Did you know that almost 85% of families will provide caregiving to their loved ones and majority of those caregivers will be women? As a twenty-two year veteran caregiver, providing care in homes, in facilities and for my own loved ones, I know that many women will do anything to keep their loved ones out of a long-term care facility. However, they may not be aware of what it takes to physically and mentally provide 24 hour care to their loved ones. In my twenty plus years of caregiving, I have compiled a list of things that should be considered before becoming the sole provider of care for your loved ones. From hygiene needs to essential equipment, preventing falls to medication concerns, here are the top ten things to consider before becoming a caregiver.
1. Space: You will need to ensure that there is enough space for privacy and easy access for you and your loved one. Preferably on the first floor, this space should be free of drafts, well lit, and have a place for sitting and reading. Provide a bell or baby monitor so that, whether bedridden or not, your loved one can easily call for help. This room should be near a bathroom, if this is not possible, you will need to purchase a bedside commode for convenience.
2. Medication Reminders and Schedules: As a caregiver, one of the most important jobs you will have is ensuring that your loved one gets the right medications at the right time. You will need to learn what each medication is for, how it works and any potential side effects. You should purchase a pillbox labeled with the days of the week, am and pm, to help make taking medications on time easier to remember. Be sure that your loved takes all their medications by keeping track or giving them out yourself.
3. Hygiene Needs: Sooner or later your loved one will need help meeting their hygiene needs. This can cause embarrassment and even anger so treat the issue as if it is completely natural. Whether you assist them in and out of the bath or shower, or manually bath them yourself, try to provide them with as much privacy as is humanly possible. Additionally, remember in order to feel good, most of us like to look good; men may want to be shaved and women will want their hair and make-up done.
4. Toileting Concerns: This has the potential to be the most difficult thing for you and your loved one to face, but toileting concerns need to be addressed. Whether they need help getting to the toilet or are bed ridden, how you address this issue could shape your entire relationship. Provide them with as much privacy as you can. . If your loved one is bedridden, you may have to help them with a bedpan. Be discreet and empty bedpans quickly and discreetly. If your loved one is still relatively independent, help them remain that way by providing added stability in sitting and rising off the toilet, by purchasing a toilet frame, which goes around the toilet. Additionally, a raised toilet seat can help those who struggle with joint deterioration, injury or back troubles. If they are using pull ups please DO NOT refer to them as diapers, as that can be humiliating. Follow these guidelines and you will do fine.
5. Medical Equipment and Supplies: You will find that your loved one will have equipment and supplies needs that you have not thought of. Items like a hospital bed, walker, bedside commode, wheelchair, oxygen, wipes, bed pads, grab bars or other supportive items will make their life and your life easier. You can rent a few of the larger items from medical supply companies but most items will need to be purchased. Insurance may cover a great deal of these costs, so check with them before making any large purchases.
6. Preventing pressure sores: If your loved one is bedridden, it’s of utmost importance that you prevent bedsores from forming on their body. Bedsores can quickly turn serious so prevention is essential. Bedsores form on buttocks, heels, elbows, shoulder blades and knees, as well as the spine, so check those areas often. Every two hours make sure to change the position of anyone who is bedridden to prevent bedsores.
7. Avoiding falls: Falls can spell broken bones and broken bones can spell disaster. Take care to make sure that your home is as safe as possible. To prevent falls in the shower or bath tub install handrails, and avoid powder, as it causes slippery surfaces. Keep floors clean and free of any thing that could cause a tripping hazard like: electrical cords, rugs, clothing, toys or equipment.
8. Transportation: Seek out transportation services in your area. There are some inexpensive and even free services available in most communities, so check to see what your local area may have to offer. The type of car you drive may be a hazard for those suffering from mobility issues. SUV’s that are too high or cars that are too low can be highly impractical for someone unable to climb in and out of vehicles safely.
9. Resources: Providing care for your loved one is not an easy task, but help is available, if you know where to look for it. Check out the local resources in your area that may provide funding, or meal programs to your loved one.