Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Caregiver

Bill has lunch on his last day at the hospital (he left most of the food)
Last month, after witnessing Bill slug through another ordeal in dealing with the VA for him health care I decided that I would be his official caregiver.  

This is a job I should have undertaken years earlier but I was either too lazy or just wanted to respect Bill for his independence. 

When Bill and I first met I was twenty-two years old and Bill thirty-five. Even though my three years in the Army (from age 18 to 21) matured me immensely, I was still in many ways a (have to be careful with what I say) "kid" and Bill was the "man."  After all he was almost old enough to be my father.  He was only five years younger than my Mother.

Over the years our roles have gradually changed.  

When I met Bill in 1964 he was making three times my income.  When we build our house in 1980 I was making twice what Bill was making.  I advised him to take early retirement (at 55 years of age) because I was making enough money for the both of us.  Of course you know how that worked out. Two years later Mellon Bank bought Girard Bank where I worked.  Four years later I lost my job.

Fortunately I got another job at another bank.  Then I began an odyssey of jobs from working at two more banks, as a consultant and finally as a hotel front desk clerk.  In between those jobs I had a summer job as a gardener at $8.65 an hour on a rich woman's estate.  But I digress.

Through all this adventure, I managed to keep us afloat even through the housing crises of 2006 where we almost went under with our house on the market for eleven months and a new house mortgage to pay for. 

A few years ago I noticed that Bill began slipping.  Hell, I began slipping too.  But you do what you have to do.  Survival is what life is all about.  That an a little love too, if you're lucky.  

Now, the past few years with having gone through several medical issues myself, I realize that the end is near.  We've been lucky because Bill has been relatively healthy during all these years.  In fact he's even VERY healthy.  But at 88 years old, body parts start to fail. I've noticed that fact with myself (you should see me get out of bed in the morning) and with my friends.

Two nights ago when I responded to the "tap, tap" on the floor beneath this chair in my home office at my computer, and I saw Bill naked and bloody lying postrate on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, I realized that our live if fundamentally changing.  

I took care of what had to be taken care of that night to get Bill immediate medical care. Now I have to deal with the Catch-22 bureaucracy of the VA in getting Bill's medications and medical bills paid for.  He doesn't have Medicare Part B, only Part A.  I have both Part A and Part B (at least until Trump and his Republican cohorts dismantle Medicare and privatize the program) so my journey through the Medical Treadmill is much easier.  Not so with Bill and his VA care.

Tomorrow we visit the local VA outpatient clinic.  I need prescriptions filled for Bill that I got from his recent stay at the hospital.  I know that the VA is going to tell me that I have to contact the Wilmington VAMC.  WhenI call the Wilmington VAMC then tell me they can fill any prescriptions until his "health care provider" (the doctor he sees at the Georgetown VA) sends them a "note."  Thus I'll get the runaround again tomorrow just like I did trying to get his upcoming cataract surgery eye drops medication (the eye doctor finally sent him the medication free of charge - sample bottles he had from salesmen).  

I apologize for boring you with all this minutiae but this is what my life will be in the future.  I am officially a Caregiver.

In many ways I am lucky though.  Bill is still about to get around.  His faculties are good. His heart is good both physically and emotionally. But he does tire easily.  He's very hard of hearing.  He has cataracts which resulting him him losing his license. He doesn't have much of an appetite. He sleeps a lot, which reminds me of my Mother's habits during the last years of her life.

When Bill had his episode this past Sunday night it just reminded me of how much I care for this man I've lived with for the past fifty-two years.  This man who has devoted his life to me. This man who has put up with me (I am NOT an easy person to live with) for the past half century. 

Even though the next years of my life with Bill will require more from me I can honestly say I feel privileged for my new role. 

This is what love is all about folks. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm tired.  I'm going to go to bed early tonight to get ready for the next battle tomorrow at the VA Outpatient Clinic.



22 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:54 AM

    I am 18 years older than my hubby and the thought of us in our older years does pass my mind every now and then.

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    1. Anonymous,
      I knew this day would come, facing the health issues of aging. I'm glad I'm still functioning enough to take care of Bill. Of course I think of who is going to be around when I start going downhill. Prefer not to think about that.
      Ron

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  2. Thankfully you are there to help, being there for one another is really what love is.

    I have been asked to write a workbook of ideas for helping patients who have no identifiable friends or family willing to help. It is a really difficult issue, the idea solution is to assure that everyone has someone they trust to help when they need help.

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    1. David,
      I am so glad I am here to help Bill at this time of his life. I can't even imagine how Bill would handle things if he was living alone. But there are many like Bill who do live alone. Those who have no family or close relatives. I can't imagine. Of course that could be me in the future, something I prefer not to think about.
      Ron

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  3. It amazes me how parallel our lives are! Which says to me, straight, gay, black, white, interracial;
    human relationships are all the same throughout life. Do not feel alone. I've had two careers, the first being medical and at a VA. So I do know what you are dealing with. I know you are very busy and exhausted just from the stress, let alone driving distances this time of the year. Sometime, when things settle down, I would love to hear about your gardening job. Both of you, take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jimmy,
      We made a lot of progress yesterday with the VA, being categorize "Urgent Care" and placed into the Choice program. However, this morning we hit another snag. I will be so relieved when everything is in place and Bill can begin his treatment. You're right, I am exhausted from the stress.
      Yes, I will blog about my "gardening job" when things settle down. That was a very interesting time of my life. Didn't get paid much, worked outside and my body was in the best shape of my life but I couldn't survive getting paid $8.45 an hour pulling weeds.
      Ron

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  4. A wonderful love story, Ron!

    :-)

    -Andy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Andy. I am so fortunate to have Bill in my life.
      Ron

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  5. You may find the observations in this blog (December 1 posting) interesting and relevant to your situation. It looks at things from both the viewpoint of the person with the disability/illness, and that of the caretaker. http://passagedesperles.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Carol for sending this link.
      Ron

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  6. Nothing is Mundane in Your Blog... its all about Life.. !!!

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    1. "Tommy",
      That's my blog, all about life!
      Ron

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  7. Your love for each other is very touching - - and your devotion, Ron, is extremely admirable. Your unselfish, caring attitude is what it's all about. I'm only sorry that dealing with the VA and the entire medical treadmill is such a nightmare. Take care, my very best to you both.

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    1. Jon,
      I am so lucky to have Bill in my life. I feel so fortunate that I can care for Bill at this time in his life. I am still dealing with the VA medical maze. Have to make a call at 1 o'clock today to get a Choice number so Bill can see a gastroenterologist.
      Thank you for your good wishes Jon. Always appreciated.
      Ron

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  8. Ron - truly a warm, lovely and touching post. I admire you for your care for Bill - and am moved by Bill's love for you. Life isn't always easy. But you guys have really shared the foxhole and gone thru a lot. It's hard to hear of the low points - but it puts everything in perspective. Thank you for a wonderful post.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,
      Bill and I have indeed "shared a foxhole". What a life we've had and it continues, for a few more years I hope. Thank you for your good wishes.
      Ron

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  9. Your love for each other always makes me smile. Soulmates for sure 💗💗

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    1. Melissa,
      For sure I love this man!
      Ron

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  10. Ron,

    I was wondering who you were giving the car to. It is great to see Bill back home, I pray now healing can be swift. I had to deal with the VA bureurocacy when I was care taker for my father and it was very frustrating.

    Lar

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    1. Lar,
      I made some progress yesterday with the VA bureaucracy yesterday (got Bill on "Urgent Care") but now this morning I hit a snag. I have to wait until 1 o'clock today to get a "Choice Number" so I can schedule an appointment for Bill with a gastroenterologist. You said it, very frustrating.
      Ron

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  11. Ron,
    It can be very upsetting dealing with the Health Care System. It seems you have things under control as much as you can and thank goodness for Susan again.

    Being a caregiver is a privilege for someone you love. Remember Ron to take care of yourself as it can wear on your own health too. Getting older is something we all have to deal with if we are lucky. I am so glad that you and Bill have each other. You are both so lucky in love.

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    1. Linda,
      I spent another frustrating day today on the phone with the VA Choice program trying to get Bill an appointment. So many hurdles to overcome. I am exhausted. But I am glad I can help Bill. He would have given up long ago. I feel sorry for those veterans who don't have help and who do give up. I'm sticking with it though.
      Thanks for your good wishes.
      Ron

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