Elder Parent Surgery, Part I: Getting Ready

Tomorrow morning my 84-year-old mom — a woman who volunteers in election campaigns, walks or swims most days, consumes countless books and newspapers, power uses her computer, and has boundless energy — is having some serious surgery. We are spending the night in a hotel near the large medical center, which is also a teaching hospital. Mom spent most of the day today doing extensive preparation for her surgical procedure.

She will check into the surgery unit mid-morning, and our hope — if the best outcome occurs — is that she will leave the same day. We plan to return to the hotel for another night rather than driving the 60 miles home on the same day as the surgery.

There are two other possible outcomes, and both involve more complex surgery with possible nights as an in-patient at the hospital. My mom is not at all fragile, but we want to be sure to prevent as many age-associated hospital complications as possible

My husband I are both here with my parents. During the surgery we plan to wait together with my dad, age 89, and then, when the surgery is over, figure out our next steps.          

Rule one, we have learned over the past several years: no elder parent should be left alone in the hospital. If the surgeon admits my mom to the hospital, we plan to be with her around the clock. My husband and I will share the nights, and we will all spend days with her. I have my copy of Elizabeth Bailey’s The Patient’s Checklist close at hand, along with our file of papers and legal documents.

I am not going to share personal details about my mother, but I am going to offer observations about the experience, describing from start to finish what it’s like to accompany an elder parent to the hospital.

Keep us in your thoughts.

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