Eldercare: What to do if you are caught off guard – Part One


by Joy Loverde

Imagine this. You’re busy at work, preparing for an afternoon meeting, when the telephone rings; it’s the doctor’s office telling you to come to the hospital immediately, your mom fell and broke her hip. And life as you knew it just changed in an instant.

The responsibilities associated with eldercare are often initiated in a crisis and can catch us by surprise whether we anticipate them or not. At any given time, any one of us can be on the receiving end of an emergency telephone call informing us that our elderly loved one needs our help right now, momentarily throwing us off balance, and leaving us feeling worried, confused and scared.

We grapple with questions like – What do I do first? Is Mom going to be OK? Is there anyone I should call? What do I tell my boss? What about the kids? How am I supposed to be in two places at once? No doubt about it, the onset of an eldercare emergency creates an emotional climate that is highly charged; it is easy for the suddenly self-appointed caregiver to become overwhelmed and immobilized.

If you are reading this article under emergency eldercare conditions, the following suggestions will guide you through the process.  If, on the other hand you are not in a crisis, keep this article handy. With an aging population upon us, if you are not currently a family caregiver, you soon will be.

If you get a call that your parent needs help, don’t skip this first step: Acknowledge the intense feelings that surface when an eldercare emergency occurs. When it comes to caring for our elderly loved ones, strong, even opposing emotions come and go simultaneously -- feelings of love, anger, sadness, guilt (especially guilt), and fear may overrule our ability to think rationally and make good decisions. Love and anger, in particular, go hand-in-hand (we blame ourselves for not foreseeing or preventing this situation). It’s helpful to remember these feelings are normal.

Our emotions do not have to get the better of us during an eldercare emergency. There’s work to be done and important decisions to be made. Keep the following five family caregiving objectives in mind when addressing an eldercare emergency. Doing so will help you stabilize the crisis quickly:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Research options
  3. Communicate responsibly
  4. Seek advice from experts
  5. Readily ask and accept help