Before I go south each year, I arrange for 3 companions to visit dad in his Assisted Living Facility. They are not responsible for specific care tasks, but rather they are to be my eyes and ears to make sure dad looks and feels OK. Their presence also reminds the ALF staff that dad is getting regular visitors and he should not be neglected.
Dad’s facility is small and he is happy there. But I know when there are problems, like an illness going around the residents, or a storm that knocks out electricity, dad could get lost in the crowd. Dad rarely makes requests and doesn’t bring problems to the attention of the staff unless things are really bad. I know if his companions visit and give him one on one attention, he would be more likely to tell them what he needs.
But this year, his companions have had problems of their own. One of last year’s companions (M) is not available at all because some of her previous clients have passed away and she replaced them with clients who require all of her time. Another of last year’s companions (B) will be available some of the time, but will be on vacation herself for the first 3 weeks that I am away.
The third of last year’s companions (P) just emailed the other day with the terrible news that her son had suddenly passed away. She was still in shock I think and didn’t know yet what she would be doing – or if she would be traveling. Months ago she had told me they planned to move soon, but recently she said those plans were on hold. She had offered to take extra days during the weeks when the other companions were not available.
I tried to call her today now that the holidays are over. I felt like she needed some time to grieve and to determine what she wanted to do next. However, I didn’t reach her, so I sent an email and am hoping to hear from her tonight.
In the meantime, I had found a new caregiver (R) who used to care for an elderly friend of mine. We set everything up but she was anticipating some shoulder surgery. She thought it wouldn’t change her plans. But the surgery was more difficult and the recovery is more painful than she had anticipated. She called to ask if it was OK for her daughter to take over her days for the first month or so.
Luckily, I had already been told that her daughter (J) was also a reliable caregiver and had also cared for my elderly friend. So I said yes, and I called and talked to the daughter. I will also call her again next week to finalize the days I need her. I may need her more than I had originally planned!
Now I am looking to find alternates for the three caregivers I had lined up. I spoke with a woman this morning (L) who is a friend of a friend. She will probably be filling in for the nurse who will be on vacation for the month of January. After that I may ask her to stay on if the new caregiver (R) or the one who lost her son (P) are unable to work at that time.
I feel like all of my plans are still in motion and have not yet settled down. I feel terrible about the caregiver whose son suddenly passed away. My daughter knew her also and told me she thought it was a heart attack and he was only in his 40’s. I also feel compassion for the caregiver who is in pain after surgery. She works for herself, so while she is not working, she is not earning any money. I am thankful she has a daughter to help her as well as to cover for her.
This winter is turning out to be a more difficult winter than we anticipated. I hope everyone around here, including the staff at dad’s Assisted Living Facility is able to continue to get out through the snow and ice to do their jobs safely. I am thankful that I will be away for the worst part but I worry that something might happen to dad and I would have to come home without much notice.
As you can see, I am a planner and I try to foresee every possible problem. At the same time, I worry that plans won’t work out and I will have to come up with new plans. Caregiving is like juggling. We never know when something will happen and we won’t be able to keep all those balls in the air!
In the meantime, I wrote most of this post a week ago and never got time to post it. Christmas and New Year’s have come and gone. I want to end my first post of the new year with a wish to all of you for a Happy New Year with good health and solutions to your caregiving problems!