Hey everyone! I know that this week I haven’t posted many of my own projects and I apologize for this. You see, the last 6 weeks have been challenging for me on a personal note. “Why?” you ask. Well, it started like this. At 7:00 am on July 2, 2013, I received a phone call from my mom that started out, “Your dad had a stroke yesterday and we are at the hospital.”
Yes, the mighty telephone, bearer of both good and bad news, is what has started the crazy whirlwind I’m calling my life. Anyway, these past 6 weeks have been an eye opener for me and I thought I would share with you some of my experiences with you should you ever receive this phone call.
Today, I’m going to share with you what I have experienced from the moment I received that call and the journey to the rehabilitation hospital.
Okay, so let’s go back to that initial phone call. My wonderful mother, who lives in Lexington, KY, has already called my sister (in the Philadelphia area), my brother (in the DC area) and since I’m the baby, she was finally calling me (I’m in the Columbus, OH area). Anyway, she was exhausted and going through the motions….she had taken my dad to the hospital the previous day and had been up all night with him. She was basically running on adrenaline. It takes about 4 hours to drive to their house so after she filled me in, I told her that my daughter and I would be down that evening to help her and stay as long as she needed us.
Now, I don’t know about how your parents are but my mom really doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. This meant that my, “we’ll be down to help” was first met with, “there really isn’t anything you can do to help Dad.” So, my response was, “I can’t help Dad but I can sit with you, hold your hand, and be there for you, Mom”.
The healthy parent won’t feel that they need you but trust me, they do. This parent is spending all their energy taking care and looking after the stroke victim, they have nothing left for themselves. They will need someone to take care of them and be there for them.
It’s time to pack your bags and head to your parents’ house. But don’t just pack your suitcase, pack a notebook and pens some snacks, and cash for the hospital cafeteria/vending machines. Why? Well, your healthy parent is exhausted and not sleeping well and hence, won’t be mentally on top of their game. They are super stressed and scared and will become something akin to a walking zombie.
My Dad was admitted on July 1 and was in the hospital until the morning of July 4. What happened was this. There was a flurry of nurses, doctors and therapists, all throwing tons of information around: tests to be done, test results, medications, and oh so much more. We had a primary hospital doctor, a neurologist, a urologist, a respiratory therapist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and nurses and nursing techs: a constant stream of people.
Always have pen and paper with you so that you are prepared to help note all that is going on. You will need to help keep track of all the activity.
Another challenge you will face is that some of the doctors (like our urologist) may do their rounds at the hospital very early in the morning, before they head to their offices. This means, that you will need to get to the hospital early as well. The downside is your healthy parent will be so exhausted that to get up early enough to grab breakfast before going to the hospital will be virtually impossible. So, if like us, you will all go to the hospital room. Then, once you have your parents settled, be prepared to run to the hospital cafeteria to pick up some breakfast. I would suggest something like yogurt, fruit, and muffins…portable items. This way, you can bring the items back to the hospital room. This will also be the case for lunch. You will find that you will be running around so that your parents can be together.
Also, there will be times when a nurse or nurse tech will be needed. And although there is a call button, they can’t get there quickly enough. Why? Well, after a stroke, the patient is not supposed to go to the bathroom without a nurse/nurse tech with them. My dad had a difficult time waiting for assistance….he felt that he could do this himself. He was oblivious tot he fact that his risk of falling as high.
Dress comfortably and be prepared to be the runner for your parents.
With every passing day, my mom became more and more open. She would share concerns and fears. My mom took the steps of looking at me not as her youngest child but as a peer, confident, and friend. She would talk more openly, accept help more readily, and use me as a sounding board.
After spending an entire day at the hospital (8 am – 8 pm) we would head out for a late supper. Then, we would head home and reflect upon the day. During this time, my mom would treat me almost as her best friend: the confidant that would have, in normal times, been my dad.
Once she had turned in for the evening, I would then go over my notes of the day and compose e-mails to my siblings so that they could stay abreast of the situation. Also, having my daughter with me helped. She was my strength during these times.
Be prepared to listen and become a friend, confidant and messenger.
After a few days, all of tests and assessments were done and my Dad was pretty well stabilized. That meant that he was to be discharged from the hospital and then taken to/admitted to the rehabilitation hospital. For my dad, this was 3 days but this may be different for others depending on how the stroke affected them.
For us, the transition to the rehabilitation hospital had some challenges. First off, it was a holiday (July 4) which meant that all the therapists were off and the hospital was a bit short staffed all the way around. It was another new place and kind of left my parents with some new anxieties. I spent a lot of time chatting with various nurses to learn the ropes of how the schedules and therapies work. This also included learning ways to schedule times so that my mom could go home and have a few moments to herself to sleep and get things done around the house.
By the evening, I had put together a schedule for my mom on how she would schedule her day while Dad was at the rehab hospital. A big thing with stroke victims is depression so I also put together a plan to get relatives to call my Dad during his stay. If lots of people call and pump him up, perhaps his spirits would remain high.
By the time you transition to the rehabilitation hospital, your role may become decision maker and planner.
My daughter and I went back home during my dad’s stay at the rehabilitation hospital. I told my mom that I would be back to help her when my dad is discharged to help with the transition home. I’ll share about this with you next Friday.