That Darkest Place

When I was 14-years-old, my father went to the Mayo Clinic. He died there, never having returned home.

When my children were teenagers, I told them the story of Daddy never coming home. I stressed that if they were ever going to be late getting home, I needed them to call me and let me know (these were still the pre-cell-phone days). In the event they did not get home on time, and did not call to let me know, I would tack on minutes for reasonable factors that could have interfered with our agreement. I then set an outside time limit in my mind that they would return home. If that time came and went with no phone call, I would basically “freak out.” Obviously, they were dead in a ditch somewhere.

phone call

In her AgingCare.com article: 6 Things Long-Distance Caregivers Understand, Sheri Samotin describes the similar feelings that long-distance caregivers have when roles with their parents have reversed:

If you are a long-distance caregiver, you probably feel as though you’re often in the dark.  You call and call your loved one, but there’s no answer. You go to that darkest place – something must have happened. Then, if you’re like most of us, you go into full alert mode, calling every five minutes. Perhaps you call your loved one’s neighbors. Maybe you even call the police. After all, you’re the caregiver and you don’t want “anything bad” to happen on your watch.

Sheri’s words ring familiar when reading Judene’s story in “What to Do about Mama?”

Dad would go in to see Mom at the hospital, then go to supper at one of the local restaurants. I would call long distance to the house to make sure he got home safely, but on one occasion there was no answer. So I ended up calling around to several of the restaurants to ask if they had seen him. I called the neighbors, who went to the house to see if he was home, and thank God he was. WTDAM p.68

For some really good pointers about dealing with the “worry” aspect of long-distance caregiving, please visit: http://www.agingcare.com for the full article:

6 Things Long-Distance Caregivers Understand

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Barbara Matthews