A Senior Moment
Ed was a victim of habit. Every morning, without fail, he would take his BMW convertible – Old Bet he calls her – with the top down, to Lighthouse Beach for sunrise. Ed loved that car; it was his baby. Afterwards, he would meet ‘the boys’ for coffee, returning home around 11 for lunch and a nap. Faithfully at 2:00 p.m., he would walk down his long drive to pick up the mail and chat with neighbors. I so enjoy chatting with Ed. He is a great storyteller, and has many to share. A long-time islander, Ed is turning 93 this year, and he couldn’t be happier.
Lately, though, Ed hasn’t seemed quite right. He’s missed a few sunrises, and has been late for his mail pick up. Ed, being almost militaristic in his routine for all the years I’ve known him, just wasn’t himself. Concerned, I knocked on his door one afternoon and asked if we could visit for a while. Ed, forcing a smile, looked pale and weak. We chatted for a while, and I noticed his movements were much slower than usual, his hands shaking. He said he was slowing down a bit, that he was tired. Concerned, I asked if I could bring a friend, someone from FISH, to visit with him. Jokingly, Ed said, ‘Sure! For as many years as I’ve been alive, I’ve never had a visit from a FISH before.’ We chuckled, he excused himself for a nap, and I called FISH.
Being a FISH volunteer, I was familiar with their visitation, home health and reassurance call programs. I also knew they were the island source for all sorts of help, for all sorts of people. I explained my concern for Ed, and FISH quickly set up a home health visit with Sandy, one of their retired RN volunteers. A few days later, we both visited Ed. He seemed better that day, and I felt relieved. I couldn’t help but wonder, had I overreacted?
Ed began his storytelling, something he was so good at, and said that he wished he could play the guitar like he used to back in the day, but his arthritis was getting the better of him lately. He mentioned even walking was so painful. He said he could no longer do his morning stretches or open a can of tuna. In Ed’s humorous ridicule, he said he thought we should all do some yoga, but if he got down on the floor, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get up again.
Sandy knew all the right questions to ask. She inquired about his health, doctors and medications. Ed told her that for quite a while he had been taking medicine, prescribed by his doctor, for severe arthritis. Over the last few months, though, he had stopped taking it. When asked why, Ed explained that the medicine used to cost him around $45 a month and now it has jumped to over $175 a month. “While I’m not poor in the traditional meaning of the word,” says Ed, “I do watch my pennies. I rely completely on Social Security and a little bit of remaining retirement money that I’m about to outlive!” We talked further, and Ed revealed that he would alternate between paying for his medication and paying other bills. He said during the months he didn’t have his medication he would lay low, not meeting up with ‘the boys’ or watching the sunrise, because it was simply too painful. Ed looked sad, almost heartbroken. I, too was sad; I knew how much Ed loved his morning convertible rides with ‘Old Bet’. It was more than a ritual for Ed; it was a reason for getting up in the morning.
With Ed’s permission, both Sandy and I reported back to FISH about his circumstances. FISH was quick to respond, contacting Ed to set him up on reassurance calls and visitation. FISH also described the emergency financial assistance program that may be able to help with his medication expenses, which Ed said he would think about. Then, with a giggle, he said he never knew that a visit from a FISH would bring about so much concern for a wobbly old man.
FISH volunteers continue to call and visit Ed, enjoying each and every moment with him. He has his good days and his not so good days. He’s still alternating between medicine and bills, and seems to be managing okay. “If it ever gets to the point where I can’t turn the key on Old Bet, then maybe I’ll consider another form of assistance for my medicine. But for now, help someone who has a full life to live, get ‘em on their feet, and make sure they live life to the fullest. I sure have . . .”
If you have concern for a friend or neighbor, FISH may be able to help. For additional information, please contact the FISH Walk-In Center at 239-472-4775.