The Golden Years With a Disability
Are Not So Golden
The golden years with a disability… Like almost all of you, I’ve worked all my life, since fresh out of high school until just 5 years ago. I’ve always had a good attendance record and great work ethics….until the last year I worked, then I started getting warnings and write-ups for missing too much work; this was not me after 30 years of good attendance. It embarrassed me and upset me greatly to be sent home for 3 days suspension without pay. I cried all the way home, but it gave me some good thinking time. Time to make some necessary changes in my life whether I wanted to or not. The cause of my poor attendance was out of my control, I have Fibromyalgia and Heart Disease, along with some other health issues, but they don’t have me. I hear many with Fibro say that they miss their old life. Well, I’ve learned to adjust to my new life, a life of pain and for the most part, solitude.
I’ve always enjoyed working and being out in the public watching people and talking with folks from all walks of life. My employment history consists of Retail Management, Care-giving (taking care of Hospice Patients), and some factory work at a Hershey Chocolate Factory here in Virginia. ( I know, you only knew of the Hershey Plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania) 😉 I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that my body was betraying me and that I couldn’t keep working full-time like I had been; actually, with the chronic pain and chronic fatigue, I was left with no choice but to retire at the young age of 53. This was very hard to accept. The pain kept my blood pressure up and when I was in a Fibro flare (as we call it), the pain and hypertension were more than I could take and I’d often be found in the ladies locker room half way through my shift, crying in pain, knowing I needed to go home and worried about losing my job. So I quit before I got fired. I now wondered what I was going to do with my life. I had no clue.
After I quit working for Hershey, I met a sweet elderly widow with Alzheimer’s while I was delivering Meals On Wheels. We became fast friends. (She was in early stages at this time and loved to tell me stories!). It turned out that for 2 years, I spent a good part of my days sitting with her and keeping her company, running errands for her. We enjoyed each others company and it was good for both of us. Later when she started requiring more hands-on help for her personal needs, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to help her without causing myself a great deal of pain and fatigue, so I placed an ad, did interviews for her and found a wonderful live-in personal care aide to assist her and I had to exit her life so she and the new aide could bond and not to confuse her. She was already forgetting who I was and it was breaking my heart.
Well, you all will be as surprised as I was that my case went through very quickly; so fast, in fact, that when I got my approval award letter from The Social Security Administration just 3 months later, I was in shock and cried just as I would have if it had been a denial! What a blessing that was! Now I was forced to take another look at my life and ask myself, now that I was deemed disabled and unable to work, what will I do with all of my time? Would I lounge around in my pj’s all day, watching TV and taking leisurely afternoon naps? I knew that wasn’t me. Even though I was nearing 60 years old, I knew the Golden Years that I’d always heard retirees speak of, how they take wonderful cruises and road trips, glorious vacations that they’d always dreamed of when they retired…I knew this wasn’t the life I was looking at. So I had to ask myself, ‘What’s so golden about The Golden Years if you don’t have the good health and financial freedom to enjoy it? I felt like I had lost my purpose in life, after being a caregiver to many over the years, what now would be the purpose of my life?
Well, like most of us when we are bored, or want to see what others we know are doing, we get on Facebook, right? Well, I found myself spending a great deal of time on Facebook since that was my main contact with my coworkers, friends and family. I even joined several Facebook support groups for Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. Well, I found that I was far from alone in my pain and depression at that time. I started sharing with others my disability story and how I was able to get approved fast and many were open to hearing and learning more. Now, for the last 8 months, I’ve been an advocate for the same Social Security Disability group that got me approved last year, I’m helping many people start the disability process, survive the wait, appeal their denial, and apply for Medicaid and Medicare. I also am able to assist them with getting grants, prescription drug cards, erase school loans if they get approved, and much more. But more than anything, I’m able to be here for them, empathize and provide the support they need, even if it’s just a patient, listening ear.
Are you in your golden years with a disability? Please leave us a comment in the section below.