He has stayed by her side for decades after she suffered strokes
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 02:26 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2013
Though he's been crippled by a stroke and needs a wheelchair, 68-year-old Joseph is the primary caregiver for his wife, who hasn't been able to eat, talk or move independently for almost 30 years since suffering a series of incapacitating strokes.
Joseph changes her diaper, keeps her clean and feeds her formula through a tube in her stomach.
"I take good care of her, I sure do," said Joseph, who does not want to use his real name for privacy reasons. "She's 66 now, but she looks young and pretty and well taken care of. She get nice smile."
The Vietnam War veteran and former construction worker said he is exhausted and depressed, but he pushes on.
"It's a struggle, but I don't care about myself," he said. "I cannot put her in a home. I force myself to get up in the morning. Only I can do it, nobody else."
Laura Nishizaki, Joseph's case manager at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, has requested help for the elderly couple from the Adopt-A-Family Program, a holiday outreach of Helping Hands Hawai‘i.
Joseph has "displayed enormous resilience and strength even in the face of hardship" and has remained "hopeful and kindhearted," Nishizaki said in her recommendation. "It is my hope that they can receive a small token this Christmas to bring a bit of joy to their lives."
Joseph would appreciate a wall clock and a nightgown and socks to keep his wife warm, she added.
The Star-Advertiser's annual Good Neighbor Fund supports the Adopt-A-Family program in collecting funds, toys, clothing, and household items for struggling families. Readers can designate which family their donations go to. Items can be dropped off at Helping Hands' Community Clearinghouse; monetary contributions can be made at First Hawaiian Bank branches or mailed.
Joseph's daughter helped with his wife's caregiving when he had a stroke three years ago, but she died of cancer last year, and his two sons rarely visit. His stroke weakened the left side of his body, so he uses his head and his right arm to turn his wife's body every few hours to avoid bedsores, Joseph said in an interview.
His neighbor goes out to buy food for the couple as well as the large quantities of hygienic supplies, toilet paper and paper towels he needs for his wife's care. They live on a limited income, but "I'm not complaining about that," he said. "I no smoke. I no drink. So I can manage with the money. I not really, really, really poor. I budget my money."
At their income level, the couple qualify for only six hours daily of home health care from Medicaid, which Joseph spaces out in two-hour increments. After his wife's nurses leave at 5 p.m., "I gotta fend for myself" till 7 a.m. the next day, he said.
He doesn't see many people besides doctors and the caregivers because he can leave the house only for two hours at a time while someone stays with his wife. But for the first time in three years, Joseph made special arrangements to have someone watch his wife last week so he could take the Handi-Van to Kapolei to browse around the stores.
"It was good. It was the first time I went to Kapolei Walmart. I really like be around people. It was enjoyable, really enjoyable."
Depression has darkened Joseph's mind since his daughter died at age 37.
"I cry about my daughter, cannot help, cannot help," he said.
His wife still doesn't realize their daughter has died, he added.
"My daughter, no matter how sick she was, she never talked about death. Me, I kinda ignorant, I talk about death. I not supposed to talk about death. Yeah, I'm so depressed 'cause my daughter died, my wife sick, and I had a stroke. … I don't want to live, but I'm fighting for her (my wife's) life."
If anything happened to him, no one would be able give her the careful, loving attention that she receives now, he said.
"If she would have to go into a home, I would kill myself," Joseph said, his voice cracking with emotion. "That's the last straw."
His wife was only 36 when she became disabled. Joseph spent the next three decades caring for her and raising their children alone.
"I'd do the same thing again if I have to," he said. "I have no regrets."
THE GOOD NEIGHBOR FUND
Clothing, household items and gifts can be dropped off at the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, next to Puuhale Road.
Monetary gifts may be sent to the Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund; Care of Helping Hands Hawaii; 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI 96819.
Checks made out to the Good Neighbor Fund also may be dropped off at any of First Hawaiian Bank’s branches statewide.
Call 440-3800 for more information to sign up for the Adopt-a-Family Program or to arrange for pickup of large items.
Helping Hands Hawaii’s donation warehouse hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (extended hours through December) Monday to Friday.
RECENT DONATIONS TO THE GOOD NEIGHBOR FUND
As of Sunday, December 22, 2013
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