I’m glad I didn’t marry a centipede with arthritic knees. Replacing them could take decades. Being a senior means you likely will have various common major surgeries — knees, shoulders, back and hips. Who is going to take care of you? Can they? I got my chance when my two-legged wife Barb had a total knee replacement.

My child bride wasn’t actually a child when I met her, but she is a recent senior and I am not. It is a labor of love, but also exhausting. A friend told me from experience to forget anything I usually do and cancel appointments for weeks. She was right. I was doing a lot of what I and Barb usually do plus being a nurse pulling a triple for two weeks — being on call for more than 300 hours straight.

It seemed whenever we had a meal, I had to get up to help her, get things she needed, reheat her coffee, all while trying to relax over the hopefully good meal I prepared. I say “hopefully” because I was so rushed I screwed up sometimes. Beforehand we prepared and froze two weeks’ dinners — that really helped.

We were told by doctors and friends the first two weeks were the worst. They were. Two days after surgery, the anesthetics wear off and pain increases. Everything seems to do with balance. Take necessary opiates, but take less and less as soon as possible to avoid or stop nasty side effects. If you take too little, you can’t stand the pain from the exercises necessary to regain mobility. Exercise as soon as possible, but don’t overdo it and injure yourself. The caretaker can’t wear himself out, but has to be available. Fantasizing you will immediately recover happens; you won’t. Setbacks occur as you learn how to meet new challenges. Opiates can make people goofy or downright dumb. Try to explain to someone you love while they hurt they are making no sense — that’s no fun. Frustrations build up and staying calm and loving, especially after nights of restless sleep, is challenging — both patient and caretaker learn things about themselves they may not like. We kept saying “it will get better.” It did.

When friends weren’t telling us how difficult recovery can be, they warned us exercising was absolutely necessary to regain mobility. Barb has always exercised and prepared well for this adventure. She regained mobility quickly with inevitable post-surgery pain. Physical therapy is hard, necessary and brings more pain. Stamina is low for months while bodies repair. That gets in the way of resuming a normal life and exercising. Surgery, like aging, is not for cowards.

After two weeks, things calmed. She graduated to a cane from a walker. I have taken her out for other than medical appointments. Mobility, a major senior issue, gets better every day. We were pleasantly surprised the orthopedist, Mark Lukor, and his assistant, Daryl Haan, were helpful and available — not like the medical prima donnas of not long ago. And friends rallied, brought us food and companionship.

If you don’t have a caretaker, you will go to a rehabilitation center. Some people need help at home and hopefully insurance covers it. A support system may be essential. Barb has another knee. I hope I can do my job when, and if, another replacement happens. Seniors taking care of younger seniors is challenging even if both are in good condition. Always in my thoughts is how we’d deal with this if 10 years older.

***

Some time ago I wrote about drug prices and self help. In a guest column, state Rep. Matt Soper questioned the safety of ordering drugs through Canadian pharmacies calling it a “gimmick.”

I’m glad Soper is concerned about drug prices. Politicians have been saying so for years. Nothing has changed. But the Trump administration now says it will allow imports through Canada — someday.

Soper’s solution is in a distant future and only addresses part of the problem. People can’t afford prescriptions now. While we wait — many don’t have much waiting time — we resort to self help. A recent book contends drugs sold at American pharmacies may not be safe either. Without an effective FDA or real action on drug prices, we make hopefully intelligent choices. I remind Soper Canada is a first world country. Fortunately, drugs we import continue to work properly and have saved us thousands.

Gene Goffin is a retired lawyer who lives on Glade Park. Tell him about your senior life challenges by sending an email to geezerdesk@gmail.com.

Recommended for you