I have started writing blogs about my medical adventures last year, but didn’t follow through. I was wary of being a stereotypical old person who talks about their ailments, or sharing way too much information. With the perspective of time, I am saying less. I am sharing my 2022 year’s summary, with a non-medical September twist.
January: I started January by applying for Medicare as I was turning sixty-five years old in February. I took the advice of those before me and made an appointment with a volunteer/Medicare expert at our local Senior Resource Center.
I had thought the volunteer would help me choose the right plan for me from the plethora of choices. We established that I did not want to use the HMO-type of Medicare, which our government calls the Advantage Plan. I had considered it as it seems to be working for a friend. From what I hear, it all works well until you want to pursue medical care from a non-preferred provider. I had already done the HMO dance in previous years, and didn’t want to return to that.
My volunteer thought I could navigate my decisions by myself (she was right, I just wished for more hand-holding). She provided me with the Kansas insurance commissioner’s website to research plans available to me. I thought I would use the same plan my husband uses as billing for him has been seamless. It took me awhile to find out that this particular plan has been phased out for people my age. Argh! Now I had to start from scratch.
The website was pretty overwhelming with Parts, a zillion plans in each part, and it looked insurmountable. I was delighted when I found the site had search settings, so I used the setting of sorting by plan costs. (Since they are supposed to provide the same coverage, I am still baffled by the cost differences.) I wrote down phone numbers and started calling. One number was defunct, one went to a person’s voice mail (never heard back from that one) and one was a major insurance company I had had employee insurance with, so I gave them a call. It took me awhile to understand they were only interested in signing me up for the Advantage plan. I asked to talk about the non-Advantage plans, and got lost in the call transfer. I took this as a sign to give up on them. I found an obscure company in Minnesota, and a person actually answered the phone! She was an agent and was tremendously helpful. I was so relieved, I signed up for the Medicare supplement, and their bundled vision, dental and hearing insurance. This just left me to find a drug plan. The way to start this search is to get out your prescriptions and see which drug plan covers them the best. At this time, I had one prescription and it is generic, which translates into not expensive. So I chose the drug plan that has the lowest monthly cost, as all drug plans now have an upfront deductible of over $400.00.
I was on a roll, so I sent an email to the Kansas Insurance Commissioner’s website manager to tell them of the problems I encountered with the phone numbers they provided. I thought I was being so helpful! I never heard back from them. I included the Senior Resource Center on that email, who did appreciate my information. That was satisfying.
I still shake my head in wonderment that we have such a complicated insurance system for the elderly and disabled citizens here in America. But that’s a topic for another post. Maybe.
February: I started February with a fractured index finger, which I shared in this blog. My sixty-fifth birthday was the next week. I was looking forward to this, thinking of it as a special birthday, one of being officially a senior citizen. I had hoped to replicate my sixtieth celebration of gathering with a few friends and local family. But we were in the height of the Omicron surge here, and my daughter’s child had just had major surgery. So there was no gathering with friends. We celebrated with my son and his girlfriend, who are delightful people to hang out with. And had a delayed birthday party with my daughter and her family.
March: I ended February with a Pre-op appointment for my major surgery in April. Man, that was a mistake to have it that early! Theoretically, I believe in having information, as I believe in the concept of informed consent. I realized I don’t like having all of the details for surgery; it sounds invasive, awful and like something I would rather not do. I learned the surgery was robotic, and was familiar with that as a friend had robotic surgery a few years ago. She wanted to know as many details as possible and wanted to see the robot. I just wanted to know the surgeons knew what they were doing and had steady hands. I didn’t want to be awake for entering the operating room, and not in the least bit interested in seeing that robot!
So March was a fair amount of trying not to think about my upcoming surgery. (I was able to schedule this surgery out as it was not for a life-threatening condition, but a condition that had worsened over a few decades. I didn’t have the concern so many people do when facing surgery, of getting a new medical diagnosis. And all indications were that I would appreciate the repair the surgery afforded.)
I did the responsible thing and got the annual mammogram in March. It takes all of my adult skills to show up for that short, but unpleasant procedure.
April: On April 1st I had that major surgery of a female variety. I was told I could expect six to eight weeks of recovery. And it was that long. Except I had difficulty believing it and took a couple of walks a week after surgery. After a stern talk from one of the surgeons, I slowed down. I realized I had had major surgery before, but I had never had reconstructive surgery. That requires no exertion so the reconstruction can get secure. Or whatever. (Again, ick, I don’t like to think about internal body stuff.) During recovery I read books, watched stuff on streaming services, appreciated the company of a couple of friends, and watched the yard get overtaken with the weeds of Spring. Which I absolutely could not pull out. When I could tolerate sitting up to a table, I renewed my interest in jigsaw puzzles.
May: I realized my fractured finger wasn’t back to its full functioning, so I signed up for Occupational therapy. The exercises were helpful and it was something to do to be ready for that garden work.
June: I was back to normal activity and was delighted to no longer have physical restrictions! I scheduled a bone density exam, because I was supposed to have one at my age. I figured this would be good baseline data. I was shocked to find out I already had osteoporosis in my lumbar and osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) in my left hip! Talk about a silent disorder; I had no symptoms whatsoever. Which is good, because that would be advanced osteoporosis if I had symptoms. In conversations with my doctor, I discovered I was not consuming enough calcium, so made changes in my diet. And got to start a medication to help my bones produce calcium. Or something like that.
July: I wrapped up Occupational Therapy and started Physical Therapy to learn exercises for the resistance and strengthening necessary to improve my bone density. I also got my Pneumonia vaccine because that’s something else recommended for those sixty-five and over.
August: My big event in mid-August was getting COVID for the first time. My husband and I got it together. We were symptom-free when we helped a friend pack her moving truck that fateful Thursday. That evening we started having symptoms. In the next days, we found we had exposed and infected our friend and her two other helpers, her brother and my son. I was so discouraged about getting it and spent way too much time theorizing how I got it. It felt so impolite to infect others, but we were truly asymptomatic at the time. The others were gracious about it, but Dang! It was the first time for all of us, and I was anxious for everyone to recover. And we all did.
September: My husband and I took about a month to get our energy back from COVID. As we were starting to feel back to normal, we found out my husband’s sixteen year old needed to come live with us. They (Their preferred pronouns are they/them. I am adjusting my language to honor their preference.) lived six hundred miles away from us and we had last seen them a couple of weeks prior to the 2020 lock down. There’s a big difference between the needs, personality, etc, of fourteen and sixteen years old, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Plus we were now the parents in charge of pursuing their high school education, needing to utilize the special education services. And all of the other details that come with being full-time parents.
Not having that proverbial empty nest has been shocking and a major life change. I thought I would write about it when I had a tidy summation to put together. But we are seven months in, and I find I am still in the process of adjusting. Not all tidy yet.
October: I had another audiology exam, and have a touch more hearing loss. For the first time since in the four years I have had my hearing aids, I finally goofed and left them on when I got in the shower. Even though I noticed fairly quickly and snatched them off, I did indeed damage one of them, so needed it repaired. I got the opportunity to have only one hearing aid to wear for a couple of weeks. I realize I need both of them!
November: I spent a few days with my brother who lives in another state, to help him after his surgery. I drove him home from the hospital in the evening. The hospital was sixty miles from his home, and I was shocked to experience difficulty driving at night, especially with the oncoming headlights of other cars. When I had my annual vision exam a few weeks later, the optometrist congratulated me on living long enough to develop cataracts. I got her take on the situation, that cataracts are not unusual as we age, but again, I was surprised that I had another condition associated with aging. I was starting to become wary of going to medical appointments! I am now in the process of waiting for the cataracts progress enough to interfere with my vision, and then surgery will be the indicated thing. My help right now is to add an anti-glare substance to my glasses. It has indeed helped ease the issues of driving at night.
December: No new developments! December was its usual busy with the holidays, so I was glad for a reprieve!
I have heard the saying that aging is not for the feint of heart, and am beginning to live that! So far all of my new conditions respond to interventions and/or technology devices. I am grateful for that, and pretty grateful 2022 is over. I had COVID again in March, but a pretty mild case of it. I currently have bursitis, so have returned to physical therapy for those immensely helpful exercises. I am ever hopeful that is it for my 2023 medical adventures.