How can you do a job like that? I could NEVER do something like that!

love best medicine

When I began my journey as a caregiver I had people asking me how I could do such a thing, that they would never be able to do that.  They wanted to know how I could stand to see to the most personal needs of my father and then grandfather.  They couldn’t understand how I could find the compassion and patience to spend 30 to 45 minutes feeding my dad four or five times a day.

The simple answer is they’re family and that’s what family does.  The deeper explanation is, they did it for me.  From the time I was born my family has been there caring for me.  THEY changed my diapers.  THEY fed me.  THEY dressed me.  THEY bathed me.  I spit up and threw up on THEM.  I bled on THEM.  When I cried THEY comforted me.  THEY taught me, loved me and encouraged me.  How can I not reciprocate when THEIR time of need comes?

To that people will often concede the point but now that I have lost both Dad and Grandpa they ask why I continue to do this for strangers.

The honest truth is two-fold.  First of all, once I meet the people I am charged with providing care for they are no longer strangers.  They become surrogate family members.  I care for who they are as a person.  I try to learn about who they are, what makes them happy and how to encourage them.   They often have as much of a positive influence on my life as I hopefully have on theirs.

Second, I think of all the people outside of my family who had an impact on who I am today … teachers, neighbors, family friends, camp counselors, clergy, and random strangers providing random acts of kindness.  Most of these people are no longer in my life, but each of the people I care for were the teachers, neighbors, family friend, camp counselor, clergy or random stranger providing random acts of kindness for someone else.  So in my mind, in some odd concept of karma or whatever way you’d put it, I am returning the favor to a stranger in hopes that someone else is doing the same for those non-family members who had a positive influence on my life.

I have another reason for doing what I do.  I have seven wonderful nephews and four awesome nieces.   I believe the best way to show the future generation how to be compassionate, active, caring adults is by example.  I hope that by demonstrating to them how we should care for our family and strangers that I will have done my part to make the future just that much brighter.

So, to answer the question “How can I do something like what I do?”

I do it joyfully with hope, compassion and love.

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Caregiver dilemma: I’m scared of doing it wrong

Becoming a caregiver for someone you love can be a wonderful, but terrifying experience.  If you approach the experience with a deep love for your family member and the determination to make sure they are safe, loved and fulfilled as a human being should be then you will be wonderful as a caregiver!

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My most terrifying moment as a caregiver was the day we brought Dad back home.  He’d arrived via medical transportation and shortly afterwards I was alone with him for the first time.  I stood there scared beyond everything.

I was completely responsible for Dad’s health and well-being.  I had completed the coursework, testing and clinical experience required by my state to do this work.  I even had the little piece of paper to prove it!

But as I stood by Dad’s bedside that fateful afternoon I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  I was scared that I would do something wrong.  I was worried that I would cause him unnecessary harm with my ineptitude.

I took a deep breath.  I exhaled.  I did it a few more times – just to make sure I could.  I decided to start with the basics of caregiving.

I took Dad’s hand, told him that I was going to do my best for him and that I may have a bit of a learning curve.  I let him know that everything was going to be ok.  I spent several minutes talking to him, holding his hand and comforting him.

In comforting Dad I found that I was also comforted.  In telling him everything would be ok I felt that it would be ok.

I began to relax.  The fear that had frozen me dissipated and I was able to begin providing the personal care Dad needed.

There were times I made some mistakes, those mistakes didn’t make his condition worse.  The mistakes were a part of my learning curve and I did learn from them.  I used these lessons to provide even better care for Dad.

In the end I knew I had done everything I could to honor my father.  I had given him the care he needed.  I had ensured that his final days, weeks and months had been spent surrounded by love.  I do not regret forcing myself through my paralyzing fear – I would do it a thousand times over.

Nothing’s better than comfort food

There’s something special about sitting down to a hearty soup when the weather’s cold and blustery outside.  I honestly think it provides comfort to the soul, peace to the heart and when it’s also healthy, serenity for the mind.

This beef barley soup hits on all three counts, and since you can pop the ingredients into your slow cooker to simmer all day it also provides a stress free dinner!

Beef Barley Soup

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Dangerous drug interactions …

I’ve spoken before about the dangers of drug interactions, there are medications that do not work well together – an these can send you to the hospital (or worse).

I am not a doctor nor a pharmacist, so I will not try to tell you which meds interact badly with others.  I will tell you this one important thing:

Whenever speaking to your doctor and pharmacist about a new medication

ALWAYS tell them about everything you’re taking.  

Prescriptions by other doctors – TELL THEM

Over the counter supplements or pain meds – TELL THEM

Herbal supplements or teas – TELL THEM

Other medical conditions – TELL THEM

While in your doctor’s office speaking of a new medicine talk to him/her about all I’ve stated above AND when picking up a new prescription from the pharmacy speak with the pharmacist telling them about all I stated above.

It may seem redundant to have the same conversation with both your doctor and pharmacist but it isn’t.  Your doctor has an 8-year degree in the practice of medicine, which includes knowledge of drugs and drug reactions.  Your pharmacist also has an 8-year degree – but his specified in the study of chemistry, drugs and drug reactions.

Follow this link to a news story on the increase of hospitalizations due to drug interactions.

ER visits due to drug interactions on the rise

PS: The featured image is of my favorite pharmacist … my grandpa, who graduated as a pharmacist in 1941!

Big Pharma Vs Patient needs

We’ve seen this over and over again, patients being prescribed medications because the doctors are being encouraged by the pharmaceutical companies to prescribe.  Right now it’s some of our most vulnerable who are being prescribed medications that may or may not be safe for them.  PBA (pseudobulbar affect) is a real condition, but is rare and usually affects those with MS or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) but a surprisingly large number of dementia patients in nursing care facilities are being prescribed this medication often without the knowledge of their medical power of attorney.

It is being used as a behavior modification medication.  There hasn’t been sufficient studies to determine if this medication is; a) safe for use in dementia patients, b) actually works across the board as an effective treatment for behavioral outbursts or c) drug interactions with other medications typically prescribed for dementia.

This article goes into quite a bit of detail about the disturbing practices of the drug’s manufacturer, prescribing physicians receiving kickbacks for prescribing it and the fact that a medication designed to treat a rare condition specifically related to completely different diseases there are a large number of patients (especially in nursing facilities) being dosed with it.  Read here.

Project Life Saver

Wandering is such a worry for those of us who care for a loved one with dementia.  It seems that I cannot go a single day without hearing of someone wandering from their home or care facility.  We had such worries with my dad and found Project Life Saver through our local sheriff’s office.  A simple device attached to his wrist like a watch gave us peace of mind, knowing that if he did slip out of our notice we would be able to find him.

Go to their website to see if Project Life Saver is in your area or learn how to get them in your area. Project Life Saver