A DARK ROAD TO TRAVEL

As a caregiver of a veteran, I’m quite familiar with the stress caring for someone brings. I woke at all hours of the night to assist when he called for help. I didn’t dare make any loud noises for fear I’d startle him into a panic attack. I became exhausted over months and months of caring for him and setting my own need for sleep aside. I had no time for myself, even to meet basic needs like grocery shopping or getting the oil changed on the car. I finally reached the point when I had to place him somewhere he could get the care he needed. It was either that, or both of us ending up in a nursing home…if it didn’t kill me first.

That may seem like a rather dramatic depiction, but it’s really not. It’s been three weeks since I placed my husband in an Assisted Living Center, and I’m still catching up on my sleep. He has his own room and aides to help him day or night, but he still thinks of nothing but coming home.

Veterans, like most of the rest of us, want to remain in their own homes rather than go into community living such as an Adult Foster Care Home, Assisted Living Center, or Nursing Home. It’s a difficult adjustment to make for both the veteran and the caregiver. I know I will always regret that I couldn’t keep him home no matter how hard I tried. I will always feel like I failed him, and, worst of all, I know this was not how he wanted his life to end.

Once I placed him in the Assisted Living Center, I thought things would be better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I received three calls in the first 24 hours telling me he’d fallen. Black eye, bruises, cuts and skin tears. He looked terrible. The next contact was to inform me I needed to hire one-on-one care for him since he was at risk of hurting himself from falls and the home was not prepared to provide the level of care he needed.

So now I’m paying for care at the Center and, in addition, paying for the one-on-one care he received at home. That’s crazy. It won’t be long before our savings are exhausted. Knowing that would certainly kill him. He worried because he was older than me and he wanted to make sure when he was gone I’d still be able to get by. So, I don’t tell him about the cost. It wouldn’t help anything.

While the VA has done some wonderful work in meeting the needs of veterans, they’re behind the ball on supporting caregivers of veterans. When you think of all the money saved by providing care at home, it should be a top priority. I’m paying almost $5,000 a month for keeping him in the Center, and another $3,000 to pay for the one-on-one care.

Today I have a home in the country that I love. I have a few animals for companionship and my friends and family do what they can to be supportive. I don’t know how long I can hold on to my home though with paying for his care. Worrying about it is what keeps me awake nights now. It’s a long, dark road to travel and I don’t see any way it’s going to lead to a good place. I’m afraid there won’t be any happy ending here.

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