The Role of Caregiver

This title really ought to read plural, the ROLES of a caregiver, because there are many tasks and responsibilities that go with care-giving, and about the time it seems the condition(s) has changed, it evolves yet again. This narrative will attempt to offer general, broadly-applied concepts that fit many clinical and personal situations. For more individual clinical detail, feel free to contact nurse@goodshepherdmpls.org.

It is very common that the role of caregiving becomes an on-going series of tasks, from providing transportation for medical appointments, to round-the-clock assistance with mobility and/or management of physical care, to keeping up a household including meals, laundry, maintenance of home and yard. Acting as caregiver is physically and emotionally demanding which increases physical and emotional stress for both the caregiver and the patient. In order to strengthen and support the caregiver, this information will address the stress of the caregiving role. Typically as caregiver there is the responsibility for finances, even for someone who has never taken that responsibility before now. There is often a change in family relationships when one fully depends on the other.

Often a family member willingly and cheerfully takes on the role of caregiving out of pure love and good intentions. Do not forget how it was at the onset of illness. But over time, the caregiver suffers serious stress which may manifest as headaches, body aches, chronic fatigue, ‘forgetting’ to eat, i.e. putting the sick person first under all circumstances. The long-term effects of this sort of physical and emotional stress might include anxiety and depression, a weakened immune system, weight gain or loss, indigestion, difficulty in paying attention to concerns outside of the caregiver role.

Without being too simplistic, it’s important to maintain your own health if you are caring for another family member. Therefore, see your own physician when you have some signs of caregiver stress.

Describe your home situation, perhaps there are medications to help you, for instance, if your blood pressure is out of range; or perhaps your doctor can suggest some home health care to give you some respite yourself, thereby relieving some of your own stress.

Tension, frustration, exhaustion may become manageable in a few common ordinary ways.

  • Complete a small task, to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment, i.e. even as simple as folding clothes.

  • Eat right, including protein, fruits, vegetables.

  • Get enough sleep; nap when possible.

  • Set aside time each day for prayer and meditation.

  • Get and use a coloring book yourself --- really!

  • Keep a daily journal.

  • Schedule time with friends or family to come to visit you, as well as your family member who is ill.

  • Consider getting a pet; if you have one, keep it close.

  • Ask for, and accept help. Keep a to-do list handy for someone who wishes to be helpful for you. Or perhaps, as someone pointed out, ask the person who offers to help stay with your loved one so YOU can tend to the to-do list. It can be a therapeutic stress reliever to rake the yard or sweep the garage. Being open to accepting help when it is offered is sometimes hard to do. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself because self-care enables you to keep your loved one at home.

WHEN COUGH DROPS ARE NOT ENOUGH . . . . .

A chill is in the air – ‘tis the season for viruses and colds. These illnesses are highly contagious, as seen in the prevalence in household members and classroom populations that seem to all be sick at the same time. The spread of these conditions occurs with coughing, sneezing and most anything and everything that the ill person touches.

Before I begin sharing my personal and professional suggestions, I must clarify standard precautions. The advice shared here is intended for those individuals who do not have other chronic illnesses, who do not have allergies to any products mentioned and is only for those known to be otherwise healthy. This information is not intended to replace medical care from your usual and customary healthcare provider. Please discuss any specific medical concerns with your personal physician. Your pharmacist is also a good resource about over-the-counter remedies and whether there is contradiction between them and your other prescriptions.

Typically, colds come on gradually and disappear gradually. Typically, “the flu” has a rapid onset of symptoms, primarily respiratory symptoms of cough, head congestion, sore throat, fever, chills, aching and profound fatigue.

General Guidelines:

  • Increased rest.

  • Increased fluid intake.

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water several times each day for treatment and prevention.

  • Monitor your temperature; stay home when oral temperature is 100.5 degrees fahrenheit or greater.

  • No aspirin for children; treat fever with alternate fever-reducing over-the-counter medication.

  • For adults, it is safe to use aspirin or fever-reducing medication of your choice.

 Power Pack Remedy Recommendations

Note: Always following dose directions on the package. Double check whether the medication is appropriate for children.

  • Emergen-C – 2-3 times/day

  • Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold – as directed on package

  • Aspirin (adults only) – 3-4 times/day, with food. Note: For children, use another fever reducer product as directed on package.

  • Mucinex (plain or DM; not D) – 600-200 mg, two times/day

  • Any cough syrup or cough drops will relieve and lessen the annoyance of persistent coughing

Rationale for The Recommendations:

  • Sudafed and other decongestants cause elevation in blood pressure. Many people experience a rebound effect from Sudafed, i.e. it makes congestion worse instead of better after two days of use.

  • Emergen-C contains vitamin C, zinc and other minerals that increase immunity.

  • Aspirin treats fevers very effectively, as well as relieves the aching.

  • Mucinex is guiafenesin. Mucinex DM is guiafenesin with dextromethorphan; it loosens mucus in sinus and chest to reduce chance of getting a secondary bacterial infection. If nasal secretions or coughing produces dark yellow or green mucus for more than a day or two, while you are running a fever, see your personal physician, or go to Urgent Care. At that point, you may need prescription medications.

Email me if you have questions: nurse@goodshepherdmpls.org

Be well!

I.C.E. . . .

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY when something unexpected calls for immediate attention . . .

One cannot prepare for every emergency. There are no rules and regulations that are guaranteed to protect someone from illness, injury, or harm. However, there are things a person can do to contribute to the best outcome possible.

Recently my friend who lives across the hall in my apartment building had a stroke – a serious stroke that made it impossible for her to speak or even to think clearly enough to alert anyone that she needed help. It was of utmost importance to the emergency department physicians to know what time the stroke occurred, because the “clot buster” treatment depends on the time since the event. Her family noted that her morning paper and cup of coffee remained on her kitchen table; she was dressed. But no one had seen her in the hall, nor had she put on her hiking shoes for her customary early-morning outdoor walk. Because she could not speak and was understandably becoming more panicked as time went on, no one knew of her situation until a family member arrived for a visit a couple hours later.

She remains hospitalized and is responding well to her care.

The point of this story, and the conversation among many of the residents in our building, is what information is needed In Case of Emergency (I.C.E.) Because it was a Sunday, the office of the building was not open. Our lease agreement documents include names of next-of-kin and additional health information, but that wasn’t available at the time needed. For best protection and rapid treatment in emergencies, medical and rescue personnel look in a person’s wallet for identifying information, names of family members, list of medications currently being taken, list of allergies, and sometimes preferred hospital, physician or emergency facility.

In addition to that wallet card and/or a medical alert bracelet or necklace with information, it is recommended that everyone have a refrigerator magnet called a File of Life. This is a plastic “sleeve” or envelope that includes the information mentioned above. These File of Life notices are a vital source of information when/if a person is ill or injured and unable to speak for him/herself. The File of Life is available at pharmacies, and often in health clinics, or at Red Cross events or other health information programs.

In addition (because emergencies do not always occur within one’s home), there is a setting on a cellphone o that is for emergency information. Healthcare personnel will look for a phone on the person experiencing an emergency.

Your concern for privacy of information is respected, however, this is about emergency health situations when it is to your advantage to access life-saving care as quickly as possible. Many of us have the best intentions to prepare for the unexpected, but often the concern passes without action. We think we will do it later when we have more time or when we can discuss with family or physician. At the very least, write your next-of-kin name and phone number on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your refrigerator right now – until you get around to something more inclusive and detailed.