Loving Care for a US Veteran

November 1, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Curtis Thomas is a 79-year-old retired army veteran. Despite coming back home from war in relative health, he needed knee replacement surgery due to an injury sustained while in combat. Recovery was slow and made his activities of daily living more difficult, but nothing prepared him for the aftermath of suffering a stroke. All of a sudden, a strong and independent person needed help with the most basic activities – such as getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, bathing, shaving, and getting dressed.

His wife, Loretta, patiently assists him with his personal care, as well as administers a long list of medications to help him deal with knee pain, high blood pressure, and a heart condition. While she does so with love, she’s in her 70s as well and also experiences back and knee problems. So, she knew she needed help.

“That’s when I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs and they told me about Care Options for Kids,” she explains.

Care Options for Kids’s Veteran Care Program provides customizable caregiving, in collaboration with VA Medical Centers across Florida. This is how Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were matched with one of our caregivers, Kaley Ruscigno, CNA.

“She comes in every day from 9 until 11 AM,” describes Loretta. “She bathes, shaves, and gets him dressed, then they go to the den to watch TV.” Curtis walks from their bedroom to his recliner and he flips through the channels, looking for something to watch with Kaley. “He really likes the J.A.G. and Blue Bloods series and Lifetime movies. Those are really good.”

Loretta loves that her husband got along with Kaley from the very beginning. “She’s been very good. She’s very kind, soft-spoken, and easygoing. She’s such a sweet person, you can’t help but like her.”

While Kaley is trained to provide medication, Loretta prefers to give those to Curtis herself. “I know she’d be fine doing it, but that’s my thing. I like to make all of his meals, cut up his meat and vegetables, and give him his medicines, you know? That’s what I do, and I want to keep doing it. But I do appreciate the breaks I get when Kaley’s here.”

Having an at-home caregiver also allows Loretta to run errands during the mornings, although most of the time, she stays at home with them.

Care Options for Kids has been instrumental in helping Ms. Thomas regain a sense of balance in her life, as well as providing her husband with the care he needs. Because of it, she wouldn’t think twice about recommending the Veterans Care Program to anyone who needs it.

“Kaley is very dedicated to her job, and when we’re going to a doctor’s appointment early in the morning, she comes earlier to get him ready,” Loretta explains. “She does that, even though she has her own kids at home that she has to take care of. That means a lot.”