Professional caregivers employ many tips learned in early training, through continuing education and from experience. For family caregivers at home, those tricks can help to save time and prevent problems. None of them are deep, dark secrets, but professionals often forget that not everyone knows them. Here are ten ways to make your care giving job easier.
1) Remember to use ‘tough love.’ Don’t do things for your patient that he can do for himself. When you cater to the patient, you risk weakening him through inactivity. Be helpful when necessary, always encouraging and never smothering. Help your patient to rebuild strength rather than weaken further.
2) To help a patient rise, brace yourself firmly and let the patient pull to you rather than you pulling the patient. You’ll help her build strength and avoid causing unnecessary strain or discomfort. See Resources for more on body mechanics.
3) Wash, wash, wash. Keep your hands clean when touching your patient or his equipment. You can’t wash your hands too often.
4) Keep a folding walker closed with a pair of Velcro wire-bundling strips when not in use. Attach one strip on each side of the walker around the leg. Wrap the length around the front and back leg when folding the walker. Repeat on the other side.
5) Make it easy to identify your patient’s wheelchair or walker with a colorful luggage tag, hanging caddy or other identifying feature. In a crowded waiting room, ER or other public area, mix-ups can occur very quickly unless you’ve taken steps to prevent them.
6) Keep a diet and medication log. The written record can help prevent inadvertent duplication of dosage if more than one person provides care. The log can aid medical personnel in assessing problems caused by medication or reaction to food, which can be especially important in an emergency situation. A simple wire-bound notebook is sufficient, so long as the data is maintained accurately and legibly.
7) Maintain an activity diary. Record such items as how long the patient sat up during the day, how far he walked before becoming fatigued, how much he did on his own. You’ll find it easier to identify daily changes, whether improvement or decline, if there is a record to compare across time. Use the diary to encourage him when he gets ‘down’ about his situation.
8) Use a reality orientation calendar to help ground the patient. The day and date, along with some weather information can remind the patient of when and where he is. For a free reality orientation calendar template, see Supporting Links.
Resources for the Caregiver
9) Investigate online medical sites which deal with your patient’s problem. You’ll find information, encouragement and resources for providing the best possible care to her and tips for caring for yourself, as well. Remember, you can’t help your patient unless you take care of yourself.
10) Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask the physician, physician’s assistant or therapist for suggestions. Show your records to the doctor to back up your request or suggestion. Ask your clergyman for community resources that might help. Ask the librarian for suggestions of reading material.
Mayo Clinic: Bedsores: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedsores/DS00570
Author’s Note: This content is drawn from my years of experience, first as a Candy Striper, then a Home Health Aide and finally caring for several elderly family members. The professionals aren’t trying to keep these tips a secret; they just sometimes forget that not everyone knows them.