The caregivers of bi-polar parents that I know, and with whom I correspond, are generally helpful people. You wouldn’t know it from this blog but I do try to be helpful, considerate and enthusiastic and generous. Like any other feature of your personality, it can be made to work against you.
This is a critical tip for newcomers which is why I am making it a stand-alone item despite being very short. I don’t want this to get lost in one of my lengthier articles.
Let us say that your bi-polar parent has been in the hospital for some reason, either for an episode, or because of a medical procedure. If the hospital calls on Friday afternoon, and says your bi-polar parent is ready to be released but you need to stay with her or him for the next 48-72 hours. Well, you have your own family, your own life and work situation.
- The call will come from a blocked number after lunch
- You will be presented with a statement implying your consent: ‘Your parent is ready for discharge. You’ll need to stay with your parent for 48 to 72 hours ….’
I understand if readers of this web site think I am hard-hearted but believe it or not, I do try to be a helpful soul but being the giving people we caregivers tend to be, you’ll say yes before realizing it. Look, I realize that governments need to cut back these days because times are hard and that I’m writing from the comparative luxury of a country with national medicine (sorry to our American friends) but ethically, given everything else you do, you’re allowed to use the ‘no’ word.
If your bi-polar parent is in the hospital for a comparatively minor procedure, and it is Friday, expect a call from a blocked number from someone very, very, very, very well-practiced at getting you to agree to having you take your bi-polar parent into your home for observation. If you say ‘no’ the social agency officers will find a place for your parent. It may be in an irregular ward, but they’ll find a spot, don’t worry.
What are the ethics of this? Look, you are under no obligation to say yes to something astonishingly disruptive just because someone asks. Given everything else that I do, the ‘no’ word is probably one I should use more often. I remember once I was giving a speech one evening and I got the call. They wanted to know what the speech was about and where I was giving it.
Prepare for the call on Friday afternoon. I am not you and you are not me so we’ll each handle it differently.
- If it’s not possible, use the ‘No’ word but be prepared to be on the phone with someone who has a lot of experience in getting you to agree. Have your answers ready. A white lie may be needed here (kids with the gastro, you’re on a trip and are already 400 km away, tell them you’re in the hospital yourself with the Lurgi, or you live in a tree.) Be warned, they’ve heard them all so have your explanation ready. Note that I say explanation and not lie. A legitimate reason to say no is exactly that.
- If you cannot say no, you just don’t have the personality for it, on Friday afternoon, do not answer the telephone if an unfamiliar or blocked number rings.
- Visit the hospital late at night after the discharge office is closed, after 8:30 p.m. is usually safe.