Stress! That's definitely a part of the Sandwich Generation, isn't it. Some is bad, some is good, and some is both. A stress test would be both good and bad, as my senior mom and I discovered last week. The bad was having to get up early and head in with no food or water for 12 hours, and none to come for a good hour or two. The good was a big office and all but one room nice and toasty warm. The bad was a long and exhausting day for my mom. The good was the good news at the end of it – she and her heart passed with flying colors. Along the way, we came up with some tips to share with you and your family in case you or an aging parent heads in for a stress test one of these days.
I realize not all stress tests may be created equal, so some of these may not apply, but overall, we would suggest:
- Dress comfortably (elastic waist sweat pants are great) and make sure the tops are all easily buttoned rather than pulled over the head. Your senior dad might not care too much, but your senior mom and her hair (or yours) will very much appreciate that.
- Make sure the buttons and zippers are not metal! Our doctor's office could work around nylon zippers or plastic buttons but all we had that day were metal and my poor mom did get pretty chilly a couple of times. Fortunately, only one room was cold, but that was enough to give her the shivers a couple of times.
- Take a typed list of all the patient's medications. As much as I love Evernote, every time I've had to hurry to get the list of medications for my mom, I can't find them. And even though the hospital staff assures me each time they'll be in the computer for good "this time," they are never there the next time we go in. I finally got smart and typed a list of them all in my computer, where I can easily update them – print them out, save them to Evernote, copy them to my phone, email them, etc. MUCH easier that way. And boy, was the doctor's office impressed!
- Plan for a very long day – and allow plenty of time for resting afterwards. Just the being there so long can be exhausting for the patient, along with the uncertainty of the results. Our wonderful doctor's policy is to tell the results right after – and hopefully most do that.
- Be prepared, and prepare your parent, to stand or sit in positions that might be very uncomfortable for 5-10 minutes. This can be especially difficult for patients with arthritis or other health issues that curtail free range of motion. In one test, she had to sit on a chair with both arms up over her head, resting on a bar. Part of the problem was getting both arms up there without too much pain. The second time she had to do it, she had the technician allow her to do it herself, helped her sore arm up first instead of doing both at once, the put the other arm up with a bit of help. That was a big help. Then, with the technician's permission, she used her feet to push herself up just a tad, taking some pressure off her back and arms for the time of the test. It definitely pays to ask what position a person will be in and talk it through a bit before getting into position. But when it's your first time doing it, you don't often think to do that.
- Do NOT remove stickers and sticky-tags without checking with the staff. No – we didn't do that, someone else did. Turns out, they were left on them on purpose AT THAT POINT in order to run one more test at the end. Of course, I'm sure they had plenty more to put back on. And the part that made my mom and me chuckle after we got home – they really did forget to remove her last two.
All in all, it wasn't too much "stress" to take the stress test. But if we had followed these simple precautions, it would have been even easier for my mom. Hopefully they will help us remember if we have to do it again and help you if and when you or your aging parents have to go through this process. And YES, if you or another family member in your Sandwich Generation family have already done it and have more ideas and tips, we'd love to hear them!