How can you improve the quality of care you provide? What changes (if any) need to be made? Here are some guidelines for evaluating your role in the ongoing care process.
Take a Step Back
Maybe you weren’t prepared to be a caregiver, and an event or crisis placed you in the role. Or perhaps you assumed the responsibility incrementally, doing a little more of this or that over the years. Regardless of the situation, if you’ve provided care to a loved one for some time, you may feel as familiar with the ins and outs of his or her daily needs as your own.
Now might be a good time to take a step back and examine certain key areas to ensure you’re taking advantage of all the options and resources available to you.
Revisit Community and Professional Resources
Could you benefit from some additional help? You might be unaware of services that have only recently become available in your area, including volunteer and state-funded programs. If you haven’t already, consider opportunities for respite care. Also review the professional options, including home care agencies or workers, geriatric care managers, and contractors specializing in home modification.
Review the Role of Family and Friends
You can’t do it alone, regardless of how you (or even your loved one) have come to feel. Long-term caregivers, in particular, often come to feel that they’re on an island, working alone. Others may believe that no one can do the job they’re doing, that there’s no room or time for anyone else to pitch in, or simply that no one wants to help.
A caregiver may inadvertently (or unconsciously) push someone away, fail to notice or ignore a change in circumstance that now allows a family member to help when they couldn’t before, or even believe it’s “a little late in the game” to approach others about getting involved. Keep in mind that friends and family often want very much to help, but may not know where to begin. Others may be concerned about stepping on your toes, and may hesitate out of concern for how their offer will be perceived (i.e. “I don’t want her to think I think she’s not handling things right.”)
Anticipate Future Needs
You may have grown so used to day-to-day requirements that you’ve been unable to give much thought to the future. What will your loved one’s needs be in a few months? A year? How much additional assistance will be necessary? What will be the changes in his or her condition? What will change financially? Also consider what legal measures will need to be in place, and if a change in living circumstances might prove necessary.
Double-Check (and Triple-Check) Paperwork
Make sure you and your loved one have organized papers and that important financial and legal documents are accessible. Check to make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be, and go through records to ensure they are truly complete.
It’s easy to lose track of medications over time, to take their use for granted, or for pill containers to stack up. One doctor may not even be aware of what another has prescribed. Perhaps some medication is no longer needed, is no longer effective, or the dosage needs to be altered somewhat. Newer drugs may also be available.
Discuss this with your loved one’s doctor during your next visit. Prepare an inventory of all the medication (including over-the-counter drugs) your loved one is taking, and go over each one.
Look for New Information
Continue to review educational materials and literature related to your loved one’s condition. Do this on your own, and ask your loved one’s doctor if he can recommend or supply these, and inquire about new procedures, drugs, or treatments.
Examine Your Lifestyle
Once in a while, it’s worth sitting down and coming up with a list of all your activities and duties for the previous week, and marking down the approximate time spent on each. Include everything—work, specific caregiving responsibilities, time spent with family and friends, as well as routine activities like paying the bills, simple chores like cleaning, even sleeping and eating.
Obviously, perfect balance is impossible, and probably not even desirable. But you should look for times where you can “make room for yourself,” and get some perspective. Remember to be a caregiver for yourself, too.
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