As most of you know, every month, I am privileged to facilitate a writer’s group specifically for caregivers. One of our members, Terry, wrote a piece that goes to straight to the heart of what it’s like to be on this journey, and she has graciously allowed me to share it with you.
You might be a caregiver if:
You experience a slight increase in your heart rate when you recognize the caller id is your loved one’s assisted living facility/nursing home/rehabilitation center
You quickly dart your eyes to your spouse and wordless communication this is ‘one of those’ calls before the caller can complete one of the following phrases: ‘unwitnessed fall’, ‘EMS is on route’, ‘being transported to the Emergency Room
You remind the nurse to be sure your loved one is sent with a jacket even though you know that won’t be enough to keep them warm once they arrive
You can put together a bag of essential items for an extended ER visit in less than five minutes
You can quickly review your planned activities and begin cancelling/postponing them on your way out the door
You have your driver’s license out of your wallet as you walk into the ER lobby
You have a prepared speech for the ER staff (preferred arm to use for a blood draw, needs extra blankets, list of artificial joints/pacemaker/etc.)
You can recite their list of prescription medications, drug allergies and reactions, date of last visit to the ER
You already have a Health Care Surrogate document on file at the hospital
You know which tests they are going to perform before the doctor begins placing the orders
You know you won’t be leaving for at least four hours
You know where every bathroom is in the ER area
You have spent at least two birthdays/anniversaries/holidays in the ER or hospital with a loved one
You have postponed, cancelled or returned early from a vacation (or simply skipped planning one)
You would do it all again, without hesitation, if needed
To caretakers everywhere, keep your chin up and your sense of humor handy. You are very special people and the best advocates for your loved ones. Remember to take care of yourself too.
I had no idea when I wrote this story that my role as caregiver would end eight days later. My mom had a second fall on December 13th and broke her hip. She was transferred to the Sun City Hospice House so they could help manage the increased pain. Once they administered the pain medication, she finally relaxed and went to sleep. She never woke up again and she died peacefully on December 15th with me, my husband, Paul, my cousin, John and his wife, Mary by her side.