How many times have you used this phrase, and perhaps with sad regret? I still recall acutely saying that to myself after my father passed away. I simply adored my dad and welcomed the opportunity to care for him in my home for the last five years of his life. Yet, there are still times when I wish that I had taken more time to learn about his boyhood. I wish I had heard the full story of how he lost much of his hand in a giant machine when only a boy fresh from high school. If only I had paid more attention to this pickle recipe. Sigh.
I am currently the caretaker for my mother. Astonishingly strong at 92, she lives with me, too. She’s heartbroken of course from the loss of the love of her life, but still kicking – and, as she always adds – “not very high, though.” While she takes care of herself quite well every day, she still needs some help. Alzheimer’s, that cruel memory thief, is starting to visit her more frequently now, although she seems to fight back with times of surprising clarity.
My fear, however, is something happening when I am not there. Someone is with her nearly all day, but there are a few hours in which she is alone, save for our two dogs who consider sleeping on or near her a non-negotiable right. It has hit me recently that I (Ms. Emergency Management Person!) have not really “prepared” her for a large scale disaster. I haven’t given our close neighbors keys to our house, or a list of her doctors and location of her medication. I haven’t given her specific instructions on what to do in an earthquake because, honestly, I am fairly sure she will forget them. However, imagery is apparently a potential substitute for those diminishing short-term memory cells, so I could make pictures of what to do. Pictures of protecting your head, pictures of wearing shoes, pictures of hanging on to something during an earthquake – all might just save her life, or at least reduce the harm.
So, tonight I am starting on my “Prepare My Mom” campaign. I will make instructions for my neighbors and dig out spare keys for them. I will check the bookcases in all part of the house to make sure they won’t tumble on her when the ground shakes them over. I will start making pictures of things she should do during an earthquake or fire.
I just have to start and start now. I don’t want to be filled with regret and sorrow that I could have done more, sooner and better. I want to do all I can to protect her and keep her safe. And I don’t ever want to say, I wish I had...
You can do this, too! Need to get prepared? Make a list, make it happen. I’m rooting for all of us.