I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a lot along the way

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Did the idea of being a caretaker ever enter your thoughts before becoming one? Me either. It was an eyeopener. Furthermore, when we bought mom’s house about 4-5 years ago and moved her into the guest house, we had no idea how much mom’s health had changed.

Mom had lived alone for over 20 years. My husband found several metal pipes and a mini bat hidden in mom’s bed when we moved her furniture out. It was a sure sign of fear from living alone for so long. All this time I thought mom was fearless.

Mom seemed frail before we moved in. I thought it was normal for someone her age. Nothing phased mom as she raised three kids in a foreign country on her own working night and day in a sweatshop. She never assimilated well and to this day speaks very little English but enough to get by. If you could only see how my husband and mom communicate with each other. It’s cute. They seem to have a language of their own. When we got settled, we slowly started to notice changes in her behavior. Both good and bad.

Lessons Learned

I’m definitely no expert on memory loss, however, it was the one thing that became most obvious to us the more we interacted with mom. I really don’t think we would’ve noticed it at all had we not moved in. Seeing mom on a daily basis made me more mindful of her health. You think I would just come naturally, but it doesn’t, at least not for me it didn’t. I’m a busy body and dealing with a daughter with learning challenges keeps your mind preoccupied with so many other things. I wish I could say I was great at handling her challenges, but if you read here, you can see I wasn’t.

Living alone definitely takes a toll on you. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many people quite content with being alone. Being alone is one thing, and being alone as an elderly person as another. Again, I’m not an expert, but I have done my research. There is something to be said about togetherness and how it impacts the health of seniors. Loneliness definitely impacted mom’s health.

Mom’s heart attack

When mom suffered her heart attack followed by open-heart surgery, I felt like I had taken a crash course on cardio care. I learned a lot. Ironically, my husband has heart disease also but he manages so well on his own, I really don’t have to worry. I don’t advise that. That mindset shifted after all we were going through with mom.

We should always be educated when there are serious health concerns of our loved ones, especially where chronic symptoms are in play. Believe me, ya don’t want to be blindsided like I was. It made things all the more stressful. Be active in knowing your parent’s health, even if they are super healthy seniors. Either way, you know.

Advocate

pink Lily on Lily pad

Shamefully, this was my biggest lesson of all.

That year, mom had been to the same emergency room for chest pains THREE times. YES! You heard right. THREE TIMES! She was sent home with NO diagnosis each time. Why on earth did I think that ways ok? Clearly, I wasn’t thinking straight.

Here’s another doozy, you’re gonna love this. She had just been at that ER two weeks before her heart-attack. I kid you not. Looking back, I should’ve insisted on having an angiogram done.

Finally, we got a diagnosis! How? Mom got sent to a different hospital, far away from home, when it happened. One of her main arteries was severely blocked. It almost had no blood passing through. They call this the widow maker.  This was a definite indication that she needed open-heart surgery.

Any of you experience this frustration? Did you question why you had no answers? I didn’t. I thought, “they’re the experts so who am I to question anything?” I’m certainly not an expert on what chest pains or anything heart-related. Just what I know because of my husband’s heart disease. In hindsight, I should’ve known to QUESTION EVERYTHING! It’s possible to be a pain in the ass in a very loving way. I’ve mastered it since then.

I was too passive because I am always fearful of being confrontational. Furthermore, the last thing I want to do is annoy the people who are taking care of her. I’ve changed since then. This is a matter of life or death. This is about preventive medicine, not let’s wait and see what happens. Take note when it comes to chest pains. I highly recommend that you advocate on their behalf and insist on doing the angiogram. This will give you the peace of mind you need. It will also give you a clear sense of what is going on with the heart overall.

Can you believe it? That hospital could’ve prevented all this from happening THREE times! And wouldn’t you know it? A DAY after mom’s heart-attack that very hospital called to follow up on how mom was doing? OH BOY, did they get an ear full! Even though it’s been a couple of years, I still feel the need to write the board a letter. Not of malice, just to let them be aware that they need to, and can do better.

Recovery

I’ve learned not to be fooled by what you see. You really need to do your homework if you send your parents to a nursing home for whatever reason. Mom was sent to one, for recovery and rehabilitation after her open-heart surgery and I learned the hard way. Don’t make that same mistake. Read more about my experience here.

In-Home Care

I’ve learned that in-home aftercare isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I was grateful for knowing I would get help at home. Unfortunately, I left mom in the hands of the nurses. Consequently, I assumed they would see signs of danger during their visits, but they didn’t. And I take full responsibility for that. Well, you know what they say when we ASSUME things. It makes an ASS out of U and ME. (eeeh-awh)

It was tricky. Mom had good days and bad days but failed to express her discomfort as much as she should have. I think she was afraid to go back to the hospital. I can so relate to that, can’t you? For me, the hospital is not a comfortable or restfull place for me. A hospital is necessary when you can’t manage on your own and need expert care.

Although I may not be an expert, I truly have learned a lot along the way. I hope my experience can help you navigate your situation a little better. In sharing my experience, I also hope you find some comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. There is always someone out there that has been through what you’ve been through. We share the same hard lesson as you and have had the same awful thoughts and feelings as you. And you know what? You’ve grown far more than you think you have because you got through it. So, give yourself some grace today.

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