As a Registered Nurse, my previous practice has been primarily focused on the individual with the disease process. I am now in a position that is focused on the Caregiver. The National Family Caregiver Program under the Older Americans Act of 2000 has been the catalyst to change how our health care system is viewing Caregivers. My new role is a Caregiver Support Coordinator for The Area Agency on Aging, Region 9 in Byesville, Ohio.
The past year has taught me many things that we, as professionals, need to consider when treating our patients.
TAKE TIME TO LISTEN TO THE PRIMARY CAREGIVER
Many times in our busy day, we hurry through our conversations with the caregivers. I have learned that caregivers have a wealth of information to share with you about their loved one. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?
ASK THE CAREGIVER FOR THEIR INPUT WHEN DEALING WITH UNIQUE ISSUES.
Remember the primary caregiver is oftentimes with the patient 24/7 and they face and have found creative ways to deal with many issues such as toileting, bathing, dressing, etc.
BE SURE THE CAREGIVER IS TAKING CARE OF HIMSELF OR HERSELF
Studies have shown that the stress caused by caregiving leads to depression, poor health, and even death. By giving the caregiver permission to take care of themselves, and at times insist they do, could literally be the difference between life and death.
TAKE TIME TO GUIDE THE CAREGIVER TO THE PROPER ASSISTANCE
Many caregivers are willing to do the leg work if they only knew what direction to turn. The Area Agency on Aging is a great first step. Our agency has many contacts, and assessors that will come into the home and inform the caregiver of the options available to them. The assessment is free. This may be different in your area, but every Area Agency is a good place to start.
ALLOW THE CAREGIVER TO VENT THEIR CONCERNS
I have found that many caregivers just need to vent and not be judged. Allowing the caregiver to openly express their concerns and desires is of utmost importance. Remember, their concerns may not be a personal attack on the care being received, but a way for them to release stressful feelings, etc.
LAUGH WITH THE CAREGIVER
Finding the humor in a situation is such a stress reliever. Remember there may be times where humor is not appropriate. Give the caregiver permission to laugh, help them see the humor, let them know that it is ok to laugh at a situation not at the person. There’s a big difference.
GIVE THE CAREGIVER THE PROPER TOOLS/ TRAINING
Caregivers become frustrated when there is improper training and tools. Be sure they understand the procedures, equipment, who to call if there is a problem, how to problem solve. Provide or develop resources to help caregivers learn more about services, issues and techniques.
GIVE THE CAREGIVER PERMISSION TO SAY “I’ve had enough”
At some point the caregiver has given all they can, their own health has declined, or their loved ones health as declined. Assist them in the process of what to do next; give them options, allow them to talk through their concerns.
EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE
The more a caregiver can plan ahead and be made aware of issues in advance, the more effective and satisfied they will be in caregiving.
Amy Kaser, RN has been a registered nurse for 16 years
has experience in ICU, Dementia Care, and currently works as a Caregiver Support Coordination for the Area Agency on Aging, Region 9 Byesville, Ohio
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