by Janet Dawson
The phone rang on Mother’s Day. As the adult child of an elderly parent, it was the call we dread. The voice on the other end of the line, that of a dispatcher from an alert device company, said my elderly mother had activated her device. They had not been able to establish voice contact with her. The paramedics were on their way.
My mind whirled as I disconnected the call. Was it a heart attack, like the minor episode Mom had had the year before?
I called my brother and relayed the information. Ironically, he and his wife had visited Mom that weekend, but they were halfway home. Shortly after that, the paramedics called. Mom had fallen, her arm was broken, and they were taking her to the hospital.
Mom lives in Colorado. So does my brother—more than 200 miles and four hours south. For me, it’s two and a half hours on a plane, plus all that airport waiting that characterizes air travel these days.
At work the next morning, I alerted my supervisor and coworkers. I would be getting on a plane, soon. In southern Colorado, my brother drove to work, told his boss he was taking the week off, and got back in his car, driving north. Hours later, he arrived at the hospital where Mom had surgery to mend her arm. After a few days of hospitalization, she went into rehab.
My brother and I tag-teamed it. I flew to Colorado when Mom got out of rehab and he went home. For the next six weeks, we were back and forth, both of us playing home health aide.
That alert device, the one that my brother and I insisted Mom get? At first, she didn’t want to wear it. She would leave it hanging on doorknobs or on the top of her dresser. We nagged her to the point where she wore it all the time. I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn’t been able to press that button to summon help.
Those of us who have elderly parents know what it’s like to get that phone call, the one that means drop everything and make plane reservations.
That’s why I wrote The Sacrificial Daughter. The title is a term meaning the adult child of elderly parents who spends a significant amount of time looking after Mom and Dad. Back in the old days, a hundred years or more in the past, that would mean the daughter who didn’t get married, who instead lived at home, taking care of her parents. These days, both sons and daughters are involved in eldercare. And these days, with families spread all over this country and others, that also involves long-distance caregiving, lots of phone calls and emails, and travel.
What happens when Mom, or Dad, can’t live alone anymore? Or drive? What happens if an elderly parent isn’t eating properly, or hasn’t been to see a doctor in months? What happens if there are no family members to help?
Families can hire a geriatric care manager. And that’s who Kay Dexter is. The protagonist of The Sacrificial Daughter is a professional with a background in social work and geriatrics. She focuses her education and experience on looking after elderly clients. In other words, if Mom or Dad lives alone in the family home and the nearest family member is in another state, the family might hire someone like Kay to oversee that parent’s care and day-to-day requirements.
In that case, Kay would assess the client’s needs and make recommendations, helping family members hire caregivers, in some cases taking clients to medical appointments and making sure they have food, whether it’s grocery shopping or signing the client up for Meals on Wheels. Kay’s job is to observe and be alert to problems—and do something about them, whether it’s mobility problems or the onset of senile dementia. Or elder abuse, a problem that can be physical, emotional, or financial.
The Sacrificial Daughter is the first book in the series. Kay becomes embroiled in a dispute between two daughters. Initially, it looks as though they are fighting over their mother’s care. But the elderly mother also has a valuable estate, also a source of conflict.
At first, I thought the book would be a standalone, a one-off. But there are so many ideas, so many situations that I’ve seen in real life, or seen in news stories. Kay will be around for more books and I look forward to her world and the characters who live there.
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