Caregiving Strategy: Taking It Easy When I Can

Since September, 2012, I have been writing a series of articles entitled, “A Forever Decision” based on my experience of losing my beloved dog Camilla. In October, I found that my Uncle Steve has terminal cancer. Uncle Steve is my favorite uncle and is one of the most important people in my life. I continued writing about coping with the grief of his impending loss, as well as day to day challenges involved in caring for him. The articles grew into a larger work of art. I hope that my writing will help others who visit the Open to Hope website to grow stronger in the face of difficult situations.

February 3, 2013

Well, all is quiet on the western front, as they say.

My Uncle Steve has been doing very well for over three weeks. He sounds strong, he sounds healthy, and he’s eating well. He continues to surprise me. I’m beginning to think that he will be with us for a long time.

Three and a half months ago, his doctor told me that he had three to six months to live, due to the extent of the cancer which had grown into his bones and lungs. Yet here we are – and he’s still here. Bravo! I’m happy.

I call him every night, and I love hearing his voice. He was always a very strong presence in my life. I would spend summers with him when I was growing up, and Christmases as well. It is very comforting to talk to him. I talk about all kinds of things and try to share my daily life with him, to give him some stimulation. He’s stuck in the house, after a very long and active life. That must be hard.

He’s not in too much pain. I am so grateful for that.

I won’t see him for another month or so because it’s the middle of winter and in order to visit him I would have to drive across the state, and over a few mountains by myself, in my little Prius. I don’t feel comfortable doing that during this time of year. I apologized to him and told him that I won’t be able to see him for a while.

So this month I’ve been reviewing a few medical bills and calling his insurance company as well as the rehabilitation center and other health care companies. I want to make sure that his insurance is not liable to cover the bills before I tell Uncle Steve to pay them. I take my job very seriously.

After many phone calls – including a couple of requests and reminders to the rehab center to give me a detailed explanation of a $480 bill initially labled simply, “respiratory” – I felt secure enough to tell him to pay the bills. I realized that I am not responsible to get rid of the bills, just to make sure that his insurance pays its fair share of them.

I feel so responsible to make sure that his financial affairs remain in good shape. This is ironic because I haven’t even taken them over yet. He is of a sound mind, and he handles his money. That’s another reason to say, “Bravo, Uncle Steve!” But I have heard so many stories of insurance nightmares connected to nursing homes and elder care, that I’ve stepped into the arena with my dukes up without realizing that there is no fight to be had. As long as I am diligent and patient, the matters will take care of themselves.

So, maybe this is all a good lesson to me – to take things easy, to be patient, to be hopeful, and to be clear about what my responsibility is and what isn’t.

Being an ex-New Yorker and a Type-A personality in many ways, I always expect a fight. But maybe I don’t need to expect that. Certainly, my experience is not bearing this out. I really hope that helping Uncle Steve to remain as well as possible for as long as possible will be a gentle experience for both of us. Perhaps, Dylan Thomas notwithstanding, he will “go gentle into that good night”.

Anne Hamilton 2013

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Anne Hamilton

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Anne Hamilton lost her best friend Curtis in a head-on car accident in 1979, two weeks after his high school graduation. Her emotional life became frozen and she has spent the last thirty-two years exploring all areas of self-expression, particularly through stage plays, poetry, theatre, art, and music. She is currently developing her own chamber-play-with-dance entitled ANOTHER WHITE SHIRT, about the way that grief moves through the body. As a professional dramaturg and script developer in New York City for the past 20 years, Anne has helped leading writers and performers in all fields to express their grief, loss, hope and recovery in works of art through her website www.hamiltonlit.com and her blog http://hamiltondramaturgy.wordpress.com She wrote a full-length play called THE STACY PLAY – A LOVE SONG – VOLUME I which features a character who loses her teenage love interest in a car accident. Kathleen Chalfant played Stacy in an excerpt from the play in NYC in 2009. The play has since won places in an international juried literary exhibition and a national playwrighting competition. Anne is currently adapting it into a screenplay. Anne is an award-winning Columbia University graduate and the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy. To ask Anne for help on developing your own play, screenplay, poetry, fiction or non-fiction, please contact her at hamiltonlit@hotmail.com

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