Caretaking From a Distance

If you think that not being able to go out is the worst part of social isolation during the Covid-19 crisis, there’s a lot you’re missing. Yes, a lot of people are struggling financially, but there’s another group that on top of all the very difficult situation are having to deal with a more painful reality, they can’t be with their loved ones in their moment of need.

Due to the high level of contagious from this virus, if you have a family member in the hospital, or any other type of medical institution, regardless of the diagnose, you’re banned from visiting your loved one. This has been a reasonable decision, but not any less difficult for the loved ones of that patient and the patient themselves.

Our current reality is that some people have died alone. Others are deteriorating just by the fact that their isolation is causing depressing feelings.

I can relate to this. My mother has been bounced between rehab and the hospital since mid-February. Originally, she had a stroke. She spent days in the hospital and moved to rehab. Few days while in rehab, she had a fever and went back to the hospital to discover she had an UTI (urinary tract infection). She went back to rehab, where she developed fever again but now with some respiratory issues. At this point, visits to rehab had been cancelled and I talking on the phone was my only way of communication. She went back to the hospital; she was tested for Covid-19 but the results took forever. She had a positive test, but she’s medically much better. The issue I’m facing now is what are the next steps? She’s not well enough to come home, not because of the virus, but because of the stroke. No rehab will accept her until she has a negative result on the test. We’re currently in limbo.

As someone with an elderly mother, I totally know how to advocate on her behalf, but this is the first time I’ve had to do it at a distance. I can relate to the feeling of powerlessness, and the fact that you truly have to trust God and the medical professionals to do their part because there. is . nothing. you. can.do.

But yes, there is, and I want to share with you some things that have kept my sanity and some illusion of control over the situation.

  • Call the nurses – I admit that I felt bad doing this because I know they’re overwhelmed. I’ve been lucky enough to have very sweet nurses that always encourage me to call as many times as I want. I don’t abuse it. I tend to call once on each shift for an update, that way I’m not bothering the same person.
  • Be prepared – Remember that your loved one is not the only person that they’re tending to. More than likely they’re also receiving several calls from family members all the time. Have your questions ready, that way you can shoot them and get off the phone as soon as you can.
  • Talk to the doctor – As sweet as the nurses were, they didn’t have much medical information for me. My calls to the nurses were more related to: How did she sleep? Is she eating? Is her breathing better? Is she taking her medication? (at one point she was spitting it out) My questions were more geared to the day to day welfare check. The doctor is the one making decisions, telling you what tests he ordered, what where the results. He can explain the rationale between changing or adding a particular medication to the regime. He’s the one that can give you prognosis and estimate timeliness. Be also prepared for this call, they have even less time to talk to you than the nurses.
  • Did I mention call? – The reason why this bears repeating is that if you wait to hear from the hospital you may be sitting there for a long time. You must do the outreach. I’m not going to say that I haven’t received unexpected calls from the hospital, but I did most of the calling to make sure that I knew what I needed to know and that I could provide as much of what I knew of my mother for them to have necessary information to adequately deal with her needs.
  • Be nice – We’re all stressed out. Don’t be short or inpatient with those taking care of your loved one. These people have families too and are risking their lives to take care of the one you love. Be kind, patient and thank them for their sacrifice.
  • Pray – That is something you can always do. Pray for your peace of mind. Pray for the health of the one you love, but don’t be stingy, also for those others who are in the hospital. God has enough to give, be generous with your prayer. Finally, for the medical health professionals and their families.

We’ll get through this. I’m realistic. I can’t promise you that we will be back to puppies and rainbows. But, did we really have puppies and rainbows before this crisis? No, we were all struggling in one way or another and making it. The same way we will make it this time. Maybe somewhat banged up, but with a better testimony that when we started.

Be safe beloved

Naty

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