In the summer of 2015, I felt like I lived in a hospital. My father, diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2004 at age 72, had surgery in March 2015 to remove his bladder, left kidney, ureter and prostate after his cancer spread. In the next few months after his surgery, he had a procedure to remove a blood clot in his carotid artery, a brief hospitalization to rule out a heart attack and treatments for the skin cancer which covered the top of his bald head.
My mom had a five-week hospitalization because of three internal bleeds. Surgery to remove one-third of her stomach ultimately stopped her first bleed. Radiology interventions stopped the next two.
It was a nightmare of a nine-month period. My focus became keeping my parents alive. And then because so much of my time and energy went into keeping my parents alive, I then had to figure out a way to keep my small business going. I make money when I work, specifically when I give speeches. If I take time off, I don’t make money.
We all (my parents and my business) made it through those nine months. When I look back, I did some things right, including:
- I decided to be as flexible as I could with my schedule except for my speaking gigs, including any that occurred out of town. I never canceled and always showed up. Because it’s how I pay my bills, I made those speaking engagements my priorities. But I did have to learn to let some things go. I put the podcasts and video chats I normally hosted on hold because I couldn’t be sure I would be available, and cancelling last minute wasn’t fair to my guests or listeners. Letting go lessened my stress and gave me more control of my day. It freed me. But it was a difficult decision to make.
- I traveled on airlines that had accommodating change policies. These policies came in handy when I had to change a return date due to an unexpected medical emergency. When I left for my trip, my mom was stable. During my trip, my mom required emergency surgery, which I learned just as my meeting began. Luckily, I was able to change my return flight, at no cost, and get home to be with my mom.
- I set up office wherever and whenever I could. During a midnight trip to the emergency room after my dad fell at home, I ran a software update for my website at 3 a.m. out of my dad’s small ER cubicle and while he had a CT scan.
- I coped by blogging. I wrote about what happened, what worried me, what frustrated me. After running that ER software update, I blogged about my dad’s terrifying fall. I was alone in that small ER cubicle but connected to support as I wrote to my readers, even as they slept.
These are some of the things that worked for me, and helped me keep my business running. If you find yourself in a similar situation, trying to keep your business afloat while caring for a parent, know that you can make it work. Evaluate your situation and see how you can simplify things and make your life easier. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member to check on your parent while you attend an important meeting. Buy prepared meals to make sure that you’re eating enough before you dash off to the hospital. Set up automated delivery of products your parent needs so that you don’t have to worry about running out. Trying to balance the needs of your parent and business can be stressful, but there are ways to make the situation easier.
My parents have now stabilized, and are living in an apartment about 10 minutes from where I live. We’re enjoying these days of independence, knowing that they won’t last forever. When they end, I’ll take my lessons learned from 2015 with me. I now understand how to live, even during the fear of dying.
Denise launched CareGiving.com, the first website to add online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats and blogs written by family caregivers, in 1996. Denise also hosts a Twitter chat for family caregivers (#carechat) every Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. Her books, including The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey, and Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers, provide insights, inspirations and information to those who care for family. members.