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!integrity

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.

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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!

integrity

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.

90 going on 3 …

90 going on 3 … what does that mean?

There is a fine line for caregivers to take as their loved one’s dementia progresses.  To honor and respect the person  you want to treat them as an adult, capable of making decisions for themselves.  Reality often comes to bite you when you realize their choices aren’t best decisions for their safety and welfare.  You honestly can’t allow them to go out in a snowstorm in shorts and a t-shirt, nor is eating candy for every meal a good option.

So, in reality what 90 going on 3 means is you have an adult (parent, grandparent, spouse …) who because of their disease now has the reasoning capacity of a 3 year old.

How do you continue to honor and respect your loved one, keep them safe, and allow them to have a say in their daily life?

The first thing is to give them simple choices and keep it to a minimum of 2 (maybe 3) options to choose from.  By giving them completely open options you will overwhelm them and will not get a positive outcome.

Pick out clothes that are weather appropriate – grab two tops of different colors and ask which they’d prefer.

Ask them if they’d prefer ham or turkey on their sandwich.  Or if they’d prefer green beans or peas with the meatloaf.

Would they prefer milk or tea?

Would they like to visit a park or a go listen to a concert?

Sometimes when trying to give my grandpa a choice of restaurant I would tell him “We can go to X – they have (a dish he liked at X) or we can go to Y – they have (a dish he liked at Y)”.

If we were going to a restaurant he’d never eaten at (or hadn’t been to in a long time), he would look at the huge menus and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. He would get so overwhelmed that he’d simply order whatever I ordered – even if it wasn’t something he liked.  I would usually take the menu and start by finding the drinks and ask him if he wanted something hot or cold to drink.  We would start there.  Then I would ask him if he was in the mood for fish, poultry or beef.  Then I would help him narrow down the menu to a couple of selections.  Once we got to that point he would be able to make his decision about what he wanted to eat.

Keep these to things that are immediately relevant, they won’t necessarily remember their choices hours later.  (E.g.: They won’t remember in the morning that the night before they wanted to wear a blue shirt.)

Now you are allowing your loved one some control over their daily life AND keeping them safe.  By following this technique you will usually find that there are fewer conflicts.

Beware! Scams against seniors.

There are some sick and twisted people out there taking advantage of seniors and trying to scam them of their money.   Please read these articles and make the seniors in your life aware of them!

Currently there are two that are targeting seniors.  One involves someone impersonating a police officer or IRS agent, they call and state that the senior owes back taxes and they need to make a payment immediately over the phone or risk jail time.  Let your loved one know that the only way Uncle Sam will let you know that you owe him money is via US mail.

The second one involves someone calling claiming to be a grandchild in desperate need of money to cover an emergency expense.  Before trying to bail out the grandchild the grandparents should call the parents or return the call to the grandchild via a known contact number to confirm the need.

Follow these links to find out more information on these scams:

IRS Scam

Grandma Scam

Fire danger season –

At this time of many fires spreading across much of the US, I thought I would send out an extra message to those of you who care for seniors.  Even if you aren’t in direct line of one of the fires the smoke can travel for miles causing air quality to drop.

When wildfire smoke becomes thick in the atmosphere there are several groups of people who are affected by the contaminated air.  One of these groups of people are seniors.

As we age our lung capacity diminishes and for many seniors the wildfire smog puts them is serious danger for respiratory problems, including pneumonia.

As best as possible keep your senior indoors when smoke is heavily in the air.

If you find that your home isn’t sealed well against drafts try some simple and cheap ways to temporarily seal up the areas allowing smokey air into your home.

The usual areas for air leaking from outside to inside are around doors and windows.

A damp bath towel along the base of any door leading outside will help stop and filter airflow.  A damp sheet tacked around a window sill will filter airflow around the window casing.

If there is no avoiding a trip outdoors for your senior, encourage them to wear a mask while out of doors.  The best style of mask for this is referred to as a N95 – other types of masks will not filter out the fine particulates found in forest fire smoke.

If your senior starts showing any signs of respiratory distress, do not hesitate to contact their doctor and get them into seek medical help.

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!integrity

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.

Facing the final days, with Hospice at your side

I held Dad’s hand when he passed.

I held Grandpa’s hand when he passed.

Hospice held my hand during their last days.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful Hospice has been to our family!  The old stereotypes of Hospice care are no longer true.  Back in the mid 80’s when Grandma was dying of ovarian cancer they provided her with pain medication and tried to keep her comfortable.  That’s good, but today they provide more.

The doctors and nurses work with the patient and family to ensure comfort and quality of life.  Nursing assistants will come out a couple of times a week to help with bathing.  Chaplains come over to provide spiritual support and a sympathetic ear.  Social workers help you find the resources you need while caring for your loved one.  Volunteers come on board to provide respite care so you can run errands or just take a break.

Hospice will provide durable medical equipment (eg: hospital beds, wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators, bedside commodes …) and disposable supplies (eg: adult briefs, some medications, special pillows to prevent bedsores …)

They spend the time necessary to help you learn how to provide needed care.

Many doctors are hesitant to bring up the concept of starting Hospice care.  This stems from the idea that by suggesting Hospice they are acknowledging that they have failed to find a cure.

There comes a time where a decision must be made; continue to seek treatments that aren’t effective anymore or make the most out of each day.  Hospice is all about making the most out of each day.

If you feel you are at this point (or your loved one feels this way), speak with your doctor.

Grandpa was on Hospice for almost a year.  Until the last two months of that time he was able to; visit with family, go out for a meal, attend church services, and do many other things he enjoyed.  During his time on Hospice we held a huge party for his 95th birthday at an historic venue.  The only concession we had to make for his declining health was to bring his lift recliner so he could sit and be comfortable.

When we had questions, either about Dad or Grandpa, we could call the nurse helpline 24/7.  If we needed a nurse in the middle of the night, one was available to come to help.

When they passed, Hospice was there to provide support and care for our family.

Once your loved one passes, Hospice continues to offer support for the family.  They offer bereavement counseling and support groups for any family member.

To find out more about Hospice care click here.