Family Caregivers are continually challenged to stay on their toes. No two days are alike, and every situation requires a dynamic process that can turn on a dime. When something unexpected happens, are you ready to spring into action? Let’s consider a few scenarios that could throw a wrench into your best-laid plans.
Your day begins with a sore throat, a cough, and a slight fever. Your child wakes up with a burning fever and a rash. Your car won’t start and needs to go to the shop. Your water heater springs a leak, and you need to stay at home and wait for the repair person. Your child is in an accident at school, and you need to get there immediately. If any of these situations arise, what will you do to keep those you care for safe and healthy?
Now let’s switch gears. Your mom’s dementia is getting worse, and yesterday she refused to get out of the car at the doctor’s office. Your dad can’t be at home alone because his balance is poor, but you need to take your mom to the doctor again today and are hoping for a better outcome. How do you balance taking care of both parents at the same time in different locations? Or what happens if one parent suddenly needs to go to the hospital and the other cannot remain at home alone because they might wander away?
These are just a few very real situations that play out every day for family caregivers all over the world. And, even worse, what worked yesterday may not work today or next week. It’s essential to keep track of what makes your plans crash and burn. It’s a rare person indeed whose life never falls apart because of illness, accidents, and domestic disasters. Just like having insurance, you need to build a savings account of resources to draw from when your original roadmap hits a sharp turn or dead-end.
The first thing you should do here is to think about when your plans have been unavoidably rerouted. I’m not talking about the time you forgot it was “Bring your Parent to School Day” until the morning your child asks why you are still in sweats when you need to be at school in 15 minutes. (Although a proven resource pool would be useful here, too!) I’m talking about how to look back and recognize where your plans may need retooling. Start a journal going forward to track what throws things off. After a few months, you’ve got a great way to look back and evaluate how well things worked. Then you could ask other family members or friends to help you be objective and brainstorm ideas with about how to have strategies to meet these occasions before they arise. If nothing else, this oversight by others might just open their eyes to how much you have on you, and someone might step up and ask about helping out either regularly or on occasion. They might also know someone or an agency that could pitch in on short notice to fill the gap and keep things balanced.
Your back-up plans, when designed well, can successfully overcome those life obstacles that previously would put you in a tailspin!
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about managing the day-to-day crises that challenge your caregiving plans.