healthy hamburger helper

Healthy Hamburger Helper

My 72-year-old mom loves hamburgers. She recently spent a month in the hospital and ate almost one per day, compliments of the hospital kitchen and I assume, Medicare. So after she had sufficiently rehabilitated and recovered from a severely broken ankle, I took her out to a new hamburger restaurant nearby with family.

When we sat down there was an iPad in the middle of the table that served as our menu. After activating the screen, I learned that this hamburger was truly personalized and there was no such thing as a “typical” hamburger here. All I had to do was select which combination of ingredients and toppings I wanted…and then repeat that process for the 9 other people at the table. It was a modern ordering system, complete with a touchscreen and on-demand fulfillment that let me express who I am through my choice of bacon or CANADIAN BACON, fried egg or HARD BOILED EGG, cheddar cheese or FETA CHEESE, and a sum total of 2.6313084e+35 possible combinations (32 different toppings to choose from, not counting sauces!).

I got excited by all the possibilities until I realized how much work it would be to create 10 different hamburgers. When I started to ask some order preferences of my mom, she was apprehensive. “Oh, I don’t know. You choose. That’s overwhelming.” Luckily for her, I have eaten green onions, raw onions, and caramelized onions. I can taste the difference between dried cranberries and golden raisins. I’m a food expert — I’ve eaten at least 40,000 times. I can do this!

It dawned on me that this was an analogy for what I’d been doing for the past few months managing my mom’s health after she fell, badly exacerbating a degenerative neuromuscular condition she had developed previously.

“Oh, I don’t know. You choose. That’s overwhelming.”

Caring Medical Staff

Unluckily for her, I had never nursed anyone back from immobility. As far as I know, nobody I know has, either. In our most vulnerable time, neither of us had ever felt less confident, more alone, and less certain about what to do or how to do it. While the surgeon was excellent, the nurses caring, the physical and occupational therapists trustworthy, and the hospital staff competent, when it came time to make the critical decisions about how to take that next step or to manage life, it was really up to her and me.

Each time we made a key decision, I called or texted family or friends for input, and each time she made or missed a critical progress milestone, my phone was the carrier pigeon to my mom’s loved ones. We were winging it, through our most valiant attempts at interviewing agencies, talking to friends and family, reading brochures, and most importantly, searching Google for a semblance of what to do and how to do it. Any “healthcare product” we tried to use to help manage was impossible. We didn’t know Medicare codes, we didn’t know the “rules”, we didn’t know the names of the tools we were supposed to use. We just saw 2.6313084e+35 possible answers to each of our decisions and we were exhausted by it. Miraculously, we sort of figured it all out. Artificial intelligence, indeed.

After a minute of questions about her cheese, bun and vegetable preferences, she looked flustered and irritated.

“There’s an In-N-Out nearby. Let’s just go there.”

Ah, the tonic to confused hamburger orderers throughout California. Trusted ingredients. Finite choices. Quality execution. Let’s just go there.

Brian Corey

Author Brian Corey

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • As a medical insurance Counselor for 40 years……………………….I have heard the confusion about what is the difference between a Medicare Supplement and a HMO and then what would be best for me and why. I explain everything that they need to know to make a good decision and may people say “you tell me what I should do”
    So I go over everything again and help them make a decision. I give them names of insurance brokers that I know and trust who can explain their options again and enroll them in the right plan.
    It is even harder to have them understand Medicare Part D. I tell them there are 20 plans and that there are no two the same. I use Medicare.gov web site. I tell them I need the name of all of there drugs, dosage, how often they take it and with some drugs how often do they refill it. I also need to know the pharmacy they want to use and another pharmacy choice. I enter all that info into the program and it comes up with the plans that would be the least expensive Estimated Annual cost which includes what they would pay for their premium and out of pocket at the pharmacy of their choice. Sometimes that pharmacy isn’t a preferred pharmacy and they would be better off with a preferred one. They don’t understand why estimated cost could be less with a plan that has a $405 deductible then a plan that doesn’t have a deductible………..Again many of the people say you tell me what is best for me. So I show them the numbers and they usually want to plan that would be least expensive. It is toooooo confusion for everyone.
    I have people that call me for referrals for Home Care agencies, Dr’s, SNF info, Attorney’s, CPA’s, Mortuaries, Hospice………………. you name it.
    Some times people call me with a problem and we talk about their options. Many times i can share my experience and that comforts them and that makes it easier for them to take the next step.
    So many people are embarrass because they don’t know what to do to help their loved one. I tell them this life or end of life stuff wasn’t taught to us in school. We all just have to learn as we go and that they made the first right step by calling me.

  • PS. I forgot to mention that if we had your program in my area I could send them to you and know that they are going to be taken care of with TLC.

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