While someone who takes on the duty of becoming a primary caregiver may be able to do nearly everything that’s required to see that their loved one is properly cared for, certain tasks demand more specialized skills — those learned by health care professionals, such as nurses.
Even though many agencies and organizations provide family caregivers with basic training for tasks like bathing, dressing, eating and using the bathroom, there is little opportunity to learn advanced skills like giving injections and administering I.V.s. A recent article on The New York Times’ New Old Age blog makes clear that such tasks should usually fall on the shoulders of health care professionals. Still, in many instances, doctors and nurses only give brief explanations of complex tasks that will later wind up being the responsibility of the caregiver.
If this sounds like a situation you’re in, the article offers a few tips to help you out.
- Be assertive. If someone is ready to return home from a stay at a hospital or skilled nursing facility, ask the nurse or care professional to show you what they are doing so you can learn how to do it when you get home.
- Ask for feedback. Whenever you get a chance, show a health care professional what you’ve learned and ask for their feedback.
- Don’t sign the form. When someone is discharged, hospitals are legally obligated to ensure that the discharge is safe. Likewise, pharmacists are required to make sure you’re adequately informed about any medications you’re purchasing. If there’s a sliver of doubt, ask questions until you’re satisfied with the answers.
- Seek out help. If there are tasks you simply can’t handle yourself and/or need help with, there are many caregiving agencies that can send a certified health care professional to your home.
- Read a guidebook; watch a DVD. The article notes that some complicated tasks, like transfers, can be learned from guides, like this one offered by the American Red Cross.
Are there any other options for a family caregivers that we missed? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.
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