important to The Kingdom.
Because it really IS all about HIM.
My heart gives humbled praise.