When there is a serious illness in your family, family members have to become caregivers. This seems like a pretty straight forward thing to accept – BUT are you a good caregiver?
The answer to that probably depends on what the definition of a good caregiver is. It is one thing to prepare food and bring drinks etc to someone who is recovering from an illness. But it is quite another thing when you have to assist with showers, drying, dressing, wheelchairs, workers or crutches, physiotherapy exercises, visits to medical staff etc.
Many patients need to have assistance with exercises on a regular basis. Sometimes the patient is co-operative, at other times they are not, particularly if they are in pain. If you can not only help with all these necessary activities but also provide motivation and inspiration to your patient, then I would call you a good caregiver.
But what happens if all that you are doing actually brings your health down? My husband had a full knee replacement two years after my stroke and brain tumour. He was my official carer because I could not read, handle money or remember names, dates etc. On his return home from hospital, I became his unofficial caregiver.
After only two days of helping him (the exercises alone took an hour three times a day), I got severe pain in my shoulder and back. I needed him to massage anti inflammatory cream into me and then I had to sit with a hot wheat pack until the spasms of pain subsided.
This is very distressing for the caregiver who knows that their family patient is relying on them for help and assistance. But we have coped by acknowledging that one helps the other as much as they are able to. I believe this makes us both ‘good caregivers’!
But don’t forget that in Australia you can get Government help with such things as bathing, housework, shopping etc. BUT – it is more easily available if you make arrangements before you actually need them. For example you can get assistance once a week for housework for four weeks following surgery. However, if you do not insist on this being available for when you get home it may take one or two weeks to arrange and then you will only get the help for the last two weeks.
Some hospitals are very good at helping you to organise home help. I found staff at Monash Hospital in Melbourne very helpful. You can read about how I coped when I returned home from hospital and the unbelievable stress I experienced as one problem after another occurred.
Tips and Hints
Set yourself a routine to make sure that you are able to provide all the necessary care your loved one needs. Make arrangements to get Government assistance while your loved one is still in hospital (or before) for short term emergency relief. If available get a group of family or friends to assist on a regular basis. All of this will ensure that you are a good caregiver.