Wednesday, February 02, 2011

winter caregiving

Caregiving in winter is as much about the caregiver / carer as tools. The only guarantee is that with each winter the carer / caregiver gets older, and with winter weather the unexpected is to be expected.
Contrasts between home care and care facility care are unquestionably amplified in winter. In a care facility, options for acute medical care, prescriptions and care needs are already in place or come to Patti. Homecare faces transportation and accessibility challenges through every minute of any and every winter storm. How often is a snow plow going to appear and get you to medical care?

When able bodied people are struggling to get around, the mobility challenged can ‘fogetaboutit’. Streets may get plowed but wheelchair curb cuts won’t be seen until Spring thaw.

Just last Winter, my car was totaled returning from work in pre-blizzard hours and I was stranded for two nights away from home. Fortunately Patti was safe and warm in her care facility. Home alone and non-ambulatory from Multiple Sclerosis, confused and unable to use a phone God only knows how that could have played out. My best Plan B from the home care era never actually anticipated anything happening to me.    

Winter caregiving is not only about about worse case scenarios, sometimes it’s about getting out to enjoy winter. In our earliest days of living with Multiple Sclerosis as a family, I shoveled cubic football fields to empower Patti as she pulled sleds through the streets on her scooter.
MS progression has affected Patti’s physical and cognitive abilities in the eighteen winters since scooter sleigh rides but not the spirit that answers to the north wind. Just last night storm running a forecast of freezing rain and ice I picked up Patti from her care facility for an outing of hot chocolate and ciggies. Tucking one happy camper into bed, I drove home climbed out of our van only to find myself stepping onto a sheet of ice and reflexively pulling off a damn good figure skating lunge to the bottom of our driveway.

Respect winter, yes, but more importantly embrace it.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Do be careful on this ice, Patrick. This winter has been murder. Can't wait until Spring arrives -- and according to the PA rodent -- just 6 weeks! (Think I'll believe Gus -- the second most famous over Phil!)

  2. I echo what Muffie said; do be careful on the ice Patrick! it is deadly indeed!! It speaks volumes of the care you give in care giving that even in the worst of conditions, you do try to do what you can to spend time with Patti and give her a good quality of life! Just be careful while you are doing it :)


  3. I can easily say - if I may - that Patti could never lose her spirit, and you're part of that too. Yes, winter ambulation is more of a production than normal unobstructed moving around, which has nothing "normal" about it in the BEST of times lol. This is almost like war, with the frozen snow and black ice. Dangerous, needs constant vigilance, frightening - and people who don't realize the walker your using is your life-line, they don't move aside, don't notice, don't see. I know the elder disabled are the invisible but thankfully for those like Patti, some will always be directly in sight. Bless you all.

  4. I always love your posts because it makes me think of things I never would have. The obstacles of winter travel when in a wheelchair for instance. You must be a pro at it by now. Rick has gone down twice on the ice this year but fortunately hasn't suffered any long term damage.

  5. The caregiver has to take care of himself too. Be well!

    I too love your posts. Your caring nature shows through every time.


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