Signing Your Life Away–literally.

I couldn't make this up

We usually pick our son Aaron up at his house on Saturday night at 5 PM and then bring him back Sunday night between 7-9 PM. And each time the residential staff person asks us to sign this form from the “company”:


I, the undersigned, herby (sic) accept responsibility for …………………….while away from …………………… and absolve the management of said facility, its personnel and the attending physician of responsibility for a deterioration in condition, or accident that may happen while the resident is away.

For those of you who can’t believe this institutional baggage could still be around in 2010, you probably also can’t believe that “herby” has been faithfully photocopied and misspelled for all those years.

So me and “herby” are going to make a change. Starting today, I WILL NO LONGER SIGN THIS FORM.

Over the years I’ve gone from being mad, to sad, to frustrated, but now I think it is best to think comedy. (Say this in your best whiny Kathy Griffin’s voice and imagine a monologue from the queen of dish.)

“Actually to be on the agency’s ‘D’ list would be a step up. So, what the heck? It’s been at least 4 days since the supervisor decided I’m no longer public enemy number one–the queen of mean, so I should have enough social collateral to take this on, right?”

No matter how much the staff people beg that they are just doing their job and they will get in trouble if the form isn’t signed, I’m just not going to do it!

Now before anyone starts cheering please remember that in the ten years Aaron’s been in this residential and day program, he has regressed and there has been significant deterioration in his condition and skills. Yea, it’s documented. Remember all those accursed meetings?

But rather than blaming the loss on the parents and adding more passive aggressive guilt, let’s consider that maybe, just maybe, the ‘deterioration’ happens the 6 days a week when Aaron is in THEIR “professional” care.

And just what is “deterioration” anyway? It sounds like a remodeling job gone bad. Is that like when the concrete foundation starts to flake and fall apart? Do people actually deteriorate? Is that what all the plastic surgery is about? Face lifts, tummy tucks…worry that the concrete foundation is crumbling? Dr. Deterioration to the rescue?…”

Now Kathy Griffin would continue this comedy skit with some great anecdotes and have us all laughing. I can think of a staff person who said they didn’t have to brush Aaron’s teeth twice a day because “he didn’t brush his teeth twice a day.” Another staff person complained, “Why would I waste money and wash his hair everyday with shampoo. I only use shampoo once a week?” Or, “black socks are hotter than white socks, so you wear black socks only in winter.” (Actually this last one was in a day program and when I said there could be white wool socks, or black cotton socks–the color was not the issue–the staff person didn’t understand what I was saying.) Yes, indeed these could be great skits.

I’ve complained over the years about the wording on this form but the poor direct care staff in the house have no idea where the form came from, it has just always been there. They are caring people who have often had their own hard luck. They are making a little more than minimum wage. Some people might give them a nod and tell them they are doing God’s work, but society does not value the job they do.

So… drum roll… what to do? Probably the hundred or so family members who are signing this form are concentrating on the task at hand, giving their loved one a nice experience. It’s JUST A FORM. Life is all about choosing priorities. Choosing your battles. Is this worth an all out assault? Will haggling the company about this form make Aaron’s life better? Will it make my life better? I’ve put up with it for 10 years because I didn’t think so.

But the issue is, none of these “professionals” even knows how hateful and insulting this language is to families. They never put themselves in the families’ position; see it from their point of view. The fact when I was interviewing agencies, the first words out of their mouths were, “Oh, we love to have the family involved.”

And then after time, it becomes very clear that what they really meant to say was, “Oh, we love to have the family involved. We expect you to lavish us with praise and money, but then trust us unconditionally and ask no questions.”

Every good comic act and story needs a twist. So….what would Kathy Griffin do?

Maybe the solution is that next week I bring in MY OWN FORM. Before I give Aaron over to their care, I tell them THEY have to sign the form. They have to take responsibility for any regression and deterioration in Aaron’s condition.

Perhaps if the company had to own up to the undertrained, underpaid, undervalued staff. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…. Hell, they’d never sign it.

Take the stage–Passing the Mic

Do any of you have any great one liners you could add to our comedy routine? Have any of you had similar experiences? What kinds of forms do you sign to check your child in and out of their homes?

Share your ideas and keep climbing, onward and upward…

All the best,

Mary, herby and Kathy

Catch the followup to what happened click here