I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a caregiver. The year almost ended without the coronavirus touching my immediate loved ones, until my grandparents tested positive in early December. I remember the irony, because all-in-all this has been a really good year for myself personally and professionally. So the moment I heard the news, it was like instant karma that right before the page would turn on this year, something so urgent and alarming would occur.
Fortunately with three children in the city, my grandparents were immediately cared for. They consulted with their doctors and received medication to prevent other complications (in. anti-inflammatory pills, antibiotics, cough suppressant, inhalers, etc). Then my brother and I went a step further to develop a contingency plan – who would take them to the hospital if needed? Can we prepare their medical information now? What equipment and supplies do we need to order so we can care for them?
We bought the HEPA filter, pedialyte powder, contactless thermometer, and oximeter. I packed a bag and went to a hotel nearby in Brooklyn for the long weekend just in case. I went over to set up my Alexa Echo which has a camera and would allow me to “drop in” to check on them, without requiring them to answer in the scenario they were ever “not responsive.” While I was there, I also took photos of their identification cards, health insurance cards, and a video of all of their medications. My brother and I then transcribed the video into a Google spreadsheet – what drug, dosage, quantity, prescription orders, doctor prescribed, prescribed date, filled date, pharmacy, and google definition of what the drug was supposed to do. If they ever needed to go to the hospital, we would be ready to tell doctors what they were taking – in what quantity and for how long.
Then in a second tab, we created a vitals tracker – what was their temperature today, oxygen saturation level, and heart beats per minute? Did they have a fever? Were they in normal range? Did they eat today, what did they eat? Are they sleeping? Do they have diarrhea? Did they replenish nutrients and rehydrate? Did they throw up today? Do they have their sense of taste? What can they taste – is it too salty or sweet?
Coronavirus turned their lives upside down for the first few days. As a grandchild, I was empathetic that my 80-something grandparents had their bodies turned on them – from being unable to keep food down to losing their sense of taste and smell, to being isolated from everyone and told to stay inside, alone. Just the two of them.
For ten days, I dropped in to help lead their vitals check (they had to administer the thermometer and stick the right finger in the oximeter). Twice a day. Two times each session to rule out an erroneous readings. After a while, they looked forward to my check ins and I, to seeing their faces. Still my grandparents. Still there.
Their vitals were normal. Their medications run their course. Time passed, anxiety lessened. Fifteen days and still counting.
I think to myself, what would I have done… if I wasn’t let go end of March? If I didn’t spend the month of April taking that Coursera class called ‘Vital Signs’ that taught me how to read bpm, blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen saturation. What if I never had my productive pause?
That one month, that one online class…
Imagine what I could do with three years.