Caring for a Loved One

Caring for a loved one isn’t easy, especially if your loved one requires tedious and round the clock care. Your loved one worked all their life to make their house a home and they aren’t about to leave and you’re not about to take it away from them. So what do you do? Constant in home care can be expensive. Waiting for your loved one to be evaluated to receive covered or low cost assistance can be potential options but not promising options. You worry that if you do find outside help, if that help will be respectful, responsible, and compassionate to your loved ones needs.

So, with that said, you and your family decide that it would be cheaper and more efficient for the family to care for your loved one. In some cases, the family is small; everyone works or goes to school. How can you manage and keep things on track?

First you want to assess your loved ones needs. What will the caregivers need to do? Don’t forget to include the little things. For example; based on my personal situation, caregivers would need to:

Assist with incontinence needs – this includes light shopping for incontinence needs
Provide companionship – this includes carrying on a conversation, watching tv, listening to music, playing cards, and observe their behavior changes
G-tube feedings
Hygiene assistance – bathing and dressing
Medication – administration of medication, noting when medication is low, pharmacy pickups – (power of attorney may be the best idea for medication pick-ups)
Sugar monitoring
Transportation – provide transportation to doctor’s appointments (power of attorney may be the best idea for attending and transporting your loved one to their doctor’s visits, more than likely this is the main caregiver family member)
Overnight monitoring – this includes preparation for bed and staying the night to care for any needs
Log daily activities
Answer telephone calls

Once you have a list compiled of what the caregivers will need to do on a daily basis, you then have to take a look at who the caregivers will be. Those caregivers will have to be assessed as well. Even though they may be family, some won’t feel comfortable handling some of the above outlined needs. With this in mind, you will also have to evaluate each person’s work/school schedules in order to create a monthly schedule of your own. This will help to organize work schedules, school schedules, holidays, and other plans your family may have.

Creating a monthly care schedule may seem like a hassle, especially if you have several people on board. I have found that using Excel will definitely make the process a lot easier. When creating the schedule, remember that everyone needs a day off. Just because you miss a day or two a week caring for your loved one doesn’t mean you don’t love or care about them. You have a personal life outside of your daytime job and caring for your loved one.

Allow for schedule changes. Your family. Remember that things happen. People get sick. Cars break down. Make sure that your non-family caregivers can be counted on in an emergency. If there are days that they cannot be available, remember that it is your responsibility as family to take the reins if someone bails on you. Also take into account the time of the year it is. Spring and summers are full of recreational outings that you plan for. Make sure that this is known in advance so that proper care can be organized. If a family member takes time off from their day job so you can go to a concert or on vacation, it’s only fair that you do the same if they have plans as well. Fall and winter may not allot for many recreational outings, however it does hinder travel times and weather related delays. During this time of the year, you may want to extend everyone’s shift by 30 minutes.

Attached is a photo of an example of what your schedule may look like.

When creating schedules, make sure that you create the next month’s schedule a week or two in advance so that each person has time to look over it and make any changes if necessary. Always place a copy of the schedule along with a list of emergency phone numbers on your loved one’s fridge or a central place for quick daily viewing.

Medication administration can get very tricky. If your loved one takes many different medications in the morning and evening, this can get very confusing. I understand that there are already created separators and other fancy storage containers that help you keep track, but there is a way you can manage this task without spending the extra money. All you need is a permanent marker. Mark the tops of the bottles with an O for those meds given in the morning. Mark an X for those given in the evening. Mark an O with an X inside of it for those given in the morning and in the evening. Mark the tops of the bottles with a checkmark for those given every other day. As long as all the medications are organized in one area, this should be an easy way to administer the medications. My family has been doing this for over a year now with no problems.

Keeping a daily journal will also help you keep track of everything going on by documenting anything and everything regarding your loved one for everyone who cares for them to see will help keep things organized. Logging everything from blood sugar levels to bathroom trips may help to reference split second questions if an emergency would arrive. These notes are also great to take with you to doctor appointments. The journal can also be a great place to note or ask concerns or questions from your caregivers.

An example of a journal entry would be:

April 3 –
9am – G-tube feeding 1 ½ cans, 2 flushes -medications given-blood sugar level 132
10:30am- Nebulizer treatment
11:30am – Bowel movement in diaper – buttocks very red and skin breaking – called doctor, prescription for ointment called in. pharmacy will deliver tomorrow morning.
1pm- Physical therapist was here. Did very well. She will return Friday
1:30pm – Speech therapist called, will be here tomorrow at noon.
2pm- G-tube feeding 1 ½ cans, 4 flushes
3pm- Changed diaper/bathed/wet through bed – changed sheets
5pm- Wanted to lay on the couch, very dizzy when getting up.
6pm- G-tube feeding 1 ½ cans, 2 flushes – slept through feeding.
9pm – G-tube feeding 1 ½ cans, 1 flush – medication – changed for bed / went to bed

As the weeks and months go on, balancing your day job, caring for your loved one, and keeping up with your home chores, relationships, friendships, and other responsibilities can become overwhelming. Days can seem to run together as you attempt to run yourself to the ground trying to get your to-do lists done. There may be days where you are caring for your loved one for 8 or more hours at a time. This can take a mental, physical, and emotional toll when you are trying to juggle all of your loved ones medical and non-medical needs. A lot of times, this can cause us to get wrapped up in the caring and secretarial aspect of things and pull you away from remembering that you are family. As family, you still have so many fun memories and times to share and reflect upon. If your loved one has a tendency to sleep a lot, take advantage of their waking hours by chatting, playing cards, listening to music, or watching their favorite movie.

Also, remember to take time for yourself. If your loved one does sleep the day away, take this time to relax. You may not be able to stray far from their side to take a bubble bath or do some cleaning, but you can bring a book to read, or a laptop to catch up on with work or just clear your mind.

When you have days off from caring for your loved one, take time for you. Neglecting to do so may create health problems for yourself, not to mention add stress to your work, social life, and love life. The last thing your loved one needs when then depend on you is to have you put into the hospital. Not only for the fact that it can hurt you in the long run, it will also add stress to your family covering your shifts, and add an un-needed amount of stress to the one your caring for as they worry about you more then they worry about themselves.

Caring for a loved one can often feel like it has taken on the role of having a second job. Most of the time it will, and you technically have. However, remember that you only have one life to live and your loved one may be nearing the last stages of theirs. Providing comfort, happiness, care, and love is the least you could do for someone who has loved you and cared for you in your times of need. You are contributing to their greatest wish; to be loved and cared for in the best possible way in the house that they made into a home… a home that you call your own. It’s all worth it in the end.