Caregiving For All: January 26, 2023, Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister
You have either heard me say, or read that it is important for caregivers to take care of themselves. As the snow started flying in November, I was recognizing that I was struggling more with my attitude and finding joy in my life. Oh, I was excited about Christmas and being together with family, but I was finding myself not as sharp and having problems sleeping.
I talked with my wife in early December, about how she felt about me visiting family and friends by myself in AZ. She is unable to travel. This would mean that she would need to go into a facility that offered respite care. She didn’t say much, and I could tell she was sad. I wanted to protect her, and give her a positive experience if I did go to AZ. Later, I explained this would be a chance for her to see what nursing home living had to offer. Being the person she is, she told me that I needed a break. She too was recognizing my struggles.
Around the new year, the planning started with checking the availability of flights and finding facilities for Luann. Checking with Luann’s care manager and my online caregiver group facilitator from Lutheran Social Services (LSS), it quickly became apparent that we were not going to find a facility within a short distance of home that would take Luann. Because of staffing shortages, facilities are unable to take short-term respite care patients. It was now time to look at Plan B. Who could stay with her, and what would be the cost?
Our kids were part of the planning, and they took the weekend, including the grandkids. That always makes Luann happy.
One of her friends, who visits her weekly, agreed to be with her daily during breakfast and supper, except for when Luann’s CNA was working with her. My biggest concern was choking. She choked two nights before I left for AZ. I had to do the Heimlich. That is difficult to do in an electric wheelchair or lift chair. More on that later. Luann’s friend would stay for a couple of hours each time to ensure all her needs were met, including getting the bed ready for the night.
A couple of years ago, LSS encouraged our caregiver group to establish an “Emergency Plan.” This plan helps other family members know what to do and whom to contact if the caregiver should become incapacitated and not able to care for the recipient. This was very helpful when I had my back fusion surgery in March of 2021. During my hospitalization, my daughter had to call one of our neighbors, listed as a contact, because Luann started choking when she spoke on the phone. The plan worked. She was able to clear the obstruction herself before the neighbor got to her. Luann has swallowing problems and does choke about once a week. Most of the time Luann can clear the passageway by stretching her arms above her head. I’m noticing now that it is getting more difficult for her to stretch her arms, so I may help have to help her. I would say I, or another family member, have done the Heimlich maneuver about 10 times over the last 5 years. This is important for everyone to learn ASAP. If you would like a copy of this emergency plan, I would be glad to share it. Message me with your email address just in case I don’t have it.
Our plan went very well. No emergencies. Everything was covered. My only concern was that Luann didn’t eat what we had planned. That will be corrected in the Emergency Plan.
For me, everything went well, except for my slip-and-slide in a tub. I’m recovering from bruised ribs. It was fantastic to see my 99-year-old friend and all the people who turned out to parade by and celebrate his birthday. Eight Tucson police cars with 10 officers paraded around the block twice and then stopped for 30 minutes to take pictures and sing happy birthday. What a great time for this very caring, Christian friend. I also got time to spend with cousins which is always worth 10,000 laughs. Unfortunately, we are all getting older, and taking care of ourselves is very important.
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