As I walk into the nearby medical facility for my annual physical, memories come through like videos from past visits there for both my Mom and Dad. I am reminded of the uncertainty of what was happening and my boundaries.
As a family caregiver, there are times that you may be unsure of what or how to react to various situations. You have not been trained for this; there is no set guideline of ‘how-to.' You often find that going to doctor appointments can be sometimes awkward. Should you ask the Dr. a question when you are in the visit with your loved one? Do you have that right? Will one or both of them be upset because you did?
I can tell you from my own experience that I kept quiet for many visits and watched as my Mom responded to the doctor’s questions about her health. “I’m ok, nothing wrong in particular” with a little smile on her face. The actual truth was she had been in pain from head to toe for weeks before our visit.
I sat in silence knowing that surely the doctor could see through her disguise. To no avail. And knowing that if I had opened my mouth Mom would deck me. (She wouldn’t really, but I would get the evil eye for a bit). Why I thought, would she not want to divulge the pain she was having so that she could get treatment for it. How could the doctor not ask her specifics related to her chart and see that something was amiss? It was crazy making.
I’d get so darn stirred up at them both, yet still wouldn’t open my mouth to either. Then one day I’d just had enough of sitting by watching this all happen so before her next appointment I called the doctor’s office and left a message. I let him know that Mom had been going through pain and the specifics so that when came back in he could pointedly ask questions. So at the next appointment, I looked straight at Mom and said, “I can’t sit here and be silent anymore.” I was finding out what my boundaries were and how far I could push them.
What I realized over time was that neither of them was doing their ‘job’ in communicating. I know for Mom it was her fear about what was or might be happening. What I can tell you now in hindsight is that as a family caregiver not only do you have a right, but I encourage you to start asking the questions, of them both. Whether it is for a regularly scheduled appointment, a 911 run to the hospital or a stay in the rehab facility, the responsibility lies in your hands to keep on top of what is happening and question. Don’t be afraid to question.
I talk to many of you during the week, and I overhear conversations while I am out and about. Family caregiving can be a scary journey at times, and I hope that you find ways to prepare yourself so that you don't get caught off-guard. I encourage you to keep your track of what is happening so that you can refer back to them when the inevitable questions arise. The Family Caregiving Journal on the Breathing Spaces website is a perfect place to do just that. Keep notes of things happening and also jot down things that you may need when your loved one is in need of care. The website also has featured products that you might need whether they are at home or on their way home. Take a peek; the tools are placed there for YOU from my experience as a family caregiver and something I wish I had access to back then. This is not a sales pitch; this is a human being reaching out with helpful information to a population in need. Don’t let yourself get to a point in your caregiving that you aren’t prepared for. That’s what happened to me, and it is my passion to be sure that others don’t go through it unprepared.