It took a near-disaster on a brisk November night to get my attention and make me realize that good caregiving intentions can easily turn into risks. You can push your luck only so far.
I could call this post Part 2. If you read my blog last month, you know my 91-year-old dad had a couple of back-to-back, long-distance health scares that sent me reeling. These unexpected caregiving emergencies left me wondering what other problem might be just around the corner. Little did I know then, the next mishap was going to be all about me and my husband.
It was time for Dad’s follow-up appointment at his Veteran’s Service medical provider. I’d made this trip several times before for Dad’s doctor visits, and it went something like this:
Leave my house about 6 a.m., drive three hours and 15 minutes to Dad’s home, pick him up and drive another hour to the doctor’s office. Then grab lunch or a snack, drive back another hour to take Dad to his place, and then head back the three-plus hours to my house.
In my defense, I found I could do this, without speeding . . . much . . . and still get home by 8 at night. Such a short trip still gave me the chance to spend quality time talking and reminiscing with Dad while minimizing my time away from work and family.
I thought I handled this little jaunt quite nicely, thank you very much. Until one night when I wandered home all glassy-eyed from fatigue and told my husband I wasn’t sure what direction I was headed or how I found my way home. “You’re not doing this anymore,” he said, matter-of-factly.
My husband arranged his work schedule to go with me on future doctor trips. So we started out one November morning for Dad’s. All went as scheduled, Dad checked out great at the doctor’s and we headed for our home around dusk.
There’s a beautiful river valley outside my hometown where the deer frolic and play. November is mating season – also referred to as rut – which takes frolicking to a whole new level.
Just a few miles out of town, with my husband driving on a 60-mph state highway, we were startled as a plump young male deer bolted from a patch of tall weeds into the left front side of our car.
The impact rocked our vehicle as we veered toward the shoulder of the road. We’ve been told that deer have bad eyesight. I can testify to that since the poor guy looked terrified when we were eyeball-to-eyeball for those few seconds.
My husband pulled over and got out to check on the deer. No deer or blood trail in sight. The buck either went into the woods to die or, hopefully, continued on his quest for love.
We called law enforcement with our location, told them an injured deer might stagger back to the road and explained that our vehicle was OK to drive despite a partly-shattered headlight and plenty of other damage. So we carefully limped home in the darkness, still shaken.
I’m discovering that it’s hard enough as a family caregiver to stay safe and healthy without taking additional risks. In those few minutes, sitting in our vehicle pulled off to the side of the road on a cold Nebraska evening, I knew my travel decisions were not among my smartest – for me, my husband and, perhaps, other travelers as well.
Unfortunately, there is no caregiving service like the one I work for where Dad lives to take him to his doctor appointments. So I’ve decided to ask for help or, at the very least, try not to cram so much into one day.
Sometimes consequences affect others, including the seniors who depend on us, when we don’t take care of ourselves or make wise choices. It’s easy to push yourself to the brink without even thinking about it. Staring into the eyes of a buck was a good reminder.
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