G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center
I Must Take Care of My Father
Sam Walker Wilson is a caregiver. His father, Veteran Sam Wilson, was diagnosed with colon cancer approximately one year ago around the same time Sam Walker was laid off from his job as a construction/heavy equipment operator. It was a pivotal point in his life.
“I never saw myself as nurturing or a sitter,” said son Sam Walker, “but I had a very strong sense of family—my mother would always say family is your greatest wealth and asset.”
Soon after the elder Wilson was diagnosed with colon cancer, he underwent a colon resection with colostomy and then was admitted into a nursing home.
“My father is a widower with eight children. Other family members decided to place him in the local nursing home where he remained for approximately 2 months,” said son Sam Walker. “This decision weighed heavily on me. I prayed and re-evaluated where my life was, and whether I could provide the care my father would require in his home. Sometimes, my wife and children don’t understand, but family is the “core” and I must take care of my father.”
Being new to the role of caregiving, Sam Walker quickly realized he had a steep learning curve. He needed to be sensitive and supportive; confident and knowledgeable. The type of care his father needed required a high level of competency in colostomy care to ensure there is no stool leakage to protect the sensitive skin around the colostomy. Most importantly, he wanted to a “sense of normalcy for his father.”
“I allow my father to make the decisions and participate with his care as much as he can,” said Sam Walker. “My father has always like to wear his ‘blue jeans’ so once or twice a week I put his blue jeans on—this allows him to have control of something in his life, and it gives him a sense of power.”
Nurse Practitioner Sarah Abernathy from the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center has looked after the Wilson family over the past several months and she has this to say about the son who is now taking care of the father.
“Never, over my 34 years as a nurse, have I experienced such a diligent caregiver, not only capable, but highly sensitive to the needs of his father.”
For more information on the Caregiver Program at the Jackson VA Medical Center please contact the Caregiver team at (601) 368-4092 or extension 5808.
Resources for Caregivers
Below are some sources of information many Caregivers may find helpful and that can be used throughout National Family Caregivers Month. Consider mailing information with Certificates of Appreciation or handing out during other events.
Caregiver Website-The VHA Caregiver Support Program has launched a new webpage supporting the Caregivers of Veterans and providing caregiving resources to VA staff. http://www1.va.gov/health/caregiver/
My HealtheVet - A website for Veterans, family members, Caregivers and the public to obtain information on current health issues. A special site is dedicated to Caregiver Assistance https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/anonymous.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=healthyLiving&contentPage=healthy_living/caregiver_intro.htm.
Caregiver Tip Sheets and How-To Guides – Developed by the National Family Caregiver Association to deal with the emotional and practical sides of caregiving. These tools are in PDF format and can be downloaded at no cost. http://www.nfcacares.org/caregiving_resources/tips_and_tools.cfm