Archive for July, 2015

There is a Solution, I just haven’t found it yet

quote-about-figuring-things-out-and-moving-forwardI am exhausted. Mentally more than physically. The paperwork. The worry. The constant watch. The pure, unadulterated sadness. It is beyond overwhelming, it has changed my thought process, my soul and my inner-sanctum.

Watching a person die is horrible. Watching someone you love die is worse. Watching someone you love die a slow, tortuous death is beyond comprehensible. The guilt, the helplessness, the frustrations, the anger, the heartache, the wish for it all to end…. There are times I wish Jim was afflicted with something simple like cancer or heart disease. Not only would there be hope for him (and therefore us) but there would be more support and understanding from the world around us. And most importantly, HE would still be with us.

The endless paperwork, processes and lack of understanding from any system that can help us is completely unbelievable. If someone else in my situation was telling me this story, I would immediately think that there must be something they have missed, there must be a solution and obviously they haven’t tried hard enough. Well, I am here to tell you….I have tried.

Many readers have been so, so kind and reached out with suggestions and ideas and just thoughts of love. Thank you. I want to address the following to you:

Jim is retired Air Force. He is currently on Medicare because he has been on Social Security Disability for over 3 years. Once a person who has Tricare Health Insurance collects SSDI for over two years, they are automatically switched to Medicare. There is no option.

We have applied for Medicaid and have been told our case should be reviewed and a checklist should be sent out sometime during the first part of August. In the meantime, I just wait to find out what paperwork they will need. I have done some research and so far have gotten together most of what I think they will want….every bank account, every insurance account (they want to know if life insurance policies have a cash value), every investment account and our mortgage statement. It took me several days to get all of this together. Obviously the person(s) who decided this whole process have never in their life been in a predicament like we are currently facing. The application, the turning in of said application, the conversations on the phone, the gathering of information, the waiting for an answer….it is almost as if they are trying to just wear people down so they don’t finish the process so they don’t have to help them. How do others get through this??

The Veteran’s Administration. Oh boy. Where do I start? Should I tell you about the gentleman who was supposed to be helping us with our intake questionnaire but instead  WAS WATCHING COLLEGE BASKETBALL on his computer? Let’s be honest….it isn’t college basketball season which means it was a re-run which means he already knew who won anyway! Ok, I am moving on….Jim scored a 9 on his MMSE. Some of you who have travelled this road know that means he tested in the severe range. How unbelievably awful it was to sit, as the psychiatrist, who obviously has no Alzheimer’s Disease training or background, tried to ask Jim about his recent psychotic break. Then tried to carry on a conversation with him. Then asked him simple questions he could not answer, as I sat and watched, tears streaming down my face. Awful. Just awful. But at least the kind doctor said he would try to help us and would try to find a way to get Jim care. Again, his disability isn’t service related. He isn’t a Vietnam Vet or Gulf War Vet and he is not 65. We make over $26,000 a year. We are the middle class and we have nothing.

I sat at my desk the other day just dumbfounded by this whole mess. How am I expected to take care of Jim the way he deserves AND take care of two children the way they deserve? And somehow keep sane? Actually I am not sure I am at this point!  $6000 a month is the starting point for Memory Care. I sat and figured out where I went wrong…If we had saved $500 a month for each of the 18 years we have been married, we could cover 18 months of care. But, we didn’t. Please let this be a lesson for all of you. In other locales around the country, the costs are double. So start saving my friends.

Jim is still home. He is doing very well. He is happy in a childlike way. He now needs assistance with getting dressed, with shaving, showering and unfortunately parts of the bathroom routine. He takes it all in stride, not getting angry or embarrassed. Well, occasionally he snaps, “I can do it” and there have been a few moments the kids were scared because he seemed to be getting agitated and we are all on eggshells knowing what happened in Connecticut,  but overall he is easy going. I feel bad because he can’t figure out things to do without constant urging and help. He will sit and color at the table, but needs some direction. I, unfortunately, am at this point either making phone calls, trying to fill out paperwork or collect needed paperwork or fixing dinner, or starting a load of laundry or  trying to make sure I focus some attention on the kids to remind them I love them and I do want to hear about their day and their thoughts.

I have not left Jim alone since he returned and I now feel like a prisoner in my own home. He has returned to the wonderful respite program he attended before a couple of times a week but otherwise I have a shadow.  No quick runs to the store, or walks with friends or private conversations (he is always lurking within 10 feet of me) or ALONE time. None. On one hand, it is so sweet that he loves me and needs me so much he cannot possibly be out of sight of me. On the other hand, I am reminded of crazy stalker people and no one wants to feel as if they are constantly being watched and followed. It is creepy and unnerving.

I need $72,000+ a year on top of the income needed to take care of myself and the kids to now take care of Jim in a facility that will keep him safe, occupied, clean and happy. I hate that money has become such a huge issue in his care, in our story, in the eventual way he is taken care of. I believe all that should be at issue is making him feel safe and loved as he dies. Helping our children lose their father with the least amount of long term affects.  I struggle every day to figure out a solution. I am college educated, strong, smart and capable. There must be an answer and I must not be good enough to figure it out. After all, it just doesn’t make any sense to  not have a solution. Wonderful suggestions have been made: Go Fund Me pages, ads on my blog, selling the rights to our story, divorce, spending it all down and using our savings because I am young enough to build it back up again, in home care, re-doing our walk up attic for him and a caregiver, etc. How is it that so many others have dealt with this situation and yet we are still not able to call the right person, hear a few viable options and pick the one that best fits our family? Lots and lots of ideas have been floated our way and it’s just hard to know what the right answer is. I suppose I will never know what the right answer is. I will be forced to make the decision I can make and then I will keep moving forward because that is what we do. Humans keep moving forward. Through grief. Through pain. Through hard times and even through good times. We all move towards some unseen light and hope that along the way we are consistent with our happiness, our love and our contributions to others.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (17)

A Broken System Will Not a Broken Woman Make

For the first time since I started this endeavor I am writing directly on my blog without taking the time and energy and forethought to edit and proofread and ponder over my words before putting them out for the world to read. I am too tired. Too overwhelmed. And frankly, too frustrated and mad. Mad at our system.

Don’t get me wrong. Our friends, neighbors and even strangers have reached out over the past week to offer guidance and help in many forms. I am grateful beyond imagination. They have saved us and I really, really am humbled. But ultimately, our family is still left hanging on a ledge and hoping a huge gust of wind doesn’t blow through.

Jim is home. I know you have been worried and you have been praying and you have sent me your advice. Thank you. His sisters were able to drive him to Delaware and a very special friend rode with me for the 11 hour round trip to pick him up and bring him home. We didn’t know what would happen and I am pleased to tell you the ride was fine. He is fine.

Well, he is hard to understand. He needs help with showering and shaving and getting dressed. He needs verbal cues with washing his hands after using the restroom. He is confused many times and still insists he had to “beat the shit out of two guys”. But he is calm and his usual passive self. Obviously, I cannot leave him alone. Which is why I had to have a friend come stay with him the short time I needed to leave to go visit my counselor. Who listened and then stared at me, momentarily speechless (I don’t think this is a good sign).

I am going to try to do a quick overview of the past week and why I am mad and frustrated and feeling our system is broken. While Jim sat, many hours away, in a psychiatric unit, I called and begged for a way to get him safely home. At the time I started this process, we weren’t sure him riding in the car would be possible and an airplane ride was definitely out. Insurance would not cover a medical transport. So, he had to stay much longer than he should have. And I am ashamed to say I had very little time or mental capacity to really focus on him, how he was and where he was and think of him emotionally. I was too busy being focused on the paperwork and the problem of figuring out what to do. If he had had a stroke or a heart attack, I would have been able to rush to him, focus on his care, his recovery and not think twice about what to do about care when he was back in Virginia. There is nothing I could ever put in writing that will evoke for you that guilt of knowing I was more worried about other stuff than about him. I didn’t rush to be by his side because I had to think about what to do when he came home. This will haunt me for a very long time.

Once I realized I would have to get him home with no financial help, I had to decide what to do with him when he returned. Would he be ok at home? Would he get violent again? Is this the time to put him in a home, making it an easier transition? There were endless questions constantly running through my mind. All the while, our 11 year old son sat idly by waiting for me to get off the phone or off the computer so we could spend some of the quality time I had promised him weeks ago. Time that unfortunately didn’t really happen. Again, the guilt and the sadness cannot be conveyed.

Knowing Jim is retired Air Force, many have suggested the Veteran’s Administration. Jim unfortunately thought that too. It was always his understanding that if he put his 23 years in, he would be taken care of later. Granted, he always thought it would be when he was much older, but he always told me when he got too old and cranky for me to take care of to just stick him in a VA home. How I wish this was so easy to do. Jim does not qualify at this time (that I can find) for ANY VA help. His disability is not service related. He is not over 65 years old. He did not serve in Vietnam. He is not a Gulf War Veteran. Our family makes over $26,000 a year. I checked, re-checked and then checked again. If anyone knows anything different, please feel free to share the magic pass code. I could really use it about right now.

I also applied for Medicaid. Although I haven’t gotten the official word back yet, our chances of getting approved are pretty slim due to our income. Please don’t think we are living high on the hog. We are a paycheck to paycheck family. We own one car. One 1,600 square foot home. One TV. Yep, I splurge sometimes and get Starbucks and I have an iPhone that I bought for my job at the time almost 5 years ago and we’ve taken some nice vacations over the past couple of years. Trust me….this does not mean we can afford care for Jim. Unless we take EVERY SINGLE PENNY that we have coming in each month (I’m not even sure that will eventually be enough), then we could afford his care. Of course, at that point, there would be nothing for myself or the kids. And by the way, I will also have to spend almost all of the retirement and savings we have. So that whole rule about having 6 months salary in savings in case of an emergency? Gone.  Then we could have the state pay for our healthcare, our home, our food, our heat and even our children’s braces. And, I will not have money saved for my own retirement therefore I will also need assistance when I am older. So, to keep from using the government to help with Jim’s care in one program, our family will be reduced to using multiple government programs to stay alive. Then I see that our government is trying to cut disability payments next year by 20%? Really? And I am supposed to stay calm, cool and collected?

I cannot possibly explain the amount of frustration this causes me. I do not feel we are a family who is trying to take advantage of the system. We are in a unique situation, but because of rules, regulations, guidelines and black and white protocols, we are stuck right in the middle. We don’t make enough to pay for care, yet we make too much to receive aid. The programs currently in place are for retired people who can sell their homes and use up savings and retirement to pay for care, or they will then qualify for government assistance. It is not set up for middle aged families who may need that retirement later and who have young children at home and cannot sell their home to pay for care. As a disclaimer: Medicaid does allow us to keep the home and the car. The previous statement is in reference to who the people had in mind when they wrote all of the guidelines for the program.

Let me give you an example of a conversation I had this week. It will hopefully show you how much I feel like I have been a hamster in a wheel…..

While at the VA hospital, meeting with a Veteran’s Representative, I was asked for a letter from when Jim retired. It was his disability rating letter. I didn’t have it. The very kind gentleman told me I would need a Power of Attorney in order to get a copy. I pulled out my copy and tried to hand it to him. “No, you need a VA Power of Attorney,” he says to me. I look down at my copy and in bold, capital letters at the top of the very first paragraph it says MILITARY POWER OF ATTORNEY. So, I try handing it to him again and tell him it was done on a military installation and is a military POA. “No. It has to be a VA Power of Attorney. That one won’t work.”   Are you kidding me? This, while Jim sat in Connecticut, waiting for me to figure out something to help him. After all the years he served and thought he would be ok and not a burden to his family or anyone else. After I sat and cried for a moment, I asked the same kind man how I could raise my family on the $26,000 a year they expected in order to quality for Aid and Attendance? He very quickly told me that combat war veterans were coming back and living on $8,300 a year.

And what could I say to that?

Now I am just treading. Keeping my head barely above the surface and hoping all of the red tape, regulations and bureaucracy doesn’t pull me under. How am I expected to take care of two children and Jim with no help? If I was independently wealthy, no problem. But I am not. We are a middle class family trying to find a needle in a haystack.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (26)

Elusive Answers

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 8.07.37 PM Because life is NEVER simple or easy when you are dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease I am at a crossroads with no uncomplicated, direct answer.

Jim rode last week from our home in Virginia to visit his family in Connecticut. He was excited (when he remembered he was going) and went willingly. My parents were already heading to Boston to take in some Red Sox games, so they offered to drop him off on the way and then pick him up on the way back. This gave me a week “off” and since Frances was heading to camp, it would also give me some one on one time with Brad. I envisioned getting the house clean, taking him to movies and the beach and being able to relax together.

Then a very dear friend (since 4th grade) asked if she could come visit. Perfect! Then another very dear friend won VIP tickets to a concert in Vegas and asked if I would like to be her date! I discussed this opportunity with some local friends who agreed to watch Brad and started making plans. I would get to do what everyone has been telling me over and over to do: take care of myself. I would see some old friends who refresh my spirit, I would get to bond with my son and I would even have some time for reading a good book and getting caught up on house stuff. Oh how life teases us.

This is where you insert a record playing in the background screeching to an ear splitting halt.

Jim had difficulty on the way while riding in the car at one point getting aggressive with my parents. Then he had several severe psychotic breaks during his first full day away, culminating with police, an ambulance ride to the ER and now a stay in a locked psychiatric unit. In Connecticut. While I am in Virginia. And he is confused. And scared. And alone. And a lost soul. I can only understand about every 3 words he says on the phone. He has had a couple of episodes since he was admitted but over all I believe he is doing much better.

How awful this disease can be. If there is anyone in this world who is NOT mean, angry or violent, it is Jim. Sometimes during the course of our marriage I have been miffed at him for his lack of aggressiveness. In a world around us urging us to show more and more belligerence he has been steadfast with his passiveness. Jim’s soul is as sweet and demur as it gets, yet he has now attacked others, become violent, paranoid, angry, torn a turn signal off a steering shaft and is now saddled with a “one on one” (a person who stays with him 24/7 to ensure he doesn’t hurt anyone). He hallucinated and said things completely untrue. He is another being in the body of the man I have known more than any other for the past 19 years. I am heartbroken just picturing him there, while I am here. Carrying on. Doing mundane things. Living life.

Dinner needs to be fixed. Jim is in the hospital. Laundry needs to be put away. Jim is in the hospital. Brad has track practice. Jim is alone and scared. The dog needs to be fed and walked. Jim needs help. Throughout my entire day, I am in a constant state of back and forth, reminding me my life may seem quiet and simple on the surface as I move from task to task, but the reality is Jim needs me. He is alone and scared and needs me to find an answer. An answer that eludes me no matter how many phone calls I make or how many conversations I have. The task at hand permeates into every cell of my being and each cell chooses to fight back; either struggling to believe there is help and an answer if I can only find it or shutting down and withdrawing. I am not sure yet which cells will win. There is a civil war currently taking place within me.

Now I sit making phone calls. Trying to find a place for him. There isn’t one. I can’t afford to place him in a memory care unit. Do I bring him back to our home? And risk a recurrence in front of the kids? I question each decision I am trying to make. Do I try to bring him home and let him get acclimated and see if he settles down? For how long will this last? If he gets out of control again, then what? I will say, “I should have known.” How would I live with myself if someone else got hurt or he got hurt? Yet, if he remains his usual self, I have taken him out of his home for no reason. I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t make the right decision. I didn’t do the right thing.

What is the right thing when there are no guarantees or crystal balls? What is the right thing when you know the eventual answer, just not the timing?

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 8.02.33 PMMy heart and my whole body are heavy. Thinking right now at all is a burden. I am so tired mentally. I constantly feel as if I could lay down and slide into a deep sleep. I have a streaming thought non-stop:  Jim is in the hospital, Jim is in the hospital, Jim needs help, Jim is in the hospital, I have to figure out what to do. It doesn’t pause. I go about life with Brad as best I can, but I have that ticker tape on repeat in my mind.There is no simple answer for getting him home. We can’t fly him back. The doctor is strongly against us driving him back. (But that is, at this point, our only choice) Insurance will not cover a medical transport. What are our options? When I do eventually return him to Virginia, I have no place to put him. I am still searching. Of course the first question asked  when I inquire about assisted living is how I am going to pay. Then if I have qualified for Medicaid. (I haven’t applied yet, that is obviously on my to-do list) $6,000 a month for private pay until we get approved. Or I can take my chances and have him home with me and the kids. I can try to get in-home care, which I will again have to try to figure out how to cover. And still worry about the recurrence of his agitation.

There is no specific answer for our situation. I know others have gone through this, but unlike most medical situations, almost every single turn with Alzheimer’s Disease is arduous, overwhelming and with no specific plan. We are all on our own. There is no place to turn to for help. No one that will call around to find a bed for him. No one to help with the Medicaid paperwork. No one to tell me exactly what we should do at this very moment. He is to be released to my care and I am to bring him home, to wait to find out if the other shoe will fall. To possibly become an instantaneous news reel about the pitfalls of our system. To be spoken of in what if’s and should have’s. If he wasn’t diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and he became violent like this, would I get help? What happens when someone shouldn’t be around their children for safety reasons? Is the only option jail?

Fortunately for me, I do have a wonderful support group of friends and now readers of this blog. I have people who may not be able to make decisions for me, but they let me know I am not alone. I have help with the kids, I have shoulders to cry on and people who would literally drop everything to help us. How lucky am I? I am so burdened with my responsibility yet I am touched and humbled and amazed at the outpouring of love for our family. It is a feeling of unbelievable gratitude and disbelief. Thank you one and all, from the very depths of my love and sincerity.

In the meantime, Jim sits, alone, passing his time coloring and staring into space. Wondering where he is and where his family is.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (26)