Sunday, November 17, 2013

When it hits home

They say, “Practice makes perfect.”

As a nurse, it’s my job to connect with older adults and their families. I read and hear their stories all day. I've been trained to "speak doctor" and understand the weight of the conversation down to the numbers. My professional career is all about aging – the good, the bad, and the ugly. 
Nothing could have prepared me for being a caregiver. 
I’ve written before about my grandfather and the day both our lives changed. At the end of the story though, our lives did go back to normal--a new normal. Physically, he rebounded. Time in an assisted living with daily physical therapy brought back most of his strength. We were all looking forward to having him back home when...

I walked into my grandmother’s hospital room. She was there after she fell backwards onto the concrete sidewalk while fixing the garden. As I leaned over to give her a hug, she yelled, “Don't you touch me! I saw you kissing that other man. What are you going to tell John!?”
Her hallucinations only increased as she sat in an empty room speaking with her "visitors".  I'd walk in quietly, not to interrupt, and shortly after get blamed for "scaring away friends". As she slept, my eyes would darn between her heart monitor, to her, to the number on the IV pump, back to her. The two roles inside me, all nurse yet all granddaughter, drove both into over drive.    
I fought to catch my breath and hold back the tears, all the while trying to keep a smile on face for Grandma. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle this. Yet the thousands of stories, the countless talks with the doctors, and all my research and training, could have never prepared me for the emotions of actually being a caregiver.

Today,  I applaud you caregivers as a nurse and I empathize with you as a caregiver. Our journey may differ greatly, but now when I look into the eyes of another caregiver to teach them about their "new normal", I allow them to look into my eyes. With just a glance, those who have been there, know. The dreaded call, the late night in the emergency room, the torture of waiting for that result or that doctor, that shred of hope that still holds on.

Fellow caregivers and healthcare workers, I'd like to invite you personally to join me Monday nights on twitter. I'll be hosting a TweetChat at #Nurseup at 4pm PST or 7pm EST. Topics will center around caregiving and available resources.

Our first meeting, Monday November 18th, will cover challenges of being a caregiver and helpful resources. I would like to partner with you to bring to light the true role of a caregiver and put the best resources into the right hands.

Looking forward to meeting you and hearing your story. 

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