Caregiver Preparedness Involves More Than a First-Aid Kit
During one of my caregiving seminars, an attendee asked: “Why don’t they teach caregiving in school?” That was a great question. A course on caregiving would definitely prepare you for what has—for many of us—become a necessary part of life.
Being a caregiver can be challenging and complicated. It’s detail-oriented, physically and emotionally taxing, and can require lightening fast decision-making that could potentially affect the outcome of a person’s health. Most caregivers—at least the homegrown version—aren’t trained in what to expect, how to react quickly, or even how to prepare the basics that will allow you to be proactive.
Having been the primary caregiver for two seriously ill patients, I can personally tell you this: the devil is in the details. While caring for my mother, one morning started out normal with breakfast, followed by medicine. Minutes later, she cried out that she couldn’t breathe. Mom was having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic she was taking. With minutes to react, I ran for the oral antihistamine (allergy medication). The crisis was averted, but it was a close call.
Having a few simple, basic items for both organization and emergencies can not only make caregiving easier, but also can possibly save the patient. When you’re wearing so many hats and going in so many directions, details matter.
A seven-day, multiple section pill organizer and good pill cutter. A caregiver is a part-time pharmacist. If you have daily medications in a day-to-day pill organizer, you’ll never end up asking yourself—did the patient take all of their medicine today? Assuming that the medications went into the patient’s mouth, seeing that all of the slots are empty can prevent missing doses. Filling the pill organizer ahead of time will give you the chance to refill prescriptions, too, without any lapse of medication. For partial doses, a pill cutter is the safest tool. Using a knife might mean you get cut, or—worse—the pills go flying to the carpet where you can’t find them—but a pet, child or grandchild certainly can.
An oral antihistamine. While treatment at home is not enough in cases of severe allergic reactions, mild symptoms usually respond to nonprescription allergy medications. An oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is a great medication to stock. Know where they are in case of an emergency. Always call for medical assistance before the problem becomes severe.
Latex or non-latex gloves. Gloves are necessary to protect both the patient and the caregiver from harmful germs, and they can be used for protection in a variety of situations—from serving food to cleaning up messes. When in doubt, and when it comes to the safety and health of someone suffering from a chronic illness, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Choose the size that fits you, and keep a supply handy at all times.
Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide—not just for germ fighting. Did you know that peroxide is good for getting bloodstains out of clothing and bedding? Soak a toothbrush in peroxide to kill germs and viruses. Swish it around the patient’s mouth for relief of mouth sores. Sterilize handrails and doorknobs with rubbing alcohol—especially if someone in the house is sick. Rub lightly over phones and keyboards to clean and prevent the spread of germs that gather on multi-user electronic devices (being careful not to soak and ruin the components).
Digital thermometer (with covers). Monitoring a patient’s temperature is important for making sure they are infection-free and comfortable. With dementia patients, sometimes they can’t even voice their health concerns. A patient’s temperature can tell you so much.
A good blood pressure monitor. Opt for a fully automatic version that measures blood pressure correctly on the upper arm at heart level. The readings are given on a digital display, and can often be stored in the monitor’s memory. If you’re unsure about the type or brand that is best, ask a pharmacist.
An updated list of all medications. Keep a list of all medications and their dosage with you at all times. Update it on a regular basis and take a current copy with you to every doctor’s appointment. You never know when the patient might need emergency medical care. Keep a copy in such places as your handbag, coat pockets and vehicles.
Paperwork organizers. Have a calendar handy for organizing appointments and medical tests. Keep a three-ring binder for storing medical test results. Patient notes are critical for doctor’s visits, particularly when there are multiple doctors and/or several caregivers. Have all pertinent phone numbers posted near every phone. The note that doesn’t get documented, the call that doesn’t get made, or the question that doesn’t get answered may be the one that is the most important.
For a simple, innovative way to store important information in case of an emergency, go to www.MyCareFolder.com. This folder attaches by magnet to your refrigerator, and the forms are downloadable and easy-to-use.
And, of course, a first-aid kit. While you can buy first-aid kits already put together, your kits (one for your home and one for each car) might be more suited to your own needs if you put them together yourself. Ask your pharmacist for a list of things that each kit should include, such as bandages, compresses, gloves, scissors, tweezers, ointments, and so forth.
The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer
(available at www.BasketofCare.com)
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Send something special to someone that’s going through a health-related hardship. Instead of a plant, why not send a Basket of Care? Designed by a cancer survivor and full of items that lend comfort, care baskets include such items as warm blankets, slipper socks, hope messages, and books by Joni Aldrich. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is a great way to say, “I care about you”.