I remember it vividly, it was 11:30pm on March 6, 2005, my husband and I were on our way back from an evening with friends when my cell phone rang. Recognizing the number, my heart raced as I answered the call. “It’s Jane from the nursing home. We found your Grandpa unresponsive”. My only question “Is he alive?” My reaction may seem unusual, however; in my experience I know that if someone is unresponsive it means one of 2 things; either the person is dead or, they’ve had a serious, usually life altering, physically event. “Yes” she replied, “we think he had a stroke, he’s on his way to the ER”. I hung up the phone and headed to the hospital.
As caregivers, it is likely that at some point along the journey we will receive The Call, the one that changes everything. This call was exactly that. Upon seeing my grandpa I knew right away their assessment was correct, he had indeed suffered a stroke rendering him paralyzed on one side and unable to verbally communicate.
Unfortunately as caregivers once you receive The Call you will then have to make The Call to others.
Here are some points to ponder regarding The Call:
Receiving The Call:
Take a Deep Breath –Taking a moment to take a deep breath in and out can clear your head, lower your blood pressure and help you to focus on what needs to be done.
Ask Questions – Questions help to clarify what is really going on and can assist you in taking the next steps. Make sure to get the name and phone number of the person calling so you can re-connect with them if you have more questions.
Write it down – Ask the caller to give you a minute to gather a paper and pen to make notes on what they are telling you.
Clarify – health care has a unique language and sometimes as professionals we share information with family as if giving a clinical report to a colleague. If you don’t understand what’s being shared ask questions and repeat back your understanding of the situation making sure you have the information correct.
Making The Call:
Evaluate Timing and Potential Reaction – If no immediate action is needed by others, calling them in the middle of the night may not be the best option. Your first call should be to those who will be the most helpful insofar as contacting others and assisting with whatever else needs to be done to manage the situation. Since most calls come in the middle of the night it might be best to wait till morning to call others.
Focus on Facts – share the information as precisely as you can. Don’t speculate, stick to what you know for sure.
Most importantly, make a pointed effort to take care of yourself and ask for help. Remember you are doing the best you can and you will get through this.