How to Be a Helicopter Child
As you know, most boomers are sandwiched between helping care for their grandchildren and caring for their aging parents. As my husband and I have faced the medical needs his ninety-year-old father, one thing has become perfectly clear. We need to be helicopter children.
Unlike the detrimental aspects of our over-involved helicopter parenting when we were raising our children, hovering over our parents’ medical needs seems to be a good and necessary thing.
If I listed the almost daily doctor visits my husband has to remember for his dad, it would take the whole blog, so let’s just focus on one. Take, for instance, our dad’s first hip replacement surgery. My husband, being retired, is running offence on all the medical decisions, phone calls and billing mistakes. Since Dad is mostly deaf, my husband usually gets handed the phone thirty seconds into the phone call anyway. For the hip surgery, he had worked tirelessly to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. He had taken Dad to every appointment and worked out all the timing, blood work, and CT scans. They were ready, the day approached and final papers came in the mail showing that the left hip was scheduled to be replaced.
The problem here was that it was the right hip that was being replaced! It was the right hip that hurt the most. This was the hip we had been talking about for three months. Again, my valiant hubby was on the phone, trying to convince doctors, that had agreed to replace that RIGHT hip, to replace the RIGHT hip. It was a battle, but eventually the correct hip was replaced.
And now, Dad is ready for hip surgery number two. Hubby was thrilled when the hospital told him that they had new a “wrap-around” case management service where we would be assigned a case manager to follow Dad through surgery and into physical therapy to provide for seamless communication. But on the day of the surgery, just to be sure, my husband made three phone calls: one to the case manager, one to the hospital social worker, and one to the physical therapy center where Dad would be going after the surgery to begin his therapy. He had been in this place three times already. They knew us, and he felt comfortable there. We wanted to make sure there was a bed ready and waiting. The hubby, he was a hovering like a helicopter.
And…guess what? When we got to the hospital after the hip surgery, the social worker was already there, informing Dad that he would be discharged home and have someone come into the house to do physical therapy. Oh, was Dad happy about going home instead of the rehab hospital! Unfortunately, that was impossible! This was Dad’s second hip and he needed that time at the rehab center to get strong enough to climb the stairs to our home. THAT is why my honey worked so hard to make sure EVERYONE knew this was the plan in advance.
In a world of overcrowded hospitals, poor medical coverage, doctors who throw prescriptions around like confetti, and the juggling of a multitude of specialists, you need to be helicopter kids just to make sure your parents don’t become victims of a broken system.
Here are some helpful tips on How To Be a Helicopter Child
- Make a list of all your parents doctors and their phone numbers. Be sure to call them by their first name; they like that.
- Get a calendar to write down all appointments so your parent can see them because they will ask every day, sometimes many times a day, “Do we have a doctor appointment today?”
- Keep an extra supply of hearing aid batteries in your house, car and office because they will always die at the most inopportune moments.
- Station yourself prominently and often in the hospital room so the staff know you are there. They tend to be more attentive if they think you’re checking up on them.
- Get to know all the names of the staff in the rehab hospitals or advanced care homes. Smile at them and thank them early and often. Send them flowers when your parent graduates to home so they’ll be kind to your loved one on your next visit.
- Most importantly, try and keep your sense of humor. Your parent put up with all of your literal crap when you were a child, as we know, paybacks are a …blessing.