Help! I Have Fallen…

Illness can sneak up on you. In previous posts I've stressed the importance of making plans for senior care from the senior's perspective. What happens when the caregiver gets sick?

Who’s going to help me up?

Vitamins, Oranges, and Tea for Me!

Awareness slowly penetrated my sleep-fogged mind. The voices I was hearing were not a nearby conversation —  it was my radio, signalling that my alarm was going off. In retrospect, a nearby conversation should also have been alarming, but that’s neither here nor there. Radio means wake up. Wake up means turn off alarm.

The pistons were firing, so I sat up to swat the offender into silence. I raised myself up just enough to see the digits staring at me from the nightstand and then the world lurched…and I fell off. As fate would have it, the nightstand was at the foot of my bed (another story) and my fall was only as far as my pillows. I wasn’t injured, but I was confused.


That was a pretty big one if I felt it that strongly.
No, nothing else is moving.
Wait a minute…I can’t get up! Brain function seems to be okay, I just can’t raise my head without going dizzy.
What does this mean?!

I lay still for a few minutes and managed to think through what I needed to do. If I made sure that my son got up and got his bus, I wouldn’t have any other immediate concerns. Crashing to the floor was not an acceptable action. I focused and managed to pull it off, slowly but surely.

The door closed behind my son and I realized that I had no idea what to do next. My thoughts, if you could call them that, were horribly disjointed…but not in a brain damaged sort of way. I wasn’t concerned about having had a stroke; I was worried that I was coming down with something.

With no pilot taking control, autopilot kicked in. I started my usual routine, albeit a lot more slowly and carefully than usual. Everything was an effort. I tried to check email, but looking at the words on screen brought on dizziness. The cell phone vibrating in my pocket, or on my chair, or on the table next to me seemed to set off vibrations in my head. There was nothing to do but wait to see if any other symptoms developed.

Am I just cold or am I having chills?
I don’t know, but at least I don’t have a fever.
Can you have chills without having a fever?
Is there something I’m supposed to be doing right now?
Do I really think my brain function’s okay?

I finally managed to recognize the symptoms of a raging sinus infection and treated myself accordingly. I managed stages of clear-headedness that allowed me to go out a couple of times. I got cat food because I knew the cat needed it, and I knew how to navigate to it in the store, and I didn’t have to think about it too much. I didn’t think milk or bread. I don’t know what my son had for dinner that first night. I had vitamins, acetaminophen, tea, an herbal heating pad wrapped around my head, and some sleep.

The second day passed much the same as the first, but with more treatment. I was starting to feel some relief, but not enough to speak of until late afternoon. I managed to pull my act together and get us to a friend’s house for dinner (I wasn’t contagious.). The third day was much the same as the second, but there was no school. My son had to stay home because the friend he wanted to visit lived too far away for me to risk driving. I did manage to prepare dinner for him, though. At least I think I remember that he had dinner.

You may wonder where I’m going with this story. The fact is, illness can sneak up on you. I’m only fully responsible for the care of one person right now, and he’s nearly 14. He can’t drive and the nearest grocery store is a couple of miles away, but he can survive without my help for the most part. All I have to do is make sure he gets up and out in the morning. There’s a taco shop in walking distance. He had a burrito for dinner. Sorry for the tangent but I just remembered.

I read a tweet a few days ago from a mom (Melanie) who has a younger child. Her child was with a neighbor and her husband came home to see about her when she had her dizzy spell (actually, Mel passed out, but you get my meaning). These things happen…and they can happen to anybody. In previous posts I’ve stressed the importance of making plans for senior care from the senior’s perspective. I’ve talked about making sure family members know what the senior wants in terms of quality of life. I’ve preached about safety, and discussions, and planning in general. I thought I’d approached the caregiving subject from every contingency…but I didn’t consider the caregiver.

I’ve touched on caregiver burnout and that kind of thing, but not contingency planning. What happens when the caregiver gets sick? My “To Care” list is pretty short right now. My teen can pretty much care for himself. My senior friend has other people in her life to watch out for her (but my daily call to her was the only call I made during those days), and she generally takes care of herself, too. They both take care of me, sometimes, as well (that’s where we went for dinner).

If they’d required more care or relied more on me for that care, we’d all have been in trouble. I didn’t have a plan for my illness. How many of us prepare for the unexpected in that way?

You have a will. Do you have a won’t?

As long as I’m on the subject of the importance of planning for caregiver illness, I may as well go the extra step and mention planning for caregiver death or disability. If you are in a sandwich situation or foresee a sandwich in your future, are you making plans for that? If you’re caring for your parents, who takes over their care if something happens to you…your children? Have you discussed or planned what you won’t want to happen as well as what should happen?

The best example I can give for the planning I’m talking about was a family I knew a number of years ago. The family consisted of mother, father, and two children — one daughter in high school, and the other in junior high. The younger daughter required care. Her parents were happy to provide the care she needed, but they had a won’t. “We decided that our older daughter won’t be stuck caring for her sister if something happens to us.” They knew that she would care for her sister. She would because they had and she would feel like it was her responsibility. “We won’t let that happen. We do this because she’s our child; she’s our responsibility. Each of our daughters is entitled to her own life. We have plans in place to see to it.”

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, care for parents is not an issue I’ll have to consider. As far my latest illness, well, this post is the only thing I’m reading today, but I’m on the mend. I’ll probably even check email tomorrow…after I get my son off to school.

What about you? Do you have plans in place for to provide care for yourself and those you care for in the event of your illness? Have you considered having a “fire drill” — enacting those plans to make sure they’ll work in the event of a real emergency?

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Originally posted 2009-11-12 20:31:13.

Tim Colling
Tim Colling

Tim Colling is the founder and President of A Servant's Heart In-Home Care, which provided in-home caregiving services in San Diego County, and also of A Servant's Heart Geriatric Care Management, which provided
professional geriatric care management services and long term care placement services in San Diego County. Tim has more than 30 years of experience in management in a variety of industries. He held a Certified Care Manager credential from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Tim is also a Certified Public Accountant (retired), and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from California State University at San Diego. In addition to writing blog posts here for the Servant’s Heart blog, Tim also is a regular contributor to and to as well as blogs of other eldercare services provider companies. Finally, Tim is also the president of A Servant's Heart Web Design and Marketing, which provides home care marketing as well as website design and online marketing for those who serve the elderly and their families.

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