One of our family members recently found himself in a frightening situation. He is the primary caregiver for his wife who has multiple medical and memory problems. Though he can leave his wife alone for short bits of time, she is really dependent on him for everything and wouldn’t be safe to be home alone for long periods of time. Imagine the fear, on so many levels, when he started having chest pains at home and had to be hospitalized.

Most caregivers I know spend very little time taking care of themselves and all of their time taking care of their loved one. Have you ever thought about what would happen to your loved one if you had an unexpected health emergency or even a car accident while you were “just dashing out for a minute”. The best time to think of that plan is when you don’t need it, not when you are on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance.

If something happened to you while you were out, is there anyone who would know your loved one was home alone? One caregiver I know wears a medic-alert bracelet that identifies him as a caregiver and lists the phone number of his daughter, to be called in case he is unresponsive. Think about how you could alert someone that there is someone at home depending on you to return and who could be called who would know what to do?

If you had a medical emergency that required an immediate trip to the emergency room, who would you call to come and stay with your loved one? Maybe a neighbor or a child close by? I remember when I was pregnant with my second child, as my due date came and went, I would often think, ok…if I went in to labor now, who would I call to take my toddler? The 2 am call might be different from the 2 pm call. Take minute to think about who you would call if you had to.

What if you had to be admitted? Is there someone who could come and stay with your loved one for a length of time? Would they know what medicines to give her, or what food allergies she might have? Consider having that information up to date and located somewhere where it could be accessed if needed.

Most importantly, have a conversation with your potential back-up person…your neighbor, your son, daughter, sister, pastor, etc. Ask them if you can call them in an emergency. If it is a neighbor or pastor or other unrelated person, make sure they know how to reach your family if needed, and that they could get in to your house if they had to.

I pray that none of you ever face a situation like one of these, but I hope that if you do, a little forethought will help minimize the fear and anxiety you face at the time. Please know that if we can be of service to you (ie your loved one coming extra days while you are hospitalized or recovering, or medical information shared with a respite provider, etc), please do not hesitate to call us.

Christina Forbes, LGSW from the Daybreak Newsletter 5/2013