Weekend Edition: Being Restored
JANUARY 26, 2019 BY CATHRINE HOEKSTRA
Have you ever wanted to pack a bag, take a trip, and just get away? Maybe you’ve had a long and stressful week, weekend, or month (or year). Maybe you have a hard time connecting with others about the ins and outs of your life, your days, or your job.
I have been there, friends. I have struggled in my role as a military caregiver. I had one person that I could really connect with on a daily basis. I had a community online that I could reach out to, but it is a large group and sometimes I did not feel comfortable posting or commenting. I had moments where I wanted to pack that bag and just get away.
Back in September, near the end of the month, I went out to Unity Village. If you don’t know about Unity Village, it is a property about 15 miles from downtown Kansas City. The campus is on 1200 wooded acres with beautiful buildings, fountains, and comforting hotel rooms. I felt overwhelmed, it was so lovely, and I was nervous.
You see, I applied to attend a Restorative Weekend for military caregivers. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I knew that it would be an exciting opportunity because I was about to meet up with other caregivers, have some time for myself, and maybe, just maybe relax.
I arrived with a nervous feeling…what would we do? Would I be able to share stories or talk about my life? Would I have to do yoga? What about the rooms? The food…all sorts of questions went through my mind. I knew the organizer and founder of the organization, Caregivers on the Homefront, and I knew one caregiver attending. When I started to meet the others, I felt comfortable. I reconnected with some folks I met at a workshop I was at in Kansas City.
So, what is Caregivers on the Homefront and what is a restorative weekend?
Well, Caregivers on the Homefront is a non-profit organization that serves the families of those who have served. What does that mean? This organization works with military families of all eras, first responders and their families, and they provide support to caregivers and their families.
The restorative weekend is an opportunity for some caregivers to connect with other caregivers, a chance to share our stories, a chance to laugh, cry, and fellowship. We participated in yoga, worked on sharing our stories by participating in a writing workshop, we learned to plan and prepare for the best and worst, we made vision boards, we visited War Horses for Veterans and saw the amazing work that takes place, we made goals, we talked about our hopes, fears, and most importantly, we had time to connect. Did I mention there was some really good food too?
During the weekend, I learned about myself, I learned that I cannot control every situation I encounter. I met other spouses who struggled with the ins and outs of the VA, other caregivers who were recognized by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation as a caregiver but not the VA, I heard similar stories of struggle, of frustration, and I learned some techniques to help Sam and myself.
Our group that attended became Tribe One. The ladies in this group were from a variety of areas in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, and Missouri. While miles may separate us all, we are connected through the bonds we share as military caregivers and spouses. We have a group on Facebook that allows us to connect, we can talk, vent, share, and inspire one another even though our weekend has ended.
Caregivers on the Homefront found that our first restorative weekend was so fun, successful, and important, that they are hoping to get another group of caregivers out to Unity Village in May. The next restorative weekend will be May 31, 2019-June 3, 2019. What is so amazing is that Caregivers on the Homefront will supply travel, hotel, activities, and all the food! Can you believe that!?! How awesome?!
They need our help. The workshops are interactive. Caregivers will be able to work on self-care, physical health, emotions, learn and discuss suicide, resiliency, and take time to engage and develop friendships with the other participants. This organization needs our support because just as the loved ones have served, families serve as well.
I never understood (at times) why people thanked me too for my service, or why people would say “you do such a great job,” “thank you for your support of Veterans,” “thank you for taking such good care of Sam,” and then it hit me. I am recognized as a caregiver. I have the opportunity to help Sam and our family in ways that I never thought possible. Caregivers on the Homefront helped me realize that I needed and now have the tools to be a strong warrior on this journey of hope and healing.
If you are interested in donating to Caregivers on the Homefront so more caregivers can have an amazing restorative weekend, please consider visiting their website at http://www.caregiversonthehomefront.org
If you are a caregiver and you would be interested in finding a community that is safe, welcoming, and that provides information on resources, self-care and courses that will assist you on your journey, visit this part of the Caregivers on the Homefront website here: https://caregivers-homefront.org/what-we-do/registration/
And, finally, if you feel that you need a restorative weekend, consider joining the Caregivers on the Homefront Community and registering to attend the Restorative Weekend. I promise, if you feel that you need some help, you need some time away, a chance to gather information and resources, you will enjoy this weekend. Check out the application here: https://caregivers-homefront.org/what-we-do/registration/mhwrestorativeweekend.html
I can honestly say that I am changed for attending a caregiver retreat. I feel prepared for what our life throws at us every day. I know I have a tribe, a group of strong, resilient women, that I can turn to, and I know that I am forever grateful to my family and Caregivers on the Homefront for the opportunity I had to make a difference.
Medicare OEP and Part A & B Increases
You might find yourself in the role of caregiver if a friend, family member or loved one has grown older and can no longer handle their health or healthcare affairs. This can be a challenging task if you aren’t properly informed.
When you’re a caregiver, you might need to make decisions in healthcare coverage, in addition to assisting with routine activities. When you understand the new changes in Medicare, you’ll be able to make important decisions for your loved one’s healthcare needs.
Important Medicare Changes in 2019
There's a lot of changes happening next year, some of these changes will affect all Medicare beneficiaries, while others will only apply to individuals on certain plans.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated their handbook that beneficiaries receive in the fall.
CMS even edited the online Medicare Plan Finder tool to make it easier to use; this includes a “coverage wizard” that helps enrollees compare out-of-pocket costs and coverage options between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Part A and B Increases in 2019
The new Medicare changes will take place January 1st. The changes you really need to know about include the increases in Part A and Part B, including premium and deductibles.
Part A Premium Increases
About 99% of beneficiaries won’t have to pay a Medicare Part A premium. But if you have fewer than 40 quarters of employment you must pay a monthly premium. If you voluntarily enroll in Medicare Part A you should also notice an increase.
If you have at least 30 quarters or if you were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage, you may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly rate; $240 in 2019, which is an $8 increase from 2018.
For those who have exhausted other entitlement, they will pay the full premium which increased $15 since last year to $437 a month for 2019.
Part A Deductible Increases
The Part A deductible went up $24 and will be $1,340 in 2019. Beneficiaries with Original Medicare as their only coverage will be expected to pay this if they are admitted to the hospital.
Beneficiaries pay a coinsurance amount of $341 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization in 2019. The amount was $335 per day from days 61 to 90 for 2018. For lifetime reserve days the amount went up from $670 to $682 per day.
Medicare beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities should expect the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period to be $170.50 in 2019. This is an increase from $167.50 in 2018.
Part B Premium Increases
The new premium for Part B in 2019 will be $135.50 which is only $1.50 more per month than in 2018. Those with Medigap Plan C or Plan F won’t be affected by this increase.
The income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) affects roughly 5 percent of people with Medicare Part B.
In 2019 a new income bracket was put in place, if your income is $500,000 or more ($750,000 or more for a married couple) then you will pay $460.50 a month for Part B in 2019.
Part B Deductible Increase
The Part B deductible will increase from $183 to $185 in 2019. Beneficiaries with a Medigap Plan C or Plan F have coverage for this deductible.
Medicare Advantage plan enrollees have low copays and deductibles that shouldn’t necessarily increase with the Part B deductible increase.
Help Affording Medicare Increases
When you have additional coverage with Medicare it can help lower the expenses of many of the increases, talking to a licensed insurance agent in your state can make your life easier and help you gain confidence in your Medicare coverage.
The Return of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP) will take the place of the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) which used to be January 1 through February 14 of every year.
The MADP only permitted beneficiaries to disenroll from their Medicare Advantage coverage and switch back to Original Medicare, they wouldn’t be able to switch from one MA plan to another MA plan.
There are some things beneficiaries will be able to do during the OEP, like:
· Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another MA plan
o They can only make one change during this enrollment period.
· Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and switch back to Traditional Medicare with or without a Part D Prescription drug plan.
It’s important to understand that you won’t be able to switch Part D Prescription Drug plans during the Medicare OEP. Beneficiaries enrolled in a stand-alone Part D plan need to make changes during AEP (October 15 through December 7 of every year).
Annually around September 30th, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their insurance carrier for their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription drug plan providers.
When this information is received it’s important to look at the changes and adjust coverage as needed. CMS will post plan changes in October, months before the new year and changes go into effect. Medicare.gov is a reliable resource for caregivers; they can use it to compare plans, look up information and learn more about Medicare.
By Lindsay Engle
THE STORY CONTINUES-An Intimate Look at Suicide by Shawn Moore
03/13/2018 - If you haven’t read my first blog, scroll down and read it first.
I don’t know if I felt relief or if I was still in shock of what was going on. I believe I was working on auto-pilot. One of the officer’s that responded took a gun from my “partner”. At first, I thought it was my husband’s weapon, only to realize later that it was my partners and he must have put it on before he responded to the scene. Scary thought when you sit down and think about it. Although, as an officer, you must protect yourself as well. You first want to come home to your family every night. From this point on things seem to have happened fast. An officer starts asking me questions, but my husband is asking for me. He is in the ambulance at this point. As I am walking to the ambulance, I ask the other ambulance crew member where they are going to take him. He tells me whichever hospital is open. I immediately tell him NO. “I know how this works. You are going to take him to the nearest VA, which is either Leavenworth or Kansas City.” I reminded him that I was an officer and that we were going to do what was best for the patient. Sometimes it is good being the officer other times it isn’t. When I got into the ambulance my husband asked me what was going on. I looked at “Marshall” and asked him if I should tell him. Hello? I am just the wife, remember? But no, I get that pleasure. Was it because I was an officer? I tell him that he had been drinking. My husband says, “I’ve been drinking? No, I haven’t.” I look at Marshall. “Sweetheart, we can smell it on you.” He starts to cry. He then looked at me and said that his neck hurt. I then had to explain to him that he had tried to hang himself. He was in shock, denial, tears…. you name it. I look up through the ambulance’s windshield and see the officers searching his truck. That’s what we do on a scene, but it was surreal seeing them go through our things. They will have to complete a report though, so it must be done. They come back and ask me for my information and my husband’s. We are getting ready to go now and they are going to let me ride in the ambulance with him. I think they realize that I am the only one that has been able to keep him calm at this point. My partner and other friend said that they would take both our cars home. Can you believe at this minute I was worried because mine didn’t have enough gas in it to get home and that he would have to pay for it? Then, what would my kids think when they got there with both cars, but we weren’t in them.
We made it to the ambulance and got him into the ER at the KCVA. By this time, my feet were freezing. My shoes and socks were soaked, and my pants were half way wet. My husband’s neck was red, and he was complaining of not being able to swallow. I went and got the doctor to let him know. He then asked me questions that I didn’t know. I realized then that the ambulance crew left and hadn’t given the doctor any information. Hello? This is not supposed to be the way it happens. I am just the wife. Not the officer on the scene. I had to text my partner who at this time I could tell didn’t want to tell me everything. I had to let him know that I was ok, (not really but someone had to get the information), and that the doctor was asking. This is when I found out that my husband had been unconscious and not breathing prior to being cut down. When he hit the water, he took a big gulp but didn’t continue to breath until after my partner cut the rope from around his neck and started to give him CPR. I relayed that to the doctor which is when they decided they had better do an MRI on his neck to make sure there wasn’t any damage done. When they took him back for that test, the reality of the situation hit me. We had made it just in time to save him. I needed to call my daughter to tell her what was going on as well. I tried to give her the watered-down version, but she wouldn’t have it. She told me that she was coming down even though I told her not to. I had to make plans for my little one to go to one of my other daughter’s house since my then 20-year-old took after me with her stubbornness. While I was waiting, the nurse, who was a big ol guy, brought me a warm blanket. No one had asked me if I was ok or needed anything at this point. No family support at all. The warm blanket meant a lot to me. My husband got back from the test. They didn’t see any damage but since he was having a hard time swallowing they wanted to keep him over night in the ICU. Then he would be transferred to the psych ward the next day. After getting him settled my daughter and I went to pick up my little one and we went home. I got her all settled in and then went to look through my husband’s truck. As a police officer, I was trying to put the pieces together. I wanted to know what led to him being fine that morning to trying to end it all. I also looked through his phone and found on the word pad that he left me a note that said, “I left you a note.” I went digging through the truck thinking that the officers probably would have found it and took it for evidence. But they didn’t look hard enough. I found it in his journal. He had either used his fingernail or something like that to write it. I had to put it under a light to see what he had written. “The monster is here. This is not your fault. I love you so much my Shawn.” With the aid of sleeping pills, I went to bed, emotionally exhausted.
I went to the hospital the next day and got there just before they took him to the psych ward. I was told that I could go up with him so that I could talk to the doctor. I asked my husband what the last thing that he remembered was on that day. My husband had been at what he likes to call his safe place that day. He was with a bunch of other buddies mentoring to veterans and first responders with PTS when two Army soldiers from Ft. Riley’s WTU came in dressed in uniform. That triggered my husband because his time in the WTU was a horrible experience. He told me that he was very angry and tried to talk to them to calm down but all he remembers is sitting by himself. He doesn’t remember leaving, driving five minutes to the gas station and buying alcohol, or the act itself. There was a gap of approximately five hours. Five hours missing. All along I had been calling and texting him. Five hour sitting contemplating on how to end the pain. Five hours of worry and anxiety building in me until the gut feeling said that our lives wouldn’t be the same at the end of the day.
I talked to my “partner” later the next day. I wanted to make sure that him and our other friend was ok. They too had seen the horror of war and suffered in their own ways. He texts me that evening saying, “I knew you were a strong woman.” Really? Because I didn’t feel like it. I was going through the motions and didn’t know what those were supposed to be. In my next blog, I will write about how I found the new normal in our lives. I was a mess for several months afterwards. But, I want to share the God “things” that I came to see on that day and what resiliency and strength look like.
My Last Call-An Intimate Look at Suicide by Shawn Moore
02/25/2018 - It was a day that started like many of your own. It was a mild day in August of last year in Kansas City, MO. August 9th to be exact. School hadn’t started yet for my soon to be first grader. It was such a normal day I can’t even recall my 21-year-old daughter, Courtney, coming in so that my husband and I could go about our day. I do remember my husband making coffee for me that day and talking with him before I left for work. He was headed out to mentor a group of veterans and first responders that were battling with PTSD. An illness my husband was all too familiar with. I had an easy day ahead of me. I was going to leave work early to meet Courtney at my first grader’s school so that she could meet her teacher before the first day. We were leaving the next day to go to a family retreat for those that have a loved one with PTSD in Colorado, so she would be missing her first day of school. When your child has high anxiety in new situations, you do all that you can to alleviate that. I had many thoughts on my way to work that day. My husband, Bryan, and I were in the process of starting a non-profit organization called Caregivers on the Homefront. We had given our son a few ideas of what we would like our logo to look like, so I decided to call my husband on the way in to work. We chatted casually about the design and different things about what we needed to do to get things going with the organization. We talked through me parking my car and starting the two-block walk to Headquarters. As I approached the building I saw a twenty something female who looked like she was lost. I quickly said good bye to Bryan and told him that I loved him. You see, I am a police officer, and someone needed help. She also reminded me of one of my girls and I would want someone to do the same for them. She was looking for the courthouse. I was headed in the same direction, so I walked with her the rest of the way. Nothing major came out of that…. just small talk. I got into work and texted my husband telling him that I got there and that I would talk to him later. As usual, he responded with “I love you my Shawn!” We both went about our day. My thoughts were still on the non-profit and ideas that I had. I continued texting Bryan throughout the morning, knowing that I wouldn’t get a response until lunch time. The few things that he was helping with that morning would be pivotal moments in the veterans and first responder’s lives, so I knew that he wouldn’t interrupt by getting his phone out. The morning seemed to have gone by quickly. I was walking back to my car to go and meet my girls at the school when I called my husband. No answer. I thought that was strange since it was lunch time and I hadn’t heard from him. I got in my car and about half way to the school I got a horrible gut feeling that something wasn’t right. You know, the sick to your stomach feeling that you can’t shake? I texted my husband again. Nothing. I tried to call again. Nothing. By the time I got to the school my anxiety was sky high. I decided to text a friend of ours that was out at the same location that my husband was. He was also our therapist. “Have you seen Bryan? He isn’t answering my texts or phone calls and that isn’t like him. Is he still there?” I got a text back that said, “Stand by.” I went ahead and went in to the school with Courtney and Peyton to meet the teacher. We had a nice visit although my anxiety and fear were mounting. After forty-five minutes of talking with the teacher and getting Peyton comfortable we left. I looked at my phone and still no one had called or texted me back. I walked outside and told Courtney to take Peyton home because I had a horrible feeling that something was terribly wrong and that I needed to find Bryan. She didn’t question me and took Peyton with her. I immediately attempted to locate Bryan’s phone through our wireless carrier. When I saw where he was at, a dead-end road where nothing was, I knew my worst nightmare was slowly coming true. At that moment, I stopped being a wife. I am a trained police officer. Someone needed help. I had to get there and fast. I don’t remember the drive. Only that I called one of my friends, who was also a caregiver to her husband who is a veteran. She didn’t answer. I then texted my girlfriend that I have known since we were in second grade. She lives in Tulsa. I told her that my worst fear was coming true and that I knew in my heart that something was terribly wrong with Bryan. She begged me several times to not go by myself. Although, I knew the situation was dire, I thought that I could handle it. I was a police officer for Christ sake! But Christ must have hit me over the head as I was getting closer to where I thought Bryan was because I called a friend of Bryan and I’s. He had also attended the police academy with me. I tried my best to hold it together when I told him that I needed help and that I didn’t believe that things were going to end well. He said he would meet me there. I was on auto pilot at that time. I don’t remember thinking anything except that I just needed to get there. When I pulled up the dead-end gravel road, I saw my husband’s truck with the driver’s side door open. It was facing me. I got out of my car and had thoughts of a prior scene that I had been on a few years earlier where someone had shot themselves in their car. When I got to that scene, he was leaning over in the passenger’s seat. I prayed that I wouldn’t see the same thing today. At that moment, I saw another one of our friends talking on the phone and the look on his face was something I can’t explain to this day. But what I felt while I put the pieces together was that my husband was gone. I dropped to my knees and screamed NOOOOO at the top of my lungs. My friend was screaming at me trying to get my attention. I finally understood what he was saying while he spoke to the 911 operator. I asked where Bryan was at. He pointed down an embankment, through the overgrown grass and trees with thorns on them to a creek bed. I frantically ran that way and then I saw him. My husband, sitting on the creek bed with his shirt off, boots on, muddy and in the water. My other friend and fellow co-worker standing in the water under the bridge. My husband crying. I took him in my arms as I stepped in the creek. It was cold on my feet. My husband was sweaty. He looked up at me and asked me where he was and how he had gotten there. I tried to tell him where he was, but he didn’t understand. I saw a blue tie down strap in the water. I looked up and saw that the other end was tied to the bridge railing. WHAT? It couldn’t be. I mouthed to my partner (because, you see, I felt as if I was on a scene at work), “Did he hang himself?” He shook his head yes. How could that be? He had never talked about that. Only shooting himself or overdosing on pills. How does one make the decision to do that? I looked at my husband again. I could smell the alcohol. Yet, he is a recovering alcoholic. What had happened that day? Snap back into it Shawn! I hear my partner saying that we should get him up the embankment. I hear the ambulance and fire truck sirens. Thoughts in my mind of being a wife and police officer were colliding and running rough shod over me. Who am I supposed to be at this moment! I find myself on one side of Bryan and my partner on the other. Help him up. Guide him up the hill and through the trees and thorns. Watch out, don’t let that one hit you. Bryan looks at me at the top of the hill and asks me what is going on. He still doesn’t understand what has happened or what is going on. The police officers, ambulance crew, and fire fighters are running towards us. It freaks my husband out. I yell to them, “He has PTSD! You are scaring him. It’s ok. He isn’t going to hurt you.” They back down and let me dictate the scene. My husband, crying again. His neck is red. My stomach is in my throat. I say to him, “Let’s go to the ambulance.” He looks at me with a pained and confused look and says, “Why?” Then, the EMT in front of us says “Marshall.” I think to myself, is this some code word in the military that I missed? We don’t have time for that! The EMT then says, “Bryan, it’s Marshall.” He knows him?! They hug each other, and he walks my husband to the ambulance.
My story doesn’t end there. Nor did my husbands. The emotions of reliving that day are almost overwhelming even 7 months later. This is my first attempt at writing down what happened on that day and my first attempt at writing a blog. I thought I would start there and continue with the story in the next episode. There is much more that I didn’t know at that time that I want to share in hopes that it will bring understanding to others as well as pave the way for others to tell their stories.
If you read through the entire post, thank you! The reason that I started the non-profit, Caregivers on the Homefront, is to support the caregivers behind the veterans and first responders. We can't get through this journey alone. If you want to help me help others through times like these please click on the DONATE button at the top of this page.
Be sure to check back regularly to read our latest blog.