Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 10/14/2019 2:26:36 PM

Managing Daily Tasks: The Secret to Successful Caregiving

Whether you are a caregiver tending to the needs of your loved one at home, or personal aide working in a facility, you would know that this job is a serious and very demanding job. At most times, you would feel that there are just so many things to do on a given day and too little time to do them all. At the end of the day, you feel dead-tired.

At home, you may be juggling work, caregiving tasks, hospital visits, household chores, and family duties as a spouse and a parent. At a facility, you find yourself literally running from room to room, responding to call lights, and just when there's a pile of things to do, your resident just wants to use the toilet, and the whole process is taking more than half an hour. Having these frantic scenarios daily, you easily conclude that this will be your typical day as long as you remain a caregiver.

Well, not necessarily so.

Doing day-to-day management and getting organized are the keys to maintaining control over what happens in a day. Although caring for someone will have unexpected events happening from time to time, having some predictability and a system of doing daily activities will do a lot of good for your sanity. Here are some helpful tips for you:

- DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES. One technique to help you prioritize is making a list of things to do. Then for each item in your list, ask yourself: "Is it important?" and "Is it urgent?" Assign a rating for both questions, and if your to-do activity rates high in importance and urgency, it goes to the top of your priority list.

- CLUSTER ACTIVITIES. Do you have a scheduled visit to the doctor ? After the visit would be a great time to pick up supplies and groceries. If you are a caregiver at home, it would be good to have some sort of a cart that you can take around. If you are going to change linens, bring with you fresh linens and supplies, and a laundry basket for dirty sheets. In this manner, you save time going in and out of the room carrying heavy loads

- STOCK SUPPLIES IN BULK. Buying supplies at wholesale prices gives you two advantages; it is cheaper and saves you time-consuming trips to the grocery store. Assign a place for commonly used supplies in each area of the house. Say you usually use alcohol, wipes, and tissue in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and your car. Have a set in each of these areas to save you from having to get and return supplies from one source.

- REDUCE CLUTTER. “Clean as you go” just like how a professional chef comes up with a superb dish in no time and their kitchen table top is still looking pristine. Put covered waste baskets where you need them most. Throw away things that you don’t need.

- ESTABLISH ROUTINES. Routines may sound boring, but for caregivers, direct care workers, and the patient, it is necessary. Routines will give direction to your day and enable you to anticipate the care recipient’s needs. Of course, include recreational activities for both you and your loved one, so you don't feel like you’re missing out on the fun parts.

- MAKE A CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES. This enables you to plan ahead and not be panicked by remembering at the last-minute that “today is a return visit day." It would also help to set up alarms and notifications on your mobile phone.

- PRACTICE MEDICATION MANAGEMENT. Have a journal that contains all the details of your loved one’s medication. You will need to bring this journal to every doctor visit. Utilize color-coded pill organizers for morning, noon, and night intakes. Make four sets of these to have a monthly supply organized. For long-term medications, order them in bulk and online if possible.

- KEEP A BINDER OF THE PATIENT’S MEDICAL HISTORY AND DIAGNOSTIC TEST RESULTS. Put it in an accessible place. This technique will prevent you from rummaging through a pile of papers during an emergency.

Your ability to develop a system for doing things can help you make use of your time wisely and prevent burnout. In every situation, keep simplifying, organizing, and prioritizing. Soon all efforts will become good habits that will make your caregiving responsibility successful.

Posted: 10/9/2019 7:35:53 PM

Being a Good Patient Advocate for Your Loved One Can Save Their Life

Mary is a 65-year old diabetic patient. She has visible wounds on her feet that are healing very slowly because of diabetes. One day, Mary developed a fever, headache, and fatigue. The physician is considering flu. But Beth, Mary’s caregiver had noticed earlier that Mary has a reddish spot with reddish on her leg. She thought that Mary had gotten a new wound, but the red spot looked different. Although the spot looked harmless, Beth decided to mention it to Mary’s doctor.

The physician was thankful because the reddish spot was caused by a tick bite when they had a picnic in a wooded area. Apparently, the patient has Lyme’s disease. If not for Beth’s vigilance and her decision to mention it to the doctor, Mary’s condition could have gotten worse. Mary could not have felt the tick bite because diabetes has impaired her ability to feel sensations in her feet at times. Beth has proven her ability of being a patient advocate.

Being sick is a nasty feeling. Aside from the physical pain and functional impairment that a patient has, illness brings about feelings of vulnerability, distress, and inability to focus on anything else other than their symptoms.

An illness can even cause total dependence on another person, especially if the patient’s physical and mental health has deteriorated significantly. In situations such as these, the caregiver becomes the patient’s eyes and ears, their voice, and their analyst who would see to the patient’s welfare and best interest, as they go through the maze of the healthcare system.

Needless to say, the role of being a patient advocate is inherent to caregiving and one of the most significant responsibilities that the caregiver will have to perform to be successful.

Being an advocate for your loved one entails two basic things, the ability to learn and the ability to communicate effectively.

What do you need to learn as a patient advocate?

Know your patient, their preferences, and their needs. Most importantly, a caregiver must learn about the patient's illness as much as they can, and how the disease can possibly impact the patient's life. The knowledge gained from knowing the patient this way will be helpful when working with the healthcare team, and in seeking treatments and other services.

In many cases, being extra vigilant of what the patient is going through can save their lives. As in our case example, Beth knew that the spot was not on Mary’s foot previously and that it looked different. Beth’s attentiveness to Mary’s symptom kept Mary from harm’s way.

Know what resources are available to you. Remember that you don't have to be alone in caring for the patient. Find support and community services and programs that will be useful in caring for your loved one. Determine ahead of time which health institutions would best serve your loved one's needs.

When and how do you communicate effectively as a patient advocate?

As a caregiver, you need to be able to gather and provide information at the same time. You have to determine which information is important to obtain and make a habit of writing things down. This holds true when communicating with the patient, the healthcare team, and even the insurance personnel.

Effective communication is crucial during a clinic visit. Your ability to provide information to the physician and receive information from the physician will be a big help to you as a pro-active patient advocate. When providing information, be concise and direct to the point. Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification if there is some detail that you don’t understand. It is wise to prepare your questions before the visit. Do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Let the physician know your concerns. Again, it is more than helpful to jot things down.

Being a patient advocate as a caregiver is no ordinary work, but you are considered the unsung hero of the patient, and the healthcare system as a whole. You have to keep the fire burning inside you and do what you do best: providing care.

Posted: 9/30/2019 1:37:32 PM

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Caregiving

Whether you are a caregiver caring for a loved one, or someone working in a home health or facility, the responsibilities of caregiving can bring about myriad emotions that feel like you are on a non-stop roller coaster ride of surging and plummeting feelings.

Experiencing an emotion at one time, such as anger, may not look like it’s a big deal, but oftentimes caregivers have mixed and contradicting feelings, which complicates matters for them and puts coping strategies to the test.

In the first few months of providing care, the strain may not be apparent yet, but as the saying goes, even a few pebbles in the pocket will feel like a ton of bricks if the journey is too long. After a while, the constant barrage of negative feelings will take its toll, manifesting into physical and psychological symptoms.

The negative emotional highs of caregiving include:

Anger. Sometimes, you just lose it. Resentment or even a lack of sleep can lead to angry outbursts. The thing about angry emotion is that it leads to the most hurt feelings on the part of the care recipient and puts a sour note on the relationship. If you got angered, do not hold on to the feeling and learn to let go by forgiving your loved one and yourself. It is ok to punch or shout at a pillow just to regain your cool quickly.

Irritability and impatience. When you become impatient, you are easily irritated, too. You may also be mirroring what the patient feels. Patients who need care are usually in pain or have dementia or other long-term illness. It is important to understand that an illness can change a person's coping and reaction to everyday events. Patients may be slowed or frustrated, and there is this need for you to take control. If you have adequate understanding and empathy, you will expand your patience. The other thing to do is to have someone relieve you of your duties temporarily.

Anxiety. Too much worrying can have both physical and psychological effects. Excessive worrying can drain you of energy and rob you of restful sleep. Difficult as it may sound, some positivity of thoughts could be your life saver. But before positive thoughts can rule, you have to consciously stop anxiety-producing thoughts. Do everything with your willpower to stop worrying. Ironically, have a good night’s rest to recharge your thoughts and your body. Sometimes, it’s all that you need to shoo away anxiety. Don’t forget to do deep breathing, meditation, and yoga if you can help it.

The negative emotional lows include:

Depression. Maybe as a caregiver, you found yourself crying behind closed doors. You feel sad because of compounding reasons. You may feel the patient’s pain and suffering, and you feel helpless as you see them not getting anywhere near being cured. Sadness is a powerful emotion, and soon enough you find yourself having depression. If you think you have clinical depression, you should see a qualified professional to help you. Depression may not be something that you can handle on your own.

Guilt. You feel guilty when you are remorseful over something you did or did not do. Sometimes, you feel responsible for your patient’s harm or deterioration. Guilty feelings may also sprout from seeing to your own health, like taking a much-needed break, or even to taking time off to do something for yourself. It can also be an after-effect of anger or impatience that was expressed earlier on your family member.

The guilt feelings can be dissipated by forgiving oneself. As we are human, we also have needs to be fulfilled and health to ensure. You need not beat yourself over your patient’s health condition. One good way to prevent guilty feelings is getting respite care or community support to help you get a break from caregiving tasks. If the guilt is because of previous angry or impatient outbursts, you can always say sorry and make it up to them in meaningful ways.

Feeling of having a low-quality life. Most caregivers who have been caring for their family member for years are the ones who have feelings that their life has been stolen from them by their caregiving responsibilities. They are bored with daily routines and the long queue in the clinic. They feel sad, and find their life monotonous and lacking meaningful activities that they enjoy. Achievers who are trapped in caring for a sick loved one are significantly affected. To address the emotions related to having a low quality of life, caregivers must find joy and greater meaning to caregiving.

Caring is the most basic human feat, and if caregivers would consider their task as an achievement, then they would find a more significant purpose in life. They may likewise find creative ways to be still doing things that they love. Again, respite care can give you that ‘me’ time.

The emotional roller coaster brought about by caregiving must not be a cause to abandon your responsibilities. Instead, acknowledge the feelings, seek help and support, and live one day at a time until you realize that indeed, life is a beautiful thing.

Posted: 9/18/2019 6:17:35 PM

The Needs of Post-Stroke Patients

Each year, more than 795,000 people in the US experience a stroke. After stroke, patients often have different forms of disabilities and functional impairments that require special attention and support. This leaves the caregiver with many responsibilities, which can be confusing and overwhelming. This is because different kinds of strokes result in different sets of health conditions, and a patient’s needs change throughout their recovery journey.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

Mobility - After a stroke, patients have some form of weakness or loss of function. Many are unable to move one side of their body, so they will need assistance with activities of daily living. Foster a healthy balance between supporting them and encouraging them to be independent so they do not lose their sense of control entirely, which can trigger frustrations.

Safety - A stroke may cause problems with mental abilities, such as decision-making, awareness, attention, and memory. Patients may have difficulty knowing what is harmful to them, so one of the caregiver's responsibilities is to ensure they are safe at all times.

Many post-stroke patient injuries are caused by a fall, so always make sure the call bell or button is within easy reach. Keep the wheels of the bed locked. It also helps to remove clutter blocking walkways. If the patient can get out of bed on their own, make sure they have slippers or anti-slip socks on. Ensure that the patient has slip-resistant mats in their bathroom, too.

Use of Assistive Devices - During a stroke patient’s rehabilitation, they will be taught how to use assistive devices. As a caregiver, you can help the patient get used to using special equipment to compensate for their disabilities.

Bath transfer chairs, for example, help a patient get in and out of the bathtub safely. Alternatively, you can use a shower chair if the bathtub is too tiring for them to use. The patient can sit on the shower chair as you help them bathe. Give the patient a long-handled scrubber for washing their body and legs, and assist them to clean areas they cannot reach.

Sock, bra, shoe, button, and zipper aides can help patients change clothes independently. Keep canes or crutches within easy reach, too. If they use a wheelchair, always lock the wheels before helping them move to and from bed, or the wheelchair can slide out of position during the transfer and cause an accident.

Emotional Effects - A stroke can cause many different losses of bodily functions, which a patient can find distressing and frustrating. Major lifestyle changes are required to help them recover. These demands may prove to be highly stressful to a once able-bodied individual and strain their spirit. Your compassion and patience will go a long way in keeping the patient motivated to regain their bodily function.

Nutrition - After a stroke, a patient will need the right kinds of food to hasten their recovery. Serving healthy foods can help control blood pressure, maintain an optimum weight, and ultimately reduce a patient's risk of another stroke. The right nutrients from food also strengthen the body's immune system and can prevent stroke patients from getting infections.

The usual diet for post-stroke patients should consist primarily of vegetable dishes and fruits, with protein coming mainly from fish, nuts, and legumes. They also need a diet low in salt, fat, and bad cholesterol.

A patient recovering from stroke will have varying needs, and caregivers must work closely with the healthcare team to deliver the best care. It is important to stick to the care plan and report any challenges encountered during care procedures.

Posted: 9/9/2019 3:27:53 PM

Stop the Healthcare Team Struggle

Are you part of a team that takes care of patient needs? If you are a caregiver working in a nursing home or facility, you most likely are. How is your experience so far?

If you struggle to be part of a team, you may have personal reasons why you find it challenging. But according to research, teamwork in healthcare can sometimes be difficult because of many other reasons such as rigid hierarchy within organizations or unexpected role changes and overlap. Other causes are poor conflict management and the temporary status of teams, as members go their separate ways once a particular patient’s care has ended. Which of the above can you relate to?

Whatever your stumbling blocks to teamwork and collaboration, you must overcome them to prevent medical errors and ultimately reach patient care goals. And if you ever feel, as a caregiver, that your role is insignificant, think again! Of all the members of the team, you spend the most time with the patient. You know your patients personally as a result of your attentive bedside care. What you say matters!

Being part of a healthcare team requires some effort, but it doesn't have to be a struggle when you can do the following:

Communicate effectively. Being a direct care worker puts you at both the front line and the bottom of the hierarchy. It means that you are not in a leadership role but work under the supervision of another. It can be difficult to find your voice to speak up for a patient, especially if you are used to just following orders without being asked your opinion. But remember, you can speak freely as an advocate. Learn how to be open to your team. It will help encourage a spirit of equality for all members.

Sharpen your listening skills. Part of effective communication is receiving messages, understanding them, and then responding accordingly. One part of this flow of messages that is often overlooked is listening. When the team is in discussion, be extra attentive to what is being said and think of ways you can contribute.

Keep respect alive. Respect opinions and boundaries in both good times and bad. Handle conflicts with care. Raising your voice to assert yourself rarely accomplishes anything; rather, it results in hurt feelings. Always agree to a compromise to enable win-win situations.

Another way to show respect is to value diversity. Teams are composed of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, each with a different and important role. There is a fair chance someone will see things differently, but this isn’t a bad thing! You can learn from their ideas (and they can learn from yours).

Recognize efforts. One of the best ways to solidify a team is to give each other a pat on the back for a job well done. A simple, “Hey, you did great back there!” can ease tiredness and turn someone’s day around, just because you took a moment to make them feel good about themselves.

Be kind and offer a helping hand. As a caregiver, you may already have a lot on your plate, and it’s understandable that you’re rushing to finish tasks on time. But taking the time to be kind and helpful creates a sort of magic. When you extend help to a coworker, the kindness finds its way back to you! Maybe today you stayed an extra 10 minutes to help correctly position a patient, but another day, your colleagues will want to pay it forward and help you out, too.

Being part of a team is both exciting and challenging. Even though there are barriers to teamwork and collaboration, keep a team mentality: competent and confident in your own role as a caregiver while always considering the team effort as a whole.