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December 11, 2017

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Caring for Others: This is Not a Test!

June 28, 2015


This week has been interesting! On Monday morning, the ring tone assigned to my 92-year-old mother, "All You Need is Love", rang out around 7:40 a.m. Now, this is not unusual at all, but the shakiness in her voice and the "I've fallen" - those were outside the scope of our normal conversation. My husband and I jumped in the car and I called 911 as we pulled into her driveway, 


Walking into the house, we found my mom sitting in a wheelchair she has kept in her bedroom since she had a stress fracture in her knee a couple of years ago. While the story of how she made it into that wheelchair will take on epic proportions in the coming years, not much exaggeration is needed for the tale to be impressive. 


Pulling herself up by the stair banister beside which she had fallen, she moved herself from grab bar to grab bar on the door facings leading to her bedroom, where she pulled the wheelchair toward her and lowered into it. She then rolled into the kitchen where she got to the phone and called me. And she did all of this with what we learned later that day was a broken hip. This was not a test.


While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I began the text chain to my siblings. When my dad was living, my parents had a habit of just calling one of the five of us, or none of the five of us, when a medical situation arose. After one of those times, my siblings and I made a pact that if we were the one called, we would immediately inform the other four. No matter what. That pact has been one of the pillars of what we now consider our well-oiled machine of family caregiving.


Since my dad's death, we have all had situations with our spouses' families that involved caregiving, but when it comes to our mom, she has been healthy as a horse. She has, for the most part, made the smart, safe, and sane decisions we should all encourage our parents to make as they age, as vision dims, as balance alters, as bones soften, and as reflexes slow. 


Our machine, however, went quickly into action Monday despite being slightly rusty. This was not a test - this was the real deal! We contacted both the orthopedic surgeon and the anesthesiologist she trusts with her life, and they were both gracious enough to come running when we called. We began making lists of anything she might need. We learned from the best, my mom herself, that being organized going into an emergency situation is half the battle. 


After my dad passed away, mom wanted to be sure everything was in order in case something happened to her. Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and multiple other documents and plans of action were all combined in one central location. She had the complete presence of mind sitting in that wheelchair waiting for the ambulance to point me to her insurance cards and her little black book of telephone numbers for the phone calls we would need to make. This was not a test.


In hospital during post-operative recovery and rehab, we have a schedule for who is the companion/eyes/ears each day and each night. The fact I have been somewhat bossy in this situation is no surprise to anyone. I'm kind of that way. We are extraordinarily blessed to have so many of us close by, and that everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal - going home. Home will be where some changes will occur also, but again, we are blessed in that we all want to band together to do what is best.


In this week that was not a test, but was the real-life manifestation of what Timesavers does for families every day, I realized yet again how important our work is, and how vital it is to those families that we do what we do with the highest quality team and in the same way my siblings and I are trying to do things for our mom. This was the real thing, in play once again in our everyday family lives. It is worth thinking about - what will you need to do when it is not a test, but is the real thing, for your family?

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