Wife fears her husband will lose healthcare if VA closes

Published by Megan Becker


CHILLICOTHE— Pam Kaltenbach got her husband the healthcare he needs from the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Now, she's afraid that healthcare will be taken away.


Pam's husband, William, an Air Force veteran, suffers from dementia, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and more. After experiencing her own health concerns in September, Pam was forced to transfer her husband to an assisted living facility. There were no available beds at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center at the time, nor in any other facility in Ross County.


William was transferred to an assisted living facility in McConnelsville for about seven months, an almost two-hour drive for Pam. She could only visit a couple of hours at a time because of the transit time.


Even after space for William became available at the Chillicothe VA, he could not be moved into the community living center (CLC) because of high COVID-19 infection rates. He was finally able to move to the Chillicothe VA last month.


"If you have dementia, you need people around and you need to not be shuffled around from place to place. So I was leery about moving him and just because I was afraid he would have a decline because of that," Pam said. "But I just needed to see him more than I was able to see him and he didn't understand why I wasn't there [in McConnelsville]."


Pam said her husband receives significantly more attention at the Chillicothe VA. He gets physical therapy and plenty of exercise. She said everything at the VA is much newer, the food is better and it is easier for both her and William to speak with staff members.


In McConnelsville, William had to share a room. At the VA he has a private room that Pam can decorate with pictures and other items from home. She is working on making his room resemble their home.


Jessica Fee, local president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1631, said the atmosphere of the VA is a huge perk of the facility.


"[CLC's are] supposed to be a home environment. So you're supposed to be able to have your family there. You can bring in your favorite recliner or your nightstand, whatever that looks like that reminds you of home," Fee said. "It's a different kind of setting which is meant to be that way to give them comfort in their last days, but also the 24-hour care that they need."


Pam also said the patients and staff bond together because of their shared service. William has been more social at the VA because he can easily relate to the other veterans, which helps to slow the progression of his dementia....


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