On this Thankful Thursday, I’m going to tell you a story about how a one-on-one connection with another family caregiver changed my perspective and has saved my grandma’s life as a result.
At the beginning of my journey, knee deep in the throes of caregiving, my grandma fell.
And contrary to popular belief, falling is NOT normal. Falling is usually a sign of an unseen medical issue.
Home for a few months after her first series of major health events, Grandma fell in the shower. I was with her. Amazingly she wasn’t hurt… but a few days later, two of her toes were bright red.
After consulting with a relative who was a nurse, I took her to the ER. She had broken her toes and they were infected.
After an overnight stay, they sent her home with some antibiotics. Not even 24 hours later, she collapsed in the hallway at her home and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Imagine my fright, after all of that to hear for the first time from a church staff in the ER waiting room that she had been dialing members of her church and even calling up to the church office for assistance!
That is how I found out just exactly how much she was falling.
You see, when Grandma fell, she crawled to her phone. Then, she scrolled through the contacts in her phone for help.
Yes, you heard me right. For some reason, I was the last person my grandma would think of calling. She claimed that she didn’t want to disturb me at work.
Most of the time, she didn’t tell me it happened. And worse, neither did they. Some of them told me she explicitly asked them NOT to tell me.
When I WAS aware, each time she fell, we went over the same things: I would reassure her that she can call me anytime and should never feel like she is ‘bothering me.’ More importantly, I alone was responsible for her, and I needed to know when she was falling.
After all was said and done, it turns out her gallbladder was inflamed to four times the normal size. The medical staff were in complete awe. The surgeon even took a photo! They could not believe that she hadn't fallen ill from this sooner and said it had been in the works for a while.
See, the infected toes (and the falling) were an indicator of a larger problem. A problem which could have been addressed sooner if only I was aware of the many falls that had taken place.
Chain smoking outside of the hospital on the phone with my boss while my grandma was in surgery to remove the gallbladder, we had a 'Come to Jesus.'
“What are you going to do, Rachel?
You can’t keep living like this.
You need to figure out what you need to make this work and then tell your grandma what needs to happen for you to do that.”
This medical incident was serious enough that Grandma was able to get some rehab time. Before she settled at home, I considered what my boss said. I started thinking of my list of caregiving demands.
You never know when you’re going to run into someone who has been in the same boat.
At work during the typical pre-conference call friendly bobbing, we were inquiring about each other’s families. Since we worked closely, we were very open with each other about our lives. When it was my turn, I recounted recent events to the group and shared my frustration with what I had learned about Grandma was calling the church and people I wouldn’t call if my life depended on it.
Then it happened.
Mary Lee, executive director of a national organization, someone I highly respect and admire, a lady with a resume and reputation so ridiculous few can compete, shared with me that the same thing had happened to her with her father.
She told me that her dad had Life Alert, and she explained how the notification system works. All of a sudden, it was okay to get a medical alert device. Let’s face it, the cheesy commercials (“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) have given medical alert devices a bad rep.
It gave me peace of mind knowing my grandma wouldn’t have to crawl to the phone anymore. I felt relieved knowing I could control who was involved in my grandma’s welfare. Talking to Mary Lee convinced me it was okay for Grandma to have it too.
So number one on my list of caregiving demands was that we set up Medical Alert so I can be sure there was a process for helping her when she fell and informing me of her falls.
Long story short, we got Medical Alert and it has saved my grandma’s life.
If it hadn’t been for Mary Lee sharing her story with me, I might never have accepted the idea of getting it for Grandma. So for that, I am forever grateful.
Has there ever been a time when someone had a solution for a problem you were going through? Drop it in the comments below! I’d love to hear your experience.