Quality of Life
I’ll try to be brief with this week’s kindness. I have had a medical condition for the past three years that no doctor has diagnosed correctly. In September I went to a naturopath and based on my symptoms, she suggested a different type of doctor who specializes in what I most likely have.
My husband and I drove into Seattle to see this doctor on Wednesday of this week and within twenty minutes’ time, he easily made sense of what I’ve been experiencing, a condition that has caused my husband and I to cancel two vacations because of its acute nature. He clearly explained what was going on, was able to diagnose it and suggested treatments that will more likely than not improve my quality of life greatly. After one day of those new treatments, my body is adjusting and trying to function in a different way, and because it’s trying to do that, I didn’t sleep at all last night. I will aim not to be discouraged, however, knowing that once my body adjusts to this new treatment plan, I’ll be able to celebrate the start of a new quality of life.
Finally, a doctor who spent sufficient time with my husband and me who was able to apply his expertise to our situation, and provide hope and promise that I have not been able to enjoy for close to three years.
This week’s kindness celebrates this Seattle doctor with whom we met on Wednesday. This week’s kindness also celebrates the naturopath who got me on the right “path” to wellness without receiving financial benefit. She refused my insurance copay when I saw her back in September, not feeling it appropriate that she accept payment since she didn’t provide any measurable medical service to me.
That’s where she was wrong; her referral was one of the most effective treatments I have received for my condition up until this point.
Chivalry isn’t dead, nor is good ol’ everyday courteousness.
We had a full day this past Tuesday, the highlight of which was taking care of our grandson. In the afternoon, a new refrigerator/freezer was scheduled to be delivered but we received a call that it would be delivered a bit late…right around our dinner hour.
I decided we wouldn’t want to cook that evening because we’d be waiting for the delivery (happened just after 4:30 pm as it turns out) and we’d be getting it filled with all the food we had placed into numerous coolers earlier in the day with solid ice blocks to maintain the foods’ integrity.
While our grandson napped I slipped out of the house to pick up a pizza at the Take and Bake pizza place nearby, leaving Lucas in the very capable hands of his grandpa. I don’t yet feel comfortable walking and carrying our grandson so Jerry needed to be the one who remained at the house so he could pick Lucas up out of the crib if he woke up before my return.
I snagged a parking space right in front of the shop so I didn’t have to get out my disabled parking pass. I hobbled into the pizza place, paid the employee for our pie, and tried to juggle my purse, my cane, and the pizza all at the same time, failing miserably in my attempts to do so. The young man quickly got out from behind the counter and said, “I’ll take the pizza to your car for you.” What a relief, and what a kindness. He didn’t know my car was so close by; it could have been anywhere in the two-days-before-Thanksgiving crowded supermarket parking lot.
And that’s this week’s kindness story.
Living one day at a time is a good philosophy to uphold regardless of what’s going on in one’s life. I would extend that sentiment to say, “Live each day one moment at a time.” It’s good to plan, set goals, even write a bucket list, but doing so addresses the future, not the present.
When I was admitted to a local hospital for hip replacement surgery, I knew that would be one step toward many that I would accomplish to attain complete recovery. I had no idea what accomplishments I would be able to celebrate or in what order they would appear, I simply knew I would eventually be able to move beyond my physical restrictions.
I was right.
Walker. Yep, I held onto this piece of durable medical equipment (DME) like it was my lifeline…because it was. I learned how to use it while still in the hospital and once I got home I outfitted my own walker with a multi-pocketed pouch wherein I stored necessary items: water bottle, iPhone, iPad, tissues, snacks, so that wherever I landed, I was set. Two weeks post surgery I was able to retire the walker. What a lovely step in the right direction.
Cane. Using my Hurrycane is liberating – I say is, not was, because it’s still attached to my person as a means of transportation. Today, November 6th, marks one month since my surgery and I am still nowhere near ready to retire this piece of equipment because I still need the support it provides. I’ve even learned how to use it as a pick-up-something-I-dropped-aid, as long as the dropped item is thicker than a piece of paper or bigger than the Vitamin D3 capsules I take every day but sometimes end up on the floor. I drop things often enough that my husband simply follows my trail of items to discern where I’ve been lately.
Raised toilet seat. I know, there’s a visual all of you would prefer not to have, but early on in my recovery, it was a requirement that meant the difference between responding successfully to my most base urges, or…not, and that visual would have been far worse to contemplate. Fortunately, it served me well and I retired it three weeks post-surgery.
Medications. Okay, this is a tricky one. I abhor having to take medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, but when your leg is sliced into, requiring major manipulations by the surgeon and his jolly helpers – not to mention sawing off sections of a bone that I would no longer need – a person is going to have lingering pain issues that need to be addressed, and this person sure does. I am a very slow healer; an 80-year old can have the same surgery as me and return to yoga or square dancing classes a mere two weeks after receiving their bionic hip. Not so, I.
So here I am, wishing I was further along in my rehabilitation but refusing to compare myself to others who appear to be better off post-surgery than I am. I can smile throughout my day and sleep well at night knowing I have one of the most effective rehabilitation tools a person could hope for: my husband. Jerry supports me physically and he supports me emotionally, the latter of which has been almost more important than the former. He recently held me in his arms on the couch while I bawled into his neck, saturating it and his t-shirt with my tears. On that particular day, I was tired of hurting. To be sure, pain is very taxing on one’s body and emotions – there is no separation between the two – so if my body is having a hard time, so is my psyche.
Is that a lose/lose situation? It can be, but if I remember to live one day or one moment at a time, I’ll be less inclined to allow fear and frustration to take root. Fear is based on the future: what if I never get better? what if the surgery didn’t work? what if I am never able to be as active as I want to be? what if I never stop hurting? All future-based.
When living in the moment I can celebrate my ability to:
- climb the stairs in my house two at a time instead of one;
- walk to the end of my driveway to retrieve the mail;
- get in and out of bed without assistance;
- bathe with very little assistance;
- dress myself;
- do more tasks in the kitchen than I was able to do four weeks ago; and
- hold my grandson and give him a multitude of smooches while he sits on my lap.
Regardless of how long it takes for me to get back to “normal” that time will come and when it does it’ll be right on time. In the interim, I’m going to acknowledge each moment as precious and not concern myself with that which has yet to occur.
According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures research, there are more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some have assembled a team of family and friends so the responsibilities are evenly spread out, but that is not always the case. The solo caregiver manages—or tries to manage—everything on his own.
That’s where those who are on the outside looking in can become a caregiver’s hero.
OFFER TANGIBLE ASSISTANCE. We will never be wrong in assuming the caregiver needs help so rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything” we can ask, “What exactly do you need?” If we remember what we needed when we were on the mend from illness or surgery we should be able to come up with an endless list of concrete gifts of assistance.
MEALS. You need to cook for yourself and/or your household anyway so make a double recipe, pack that extra portion in a disposable dish, freeze it, and keep doing that for a week and deliver one full week’s worth of frozen meals to the caregiver who, receiving your food offerings, can look forward to not having to be creative in the kitchen at the end of the caregiving day. Engage others to sign up for this dinner on wheels program so the responsibilities are spread out amongst many.
ERRANDS. You’re running to the store for a few items; take the time to ask Sam if there’s anything he might need while you’re out. He may need a half-gallon of milk—and he might have needed it for the past several days—but embarking on that task proved impossible for him. With very little effort on your part you can make a huge difference in Sam’s well-being. Maybe the needed item is toilet paper; acquiring that for him makes you a genuine hero!
CHORES. The last task a time-strapped caregiver considers doing is housework or yardwork. You will not insult your friend or neighbor by offering to vacuum their house or clean their bathrooms. Or perhaps it’s a lawn that needs mowing or a flower bed, weeding; that sprucing up will provide the caregiver with a virtual—and literal—fresh view of their circumstances.
OTHER OPTIONS. Sam may turn down home improvement offers but he might say, “What I could really use right now is some help figuring out Nancy’s health insurance statements.” Or he might say, “My wife’s not much of a conversationalist anymore, I’d give anything to have an hour to talk with someone who is. Could you stop by later today for a visit? I’ll even talk politics if it means having someone else to talk to.”
WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. The family caregiver has so much going on physically and emotionally, offers of assistance can be the salve that gets them through each day.
Grief: Your caregiving friend is grieving the loss of a person who is still with him. Unlike the sudden death of a family member, the Alzheimer’s caregiver suffers the prolonged loss of their loved one—oftentimes called ambiguous loss—because although physically present, the person with dementia is continuously leaving their loved one.
Exhaustion. Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on the solo caregiver and they are killers. The solo caregiver must put their needs above those of the one for whom they are providing care and sometimes they need you, the outsider, to help them prioritize those needs. Just like the airlines’ seatbelt instructions, the person meeting the need requires attention before the one requiring it.
BOTTOM LINE. You have so much to offer the time-strapped family caregiver; your gifts of kindness are more valuable than you could ever imagine.
Do you want additional insight into what caregivers with whom you are acquainted are facing? You can order Requiem for the status quo at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. And if you have already read my debut novel, please consider leaving a review on the online retailer’s website of your choice.
Silent Storm: What We Remember, What We Forget, What We Discover A Novelist Meditates on Writing about Alzheimer’s By Marita Golden I didn’t choose. I was called. That’s how inspiration, art, and creativity work sometimes. I am often asked why I wrote a novel about Alzheimer’s disease. I am not caring for anyone afflicted with […]
- Bionic hip
- Loss of independence
- Healthcare TLC
I received a new right hip this past Monday afternoon which rendered me fully dependent on the staff of a local hospital, Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. As a two-night inpatient at the hospital, I was reliant on staff for absolutely all of my needs.
If you can imagine everything you do during the course of a day requiring at least one medical person to provide intimate assistance, you can easily imagine all the tasks incumbent upon the nurses, certified nursing assistants(CNA), physical therapy personnel, food delivery staff, and even someone such as Barbara the housekeeper, at your beck and call.
My personality is such that I’d much rather be giving than receiving. Each time I pushed the nurse call button I carefully considered whether such a request was warranted: bladder full to rupturing, yeah, warranted; refill of my patient water carafe? Maybe I could wait and encumber the next person who walks into my room.
From the time I checked in for surgery at 11:30 Monday morning until I was discharged at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, each person with whom I came in contact was fully dedicated to serving my needs. They noticed if my blankets were pushed asunder in my bed and straightened them comfortably around my body. When shuffling with my walker to the bathroom while wearing my backless hospital-issued gown they discreetly covered me up and made sure my dignity was kept intact.
Then there was the aforementioned employee who after knocking on my door said, “It’s just me, Barbara the housekeeper.” Upon granting the 60-something-year-old admission to my room, she said, “I want to be sure your room is clean and acceptable. You don’t need to do a thing, just lay there – and you (my husband) sit comfortably in the folding chair and I’ll work around you.”
I engage absolutely everyone I come across in conversation so it was quite natural for me to converse with Barbara the housekeeper. I asked her how long she had been working at Evergreen and it had been quite some time. “You must have seen lots of changes over the years.”
“Yeah, of course I have, but it’s good. I like what I do. I like all the people I get to meet over the course of a day.”
“I’m sure you’ve met those who, because of their circumstances, weren’t exactly the most friendly people you’ve encountered in your life.”
“Aw, sure, but you get that everywhere, not just in a place like this.”
True, so very true. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, each of us has a choice of whether to make or break someone’s day. I can tell you that there was not one employee at the hospital who broke my day, rather, each person made my stay there as palatable as it could possibly be. Mind you, the dings of call lights going off all day and all night from the nurses’ station directly across from my room weren’t the highlight of my stay, but those dings are far easier to accept when you realize that you initiated your share of call dings yourself and benefited from the responses of the dedicated medical personnel who had to answer such pleadings.
All in all, I’d have to say that if you have to go through the pain of getting a new and improved hip in order to lead a more comfortable life going forward, being treated with kindness during the process certainly renders the recovery far more appetizing. This former patient has no complaints whatsoever. She was treated like a queen.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. READ THIS ARTICLE CAREFULLY TO DISCOVER HOW YOU CAN WIN A FREE COPY OF MY NOVEL, Requiem for the status quo.
Several of the AlzAuthors group of writers who have written fiction or non-fiction books on the subject of Alzheimer’s or other dementia are offering special, discounted offers to those who would like to get ahold of a select group of books being offered September 27 – 30, 2017.
I am a member of this group of writers and am offering a total of eight free copies of my novel, Requiem for the status quo: four (4) free Kindle eBooks and four (4) free paperback books (the latter available to residents of the United States only). All you need to do is Like/Follow my author Facebook page, then write a comment in the AlzAuthor post that appears on that page.
In order to get in the drawing for a free Kindle eBook or free paperback copy, you must indicate in the comment section which format you would prefer: Kindle eBook or paperback. Please don’t say you don’t care which format you receive; for accounting and distribution purposes I will only put your name in one of the drawings so be sure to specify your preference.
All those Liking my page and posting a comment indicating their format preference will have their names entered into a drawing that will take place at Noon, Pacific Standard Time, on Saturday, September 30th. I will Messenger the winners through FB to request either your e-mail address (for eBook sending) or postal delivery address (for paperback book shipment) so that I can send out your complimentary book copies the first week of October.
But I am not the only author offering great deals on books – all the books contained within the graphic on this post are discounted during the September 27 – 30th timeframe. Be sure to go to the AlzAuthors website, click on the Bookstore tab, locate the author and their book being offered at a discounted price, click on the photo of their book and you will be directed to the site where their discounted book can be purchased. Since I am personally offering free copies of my novel – as opposed to doing so through an Amazon.com promotion – you will not find Requiem for the status quo in the AlzAuthors bookstore during this promotion.