Posted by: paulbassler | January 18, 2013

Living With Disability – Finding Help

After living in the Philippines for seven months getting medical assistance for my wife’s burst brain aneurysm (see Living With disability – Transitioning to a New Life) we were finally home and settled in. In order to return to work, I hired a caregiver for my wife, which cost me about a quarter of my monthly salary. Since my wife used to bring in nearly half of our family income, her disability hit our family finances hard. The first thing I tried to do to help was apply for Social Security Disability. Though I learned that many people find it difficult to be accepted for disability and often seek out legal assistance, the severity of my wife’s disability made qualifying very easy. Within a month or so, my wife was receiving her disability payments. It was just enough to pay for her caregiver each month. We were also told at the time that she would be eligible for Medicare two years after getting Social Security Disability.

The technique I used to move my wife from the bed to the wheelchair required some skill and strength, so most female caregivers were unable to move her. That required I put Dorothy on a fold down couch before leaving to work, where she would remain until I returned home. My caregiver, however, told me about a Hoyer Hydraulic Lift for sale by one of her family members. With it, she claimed, she could move my wife from the bed to the chair and back again. After looking up the cost of these on the net, the $400 price tag on this one was a good deal (prices I found on the net started at $550 and went up). This was a great investment, as it made it possible for anyone to move my wife, giving her the opportunity to get up during the day, go for a walk outside, and return to bed for a nap whenever she was tired. It was a great advancement for her world.

Within the first few months at work, it became clear that the demands of my job were too great in light of my new responsibilities at home. I was forced to quit a lucrative position with the government and accept a lesser paying but less time-consuming job with the local university. Though I had a caregiver eight hours a day, I was still responsible for caring for my wife the other sixteen hours a day and throughout the weekend. Each weekend I made it a point to take Dorothy out shopping, or the movies, or sightseeing, anything to get her out of the house. She loved it. Getting her in and out of the car was challenging, and learning how to push a grocery cart and a wheelchair at the same time took a while, but I was eventually able to master it.

After Dorothy became eligible for Medicare, we began to seek some of the medical equipment we needed but couldn’t afford. First on the list, my wife needed a hospital bed. Since she slept on her back, unable to move around at all, trying to make her comfortable on a flat bed was hard. She was not comfortable flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling. I had to prop her up with a half a dozen pillows, and try to stabilize her on the bed with pillows under each arm. She also needed to elevate her legs, which required a few more pillows. A hospital bed allowed her to raise her back up and down, giving her some control over her own comfort. It also allowed her to move her legs up and down. So for $1,300 we were able to buy her a new hospital bed (Medicare covered the other 80% of the cost).

Next we sought out a power chair. As you may have seen on TV, there are many different styles of power chairs, some designed for indoor and others for outdoor use. We chose a chair that could be folded up so we could use it for outdoor or indoor use. As it turned out, Dorothy doesn’t really use the power chair in the home as there really isn’t anywhere she needs to go. She loves it for shopping and the movies and taking a walk around the neighborhood. The power chair gave her an independence we thought she had lost forever. That cost us a $1,000, which was 20% of the total cost.

Over the following year or so, we also purchased a shower chair, exercise equipment, leg vibrator straps (there’s probably a medical name for those), and other small necessities. Each of these things helped to improve my wife’s life experience. The leg vibrator straps were needed because she was experiencing extensive leg swelling. We had asked a number of doctors how to reduce the swelling and never got any help. It wasn’t until this year when my wife experienced a mild heart attack and was hospitalized for a week that I learned to deal with the problem. I showed up one morning and saw these vibrator straps around my wife’s legs and noticed a substantial reduction in the swelling. After inquiring about these straps, I was told it loosened the blood that tends to cling to the leg muscles when the legs are not being used that causes the swelling. Though the hospital was using an electrical system, they told me I could buy battery operated straps for much less money. The following day I found them for only $90 online. They have worked wonders.

It has now been nearly five years since my wife suffered the burst brain aneurysm. To learn what our life is like now, please read the end of our story  Living With Disability – Never Give Up.

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