Caregiving, Cancer, Computer and Convention Come Together Tonight

Helping Aging Friends

While I should have been writing tonight’s post early this evening in order to watch the convention tonight (I’m a convention junkie every 4 years), my brother calls my cell phone. It’s dinner time in NY. Initially I let it go, waiting for a message. No message. Instead he calls my husband’s cell. I realize it’s important.

My brother’s very good friend, age 75, has cancer. A biopsy taken today may not be back for 3-5 days, but scans show 2 highly suspicious tumors. He’s in the VA hospital.  Should he come to NYC where the experts are–to Sloan-Kettering? Can I recommend someone? While I do know someone who “lives” the medical field and does thorough research, added information before action is needed.

I’m also aware that the sister whom I’ve never met and I assume is in her 70’s, is already caregiver for 2 sisters. One, 82, is confined to a wheel chair; the other has major health issues. The caregiver sister has been the sole caregiver for several years with a little help from her 75-year-old brother. Since all the siblings live together, it’s probable that she will soon have additional caregiving responsibilities because of her brother.

I first learned of the situation on my visit to the Northwest–understood from my brother that the caregiver sister said she didn’t think she “could take any more.” In trying to get her mobility-challenged sister from the wheel chair to the car the week before, she and her brother had fallen and suffered bruises. She was exhausted. And that was before her brother’s probable cancer diagnosis. So last week I complied with my brother’s first request that I speak with the caregiver sister.. He gave me her number and I phoned–trying not to be intrusive.

Caregiving in a Vacuum

The sister was appreciative, basically clueless about support. Visiting nurse services? She’d never heard of them. Social services? Her mobility-challenged sister was receiving physical therapy each week–had been for at least a year–but she didn’t know who arranged it and knew nothing about social services. This woman has been caregiving in a vacuum.

While my knowledge about specific support services in that city is very outdated, I know hospitals have social workers. And since she was spending time at the VA hospital, I suggested she start there and also tell nurses taking care of her brother about her situation and seek suggestions for possible help. Additionally I suggested she discuss her situation with the physical therapist the next time she came.

The writing of this post is halted.

Tonight, at my brother’s request, I once again phone the caregiver sister.  She’s appreciative and begins by telling me that she never would have known about visiting nurses or social workers had it not been for my phone call last week. (She immediately took action and scheduled a social worker’s visit for tomorrow.)

We talk about hospice. Like so many, she has the misconception that one must be on death’s doorstep to use their wonderful services. She never heard of respite. Said she was going to talk to the social worker about that tomorrow.

Then I ask about using a computer to gain information or even share concerns on a blog or website (like so she wouldn’t feel so alone. This seemingly smart woman is computer illiterate. Never used a computer. While it’s never too late to learn when one has a good mind, it saddens me that she’s without this valuable tool.

*                             *                            *

We do what we can to help aging parents–and  friends and our friend’s and sibling’s  friends. This caregiver sister is doing more than she stretched to the limit, while awaiting the biopsy report. So much is out of our control, yet we can take heart: sharing information and being supportive to caregivers is under our control.

Additional Resources:…l-when-to-call/ ‎  information from a former hospice nurse concerning when to hospice–as well as the fact that people under hospice care can still go to work, some actually get better with hospice care routines and some come off hospice.


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