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Long Distance Caregiving

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Beyond the Stethoscope:
Caregiving through a Doctor’s Eyes

By K.L. Anderson, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Upon returning home, all family members were contacted to discuss a plan of care. It was decided that the best alternative was to have the parents move in with Dr. Dan and his family to allow medical treatments to begin for his father. Fortunately, Dr. Dan’s wife, a former nurse, was willing and able to provide the daily care and supervision of her mother-in-law during this time of uncertainty and transition. Once the parents were resettled, a geriatric care manager was consulted for the purpose of support, planning and connecting to resources. Dr. Dan was also able to partner with his fellow physicians to take over the medical care needs of his father at the local hospital. 

The roles of a son and the patriarch of the family were once again challenged, as Dr. Dan took control of the situation, became the decision-maker, and assumed a leadership position. He became an advocate for both of his parents as they were now displaced from their home, had lost their independence (at least temporarily) and had to live within the hectic pace and lifestyle of their son’s family. Relationships had to be reestablished while still maintaining the parents’ dignity. His father, once a strong and capable leader who had served as a missionary in Africa and even fought off lions (literally), was now very ill, fragile from surgery and cancer treatments and had to be fully cared for along with his wife. This was one of the lowest moments his father had ever experienced and the weeks that followed proved to be difficult for the entire family. Everyone’s routine was disrupted and the impact of caregiving permeated all of their lives. 

Over the next couple of months, his father completed his treatments and gained back enough strength and perseverance to again provide care for his wife. They have since moved in with their daughter, who took over the next stage of caregiving, and are awaiting admission to an assisted living “campus of care” where they will reside in an apartment with supportive services. When Dr. Dan’s mother is unable to remain at this level of care, she will be moved to an adjoining nursing home where her husband can readily visit her. Everyone involved met this plan with strong approval. Through it all, Dr. Dan recalls that his ability to become a caregiver was fueled by the love and support of his family and help from his colleagues. This truly allowed him to remain steadfast and focus on the needs of his parents until the health crisis finally stabilized. 

Dr. Dan shares these final thoughts on how this journey has reshaped him as a person, a son and as a physician:

“First of all, my empathy and sensitivity index for caregivers has increased a hundred-fold and I am now better qualified and prepared to support and assist the caregivers and patients I see in my practice. I have an enhanced appreciation for the trials, decisions, and the urgency for help that caregivers face, along with the strength it takes to endure these circumstances over time. My experience has added to my worth and credibility as a physician and I find I am able to personally share my story with many of my patients.


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