Mom is back in the hospital

cargiverburnoutWhen the primary caregiver fails, it’s really hard to quickly pick up the pieces. In this case, Mom has been caring for Dad with Alzheimer’s, but now Mom has health issues that landed her in the hospital.

If the caregiver ends up in the hospital, the mad scramble from Plan B begins.  Most families are totally unprepared and it surprises me how often this happens given all the data available to educate us on how important it is to have a plan in place.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance nearly three quarters (72%) of caregivers reported that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should, and more than half (55%) had missed doctors appointments.

More alarming is that elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.

If you have a parent who is filling this role, it’s time to sit down and have a real conversation about how to create a Plan B should something happen to them. Is there some way to help them now before a crisis? What can you do now to be prepared to easily step in if they are unable to fill the day-to-day role of caregiver?

Maybe over dinner or a cup of tea, could you ask:

  • Tell me about your average day. How often and how are you helping mom/dad?
  • If you fell and ended up in the hospital, what could I do to help mom/dad?
  • Have you found any local support groups?

Spousal support groups can really help since many will discuss how to set up Plan B as well as how to minimize the stress of caregiving. In fact, I heard these stats from a support group leader.

The best way to help is to start from a place to help the caregiver be successful. Most of the pushback I see is when the family wants to take over. Start by asking for a job you could do to help them both.

Trying to put plans into place from the hospital or from another state just creates more stress for everyone. I hope you will have an opportunity to discuss this before you may ever need to use what you learn.

If you need to get some immediate help to navigate medical issues, I hope you will look into finding a local Aging Life Care Manager. You can learn more or search for one in your area at

If you want a guide to start having a conversation around what you need to step in and help, you can use this list of key documents and information you would need to help manage the finances and maintain the household.

The reality is we should all have a Plan B in place. I hope this guide will help get started. Shared.

Caregiver Alert: Are you experiencing “Compassion Fatigue?”

splatterDid you know that the feeling of anger, poor self-care, substance abuse, and hopelessness could be caused by “Compassion Fatigue?”

Today, I heard Stephanie Chong, LCSW-C discuss this term. I immediately felt a bit of relief knowing that it’s quite common within the caregiving industry.

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. That is a very basic definition and Stephanie went on to discuss what this fatigue can lead to which includes symptoms of isolation, preoccupation, apathy, substance abuse, poor self-care, hopelessness, physical and even mental exhaustion. Now that I’m in about my 5th year of being the primary adult caregiver to two, then one parent, I’m concerned I am exhibiting some of the symptoms.

While I don’t feel less compassion to my mom or those who care for her, I’m feeling more anger around the need to constantly provide those in her care circle with insight into how my mom wanted to live out her final years. Because the job for caring for others can cause both compassion fatigue and burnout, there is a steady stream of new faces over the course of a year that help care for mom.

My last post “When More Translates to More Options for Failure” sure sounded a bit hopeless. Many of you have helped turn this into a digital caregiver support group for me. Thank you readers and comment-ers alike! Keep it coming.

What has been weighing on me is the constant need to advocate for my mom. I feel like I’m constantly telling a new member of her care team that mom wants to be happy and comfortable, but doesn’t want measures taken to extend her life. It gets uncomfortable when I need to follow-up with specific things to not do for mom, but also make sure they know I appreciate their help.

My mom was quite specific about not wanting to be spoon fed. Telling someone the thing they are doing as an act of care, is not what my mom wishes is painful to both of us in the conversation. While I don’t want to have the conversation one more time, I know I will need to because it is what my mom wanted. I need to be her advocate.

But it’s painful and I’m tired of having the conversation. The last time it happened I didn’t say anything. I started to doubt myself and wondered if I need to let them feed her because she hungry. However, she is totally capable of feeding herself.

I’ve used quite a few of the healthy coping mechanisms. But now that I have an awareness of this I also now have some other tools to help me the next time I need to have the strength to ensure mom’s wishes are being fulfilled. Soothed.