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Long Distance Caregiving

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Beyond the Stethoscope:
Caregiving through a Doctorís Eyes

By K.L. Anderson, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Caregiving can be anticipated, yet untimely, long distance or right next door, two hours a week to 24 hours a day. Caregiving is universal. It knows no boundaries of age, race, religion, profession or economic status. Caregiving will touch all of our lives at some point along the way.

Dr. Dan, a family physician practicing in the Midwest, was living in the midst of a thriving medical practice while also juggling the responsibilities of a husband and father of three in a bustling family household. Life couldnít be fuller. Then, all at once, he found himself being called away from his normal routine into the world of caregiving. He was now facing the urgent needs of his elderly parents who lived over 1000 miles away, and his perspectives of caregiving were about to make a dramatic shift.

Dr. Dan and his family made yearly trips to Florida to visit his parents and they eagerly anticipated this time together. Upon their recent arrival, it became painfully clear at the front door that everything had changed since their last visit. Although Dr. Dan and his family had kept in touch regularly, the current situation seemed to have gotten out of hand and the health and stamina of his father and mental capacity of his mother had significantly declined. How could this have happened? Where were the red flags?

For years, Dr. Danís father, a former minister, had been faithfully providing care for his wife who suffers from progressive dementia. He was always in control of the situation, never complained or seemed ready to ask the family for help. All along, his father compensated for his wifeís loss of abilities, minimized their needs and downplayed the changes that were happening over the years. His father seemed to insulate the rest of the family from the real problems he faced and kept his own depression and isolation hidden. Unbeknownst to his family, the profound weight of caregiving for his wife had finally taken its toll and his health was now in jeopardy. Although the family realized there were obvious needs, they feared they would have to wait until a crisis occurred before help would be accepted. That crisis was now upon them.

After arriving in Florida, Dr. Dan rushed his father to emergency care for tests and an assessment of his symptoms and health condition. It was difficult not to ask questions or suggest tests. Dr. Dan found himself torn between his role as a caring son and his profession as a physician. At one point, he was even faced with the temptation to jump in and take over his fatherís care. He felt pulled in many directions. Then a greater sense of urgency and alarm emerged when the test results revealed a blood clot followed by indications of cancer. The reality of the situation hit hard and Dr. Dan knew that some major decisions would have to be made quickly. His mother could no longer care for herself and needed constant supervision and help with her daily needs. His father would require further testing, possible surgery and treatments. Dr. Dan had to get his family back home, return to his medical practice and plan for his parents to move north as soon as possible. Caregiving was about to take center stage.


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