Thursday, June 21, 2012

Modern Medicine, Single Retirement, and other thoughts.

Today I drove a down to visit a friend in the hospital. K is in my widow's support group. We have a wide variety of ages and while I am sixty, she is close to eighty. The folks in our support group have been taking turns calling and visiting. I avoided going for a couple days because I still sound like a barking seal, but today I swallowed the ole cough drops and headed down.

Years ago, in another life (before I had children) I spent a few years on active duty in the Army, trained as what would now be known as an LPN with extra skills. The military has some different standards and I was starting IVs and even doing cut downs  at the time. My first three years we spent in ambulances in the field in Germany, and my second three years at Walter Reed Hospital.  I only mention this because one of my rotations at Walter Reed was the orthpedic unit. While I have since forgotten most of what I learned, I do remember the huge beds that joint replacements recovered in, as well as the long recovery time. For the uninitiatied, in the olden days joint replacement patients were on a circular bed that-so you would be standing up in the bed. You would not get out of bed for days and days.

Fast forward to this week. My friend did not have general anesthesia, she had a spinal, making her recovery much, much easier.  Today, when I went to see her, she was slowly trodding about the halls with a walker (and a tall good looking youngster of the male persuasion behind her, lol). She still has problems getting into the up position from a chair. She is eating normally, moving about regularly, and tomorrow she will go to a rehab facility, where she will do physical exercises and learn to function with a straight leg for awhile. Like Linda's husband Art, my friend has a salty temper and I suspect she considers it cruel and unusual punishment to submit any of her children to her week (or more) of therapy.

I wanted to share this story for two reasons. The first to show how quickly medicines, treatments and recovery can change (usally for the better). I have a terrible reaction to (and a fear of) general anesthesia. Just a few years ago, when I was discussing both a knee replacement (no longer a solution) and a partial hysterectomy I questioned the viability of local anesthesia and was laughed out of the room. These days, it's often considered an option because of the increased risk with general (read a tube down your throat) anesthesia.

I also wanted to note that K is a single retiree. This has not in any major way affected her care, or her ability to care for herself. In other words, just because she is single this is not suddenly a traumatic event. K has children in town. If she had not, one of the members of our support group or church would have transported her. We all would have taken turns visitng, as we do now. We speak and visit daily.  I suppose in theory, if K was part of  a partnership, she might have gone home instead of a week in rehab. Honestly, though, at her age that would depend on the physical ability of her spouse, as both of their termperments. Just as with learning to drive, some of us do better with a third party.  She may still have gone to rehab (completely covered by medicare). Many single retirees have families nearby. Most if not all of us have strong networks of friends, coworkers and church members and such who support us. Put another way, illness or surgery does not have to be more difficult because we have no spouse. 

Single retirement may sometimes be different. Single retirement is not necessarily worse, more difficult, more lonely, more anything, actually. Support, love, caring, socialization, they can come from many sources.  I miss my husband and he enriched my life.  While life is less because he is gone, it is not less because I am single. That would be true whether I were divorced, never married, widowed or any other cmobmination or circumstance. Life is what you make of it.

On a totally unrelated note, my body clock seems to have completely changed. I have been falling asleep at ten or ten thirty, and getting up sometime around seven or so (never any earlier-I admire those of you who arise at 5 am, but that will never be me!). I'm not sure whether it's my subconscious telling me that it's texas and I need to get up while it's cool or what. For now at least, it seems that my reading until one or two am is a thing of the past.

1 comment:

  1. I call your sleeping pattern the long days of summer:)

    I am impressed with your support group. Both my mother and sister are widows. They became widows after growing up ont the same place all their lives. They do not have anything like what you describe. Another vote for aging in place:)

    Btw- have you checked with your local VA to see what benefits are available to you? You might be eligible for some type of extra health care coverage. And Barb, thank you for your service.

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