40 years hand in hand, Jean King, caregiver, and John ‘Jack’ King, Army Vietnam Veteran, have a special bond that is so much more than what is portrayed in romantic movies.
The duo has lived the American dream. Service to country, five healthy children and a successful medical career. Their retirement was brighter than ever.
Then unexpected news for Jack came of a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 4 diagnosis.
Jean parted from her medical career to support and care for her husband as his caregiver. In her words, “It was absolutely worth it.”
Not only did their whole lives change in seconds, but she had to take on a new role. It was then that she discovered all of what VA has to offer – not only for Veterans but for caregivers just like her.
Now an organized expert, she gives credit to VA
Starting from zero, or as she says, “A gerbil running in a wheel ending up back in the same place,” to an organized expert, Jean gives all credit to VA. From a blank slate to a book filled with all medications, daily care, meal plans, etc. Everything you need to know about Jack King is in a binder from Step 1 to Step 100.
The now caregiver expert says, “The biggest lesson I learned from the Caregivers Support team is to keep everything meticulous. They taught me how to make plans. I have everything written down. Before, I had nothing.”
The VA Caregiver Support Program goes even further than teaching crucial organization skills. The wellbeing of caregivers is critical to the program. Support, whether it is a call to vent or a text for a quick health question, Jean King has what she calls “angels on earth.”
“One of the best caregivers in the business.”
One of the angels is Tiffany Pundai, VA Caregiver Support Program social worker. She proudly says, “It was truly refreshing and such a pleasure to work with one of the best caregivers in the business, Jean King. She has a heart of gold and deserves all the help and support.
“Her stress level was high and her confidence low, but after working together she was able to build a foundation of skills important for Jack’s recovery. I am grateful to be a part of their care and inspired by their level of dedication and optimism. I am truly humbled to work with such amazing people.”
Every caregiver receives customized support. For Jean, at her Orlando VA Medical Center, she has a strong connection with Pundai. She is not just a resource – she is her outlet.
With tears in her eyes, Jean says, “To find the support that I have found, knowing I am able to talk to someone who knows where I am – mentally, physically, everything – I can’t tell you how much I love everybody that I have interacted with. It is so good to know people understand me.
“Tiffany has made it all about Jack and me. Even now, with the telehealth. It is amazing. It has been so helpful. I text her and in seconds, she calls me. There are certain people that need to come into your life. Thank you is not enough for her.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without VA.”
Pundai is one of hundreds who prove that no caregiver is alone, thanks to the VA Caregiver Support Program. The program goes beyond local borders and serves caregivers nationwide. Caregivers can give a ring to the Caregiver Support Hotline at 855.260.3274 or join the monthly live calls. There is support. All you have to do is ask.
Jean King adds, “We are just so grateful for VA. Without them, I don’t know what we would have done. You plan your life and it does not always go as planned. It is so nice to know we have this. You can, too.”
Andrea N. Madrazo is a public affairs specialist at the Orlando VA Healthcare System.