Asking for Help

Last August and September, when the physical effects from my second bout of pneumonia in less than a year would not cease and desist and this current episode of Major Depressive Disorder was well underway, I became unable to do many of the things that I count on being able to do to be me and run my home.

Ruger’s got me

What happens when a disabled person can no longer care for themselves and their home? Asking for help seems simple, perhaps, for those who’ve never had to, but for those of us who are used to doing for ourselves, it is quite complex.

The first part of the process was as simple as checking a box when I reapplied for assistance with food and paying my Medicare premiums. I checked the “Home Health Care” box on September 2, 2018, with much trepidation. I wasn’t sure what to expect next.

The screen has changed slightly since I applied six months ago

When I hadn’t heard about the “Food Stamp” part of my application by the end of the week, I went to the office. I was told since I had checked the home health care box, my application had been transferred to a neighboring county. I was perplexed.

After some bureaucratic shuffling, my food and medical parts of the application were transferred BACK to my home county for expedient processing. I was granted Food Stamps and assistance paying my Medicare premiums. Then I waited to hear about the other box.

In late September I received a phone call from a woman around 6:20 at night, who identified herself as a Case Worker for the Lewis-Mason-Thurston office of Washington’s whatever office… I did not recognize the acronym she specified. I was already discombobulated by receiving such a call after 5pm (what can I say, I take off my headset at 5, figuring I am done with “business calls”… sigh), and I answered in a manner that reflected such.

 

Now I was astonished. It had taken three weeks for this phone call, responding to what I considered a “scream for help” to have it considered by the ONE PERSON who actually received it as ‘a mistake.’

She asked, “Did you check the “Home Health Care” box by accident?”

The tip of a wooden cane on the floor

“No, it was not a mistake,” I answered. “I need help desperately. I have not been able to recover from this pneumonia and I need help. I am having trouble bathing and dressing myself and I’m even missing church in spite of having a Dial-a-Lift ride set up.”

She answered in the affirmative and continued with my application. My home assessment for my application was scheduled for early October, about a month after I ‘cried for help.’

The evaluator was pleasant. I easily forgave him for indicating that my canine service companions were “gigantic dogs” on the assessment when he did accurately indicate the services they perform for me (in spite of being, technically a “medium” and “large” dog respectively). Mr. Evaluator had my evaluation (that indicated I was barely functioning with assistance from church friends and relatives) input into the system by late October.

Dog toy between the wheels of a wheelchair on the floor

I continued to wait.

My physician was angry it was taking so long. In mid-November, she ordered a different sort of Home Health Care. I had been unaware there was more than one type. It was so nice to finally have a bath-aide come in and help with some of the most difficult parts of being disabled.

Ironically, on the date of my first major fall (not just “ping-ponging” my way into the walls on the way to the bathroom), a device was delivered to notify my doctor’s office when I fell. They delivered it an hour after the fall that jammed and froze my shoulder. My doctor then prescribed a power chair.

When it was discovered that I leave my home for church and medical appointments, I was deemed “non-homebound” and the device was demanded back. The bath aids and physical therapist who were coming in every week for three weeks ceased. I was not eligible for THAT type of care.

I was offered my first caregiver, a person who had never held such a position, in late December. She had retrained after having worked as a bartender. She worked for 6 days before she called (14 hours before her next shift) to say she couldn’t come back to work because she couldn’t afford the gas to make the journey from the coast where she lived.

I spent Christmas and New Years without assistance. I spent a lot of time in light housecoats, being cold. My heating bill is skyrocketing.

In mid-January, a new caregiver started. Unfortunately, she did not work out. Yelling at me during a bath just adds to my menu of triggers. Yeah… Nope.

The next caregiver presented herself as having experience with mental health issues, then proceeded to gaslight me. Then, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my therapist’s office wondering if having a caregiver was worth it. I almost wish it wasn’t.

Face it, we ALL want to live long enough to become disabled, but NONE of us wants it to happen to us when we are still “with it.”

I succumb to the assessment that I am “hard to handle.” My mother and my first husband made a point of saying for years that “no one could handle [me].” Now that is getting in the way of “me” being “me.”

I have recently interviewed two ladies who I would like to work with me as a team. I pray to my Heavenly Father that the broken pieces of “my MEs” can play nice and allow things to be taken care of. Seriously. I’m tired of being naked and the dishes are piling up.

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A Woman’s Best Friends

Over seven years ago, I met a Staffordshire Terrier who changed my opinion about dogs. I had been afraid of large dogs (for no reason I can remember….but that isn’t new to me!) for as long as I knew. Barkley was different. A HUGE “pitbull” type breed, he was loyal to no end. Not only to his family, but when I stayed in the house he was protecting, he buddied up to me in a manner I had not experienced. I fell in love with him.

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Ruger Sr., Athena’s father

Then I met a pitbull named “Ruger.” A blue nosed beautiful blockhead, he and his mate Brandy (a chocolate lab) belonged to friends of mine and I rapidly fell for him too. Both Ruger and Brandy would sit on or near my feet when I was in pain, demanding me to pet them. When I would pet them for a little while, the pain got much less intense. Sometimes I even forgot about the pain. Since I could easily deal with daily pain that reached levels of 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10); the idea that a dog could lessen that pain was astounding! I had never heard of such a thing, but I wanted more!

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Brandy, Athena’s Mother

These dogs also showed me in person, what I later learned through reading: Canines have the capability to change a human’s mood as well as ability-level.

When I was crying my eyes out, both of them would lay next to me and encourage (quite forcibly) me to pet them and give them attention. As I was to learn, the very action of petting a dog releases the same hormone, oxytocin, as is released in nursing moms & babies. It is known as the “comforting hormone”. Better than any anti-anxiety drug I know!

God answered my prayers. I stayed with my friends Robin, David and Katie for a month in the spring. As I was getting ready to move on they realized that in spite of being separately kenneled, Brandy had gotten pregnant with Ruger’s litter.

On the first of April, 2011, I woke up to smells and sounds I had never before experienced. I went downstairs to learn that puppies were being born. Before my friends left for work and school, five puppies were born. When I went back downstairs after my shower, there was a sixth. She was later adopted by me and named “Athena Brooke” for the middle names of two of the strongest young ladies I have ever known.

 

Having never raised a dog from a puppy, I had a lot of learning to do. We hit the road before she was even 8 weeks old. Although I had been planning to re-start my cross country road trip with my new-to-me BMW 525, I hadn’t previously planned to have a brand-new puppy in tow! Fortunately, God had me covered; I had friends across the country whose pets and advice taught both me and Athena.

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There was a time she fit in the “Peace Bag”

Together, Athena and I visited people from Idaho to Florida. She made friends with little and big dogs, kittens and even a few house bunnies. Athena was patient with me, and I learned to get my behind out of bed earlier in the morning or pay for my laziness by
having messes to clean up.

When Athena and I had been traveling and living together for less than a year, she made her true “job” or “service” apparent to me.

As a survivor of multiple traumas, I have certain symptoms that are quite distressing. One of them happens quite unexpectedly: I can lose most sensations below my waist suddenly, making it difficult to walk or stand. When Athena was only 9 months old, she sat at my feet and barked me into the chair behind me. We had not had the economical ability to procure formal service-dog training for her, so I was unsure as to her intent. When I sat down, she stopped, seeming pleased with herself. Within five minutes, sure enough, I lost all feeling in my legs.

wp-1491685091988.jpgAthena has made her place in my life with this skill on many occasions. She has
also calmed me, or separated me from a situation, when my PTSD acts up.
She has learned my triggers, and has learned to give notice to me when I am needing help.

Athena and I had many adventures in the past five years, but unfortunately we both eventually experienced some emotionally traumatic events together. She was left with a habit of barking, making it difficult to socialize her enough to use her as a formal service animal. My own PTSD about medical interventions would cause me to delay in having her “fixed.” Although I toyed with the idea of breeding her, I didn’t have the stability to consider that when Athena took matters into her own paws this last summer.

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Athena spent a lot of time hiding from the litter. Especially right after her c-section

It seemed she really liked the full blooded Golden Labrador (who was so old he was silver) next to a house I was visiting, and the two of them conspired to get through the falling down fence more than once. She had tied with him and there were puppies on the way!

I was blessed to be staying with understanding friends who had a lot of experience with dogs when she came to term. The litter of six had to be delivered by emergency c-section due to their huge sizes, but they were all alive and well. Athena woke up to puppies and being a new mom, was not too impressed with them suckling on her near her incision. It took a while of cajoling and treating her to get her to nurse them. Once she did, she rose well to the challenge of motherhood.

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Baby Ruger Bear (abt 3 weeks)

The only puppy in the litter with Athena’s father’s markings was a little black boy with tiny white toes and a splash of white on his chest. I wanted a male from her, and I named him after his grandfather and the name he appeared to favor with his lab looks, he was a “Ruger Bear.”

The rest of the litter was given to friends. I was fortunate to be able to place 2 of the litter to be trained for service dogs for two veterans suffering from PTSD. One has been accepted into a formal training program. It makes me happy to know we were able to help others with this “mistake.”

The only chocolate male of the litter, named “Kiko” by my grandson on his birthday when he came to see the newborns, was given to David, a member of the family that the original Ruger and Brandy belonged to. They have become inseparable. Brandy and Ruger have been gone for a while, and Kiko found a place where he was needed.

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Ruger Bear, about a month old

All of Athena’s puppies found their places. Athena gained experience that seems to help her be more attentive (and rolls her eyes at the puppy’s behavior with me). She is even better at her job of being my companion with Ruger Bear as an additional companion to train. Perhaps I will actually work on training them both formally when we get settled later this year. I hope so. They deserve it and so do I.  For now, Athena is an excellent member of the family and she is truly my very best friend.

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Ruger Bear is already bigger than mama at 6 months

 

Click here to watch Athena and Ruger Bear run and play!

 

(This post was edited from a previous post on SlightelyMaggie authored by myself)