The phone rings at 2 a.m. Your mother's voice shakes as she tells you your father has been rushed to the emergency room. You have so many questions, most of which your mother cannot answer. If you live nearby, you head to the hospital. If you don't, you have to decide whether the situation is serious enough to make a trip.
See also: Ways to deal with caregiver stress.
Either way, you're in the midst of a caregiving crisis. It's stressful. It's overwhelming. But it can be managed. Here's how.
If you haven't had a crisis yet, being organized can help you better manage that call (and panic less) once it does happen. Compile a list of your parents' medications, their doctors' names and phone numbers, their medical history and copies of any advanced directives such as living wills, recommends Susan Fleischer, president of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Write all this down and keep it in a handy place. Memory often fails you in moments of crisis.
During the last years of her mother's life, phone calls at odd times were a common occurrence for caregiver Laura Shumaker, 55, of Lafayette, Calif. "It sounds silly and obvious, but when you are mentally prepared for the phone ringing at odd and unsettling times, you're able to go into problem-solving mode more efficiently," says Shumaker.
Develop a network
Whether you're near or far, having a go-to group of people who can support you in times of crisis is a must-have, says Fleischer. Get names and numbers of your parents' neighbors who can check your parents' home if you haven't been able to make contact. Attend at least one doctor's appointment with your parents so you can meet their primary care doctor and find out the physician's emergency contact information. Find friends or family who would be able to house sit, pet sit or babysit at a moment's notice.