The Caregiving Line Dance


The Caregiving Line Dance

movement-420390_640When my mom transferred from the community hospital to the university hospital this summer, she went from a private room to a semi-private one. As we walked out of my mom's room after settling her in at the university hospital, my sister-in-law said to me, "You should talk to the charge nurse about having your mom transferred to a room where she has the bed by the window."

"Oh, I don't have to do that," I said. "Mom will take care of that."

Sure enough, my mom called the next morning to tell me she orchestrated a move to another room during the night. She moved to a room where she had the bed by the window.

My mom does a great job advocating for herself. I view my role as giving her what she needs so she can continue to advocate. I may step in with details she doesn't have or add encouragement she may need only to then step out so she handles the situation. Sometimes, when the logistics are too difficult for her to manage, I step in and manage all the details (like getting her feeding tube last summer) but always with her blessing.

My mom hasn't felt well these past few days. She spoke with the visiting nurse yesterday morning, who said she would call the doctor. When I spoke with my mom later in the day, I suggested she call the doctor directly. (I like to remove the middle man, especially one I'm not sure is that effective.) She agreed and, when she hadn't heard from the visiting nurse this morning, called the doctor directly. He returned her call within two hours and immediately sent the visiting nurse to my mom's apartment to draw blood.

I'll step in to check with my mom about how much help she wants. "Do you want me to call the doctor?" I asked yesterday. "Oh, no," she said. "I'll do it." So, I step out, only checking in for a progress update.

My dad stops by the house regularly to get mail, pick up what was overlooked during the move and look the house over. I suggested that I just bring the mail to them. (I try to keep him out of his car as much as possible.) "Oh, no," he said. "I need to get out." So, without a heavy sigh only I can hear, I step back.

My dad is also a terrific advocate for himself. He's upfront about his struggles, what he needs, when he needs. When it comes to my mom, though, he's fairly invisible. He won't offer suggestions, encourage action or offer any help. He hates to see her suffer so I wonder if her declines completely intimidate him and turn him into that shadow. My mom, though, will step in with directives (she's kinda bossy) and suggestions for my dad.

So, I dance, kinda like I did during my line dancing class last winter. Sometimes, I dance with one parent as my partner. Other times, I dance with both. I hope I can keep the rhythm of stepping in and then out without missing a beat.

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