Hello everyone! When I last checked in, we were in the middle of a huge crisis, which I said I would write about if I thought I could do the story justice. I also have some thoughts on the events that are affecting the Carolinas with Hurricane Florence, and some realizations I’ve come to with my own life.
First off, I want to tackle Florence. We have several friends and family in the affected areas, and I have been following their posts on Facebook throughout the past few days. Now that Florence is upon them, it brings back memories of the anticipation and the stress of expecting Hurricane Irma last year. My friend’s wife, who is mom to three children, ages 3 to 18, is scared to bits for her family’s safety and for the property they had to evacuate. I know that fear intimately. Last year, when we watched in horror as Irma shifted to Florida’s west coast, I was positive I had poorly made every decision, and we were going to lose everything. After all, Irma was a “super hurricane” that decimated Barbuda and other small islands in the Caribbean, and it was headed right at us. But we survived and ended up being incredibly blessed, as the eye wall of the storm passed about 40 miles to the east. Florence is a bit of a different story, however. She is nearly stalled, and will cover precious little distance over the next 36-48 hours. The sheer amount of rain that is forecast is mind boggling, and the North and South Carolina coasts will have hurricane force winds for well over 24 hours. My friends and family would surely appreciate you joining me in prayer for their safety.
About eighteen months ago, my mom was still living at her own home when she slid out of bed and landed on her backside just out of bed in the morning. What started as an unremarkable fall ended with her ankle severely broken, admitted to the hospital and in a walking cast for six weeks. I knew that morning when the ambulance transported her to the emergency department that she would never be able to go home.
Right out of the hospital, Mom was admitted to a rehab center. I was pretty unsure where she would live long term, but I was quite scared because at the time, my mom paid me instead of a caretaker, to care for her, transport her to doctor appointments, do her shopping and house cleaning. With her not being in her home, I knew that income was gone, and this was the beginning of what has been a building financial crisis for hubby and me.
After her rehab was completed, my plans were to keep her at the skilled nursing facility where she had been since her release from the hospital. My family fiercely disagreed with me, and decided to converge on me last year in August to convince (more like strong arm) me to move Mom to an assisted living facility. Previously, her doctor had supported my decision to keep her in skilled nursing, since she was not thriving, having lost about 30 pounds since her admission that April. So I was surprised when he told me he felt she could possibly benefit from the environment an assisted living facility would provide for her. So, I toured a couple of facilities and crunched the numbers. Her financial ability to pay for such a facility relied solely on her Veteran’s widow benefit being increased to an assisted living rate. I knew we would have plenty of paperwork to complete.
Three days before Hurricane Irma, we moved Mom into her assisted living facility. I gave her my old cell phone, gave her a brief lesson and drew diagrams so she would know how to answer it, kissed her and left her in the capable hands of the ALF. Meanwhile, I was getting harassed by my family about things that were completely out of my control regarding my mother. Having had enough, I told them to figure the details out among themselves, that I was too busy trying to figure out whether to evacuate or stay home, and worrying about our survival.
Anyway, during the hubbub of the hurricane, the VA paperwork was delayed until November, when it finally got submitted. We were already two months into helping Mom with her expenses, because her income did not cover everything she needed. We ended up helping not only those first two months, but until April of this year. For nearly eight months, we laid down over two hundred a month to keep her in her ALF and all her necessities paid. We ended up draining our emergency savings account, and ran up some sizable debt trying to keep ourselves alive. Hubby and I are both disabled; he has Multiple Sclerosis and I have severe Fibromyalgia. You can imagine a disability income doesn’t have much wiggle room.
Fast forward to last Friday, the 7th of September. It began as a normal day, until I saw an email flash across my computer while I was doing some research. The email was from my Mom’s bank, and it was an overdraft notice. I forgot to mention that when Mom was finally awarded her benefit increase, the VA magically found a sizable overpayment, and decided that they would take a portion of her benefit. That debt also negated the retroactive payment Hubby and I were counting on to help our recovery, replenishing our savings and paying her mounting medical bills. We applied immediately for a waiver of the debt, because she does not have enough disposable income to pay back this size of debt. I had no advance notice of a decision, and no reason to believe anything was different, so I paid her bills as usual. Rent and cable. So when I checked her account online, my heart sank when I saw a negative balance of over $200. This was well after the VA offices closed, so I had to worry about this crisis over the weekend. I didn’t sleep well, and having run out of my pain medication on Saturday, the weekend was looking pretty awful.
On Monday, we discovered that we could call the VA debt department (I forget the exact name) and arrange a more affordable repayment plan, one that would allow us to keep Mom where she is, and not have to move her back to skilled nursing. We also found out that there had not been a decision made on the waiver, so if they did decide to forgive the debt, they would refund any monies taken. They are also processing a refund for the difference between her old and new payments. After pulling some financial strings, hubby and I managed to cover the huge overdraft (it had grown to double with fees and an additional item.) The crisis is over, and we paid a heavy price for it.
In the one year since Mom entered assisted living, we received no offers of help from the family that coerced me into placing her there, even when it was well known that we were struggling. All we ever heard was feigned surprise, and nothing more. Even this past weekend, I sent out an SOS to my family, and heard nothing. Crickets. All we’ve accomplished is financial ruin for us, and Mom is still wildly unhappy. She just wants to return to a home that she no longer has. It breaks my heart, not only because she is unhappy, but because her other children don’t care enough to lend her a hand when she needed it. Such is life.
I mentioned in the above story that I had been out of my main pain medication since Saturday, and my last post covered some of that briefly. I had said that I was expecting the withdrawals to be bad, and that I didn’t think I’d be willing to go back on the meds once I had gone through the worst part of the withdrawals.
I was wrong.
Shortly after I published my last post, I awakened at 2:30 feeling ill. I recognized the symptoms immediately; cold sweat, shaking, rapid heartbeat, just feeling really rotten. I knew if I didn’t do something, and do it quickly, I would not be sleeping the rest of the night. I had a bottle of immediate release pain meds that I have been nursing along since January, taking them only when I desperately needed them. Those pills were the first casualty in the Great Drug Taper of 2018, out of financial need rather than by legislation. I checked the bottle and found five little pills left. I took one without even second guessing myself, and finally got back to sleep right as my alarm was sounding to feed the cats. Hubby had a lab appointment on Monday morning, which was when this occurred, so I just stayed up. It was also the day where I knew I needed to run errands and make phone calls to clean up the mess the VA helped me make. I decided then to save those precious few pills for bedtime, and just deal with withdrawals during the day to the extent I could tolerate it.
I’ve since been able to get the medication, and I filled them without regret. The pain still has not settled down since I started the meds again, and I don’t think it will at this dose, which brings me to the last part of this big ol’ post. Tentatively, I am leaning toward discontinuing the medication taper. I’m just having a very rough time with the pain, and I strongly suspected that I would eventually. I still haven’t made my mind up yet, and I think a lot of that will actually be decided when I get my health plan’s benefits for 2019 ahead of open enrollment in October. I’m not optimistic that my plan, or any other Medicare plan in Florida will continue to pay for pain medications at the current level. I am expecting a tier change and cost increase across the board for the medications I take, although I’m sincerely hoping not.
So that’s my life in a nutshell over the past weekend. I’m glad it is behind me, behind all of us, and that everything looks up from here. And, I’d also like to publicly acknowledge my hubby’s 52nd birthday today, September 14th. I am blessed to be your helpmate, and the kitties and I love you to the moon and back. Happy Birthday, HoneyBear!
I will check in again soon. If you are in Hurricane Florence’s path, you are in my prayers. Be safe and dry, listen to local news and instruction, and stay put. Hang in there!
Soft hugs to you all! Have a blessed weekend.