That being said, it seems as if this entire process and year has been preparing me (unbeknownst to me) for this round with my mother. All those lessons in faith and patience were drawn upon to get through the waiting. All those times that things did not go as planned but still ended up fine were drawn upon when there was a hiccup and recovery did not go as planned. Every step lead to the next and path was always there, even though I may have struggled to see it.
So what have I learned from all of this? Well quite a bit actually; so here are the top 10 things!
1.) If you sit long enough to be present for several nurses rounds, you pick up a vast amount of Medical Jargon that will be useful if there is a next round. (Also helps you to figure out the "right" questions to ask)
2.) Interior designers of Hospital waiting rooms have clearly never had to sit in a hospital waiting room. Somehow, they always find chairs that seem like they would be comfortable and cushy but after about an hour have become more like rocks underneath you.
3.) No matter how many times a hospital has been added onto, there is almost always a grid to the layout, get the grid you will be able to navigate whatever hospital you encounter.
4.) Names matter! Not just the names of patients; but the names of Nurses and Doctors that come in to help. Get to know the names, use the names, and you will feel more comfortable conversing and asking questions about what is happening to your loved one.
5.) The POWER of THANK YOU can not be truly measured. Hospitals are high stress environments not just for you but also the people who work there. Say thank you whenever you can. Make it more powerful by combining this with #4- Saying "Thank you Joan" can make a world of difference.
6.) Balance patience and boldness. There is a lot going on and sometimes people forget things, it is normal in every job, in every environment. However, when it comes to our loved ones in a hospital they are the only focus for us. It is up to the support people to ask questions and be sure that things are not being forgotten (but always try to speak with calmness and kindness... will get you farther.)
7.) Remember while in waiting rooms that you are surrounded by other families who are also worried and stressed out.
8.) Sleep whenever you can! Similar to a new mom who is told to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, this is also true of support people in hospital settings. The days tend to be long and rest will be needed. It is amazing how much sitting around being worried and/or stressed can take out of you.
9.) EAT!!! Take the time to walk around, go to the snack shop, the cafeteria, a coffee shop and get some food in you. If you bring some snacks with you, try to remember to take a brief walk every time you snack.
10.) This is probably one of the most important and one of the hardest. It is in essence the combination of #8 & #9 but is more encompassing. It is impossible to be supportive and caring for another if you do not take care of yourself. Sometimes that means you have to be okay with asking someone else to sit with your loved one so you can leave the hospital and take a break from it all. This may not seem like a big deal, but you would be surprised how hard it can actually be. There is always that thought that something might happen and I wouldn't be there. This may be true, but everyday, every minute of your life, something might happen and you may not be there. Take care of yourself so that you can truly take care of your loved one.
Of course I always end up thinking of an 11th so here it is.......
#11 DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO ASK FOR HELP! Often the hardest part of this is that you may not know what kind of help you need. If friends and family offer to bring food, sometimes you should say yes even when you think you are not hungry. Base the answer on when you last ate, not if you are craving food. Offers of taking over so you can sleep, take a break, run home, shower, or change; should also be accepted because of #10. Be accepting of even just the quiet presence of friends or family beside you, holding your hand, giving you a shoulder to lean on, offering an ear to listen; taking someone up on this shows more strength than you can ever know.
So there are my tips and observations after my rounds through the halls of six different medical facilities this year. No offense to 2013, but I am sure looking forward to locking you away in the record books and moving on. Hopefully this will be the last round in the halls of a hospital this year, but who knows. With a little over a month left in 2013, I am hopeful; but then again I am always a bit hopeful. Hope is what keeps us going and gives us the motivation to chase our dreams.