When your own health issues interfere with your daily full time caregiving, you have to have a Plan B in place. Having the right caregiving provisions in place can keep everything running smoothly. Having the wrong plan – or worse, no plan at all – can lead to all kinds of problems.
I found this out the hard way when I broke my femur in April while caring for my Mom and husband. I spent six nights in the hospital and had surgery, blood transfusions and a couple of ambulance rides. To complicate matters, it happened while my husband and I were away from home celebrating our anniversary and my son was staying with Mom. We went out to dinner the night we arrived, and then the next morning before we could head out to enjoy Calloway Gardens, I broke my femur coming downstairs for breakfast.
I was transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. It was a bad break and the local orthopedist would not even see me, so I had to be transported by ambulance to Atlanta. My husband does not drive due to his dementia, so my daughter-in-law had to get a friend to drive her down, go back to the Bed & Breakfast to collect our belongings and drive my husband to the hospital where I was transported.
Luckily, my son had given notice at his job and was moving to a new job, so he had the old job cancel his schedule and he stayed at home with Mom and my husband while I was in the hospital. He drove them down every other day to see me and brought my husband down for the surgery. He also stayed for the surgery, so a friend had to sit with Mom until my daughter-in-law got out of work that day.
My husband was scheduled to speak at the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration conference in Baltimore two weeks after the broken femur. My best friend from West Virginia was going with us, and she bravely took him, on her own, to Baltimore while my son stayed with me and Mom. I was fresh out of the hospital when my husband left. My son had to help me up, cook, clean, grocery shop and be nurse for a week. Thankfully, he was in occupational therapy at the time, so he knew how to handle me being bedridden.
My husband came home the day before my son started his new job. He had to take care of us for more than eight weeks. My neighborhood came through because I had told them of my husband’s diagnosis early on, and they knew my Mom lived with us, too. My neighbors made dinner for us every night for over a month. If I had not let my neighbors know of my caregiving situation, I am not sure what we would have done, as we keep my husband away from the stove.
I was restricted from driving so my neighbors generously picked up my weekly Walmart grocery order for me. I also discovered Uber Eats! It is literally possible to never leave your home these days.
The point of all this is to encourage you to have your “team” in place for emergency situations like this and to let your neighbors know you are a full-time caregiver who may have special needs. Never be afraid to ask. People are generous and want to help – let them. Make sure you know your Plan B for caregiving before you need it and line up people to come to the rescue if you should fall ill while caregiving. Through a combination of pre-planning and luck, we were able to have a caregiving back-up plan. Do not delay in getting yours set up – an emergency happens with no notice, so be prepared!
Tips to Building Your Caregiving Team
- Your team can be:
- People (family members, friends and neighbors)
- Volunteers (from your house of worship for instance)
- Health care professionals (doctors, nurses, fellow caregivers and even the pharmacist)
- Customer service in companies you use (like Parentgiving)
- Local organizations (social service agencies, home health agencies, adult day centers and nursing homes)
- Technology (like mealtrain.com or Lyft)
- Start with your “What if?” scenarios. What if you have the flu and can’t make meals? What if your caree is hospitalized and you can’t pick up the kids after school? What if you can’t leave the house and need supplies? What if you need to travel for business and need to place your caree for a week in a facility? Come up with every possible scenario for an extended period. It’s better to have a back-up caregiving arrangement in place and not need it then to be totally unprepared.
- With your list of “What if?” scenarios, brainstorm solutions. What assistance will be needed? Who or what could step in to help?
- Explain your situation to those who may be able to help. Describe the situations that may occur and how you may need help. Ask if they could help in those situations.
- Thank them if they can help and if they can’t. If you stay on good terms, they’re more likely to be willing to help later if circumstances shift.
- Revisit your list of “What if?” scenarios regularly. Situations will change, and this will impact what help you may need and who or what may be available to lend a hand.
About the Author
Sharon, a Certified Caregiving Consultant, cares for her mom and her husband, who was diagnosed with FTD in the fall of 2015, and moderates the FTD chat on CareGiving.com which happens every Monday at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT, 5 p.m. MT and 4 p.m. PT).