I took care of my mother for eight years as she went through several stages of heart disease and related issues. A nurse told me early on, “You have to be an advocate for your mother. You must check and recheck and let people know when things are not right.” I was tired and hurt and scared. I didn’t want to be a strong patient advocate any more; I wanted Mommy to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay.
I learned caregiver basics through trial and error, simple steps that made each transition safer and easier. Quite often it was routine things unattended that caused major interruptions in her care.
The best ways to avoid those problems is to be prepared. Whether you are dealing with a short-term medical issue, a lengthy illness or care of the elderly, you may face seemingly endless moving of the patient from one facility to another. Each move provides opportunity for error as patients are placed into a strange environment with people tending to them who are not familiar with their situation.
1. Keep a list of current medications and have them available to attendants as needed. Also, be sure to check this list against their list to make sure all of the medicines were transferred properly from one place to another. This is so very, very important and takes little time on your part.
2. Get to know the team even if the stay is to be brief. I continued to be amazed at the noticeable difference in care when I took time to learn the attendant’s name and treat each with respect. Most are there because they love people and want to provide adequate care for each patient. Too often they work under difficult conditions and long hours. A friendly encounter can be a breath of fresh air to a weary soul.
3. Keep the primary physician and others attending informed of all changes in behavior, eating habits, and reactions to foods or medicines. (I did not communicate well with Mother’s physician when she began not to talk. I thought it was just her stubborn will. Was it, or was something else going on that he may have been able to help?)
4. When making even minor decisions, consider the patient – make decisions according to their needs and preferences and not yours alone. Look around the room before you leave, do you need to tidy up the nightstand or close the blinds. Sounds trivial, doesn’t it? Would it be if you were flat on your back and couldn’t do anything all night and day but worry about the irritation, whatever it might be?
I’m thankful for each hospital and health care facility and the many dedicated people who work in them. Generally they proved to be a safe haven for Mother, a place for her to get good care, as well as a place for me to get a much-needed rest from the daily responsibilities of decision making.
Often I found comfort and encouragement in God’s Word, I trust you will, too. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace… ” Philippians 4:6-7