Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post:
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Julie Morris’ Essay:
My name is Julie Morris, I am 47 years old and celebrating 26 years of marriage to my wonderful husband, Bruce. I have an 18 year old son, Mitchell, about to begin his freshman year at IUPUI Indianapolis. I am an entrepreneur owning and working in photography with my husband since 1989. I’m also a patient caregiver.
My caregiving story begins in March of this year. That’s when our usually busy “traveling at the speed of light” lives were changed overnight. It was spring break and it began innocently as we anticipated our first “away” family vacation in years. A special time for us knowing that as parents of a college student our family as we know it was about to change. It was mid-morning on a weekday as we sat at the airport. That’s when the phone rang. It was Bruce’s mother, crying, difficult to understand. She was unable to wake his father. It’s overwhelming how quickly panic and frustration consumes your thoughts. Bruce phoned his brother and explained what little he knew about this situation. We sat in the airport, silent, visualizing the scene. His brother scrambling to get to his mother as fast as he could, his father laying unresponsive on the bed. Not knowing what details led to this event or what the outcome may be. Rows were being called to board the plane. We were torn, but we discussed it and decided we’d travel the first leg of our flight and by that time we’d know the details and either proceed with our trip or redirect and go home. It’s a sickening feeling to sit on a plane and be asked to turn off your cell when you’re expecting a call that may carry devastating news. When we landed we received the news. His father, suffering from severe insomnia, had taken a sleeping pill early morning and was unable to respond to the attempts to wake him. We were relieved. However, this was just the start of a series of events with Bruce’s father 84 and my mother 70 that would consume our every hour for the next several months. Bruce’s father’s health had steadily declined with vague symptoms of dizziness, insomnia, difficulty breathing, and various other odd assorted symptoms which left him “just not feeling well”. It was a new norm for these life-long hard-working entrepreneurs who had just sold another of their husband/wife businesses in December.
My mother, 70 and a severe type I diabetic, was facing back surgery. She’s a retired Activities Director at the local hospital where she encouraged patients to participate in activities out of their room. She now spends her days, a Master Gardner, thoroughly enjoying her grassless flower-filled front and back yard at my childhood home. My father 73, retired carpentry teacher is always eager to create something new in the gardens, in the house, or even the kids houses, sometimes unknowingly. My father is bi-polar and as serious as this illness can be, he’s fun and provides comic relief for all our trying lives and that’s always a welcome diversion. Together my parents “peddle” coloring books that help children deal with crisis situations. Books my mother wrote as she was inspired to lead her young grandchildren, biblically through her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2003. But that’s another story entirely.
I wasn’t new to patient caregiving but I was thrown into the medical drama that surrounded the surgeries and illnesses and care of these elderly parents that escalated this summer. I suppose one never realizes just how much there is to know and how quickly one needs to know very well every detail of medical diagnosis, procedures, hospital protocol, the list is long. It was overwhelming and there was no time to think about how to get help.
We anticipated an overnight stay for Mom’s surgery. It turned into a full week followed by two weeks in rehab. Due to complications the game plan for maintaining her home insulin schedule simply went out the window. She had adverse reactions to medication and was in a temporary vegetative state. She was not able to participate in how many units of insulin she needed and her insulin was tricky at best to maintain. I was quickly learning there was a lot to learn.
During the time of my mother’s surgery and long recovery, my father n law underwent testing and surgery for bladder cancer, was diagnosed with emphysema, had an emergency heart catheterization to open what was 90% blockage of blood flow to his heart, diagnosed with type II diabetes and those are the highlights I can remember as I’m writing this essay. We made nine runs to the local emergency room. He basically was hospitalized April thru the end of June. Once home we faced the task of sorting through medications. Comparing the new list with the wide assortment of prescription pill bottles at home. We had to decipher what was no longer needed, not needed right now, what he should currently be taking, what needs refilled and then a large pile of leftovers that didn’t seem to fit any category. I spent hours sorting and organizing. It was an extremely important job and I was amazed at how in the world people could face this alone. It was a process but we finally worked through it together, my mother n law, my sister n law and I created a solution that sort-of revolutionized the dispensing of medicine in the Morris household. How do the elderly manage? I can’t imagine those who do not have their children to help them.
Families should all have badges of courage for perseverance. I know we all feel we’ve “survived” something big. Our parents are on their roads to full recoveries and that’s a great reward all by itself. My experiences this summer are what lead me to write this essay for the opportunity to attend this year’s Summit. I’d love to share the struggles of blindly finding my way in caring for the elderly and more importantly participate in the social media aspect of helping develop informational outlets so other caregivers have easy access to valuable information.
As a business owner I am eager to learn more about social marketing and in the commercial photography industry my client base is largely in the medical field. That’s one reason why I follow Mayo Clinic on twitter. I use twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and facebook to “follow” and research my areas of interest as they relate to business. I often re-tweet ideas I find helpful as an entrepreneur. I think the Summit is a great opportunity and I’d love to share specifically how our family team was able to combine photography with organization and sheer willpower to survive into the care of our parents. Some of our creative ideas especially the medication management system we implemented could easily be shared in social media format to educate on caregiving. I hope to benefit from the conference by learning ways that I too can share the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way. I avidly study and participate in marketing groups and I know helping others is a huge part of the best marketing plan. My favorite quote, as noted on my facebook profile is “The height of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. My hope in the simplest form is to share and idea that can make caregivers medication management jobs easier, and very different. And that along with my parents health is worth celebrating. I hope you will consider me for the scholarship. I would love to attend in the Fall.