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:
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.