It was a beautiful winter day; all was going remarkably well! As a caregiver, you know to spot these days, to cherish them and appreciate that they may not be frequent experiences in your week or even your month. This was one of those days, lovely in every respect.
In addition to how smoothly the day had gone, my husband had also received assistance with both a shower and shave at his daycare and been returned to me, clean and happy. So happy, in fact that I took him to the hair-cutting salon where he also got a much-needed haircut and eyebrow trim. He was looking and feeling good!
Knowing that I had a class that evening, I decided to add to the charm of the day and take us out for supper – something very simple, just burgers at the local, family-owned restaurant nearby. We don’t go there often, but this seemed like a day worth celebrating just a bit, and to top it off, I would not need to cook dinner! An added bonus.
We had a good meal – all was well, until it wasn’t! Walking to the car – no snow, no ice, no uneven pavement, for no apparent reason at all, my husband fell.
He hit the asphalt pavement hard enough to split his head (and heads bleed profusely!) and couldn’t get up on his own (understandable, he’s 91 years old). The restaurant manager came to our rescue and helped him up and into our car. He offered to call for emergency assistance, which I declined, and off we went, with a stash of paper napkins staunching the stream of blood that dripped from dear hubby’s eyebrow. Oh well…
I’ll never know what caused his fall – did he trip on his feet, lose his balance, suffer a TIA? He does have Alzheimer’s disease, and falls are common in the later stages of dementia. It probably doesn’t matter – what was clear was that from the moment he fell, the event had hijacked our day (my day) and everything else we did for the next 24 to 48 hours would be related to addressing the fall’s sequelae.
This was the perfect opportunity for upset. But, in our house, I try not to turn anything into an emergency that doesn’t absolutely need to be a crisis. So, this event was no different. It would naturally consume my time and attention, and when we got home, I did get the bleeding stopped and an ice-pack applied to the rapidly-bruising skin around hubby’s eye and cheek. He’d look dreadful by morning. But, the good news was, he wasn’t in pain!
By morning, priorities had shifted. Now, his right hand & wrist were swollen, and he was appreciably more uncomfortable than he had been the night before. I got him dressed and took him to an orthopedic urgent care assuming he might have broken a bone in his wrist or hand. There, they wanted nothing to do with his hand until we addressed the wound on his head (which really made him look as if he’d lost a street-brawl the previous evening). So, off we went to the local hospital’s emergency room where head-imaging could be ordered. Still, we were pretty calm.
We spent the better part of the day in the emergency department waiting room. Clearly, we were not the priority there – no bleeding (by this time, just bruises) and a swollen hand/wrist. Everyone was pleasant, but they were also busy, with their resources clearly stretched, and far more urgent traumas to attend to than my hubby had suffered.
The hand x-ray revealed no fractures, so a splint was applied to reduce movement and allow the swelling to recede. The head CT revealed no internal bleeding, and since he had not suffered a concussion, just a gnarly cut, we were able to depart for home – all this only consumed 6-hours of our day!
It would be easy to moan about this disruption of our day/week. After all, I had other things I’d planned to do on the day following his fall. My day would instead be devoted to obedient waiting (that is why they call it the waiting room) while healthcare took its required time to check him out and assure his injuries were both minor and managed.
That’s the pattern in our culture, we moan, groan, complain and awfulize (speaking of events as if they were much worse than they actually are!). It is a familiar habit to fall into that offers easy access to a day of distress, upset and unhappiness – we feel as if we need to make a scene (for ourselves, and for anyone else who’ll listen) about the misery of our highjacked day!
What can hijack your day? It often talks much less than a fall-with-injury to get us caught-up in our own misery! A meeting that starts late, or restaurant service that seems slow, or even congested traffic can be enough to seemingly hijack our day – and thus, our mood and mentation. We give in to the temptation to make it worse than it is; to create a crisis where there is none, and to let it ruin our day.
I urge you to notice how little it takes to ruin (hijack) your day! And I encourage you to make a conscious choice to decide that you’re not going to let this be a crisis unless it absolutely has to be! Just by noticing that you have a choice, will give you a moment to be mindful and perhaps select a response that is more conducive to creating calm rather than chaos – for yourself and others.