Not to boast, but I sort of consider myself a Rock Star of "handling" uncomfortable calls on the caregiving front. I've raced to a city hospital on Christmas Eve when a friend was diagnosed with leukemia; I've aborted a vacation mid-airport when a friend's husband died unexpectedly; I've made multiple 2 a.m. guest appearances in ER during the last three years of my father's life. I helped manned his hospice team. Funerals? I'm omnipresent.
Yep, I pride myself on a first responder in crisis. But yesterday, I realized that I've become a little too cocky in thinking I've done it all on the elderly care emergency front. Let's call yesterday my wake-up call that there will always be a surprise, an unexpected situation in our sphere of caring for our elderly parents.
Here's the scenario: I'm at a meeting in downtown Chicago and my purse is vibrating across the chair next to me, again and again and again. It is obvious that there is a distressful call I need to attend to, so I excuse myself from the meeting and head into the hallway with my cell phone. The message is from my mom: "Mary, someone ran into my building, can you come."
I think I have misheard this, as my imagination races. She got in an accident en route to Walgreens to get her medicines. A senior was hit in the parking lot of the elderly care center. She couldn't have said her building was hit.
But she did. It turns out a hit-and-run driver seems to have careened 25 yards off the road, across the lawn, across the patio, and smack dab into my mom's bedroom, crashing through the patio door and brick façade. Luckily, my mom was in the laundry room at the time of the incident.
But, the officials at the senior community say they have never seen something like this before. And, no one seems to have witnessed the incident. I arrive to find the elderly center's maintenance crew boarding up her back door and bolstering the brick façade for examination by the village building department. They determine that the structural damage is repairable and she will be able to stay in her apartment, just not in her bedroom.
I sit with my mom as a parade of neighbors stream in. "We've never seen anything like this," and she tries to calm herself. I drive to Panera to bring back dinner. I begin removing the clothes from the closet and cleaning up the debris. One side of the closet is my dad's. She didn't want to disrupt them, not yet. I recognize familiar shirts, shirts that remind me of events. I do my best "stoic," stay strong; don't let your mom see you cry. I don't want to upset her any more than she already is.
And so, yesterday, I added a new role to my caregiver checklist: crash rescuer. Ironically, in the months since my father died, it has seemed like my mom is healing from a hit and run crash of the heart and soul. Now, there is a physical one.
Humble lesson. I remain a novice in the classroom of caring for our parents. Every day brings a new, unexpected lesson. I will always need to be ready to learn new skills on this caring for senior front.
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