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The Caregiver's Cairn - The Best Laid Plans

Greetings one and all…



It is a glorious morning in Denver today. Just a hint of fall in the morning air. I hope you are enjoying a lovely start to your day as well. Before shifting into high gear, I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or brew a cup of hot tea and settle into a cozy chair. It’s time to chat about the importance of preparing to care for each other. If you have read any of my previous blog postings, you know that I am all about being proactive when it comes to caregiving and care receiving. Family and friends must ask the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how in order to care well for those we love. However, as I learned a few weeks ago, even when we think we have the bases covered, our best-laid plans may prove to be inadequate due to lack of information and ineffective communication.


Over the past year, a dear friend of mine has been challenged by a myriad of medical issues. She is 81 years old. Independent. Feisty. Optimistic. Funny. Courageous. Loving. Determined. Proactive. And, she lives alone. So, her family and friends have combined forces to companion and to care for this dear soul. A few weeks ago, she asked me to be “her person” for a minor procedure (outpatient surgery). The amputation of a toe doesn’t seem too minor to me, but I guess it’s all relative. Anyway, prior to the procedure, I asked my friend what she needed during the recovery process. Based on her conversations with the doctor and nurses, she would only require transportation to and from the clinic. Once home, the doctor advised her to take it easy for a few days. Elevate her foot when sitting. Wear a protective boot. Take medications as prescribed. Sounded good, right?


Well, the day of the minor procedure, the doctor stopped by to re-examine my friend’s toe prior to the surgery. During the initial conversation, the doctor confirmed that I was helping to care for my friend. The doctor then casually explained the recovery process. My friend was not to be on her feet for any reason other than trips to the bathroom for the next 5 days. Walking or standing could compromise the stitches thus resulting in delayed healing, infection, or worse. My friend looked somewhat surprised by this news—as was I. At this point, I didn’t know if the confusion was due to lack of information or misinformation. When I explained to the doctor that my friend lived alone and planned to recover at home, the doctor glanced at me and suggested I get some additional help. Seriously? It was 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. The “minor procedure” would take 90 minutes during which time I was supposed to recruit family and friends for round-the-clock care over the next 5 days. So much for preparing to care! I had to shift into full-blown scrambling mode!


Today, I am happy to report that a surprising change in plans negated the need for 24/7 care. After re-examining my friend’s toe, the doctor determined that surgery was not required. So, there was no need to scramble. Hallelujah! But the experience reminded me of the importance of patient advocates—family members and/or friends who are willing to serve as additional eyes, ears, scribes, and interrogators during medical exams and consultations. Our advocates seek and gather the needed information to develop an effective plan of care. Granted, plans can change. But we increase our odds of being prepared to care by including our caring companions (our advocates) in the conversations. I know our medical system can be daunting. However, we must voice our concerns, pose our questions, and ask for needed clarification to develop an effective plan of care. Don’t be shy!


Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton


Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at and we will be in touch soon!

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA Author of Caregiving for the GENIUS Cardinal, LLC 303-489-3903 Caregiving Ambassador for AARP Colorado

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