I started writing this post a while ago not knowing that it would soon apply to me. I truly thought that after my two cervical spine surgeries all was well as far as my structural integrity goes. Poor assumption on my part. Lately, my lower back has been making its presence known; it has always been a bit clunky, but nothing so serious that ice or stretching couldn’t fix. Until this past month.
I’ve been having some sharp sciatic nerve pain that will not let up; it would take two miles of my normal five-mile walk for the pain to settle down to a low growl - still there but tolerable. So, I started seeing a chiropractor since that has always helped in the past. From the xrays, we could see what was wrong - she tried to give me some relief but I was making little to no progress. I happened to have a follow-up with my neurosurgeon last week so I showed him the xray and told him about my symptoms. He scheduled me for an MRI that night and Thursday I got the call - I have to have back surgery. All I wanted was a steroid shot so I could be on my merry way. I’m shocked, scared, and sad about the whole thing. Honest to God, is this real life??
Now, on to my oh so timely, prophetic post.
As adults, we take on the role of caregivers to our children, our spouses, our parents, our pets, and occasionally our friends without a second thought. “I’ll always be here for you” and “If you need anything, let me know” are phrases that we speak without hesitation (most of the time) and, if asked, we gather ourselves up and take care of business. But what if we’re the ones who need help? And if that’s the case, who will take care of our parent if we’re unable?
I’ve thought of this a few times over the last five years that mom has been here. Besides the people who work at mom’s facility, I’m the one who takes care of her. I do her laundry, make sure she’s bathed, take her to appointments, handle her insurance and finances, and I pay her bills. It’s easy enough for me since I’ve been doing it for so long but what if I’m no longer able to do those things or I die before her? Of course, the place where she lives would take care of her physical needs; however, if I go down for the count, there’s a lot of details that wouldn’t be evident at first.
While searching for back-up plan ideas I found some helpful information by Rob Harris at The Caregiver Space website. Mr. Harris is a Senior Professional in Human Resources in addition to being a caregiver himself. This list is primarily for someone who still lives at home or with a relative; however, most of it can apply to those whose loved one is in assisted living or memory care. His suggestions are as follows:
Identify people who are ready, willing, and able to step in should you be away for any length of time. Decide who is able to make critical decisions (legal, financial, regarding health insurance, consult with doctors) in your stead. Make a list of these potential substitute caregivers, keep copies for yourself and give each person copies as well as copies of the following:
An emergency contact list of relatives, friends, and neighbors, and times they may be available should their assistance be needed.
A list of pre-screened, competent home health care agencies that you are comfortable calling or whom your stand-in can call for help.
A list of all your loved one’s medications, and how and when to administer them. Be sure the substitute is cleared to receive prescriptions from the pharmacy,
A list of any diet restrictions and food/drug interactions.
A list of their doctors, the doctor’s locations and contact numbers, plus a schedule of doctor’s visits. Make sure your substitute is cleared to speak with your loved one’s personal medical professionals.
An overview of the patient’s medical history, a timeline of events or a diary of activities so that the substitute can be up to speed with their regimen.
In addition to the above, I would also add a description of mom’s likes and dislikes along with any “quirks” or preferences she has. Even if all of her medical needs are taken care of, having someone around who doesn’t “know” her as a person could be unsettling and cause her unnecessary fear and frustration.
Most of us hanging out in middle age don’t really give a lot of thought to our own mortality. We worry about our kids as they drive off to college, we worry about our parents falling or becoming ill, or at the worst - dying; we are the worriers, we’re the ones that dust ourselves off and keep going. Until we can’t. And that, my mortality, is what will always catch me by surprise.