Your parent is in the hospital and will be returning home soon. You have taken the decision to be the caregiver. But, you are absolutely clueless about being a caregiver and do not know what to prepare for your parent’s arrival from the hospital. This is a familiar scenario, isn’t it?
Through the following steps, I will guide you with the necessary preparations to be taken in your home for your loved one and on tips in being their caregiver.
Before you begin your role as a caregiver, it is essential to meet your parent’s doctor and discuss about their medical condition and medications to be given in detail and also on the needs and level of independence. It would be a great idea to jot down everything down from your discussion in a notebook as a personal reference.
One of the important role as a caregiver is to provide regular follow-ups which can be marked on wall calendars wherein all the appointments is marked. It is best to be done in duplicates, one placed in your parent’s room and another with you, preferably in the kitchen or your own bedroom where it is easy for you access regularly.
Important information must be recorded in a notebook. This comes in handy when someone else takes your parent for the appointment in your absence. The important information that are essential to record are:
- List of the illnesses that your parent may have suffered before the appointment and the relevant medications prescribed.
- Diet schedules, exercise routine
- Personal patient information (this includes date of birth and details of hospitalization)
- Other information such as:
- Contact details of the doctor and the pharmacy
- Contact details of the mobility vehicle and ambulance.
- Banking information, lawyer’s contact number (if necessary) and
- List of any recurring bills that would need to be paid.
Some essential things that should be prepared for regular use:
- Pill boxes – Should be regularly filled with the necessary medications.
- Personal things such as sip cups (for water), shower scrub brush and comfortable footwear
- Baby monitor (if you have it at home) or alarms (for the elderly to alert you when needed)
When you prepare your home for your loved one’s arrival, there are 2 things that should be in your mind at all times: safety and independence.
Safety around the home
The elderly are very vulnerable to falls and accidents. Therefore, safety is something that cannot be taken for granted. Always look around the house to “senior proof” it (which is my way of saying child proof the house). Little things that you may take for granted may be an accident waiting to happen.
- Always de-clutter all pathways around the house and rearrange the furniture so that the elderly can move around easily without tripping on anything
- Have handle bars or railings in key areas such as the staircase, bed room and the bathroom so that it can ease the elderly’s movement within these areas.
- Ensure that you have a raised toilet seat so that it would be easier for them to sit down on and get up from the toilet. Depending on the level of their independence, you can decide whether you would like to attach a riser or a rail to the toilet.
- There are special chairs available that is specially made to be used in the shower. Its legs will have a suction cup at the bottom so that it does not slip. It is advisable to have one so that they can sit comfortably and take a shower without falling down.
- Please ensure you get rid of all throw rugs from the house. Throw rugs are slippery and can cause an avoidable fall. Replace them with mats which has suction cups at the bottom. This is especially crucial in the bathroom area.
- To avoid glares, please use frosted bulbs especially in their room and along the corridor in your house.
- This is something which is always taken for granted. The rubber tips of their cane or walker. Replace the rubber tips if worn out. This will ensure a good grip to the ground and avoid any potential fall.
When your elderly loved one comes over to stay in your home, it is natural for you as a caregiver to be overly protective. Being protective as their “parent” is a good thing but it should not stifle their independence. Always encourage them to be independent based on their level of independence. Bear in mind, that most of them may be depressed due to their restricted movement or their medical condition. There is a tendency for them to avoid socializing all together. They might think that being a hermit might be a “cool” thing to be. This behavior should not be encouraged. It will only make matters worse for them and for you as a caregiver in the long run. For example, if they are able to walk with a walker, encourage them to take walks, together with you, around the neighborhood or the garden, so that they can meet others who may be of their age. If they are bed bound, encourage them to do little activities such as a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, read books on Kindle or the iPad, listening to audio books, knitting, crochet, anything within their capacity. All these activities should be done together with you, your family members or their friends.
Special note to the caregiver
Remember that as a caregiver, you need to have breaks as well. It is an absolute MUST! Caring for your elderly can take a huge toll on your health physically and mentally. Ask around about homecare services or even about day care centres. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and you need not feel guilty about it. Let the homecare services take over from you for a few hours, taking the elderly to a doctor’s appointment or just to the mall, allow someone else to take over. From my own experience, that couple of hours would do wonders for you.
Remember that, you do not have to be perfect in everything in terms of caring for your elderly loved one. Just give it your best, the best way you know how. Be prepared to face unpleasant emotions from them as they are going through a lot and most of the time, they have trouble grasping it themselves. Hence, the may portray bad moods. Do not worry, just as there are bad days, there are always good days that follow within the week. It may be a good idea to note these behavioral and emotional changes and its trigger factors. Discuss these with their doctor during the next appointment. It would help the doctor access the severity of the disease at hand. This is especially true for those suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke patients.
If after sometime, their condition worsens and they require more care, ask around about assisted living or even hospice (this really depends on the situation). Never feel guilty about having this option. Sometimes, they may require special nursing care at a specialized center, which may be something that you cannot provide. Ensure you and your family visit them often and do activities together with them. It will definitely brighten up their day.
Caring for your elderly is a rewarding experience for you as a caregiver. Nothing brings you closer to them and at the same time discover yourself in the process. Proper preparation would take away most of the anxiety associated with caring for the senior population. Support is key and ask for it from your family, friends, home care services church, etc. You will need all the help that you can get.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave your question in the comment box below. I would be happy to assist you.