May 31st, 2010 at 1:11 am
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What if Caregiver Needs to Leave Home for an Extended Period of Time

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Sometimes a brief time away from home extends into a much lengthier one. What was thought to be a minor concern can develop into a more complicated situation. A friend recently went home for her mother’s upcoming surgery. Her husband was not going with her and was taking care of their young children when he got a call that his dad, who lived over 1000 miles away, had broken his hip. These out of town caregivers needed to put their efforts and energy toward their respective parents so their priority was to quickly find ways to cover the needs of their children. Everything else seemed to take a back seat to that issue, at least for the moment.

They say to always expect the unexpected. I had things covered for a trip back home to be with my parents for a few weeks since my dad was seriously ill. I had not been watching the news and did not realize our area had a tornado pass through and, although we escaped major damage, my yard was now covered with fallen branches and one tree came down but thankfully had not hit the house. I scrambled to make arrangement s for the yard cleanup from out of town. Because of this situation I knew many years later when I went home to be with my mother for a few weeks that I would create the list of emergency contact numbers ahead of time so that if there was a problem while I was away, I would not have to search for that information.

Recently a daughter, who had gone out of state to care for her mom after a stroke, realized that her mother’s dementia had advanced and she should not be left alone. My friend’s neighbors got together and offered suggestions on ways they might help. They arranged for her mail to be forwarded to her mother’s home, provided regular inspections inside the house to make sure there were not any electrical or water situations of concern and emptied the refrigerator of foods that might spoil.

Before my friend returned home two months later, her friends restarted her paper, turned on the air conditioning, cleaned up the yard and her house, stocked her refrigerator with the basics and left a few meals prepared for her in the freezer. It was the combined effort of many that allowed their friend some peace of mind. She was able to concentrate on making the necessary arrangements, including getting her mom settled in with the new hired caregivers she would need to stay in her home until she could sell her home and move to an assisted living closer to her daughter and her family.  Article with additional information: Does Stress And Overload Impact a Caregiver’s Memory?

In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope. Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

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