Monday, May 14, 2018

Healthy Habits: Hospital 101 for Caregivers

Right now, during Family Support Month and Older Americans Month, it's a great time to think about caring for the older loved ones in our family.

AARP stats show there are 43 million unpaid caregivers in the US, and 65% of them are women averaging age 69. Assuming the sudden role of caregiver will bring additional psychological, physical, and familial stresses. If you aren’t currently caring for a loved one, you most likely know someone who is or you will be soon.

CJ Golden brings these stats to life as she tells her story of being unexpectedly thrown into the role of caregiver when her long-distance cyclist husband suffered a series of cancer-induced strokes at the end of his cross-country cycling journey.

CJ GOLDEN (who previously wrote a book, The Tao of the Defiant Woman), recently wrote One Pedal at at Time: A Novice Caregiver and Her Cyclist Husband Face Their New Normal with Courage, Tenacity, and Abundant Love (Eronel Publishing, Feb. 2018). In it, she shares a balanced mix of somber reflections and light moments during and after her husband of 25 years suffered numerous cancer-related strokes. As caregiver, Golden holds nothing back because she wants others who are unexpectedly thrown into the role of caregiver to know they are not alone. (More about the book and CJ here.)

Caregivers will find a list of available physical, emotional and financial resources at the end of the book. CJ has also written a very helpful piece that I'm able to include here.

Hospital 101 for Caregivers

New caregivers often think they'll come off as meddlesome and overstepping boundaries if they question the motives, procedures, and even bedside manner of nurses and doctors. You can and should question techniques and suggestions without damaging the relationship between you, your loved one, and the team managing the treatment so that you can provide the best possible care from hospital (or rehab) to home.

Here are a few tips for caregivers to most effectively partner with medical staff:

  • Ask, Ask, Ask. If you're not sure about a procedure or medication, don't be afraid to raise your hand. To be an effective caregiver, you need to shadow the staff. While my husband Joe was being cared for by his doctors and nurses, I was busy soaking up any information I could get; from the reasons for and uses of each of his medications, learning to care for his catheter and feeding tube, making sure his head was not lower than a particular angle in bed, how to transfer him from that bed to a wheelchair, what foods were allowed on whichever dietary restrictions he had to follow at a particular time in his care. It was fortunate that most of the staff welcomed my questions and were patient teachers.  One kind doctor even referred to me as an important member of the team.  Now, that was a very fine feeling. The physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist also allowed me to shadow them, so I might know how to best help Joe when he came home. You have to ask.

  • Confront Technique, Not Character. Professionals know they don't know everything, and are usually open to learning more about their blind spots. There was the neurological resident who, standing at Joe’s bedside and looking at a slight drooping of the mouth, proclaimed, “Oh, he is having a stroke!”  That might have been so, but that surely wasn’t something Joe needed to hear at that moment. I ushered him out of the room and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I totally disagreed with his bedside manner. But, also understanding that this is a man who is learning, and he is also a man who is very kind and caring, I made sure the next day to address our misunderstanding and let him know I was commenting on his technique – not his character.  After a warm handshake, we were on the same page again.
Several weeks later, after he was moved to another rotation in the hospital, I came upon him in the cafeteria, sitting alone, munching on a piece of pizza. I went over to him to say hello and asked how he was doing.  He pointed to the seat across from him and invited me to join him and then said, very sincerely, “I have a lot to learn.” We both did.

  • Understand the Politics. There is a structure and hierarchy to teams, and you will want to have a solid understanding of those and how they relate to your loved one. It is also important to learn the politics of the hospital; who tends to be in charge of your loved one’s case, to whom the others defer and to make sure that person includes you in the informational loop.  When something is confusing, I suggested you shouldn’t be shy in asking relevant questions.  If one staff member is not open then find someone else to be your advocate. Don’t get stuck.

  • Stay Cordial. You all want what's best for the patient. A confrontational caregiver can spoil the team dynamic. I have been in the hospital when other caregivers were screaming at a staff member and wonder just how effective that outburst is.  I’d say it isn’t going to bring about an understanding, nor, a united front in caring for the patient. We each have our part to play and, when we disagree, as difficult as it is at times, we need to hide our egos, listen to each other, learn from each other, and remember the ultimate goal is to bring the patient back to good health.  

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1 comment:

  1. Bekah I thank you so very much for featuring my book,"One Pedal at a Time", your kind words and including Hospital 101. I so appreciate this!