I AM CareGiver

As Caregivers, We Are our Loved One’s Health Care System

Recently I saw something over on Caregiving.com that got me thinking.

Physicians and other health care professionals provide once-in-a-while care.

It’s true! Depending on the age and medical conditions of our loved ones, a physician typically sees a patient maybe once a month, at most. If the patient is doing well, appointments can be 6 months apart. And then it’s only a 10 to 15 minute visit, at most.

There may be additional visits in there as the result of 911 calls and Emergency Room visits, followed by admission for additional care and more tests. But then, they are released to go home. Sometimes a nurse or therapist of some sort may be sent to the home for follow-up. But even these visits have an expiration date attached, according to MediCare or MedicAid.

That leaves us, the family caregiver, and we provide all-the-time care.

We provide care at night. We provide care on the weekends. We provide care on the holidays. We provide care every single day. Morning. Noon. And night.

We are their nutritionist. We are their bedside nurse. We manage and administer their medications. We provide assistance with hygiene. And the list goes on.

Personally, I manage both of my parents’ medications. My Mom has congestive heart failure and is on limited sodium and limited fluids, which I monitor constantly. My Mom has COPD and requires almost daily nebulizer treatments, which I provide. I apply lidocaine patches on my Mom’s back each day to help with the constant pain. I get her out of and into bed, along with mobility assistance for toileting. My Mom is bedridden, so I also assist with her hygiene activities: sponge bathing, shampooing while in bed, bringing toothbrush and mouthwash, etc. My Mom has had pressure sores, and after the wound care nurse could no longer come due to MediCare limitations, I cared for her wounds and nursed her skin back to health. Every day I apply pain cream on her legs that now have nerve damage after a botched bone marrow test almost 10 years ago. I put eyedrops in my Mom’s eyes when needed as she can no longer raise her arms steadily due to Post Polio Syndrome and constant muscle atrophy. I used to drive Mom to all of her medical appointments: physician, cardiologist, gastrointestinal doc, and blood doc treating her cyclical anemia. Recently we have transitioned her to a visiting physician at home as she can no longer travel. I homeopathically treat Mom’s bruises after stays in the hospital (she comes home looking like a pin cushion!).

If there is a 911 emergency, I would accompany my Mom to the ER to advocate for her care choices. When one is weak and frail and in crisis, they have difficulty thinking clearly and comprehending what the doctors, nurses and aides are all attempting to do simultaneously. Nor can they always provide details to the hospital staff on their backgrounds or how they got into their current condition due to pain, stress and brain fog. For example, my Mom is allergic to the foam telemetry patches — it is on her records, but it’s a detail that isn’t attended to most of the time, until I request that they put the paper ones on instead. Same with the tape covering the IV needle, Mom needs the paper tape or her skin will be torn off .

My Dad can no longer see due to cataracts that he can no longer have treated due to his age and Alzheimer’s (he’ll be 93 years young in 2 weeks). It has changed how and what I can feed him, so that he can still eat on his own (mostly). I do have to feed him sometimes when his arthritic fingers are unable to cooperate on a given day. I have to guide him to the bathroom for toileting and showers. I am his wound care nurse for his sporadic bumps and bruises, and after he had some skin cancer removed from his forearm.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of all the physical, medical, mental and emotional care I provide to each of my parents as their caregiver. Every. Single. Day. Morning. Noon. And Night.

I am their health care system.

And so are you for your loved one.

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