When it rains, it pours. When I was building my startup last year, Staid, which we subsequently killed, little did I know I was doing primary research for... my own life. If you're wondering "where has Rob been the last while?", the answer is: dealing with a medical diagnosis for my mom while supporting my 91-year-old dad. She required some major surgery which had some complications before we have to get into further treatments. At the same time, my dad - who's recently broken his hip, has late stage dementia, and congestive heart failure - is continuing to ail. Add to that my mom got COVID in the hospital while convalescing there and then passed it to the family added more layers to the shit sandwich. (Hot tip: don't let a 91 year old get COVID). I spent weeks (along with my sister) popping back and forth between hospitals to advocate for each of their care and support them both physically and emotionally.
Oh, and my business partner and friend also had a run in with the hospital system for a week, putting them out of commission too.
While we're in the midst of all of this, I thought it may be useful to arm you, the sandwich generation, with a few things I've learned over the last month to perhaps ease the mental load if you find yourself in the same place as me.
- Have a go bag ready. Kinda like pregnancy, you need two. One for you because who knows where you'll end up sleeping, and one for your loved one because they will need stuff too. For each of you, you'll want a phone, a charging cable, a battery, a blanket, and layers of clothes so you can keep yourself comfortable. You want to be able to grab a bag and go when you get a call that you're on duty and don't have to worry about forgetting things. And everything will take longer than you think, so plan accordingly.
- You are the advocate. Don't be shy. I'm not saying be a jerk. I'm saying when you're sick it's hard - even if you're of sound mind - to know what questions to ask, remember what the medical pros say, and ensure your next steps are covered. And I've learned time and time again that the advocate ultimately is the one ensuring there is continuity of care between nurses, doctors, shift changes, and sometimes just common sense.
- Mental health will suffer, so do something about it. I've found that as one ages and spend more time in the hospital, the patient become anything from disoriented over time to delirium. While we (in Canada at least) don't have a useful mental health strategy while convalescing in the hospital, do what you can to make their stay less crappy. I put The Manadlorian on my mom's iPad so she could do something fun, for example.
Note that your mental health will suffer too. It's exhausting and you'll have to remember that it's a marathon and not a sprint. But be kind to yourself and I find that communicating what you're going through with other people gives you context, support, and empathy, and you'd be surprised at how many people are going through exactly what you are too. For some reason, as a society, we don't talk about this as openly as I think we should.
Hope that was useful! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...