THE BLOG
11/19/2014 07:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Caregiving: A New Job on a Silver Platter

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Most new jobs don't come without work or effort or on a silver platter! New employment usually begins with a phone call after interviews and negotiations. We may even remember where we were and what we were doing when we got the call.

Likewise, I will always remember the call that began the most worthwhile job of my life. I got the call "Your mother had a stroke." I was in the bathroom I remember I collapsed on the vanity. I thought of my favorite place on earth. I had always wanted to take her, but had not.

When a family member has a stroke or heart attack, is diagnosed with dementia, cancer or has a life threatening event, our lives change. We also don't realize that it is the beginning of a brand new job. A job for which there was no application or interview and in most cases it is full-time with very long hours.

We certainly did not negotiate or prepare for this new endeavor. It arrived like a tidal wave, totally engulfing us physically and emotionally. There is no tour or orientation that will help us navigate this new job. A new job with life threatening consequences and real goals. The goal to get our loved one the quickest best possible care and treatment.

In our panic, we have a brief moment of relief: They are ALIVE!

Oh yes, so thankful, they are alive. We realize that we can live with this. The tidal wave is receding.

So round one begins with a maze of hospitals, doctor's appointments and seeking specialists. This results in round two of rehab, chemo, radiation, therapy, medications, etc. We juggle our time between our job, family and our loved one, always neglecting one or the other.

We have the diagnosis and the prognosis and we are searching for the best care. We soon learn that health care has become a game: the Medicare game. Care is dispensed by what Medicare will pay for, so many days in the hospital, so many days in rehab, and so many days for therapy.

Our new job, the one that was handed to us on a silver platter, starts encroaching on our real job -- the one that we get paid for -- and it is getting harder and harder to manage. Navigating the medical issues and finding the best care and treatments are all very time consuming. We are thankful for the tasks at work that we can do with our eyes closed but how long can that last.

So we move into the next phase in the back of our mind hoping that life can some how get back to normal. We would like to get our work caught up and back on track and spend time with our husband and children.

But danger is lurking -- we are blindsided by unexpected complications.

Once our feet are wet with our new job, we start to experience the complications that are inevitable; misdiagnosis, side effects of medications, access to specialists, infections, access to care, treatment and applying for experimental treatments.

At some point along the way, we may realize that our new job has a title: caregiver. It is taking care of someone who is unable to take care of themselves. It takes time and dedication. Caregiving is done in many ways from near or far. Sometimes it can be managed from a far but it is not easy. Caregiving is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way.

Decisions have to be made for care. The care that you need may not be available or be too expensive. You may choose to care for your loved one. Teachers are retiring early, civil servants are getting their hardship requests turned down and opting out, practices are being turned over, all in favor of the new job handed over on a silver platter.

Caregiving is a worthy endeavor. There is no greater joy than to serve another. Even if it involves taking care of one from a not-so-great past relationship. All families have issues. This is an opportunity to forgive and make it right.

It is not necessary that you do the one-on-one care, but make sure that those that are unable to care for themselves are properly cared for. Your caregiving journey will enrich your life as well as those that need the care.

Since I received that phone call, my mom and I have traveled the 500-mile trip to my favorite place on Earth -- twice! Embrace your journey as a new adventure handed to you on a silver platter. Get the resources and help that you need. Put one foot in front of the other every day and do the best you can.

Aileen is a fourth generation caregiver. She shares 25 years of care giving experience at www.CaregiversAssist.com - Support for your caregivers.

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