Mom’s (Or Dad’s) In and Out of the Hospital, A Caregiver’s Challenge

May 5, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Having your loved one go in and out of the hospital is a caregiver’s challenge. You barely establish a decent routine, start to get a bit of continuity to your own life, and wham! Back in the hospital. Back to square one. It’s a challenge, yes, but it’s also a reality. How do you handle the changes in schedule, the interruption to your life, your loved one’s physical and emotional issues that come with hospitalization–and, just when you thought your head would explode–you have more doctors, nurses, and aides to deal with than ever before!

One of the hardest times I faced as a caregiver came when my 90 year-old mother who suffered from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s was in the hospital for the third time in 8 months. After getting my mom through the initial medical issues at hand and got her settled, I came home absolutely exhausted and fell into the bed. I fell into a deep sleep only to be awakened by a phone call.

I had hit a physical and emotional wall.

“Your mother has finished her IV, please come and get her,” The nurse said.
“Tomorrow morning?” I asked, trying to wake up and sound nonchalant.
“No, tonight. She’ll be ready at 8pm,” The nurse replied.
“Tonight? Who releases a 90 year-old woman at night?”
I hung up the phone and laid in the bed and cried.
I showered and cried.
I dressed and cried.
My husband drove me to the hospital and I cried all the way there.
I dressed my mom, put her in the car and drove all the way home–crying.

But we got through it. It wasn’t mom’s last hospital stay by far. It was just the hardest.

I had to learn to minimize the effects of hospitalization for my mom as well as finding ways to adapt to the in-and-out, up-and-down, crazy chaotic family caregiving life. Here are a few things that helped:

Keep a bag packed and ready to go for you and your loved one:
Remember when you were pregnant and you kept your hospital bag packed? It helps to have little things like house shoes, a clean gown and underwear, a paperback or crossword puzzle book, a night light, and a small blanket ready to go. These creature comforts nurtured me (and my mom) in small, tangible ways.

Always take the meds with you:
Even if you think you’re just going to the ER and you’ll be back in a few hours, take your loved one’s medications. If you get delayed, you’ll need them. I know the hospital will tell you they’ll administer the meds, but it could be hours and hours to get checked in so it’s best to keep on schedule as much as you can. Nothing is more worrisome than to not have your meds available when you need them. And of course, take your ID and insurance cards because you won’t get far without them.

Be Nice to the Staff:
This is just being smart, but it’s also the nice thing to do. The nurses, aides, and other hospital personnel are overworked and overwhelmed, and when you think about it, a person can’t really be paid to actually care about another human being.  Hospital staff are paid to do their jobs but the real emotionally-centered and empathetic part of  caring must come from their hearts and it can’t be paid for — they must give it free.  So be kind and caring to the care staff and you and your loved one will be more likely to have the gift returned to you. Say thank you–verbally and in other ways. Bring in bagels for breakfast, or chocolate covered popcorn. Stop by and say hello on your way in–little kindnesses add up. Your loved one will benefit, yes, but you’ll also start to feel that you have partners in caregiving.

Know When to Speak Up:
As much as I advocate being nice, there are times when you have to be firm. You are your loved one’s advocate. Your loved one doesn’t have anyone else but you. You have to know what’s going on, you have to be aware, and you have to speak up when it’s necessary. Medical mistakes happen all the time. You know your loved one’s medications, you know how much they take and when, you know what procedure has or hasn’t been done. You have to be there to talk to the doctor, to help decide the course of treatment, and to make sure a “mistake” doesn’t jeopardize your loved one’s life. Take notes, listen carefully, ask questions, and summon all your nerve to address a potentially serious issue.

You’ll get to where you fall into “hospital mode,” is what I coined it. To this day I can walk into the hospital, locate the best coffee, the good chipped ice, the hall closet with the extra blankets, request a cot or a more comfortable chair and start chatting with the staff–all within the first few hours. It’s an odd skill but you can learn how to make a temporary home out of an orange vinyl chair.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , .

“I Just Can’t Seem to Get on a Good Schedule,” Finding a Caregiving Routine that Works for You “When Mama’s Happy…” Can Caregivers Make Their Loved Ones Happy?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. nurse lpn  |  May 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    nurse lpn…

    ULPN Licensed Practical Nurse Really good read and information here on LPN and the online/offline training offered.If you are wanting to become or are already an LPN then this is … LPN ONLINE…


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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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