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Reversing Roles: To Be Prepared

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By Gretchen Fuller

Appointment Planning

It’s that time of year when I think about making doctor appointments for my mother who is 98 years old.  I can’t take her in the winter because she can’t move fast enough to get out of the cold nor is she nimble enough to navigate snow piles.  Lucky for me she doesn’t see many doctors anymore.  A few years ago, when she was younger, 90 or so, I used to make our appointments at the same time so that I didn’t have to sit in the doctor’s office longer than necessary. Now that I am older and so is she I have to devote more of my time energy to her. It is a major operation to get mom out the door and to the doctor. Since she is in an assisted living facility we need to notify them that she has an appointment. They prepare copies of her paper work to send with her to the doctor.  Then I have to get the car to the door for her. When we get to the doctor’s office, specifically the dentist, I have to try to find a place that she can get out of the car easily. His office is on the main street of our community. It’s either park on the street or have her try to negotiate the steep driveway near the front door. The last time she went to the dentist my sister helped me take her into the office while I parked the car. That was the perfect scenario. This time I don’t think my sister will be available to help.

The trips to the other doctors’ offices are logistically easier because those doctors are in buildings that have special drop off areas for people needing wheelchairs.  The best places to take her are the ones that have valet parking where I can take charge of her and someone else can park the car.

The visit with the doctor is another issue.  I usually grab a wheelchair for her because it takes forever for her to walk long hallways using her walker. Then we get to the doctor’s office and get checked in at the front desk. She used to be able to verbalize her problems to the doctor very well. As a matter of fact, they would look to me for answers to their questions, and I would refer them to her because she was quite capable of telling them. Now she needs a lot of prompting to get information. Sometimes the information is wrong. It is difficult for me since she is in the assisted living to really know what problems she is having.  Although I visit her every day, I may not be aware of all that bothers her.

I made appointments in April for the dentist, the ear, nose and throat specialist and the eye doctor.  They are each in a different week so that she’s not too tired. So I will be making two trips to each of the doctors since I also made appointments for myself.

Vacation Planning

Over the Christmas holidays I went on vacation with my older daughter and her family.  We took a trip of a lifetime to Machu Picchu, Peru. I was gone for twelve days. Before I left I tried to prepare for mom to be alone for that long period of time. I was really worried that she might pass while I was gone. It was too far to come home if there was a problem. I stocked up on all her meds at the assisted living center.  I went to the funeral home and made arrangements with them if something should happen while I was gone.  I was afraid that if I didn’t have everything in place, I would worry the whole time I was on vacation and not be able to enjoy it.

My sister came and spent Christmas with mom but had to go home on Christmas day. I am sure my mom enjoyed her visit. My younger daughter, who lives nearby, made Christmas breakfast and took it to the assisted living center on Christmas morning. Her little boys ages 9, 7, and 2 came in their pjs to visit Nana and celebrate Christmas morning with her. My daughter visited her several times while I was away.

When I returned home I found mom happy and healthy.  I was glad I had prepared so much but I was also glad that the preparations were not needed.

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