Are You A Caregiver? If not now, at some point you may be!

Example 1: A 66-year-old man is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Online there are so many options and so many terms. How is his wife supposed to help when he comes back home after the surgery he has been told he needs? She is worried . . .

Example 2: A daughter goes to her 94-year-old mother’s home and finds a full carton of milk spoiling in a kitchen cabinet. Last week, her mother reported that she drove to the store and when she got there her mother could not remember why she went; nor did she know how she drove back home. The adult daughter is worried about her mother’s safety and wonders if she may have dementia and might be in need of supervision. She wonders – “where do I start”?

Example 3: A healthy 56-year-old man is scheduled for “routine” gall bladder surgery after a few visits to the emergency room with this recurrent pain. He confides in his wife that he is worried . . . he has read the reports in the news and watched TV shows about antibiotic resistance and infections in hospitals. They both wonder – is there a proactive role they can play in infection prevention?

This column is all about caregiving and what you need to know about taking care of yourself and perhaps about caring for someone you love. Whether an adult “child” caring for your aging parent, a wife caring for your husband before or after surgery, or a parent caring for your child with special needs, these and the examples above, can make us caregivers. And I am sure—if you think of family and friends who are also caring for someone—you know you are not alone! The “Commission on Long-Term Care” just released their report to Congress on September 30th. This 130 –page treatise states that “most people who receive[long-term services and supports]LTSS in the home rely on family caregiving”(Commission on Long-Term Care, 2013, p. 12). They define family caregivers as “a relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant relationship with, and provides assistance for, a person who has functional limitations”(Commission on Long-Term Care, 2013, p. 12). Astoundingly, testimony to the Commission reported that “an estimated 62 million family caregivers provided care at some time during the year in 2009”(Commission on Long-Term Care, 2013, p. 12).

This column is for you and ALL about your needs, while helping those in your care. These columns will usually address a topic or care problem (e.g. not just a medical diagnoses or health problem) impacting the person and their caregiver.  I say this because our health care system seems to identify a diagnosis and then THAT is the focus—this column is about you, the caregiver –and your loved one and how this health problem impacts your family and others. I believe we need to be more holistic in our approach to illness and health and this tenet will be reflected in future columns. The emphasis will be on improving health and access to information and the glossary of health care –which can be daunting at times –even for health care professionals! Future columns will offer health education, free resources, innovations, and more. It is not (all) about the medical diagnoses that sadly sometimes becomes the sole focus. This column is about empowerment and support –perhaps providing you with useful information, books, tools,or websites that might also help you in your journey toward health.

You and I know and value your work as a caregiver, which has an intrinsic value, but it also has afinancial one. In fact, the value of family caregiving has been estimated in 2009 to be worth $450 billion dollars(Commission on Long-Term Care, 2013, p. 12). This family caregiving figure has been noted to exceed the large amounts spent on caregiving that was paid for(Commission on Long-Term Care, 2013, p. 12). For purposes of clarification, paid caregivers include nurses, aides, and others who assist in care.

As a nurse and from working in the home care industry for many years, I have seen that the care that family caregivers provide has become more demanding and complex. As hospitals discharge patients earlier than in past years, this trend may only continue.Because of this and other factors, the chances of all of us being caregivers at some point in our liveswill likely increase. I hope these columns help provide you with important and needed information for those of you who are already caregivers and also for those of you who may become caregivers in the future. Readers can e-mail questions or topics they wish addressed to tina@dearnursetina.com

Reference

Commission on Long-Term Care.(2013). “Commission on Long-Term Care Report to the Congress.” Retrieved from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-LTCCOMMISSION/pdf/GPO-LTCCOMMISSION.pdf