They say people come into your life exactly when you need them. I’m thrilled to introduce you to someone who has been a tremendous support to me and my family, Irene Olson. She and another blogger friend have walked a path that’s now my own to travel. By sharing their personal experiences, they’ve helped me to prepare for the future. I’m also excited to announce that Irene’s book, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, is a finalist in the Caregiving category of the 2018 National Indie Excellence Awards. I know she’s thrilled to honor her father in this manner.
Learn as you go caregiving
by Irene Frances Olson www.irenefrancesolson.com
All family caregiving has its seemingly insurmountable challenges. Whether a hands-on provider of care, or the long-distance caregiver managing care from afar, families on the dementia journey rarely enjoy a return to the wonderfully predictable and boring status quo of days gone by.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease ten years after he moved into an Oregon Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). He moved in as a fully independent active seventy-six year old man and died in the community’s memory care unit twelve years later. Once my father was diagnosed, I ramped up my visits, purchasing a dozen discounted airline tickets at a time for the one and a half hour flight from my home in Seattle, Washington.
Jill asked me to share an experience from my caregiving days. Here is one example of when all semblance of a ho-hum existence flew out the window:
One day I called my father to chat. He answered the phone and immediately started talking extraordinarily fast. “Irene, I’m dizzy. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t stay still. I’m nervous. I’ve been pacing back and forth in my apartment. All I did was take some cough medicine and ever since then my heart is racing. I don’t know what’s going on. Can you help me?”
I kept him on the line with my cell phone while I used my landline to call the nurses station and beg them to go to Apt. 194 to check on my father. I hung up that call and kept Dad occupied on the other while I waited for the nurse to race down to his apartment. In less than two minutes, I heard a knock on my father’s door. I told Dad that a very nice nurse was going to take care of him and that I would talk to him the following day.
Long story short, the Head Nurse called me back to say that it appeared that my father had ingested a considerable amount of cough syrup which caused severe agitation. I had put my father on medication-assist a few days earlier but the staff had not rid my father’s apartment of all his medications – both prescribed and over-the-counter. I was not happy and I felt helpless.
Whether dealing with this type of an emergency from 5 miles away or 500 miles away as I did, such incidents bring undue stresses for which family caregivers are ill-prepared; even my many years working in assisted living and memory care didn’t sufficiently prepare me for all the unexpected caregiving occurrences I faced.
My novel, Requiem for the status quo, addresses the drastic changes experienced by both the patient with dementia, and his or her family caregiver. The make-it-up-as-you-go nature of the disease keeps one hopping and what worked yesterday, or even an hour ago, oftentimes doesn’t work again. Status quo? Not likely, but we do the best we can with what we know and then move on to the next challenge. Even those with appropriate experience lose all confidence when their own loved one is involved – that certainly was the case for me. Did I make mistakes? Big time, but I did the best I could and I’ve learned that when you’ve done your best, you are to be honored because you’ve done your best. Sound simple? Not at all, but you should congratulate yourself nonetheless.
Irene Frances Olson writes from passion and experience. She was her father’s caregiver during his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune. Irene hopes to make a difference in the lives of others by writing novels that encourage and support those who just might need another person in their corner.