I am good at many things, but if I’m your caregiver, you drew the short straw. I think every double helix of nurturing DNA was distributed to my older sisters and brother with little left for me. Add to this, every illness or injury I’ve ever had could be treated with over-the-counter meds, popsicles, or an ice pack. I know. I’m lucky.
But not so much for my friend Kathy, and I’m her caregiver as she recovers from major back surgery. They fused so much stuff, I fear she’ll never be able to dance like me. Wait, bad example. She couldn’t dance like me before this. So instead, I’m hoping she will be able to retrieve her golf swing someday.
When the doctor said to her “you’re going to have a long, miserable six weeks”, my first thought was how I’d pass six miserable weeks. When he told her she couldn’t drive for several weeks, I mentally started to line up chauffeurs. And when people asked how they could help, I pulled out my calendar to begin making dinner deliveries. I’m so bad.
So with a few days of practice, I’ve begun my list of qualities of a qualified caregiver. (I may, or may not, have violated some of these. Please tell me I’m not the only one.)
- Do not scrunch up your nose, throw your eyebrows in a knot, and gag when you look at the incision.
- When the patient is nauseated, try not to gorge on spicy tacos right in front of her.
- Don’t ask the doc to slip in a couple of extra Valium, just for you.
- Keep your phone turned on, especially at night when you know the patient will call you for help.
- Don’t complain about a sore toe when she’s had what looks like a zipper installed in her back.
- Try not to utter “I’ll be back in a bit” as you exit the house, without identifying how long a bit is.
- This is not the time to include tofu or edamame in their food no matter how good it will be for them.
- Don’t even suggest the patient needs to learn to do it herself until she’s able to actually do it herself.
- When you discover the patient is going to be hospitalized out of town, DO NOT show your excitement about the prospect of visiting a new quilt shop while she lays in agony.
- And for the love of God, when the patient cries for help in an agonizing wail that startles neighborhood dogs, do not let any of the following words leave the recesses of your brain and form on your lips:
“I just have to play one more word.””Hold on. We’re up by just one and there’s under a minute left.”
“I’ll be there soon. I just have a few pages until the end.”
“I just need to see which house they chose.”
“It’s almost time for a commercial. I’ll be there right away.”
I’m glad Kathy’s forgiving, and the good news? She’s on a good path to healing, and is now asking for tacos.