Balancing Work and Eldercare

Tips to Tell if Your Loved One's Call Is a True Emergency

One of the more challenging aspects of being a working caregiver is getting a call from your loved one -- or make that many, many calls -- and feeling unsure about whether you need to leave work to address it.

Here are some measures that can help you stay on the job:

Ask what else is going on. Beyond the person's primary reason for calling, try to suss out the person's emotional state. Is he or she truly sick or just bored? Worried about something or just lonely?

Talk on a webcam you've set up. You may need to have someone help your loved one to do this, but if you can see the person with your own eyes, it can provide more information about health -- and whatever else is going on -- than just hearing a voice.

Ask your backup to check. It's important to have two or three people who've agreed to act as emergency eyes and ears: a neighbor, church member, a paid caregiver at an agency you've connected with. A quick check may cost you $25 or so but will save you money compared with lost work time.

Find ways to help the person self-calm. You may be getting calls simply because your loved one is bored, lonely, anxious, or scared. Some people can be encouraged to pet a dog or cat or to hold a favorite blanket to feel comforted. But if this doesn't apply to your loved one, suggest a heating pad. Many people find psychological comfort in using a heating pad even if they don't have a backache. Be sure to get one that has an automatic-off system; these don't overheat or burn.

Look for patterns that warrant special solutions. If your loved one is calling over and over to ask you a basic question ("What time are you coming home?") or to remind you of something ("We need milk"), the problem may be increasing dementia. An elder companion or respite program can break up the hours alone and provide a watchful eye. If your loved one is consistently calling with reports of burglars and break-ins, the issue may be anxiety, and medication may be advised by his or her doctor.

over 3 years ago, said...

My mom calls me every day even though i have a in home caregiver.She stills wantse there.Im. at my wits end....

over 3 years ago, said...

I only had problems with calls when Mom was alive. Now that Dad has been alone for 18 months, I get calls from the facility when he has fallen, or has a skin tear. I decide after I've heard from them whether I need to come over right away or after work. It has become easier, although we miss Mom greatly!

over 4 years ago, said...

Particularly the last paragraph; out of a sense of survival, we have finally hired a young man to come in and break up the week. That helps, but I really think someone a little older, who could relate a little better to his life experience; I've tried every resource I can think of without success. Particularly ironic is that several organizations offer such services, but he doesn't qualify---even if we pay---because he lives in a for-profit assisted living. Go figure. Also, the thoughts about anxiety and possible meds is a great one to explore---if I can only get my husband to pursue it. In the meantime, I shall continue to go quietly insane with the incessant phone calls.

over 4 years ago, said...

Knowing what to look for and what to do helps those who are caregivers and those who need caregiving. Care giving is not a path in life we are taught in school. When it occurs, many are in "crisis mode." The ideas offered is useful and helpful.

over 4 years ago, said...

Just to know what to do when I run out of options.