LIVING HEALTHY – CHERIE HENRY – SENIOR LIVING – A very close friend and her family have recently experienced a tragedy that so many other families experience every day. I asked her to write about it to share the many valuable lessons she and her family learned…. here is what she wrote.
The medical stories about people experiencing a heart attack or stroke are in the news every day, I heard them but I really didn’t pay much attention. For me those stories took place far away and to other people. Then in an instant my 72 year old thriving father collapsed from a stroke. It hit without warning in a restaurant during a busy lunch hour. From the moment I heard the news I was on a crash course of learning about the intense world of stroke recovery. I wanted to share a few initial experiences I had with my dad. I could come up with well over a 100 lessons to share, but I’ll keep my list to ten…
1. If you are the first family member to arrive at the hospital and the doctor reviews the facts with you, you’re now the family messenger. It’s up to you to get the word out and with details.
2. Do not leave your loved one alone. I thought, “Dad’s fine, he’s in a hospital with 24 hour care.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the damage from the stroke and heavy medications there was NO way he could find the “call button” for help. My mom, brother, sister and I broke up the 24 hour day into shifts. I took the 9:00pm to 7:00am shift to be at my dad’s bedside. There were countless moments when he reached out for a hand to hold, needed more pain medication, a pillow to be adjusted, a warm blanket for his partially paralyzed body, his eyes covered at 4:30am when hospital staff would blast into the room and turn on the overhead lights to take a blood sample and so many more tasks in the role of patient advocate.
3. Hold off assuming a nurse’s denial of a request is just plain mean. When dad arrived at the hospital he was so thirsty. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him have an ice chip or a sip of water. Later I found out they hadn’t tested his ability to swallow yet, they were looking out for his safety.
4. Don’t take children to visit too soon. Let some healing occur. I waited for nearly a month before I took the kids to see him. It was a heartwarming reunion. Dad was in a wheelchair with a smile, and not hooked up to IV’s, writhing in pain or fading in and out of a sedated sleep.
5. Communicate the good and the not so good with family and friends. Honesty can be difficult when you feel you must be stoic for everyone. Accept help. One of the greatest gifts of support was from a dear friend who gave three hours of housekeeping. Use your support system.
6. Celebrate the most simple of achievements. We wanted to bring out the pompoms and marching band when dad brought an ice chip to his mouth with a spoon, on his own, for the first time.
7. Record voices and moments. Four days after his stroke I asked my dad to record a message to his grandchildren. His words were slurred, his thoughts were slow, but he told them how much he loved them. A few days later I recorded him again. He found such motivation from hearing how far his speech had improved in less than a week. His grandchildren also heard his improvement.
8. Caring for a stroke patient is exhausting. Dad was with 24/7 hospital care for five weeks. The very hard work started when he came home. I had no idea!!
9. There will be many tears. There will be many heart wrenching moments. There will be many heartwarming moments. There will be smiles and laughter along the way.
10. Family life won’t be the same, but be realistic, learn and grow from the personal challenges of being exposed to the cruel and anguishing experience of stroke.
Our family is now in the early process of selling my parents two level home on the Oregon coast and building a one level ADA home near the family in Portland, Oregon. We feel such peace knowing if their house sells before the new one is ready Golden Placement Services is right there to find mom and dad a temporary senior living environment with all the amenities they could possibly need. I had no idea that would have ever been an option. I am so grateful to know that Cherie and Diane at GPS will be there for my mom and dad. To learn how to provide practical basic caregiving skills for family go to FamilyCarePdx.com. The classes for Basic Care is designed for people who are new to caregiving at home, or for those who need additional skills Cherie