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A Primary Caregiver Gives Tips on Preparing a Trip Away From Aging Parent

Posted Mar 30 2008 1:33pm

Ginger, the primary family caregiver (for years), helping her dad age 100 to remain in his home of 60+ years - overseeing his care. But being the primary caregiver, she put her dreams of traveling on hold for some time because she did not want to leave him. Although doctors reassured Ginger that his health is good and no need to worry, she remained loyal to her role.

But after several years of juggling her heart's desire ...stay... go... stay... go , Ginger decides to go for it.

We talked about the structure she put in place of her absence, which seems very reasonable to me, there's always that element of surprise that can bite you when you're not looking!

Ginger's story... Click here to listen...

Before leaving the country Ginger did the following:

  • 1. Asked her two adult children to step into the role of primary caregiver and moved the youngest (adult child) son (35) into her dad's home part time to oversee his safety and well being.
  • 2. Hired a Geriatric Case manager to visit the elder several times a week to insure quality care.
  • 3. Requested Call Doctor (Home Medicine Care) to visit him once weekly to check on vitals.
  • 4. Put her oldest sibling (out of town) on notice that she would be gone for two months and if he would please help her adult children. He agreed.
As life would have it, a curve ball is thrown while Ginger's in Italy. Her son, living at his grandfather's takes ill and decides to move back to his house for a day or two just so his grandfather doesn't catch the cold he has developed.

The next morning, the grandson stops by for a quick "check-in" but finds his grandfather has fallen and is on the floor. He places a call to the Call Doctor but they don't make home visits on the weekend so he dials 911 and off to emergency hospital they go. While in the hospital, the emergency staff discovers the elder has peumonia and into ICU he goes.

By this time, Ginger's daughter steps in because her brother isn't feeling well. Unfortunately, the daughter sends a frantic email to her mom, Ginger, because the elder's health is failing. The only form of communication was email. In that message, Ginger reads her father has fallen, went to emergency, and now dying of peumonia. Well, needless to say, Ginger is an emotional wreck.

In less than 24 hours later it was determined that her dad was not dying and that he is back on his feet and going home.

What did Ginger learn from this experience? She would like to share..

1. If you are sending someone a message being email or voice mail, keep the message as benign as possible. Do not inject highly emotional verbiage and frustration. This will only make matters worse for the receiver. Give all details and keep them simple. Do not exaggerate the condition or accident. When a person is close to a highly charged situation like this, it is necessary to step back and take a few minutes to breath and gather your thoughts. Remember, the person you're sending the message to is far, far, away and cannot quickly return home. So, please equalize the emotion.

2. Buy a long distance phone card. Don't leave home without it. There are many on the market that can be used in another country. This gives the traveling family member a tie home. If you don't know where to purchase one, please call your travel agent.

3. Back up your back up. Even though Ginger deployed her son, daughter, and brother to help oversee her father's care... life threw that curve. Her son got sick, her brother had to travel for business, so that left her daughter to carry the full responsibility. It's tough to be the only family member handling an emergency! Hind sight tells Ginger, it's best to have more back up. A friend, neighbor, etc.

For those of you family caregivers getting ready to vacation, please know that you must think through the details of "what ifs" scenarios. We hope this story gives some help and insight for preparation.

What about you? Care to share with us your personally designed travel strategy for caring while out of the country. We would love to hear your story too. Just post a comment below.

Tune in again for more tips on the traveling primary caregiver from senior care experts!

If you live away from your aging parents and need local help in Texas, email me Carol@WorkingCaregiver.com.

My best.
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