Caring for those who care for youWhen Rodney Felber talks about how much his illness costs, he’s doesn’t mean money. He’s talking about independence. “It’s hard when you are used to doing everything yourself and you can’t do that anymore,” he said. Luckily, he has a caregiver. But she doesn’t even realize that’s what she is.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
When Rodney Felber talks about how much his illness costs, he’s doesn’t mean money. He’s talking about independence.
“It’s hard when you are used to doing everything yourself and you can’t do that anymore,” he said.
Luckily, he has a caregiver. But she doesn’t even realize that’s what she is.
“It’s kind of a given, you just do it,” said Rodney’s wife, Fran. “That’s what a wife and husband are supposed to do.”
About a year ago, Rodney, 84, had parotid gland cancer surgery. For six weeks after his release from the hospital, therapists and nurses came into the Felber home in Alexandria to make sure he was recovering.
“That’s how we became acquainted with home health,” said Fran, 83.
Rodney progressed well until August 9, 2012, when he tried to push a dresser and hurt his back. An MRI showed a “crunched” vertebra. Two types of pain pills were prescribed.
Then Rodney started getting strange.
“It changed his whole personality,” Fran explained. “At night it was terrible. Sometimes he would be back in WWII and hallucinating.”
“I would wake up at night and I wouldn’t realize that I had gotten up and gotten her up,” Rodney continued.
Fran was exhausted and frustrated. They were told nothing was wrong after several trips to the emergency room and doctor’s office.
On October 1, Rodney fell, which resulted in a hospital stay. It was finally discovered that one of the pain medications had an adverse effect.
It was discontinued, but Rodney now needed a back brace and had strict physical limitations. He could not walk or get up by himself and needed help with daily hygiene and bathroom needs. This evolved into even more care responsibilities for Fran. She had no family in the area and was handling all Rodney’s care on her own, including managing his medications.
She couldn’t do it all herself anymore. Recalling her experience with home health, she reached out for help. Although it was difficult, Rodney had to accept.
“I’m not supposed to be alone. Fran has to make sure someone is always here,” Rodney said. “That’s not always easy.”
“I have to make sure he is secure. He can’t be trusted you know,” Fran teased.
With grudging admission, the Felbers knew they needed help. Fran enlisted the aid of a local alternative senior care company, which Fran says has “done wonders.”
“I have no problem accepting help,” Fran now admits. “It turns out they are all jewels.”
The company’s employees go to the Faber home about three times a week for three to four hours so that Fran can run errands and get out of the house. Every third night, someone spends the night so that Fran can get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
“It goes so much better with all this help,” Fran said.
The respite caregivers not only provide Fran a little break in the caregiving, they help Rodney with bathing, dressing, and take him for his required daily walks. They also help Fran with the household chores to help ease her workload.
But Fran will respond with a vehement “No” if someone asks if Rodney’s care is a burden to her.
“Get that in writing for me, would you?” he joked.
Under the care of a less-tired Fran and the senior care company, Rodney is slowly improving. Despite the couple’s gratitude for the extra help, Rodney still pines for the days when he could do what he wanted, when he wanted.
“OK, I’ll tell you how it is,” he said. “I used to fish day and night. I used to hunt. I don’t have any of those things anymore. I miss it more than I care to admit.”
For him, the loss of independence is the most difficult hurdle he has had to cross, especially “having someone telling me I can’t go to the bathroom when I need to go.”
But he also knows that with his medical issues, he doesn’t have a choice but to rely on someone else, at least for the time being.
“I don’t know what we would be doing if we hadn’t gotten help,” Rodney concluded. “It’s available and you have to make a decision if you want it that way.”
November is National Caregivers Month. It is a time to acknowledge the important role family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled friends and relations.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a caregiver refers to anyone who provides assistance to someone who is incapacitated and needs help. Caregivers offer a range of services, including emotional and spiritual support, assistance with financial matters, transportation and home- and health-related services.
Following are a few other facts:
--Family caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.
--Unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S.
--65.7 million caregivers make up 29 percent of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.
--The average age of caregivers is 48 years.
--Of those caring for a person older than 65, the average age of caregivers is 63 years with one-third of those caregivers in fair to poor health.
--According to the National Family Caregivers Association, family caregivers provide 80 percent of the nation’s long-term care services.