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The Challenges Of Home Health Care

Aug 17, 2007
Acting as a caregiver for a friend or relative who is sick or disabled can be a rewarding but challenging experience. If you do not have a background in a health profession such as nursing or physiotherapy, the physical and emotional intensity of your new caregiving role might be daunting for you. There are many emotional challenges that you may face, as well as practical challenges that you will encounter on a daily basis.

Personal challenges

Caregiving is not an easy task. You will be dealing with a person who may be completely physically and emotionally dependent on you. If you have never been in this role before, you may be unprepared for the demands this places on you.

Looking after a sick friend or relative can be confronting. You may need to undertake basic nursing procedures, such as changing a catheter bag, assisting with showering or going to the toilet, or cleaning up urine, feces or vomit. Your patient may be very embarrassed that they must rely on you to help them. The situation can be very degrading for the patient and it will be important to let them know that you are willing and capable of dealing with their nursing. Your manner can allow your patient to feel that they are maintaining their dignity through their illness, which is an important gift.

If your friend or relative is sick, it is likely that they may be in considerable pain or discomfort. In this situation, patients may be argumentative, ungrateful or rude. You will need to understand their situation, but also be prepared to gently remind them that you wish them to treat you with respect, despite their physical pain.

It can be difficult to maintain your own lifestyle when you are caring full time for a relative or friend. In this time, it is critical that you do not lose contact with your other friends and family. Making time for yourself is important, both for you, and for your patient. A day spent shopping or receiving a relaxing facial can rejuvenate you, give you a break and ultimately offer your patient better care.

You may need to be prepared for your patient to, intentionally or otherwise, make you feel bad for taking time out. This is not uncommon, but you need to stick to your guns. Take the time for yourself and do not feel that you are letting your patient down. If necessary, explain to them how important it is for you to spend some time by yourself. Bringing them home a small gift, or taking some photos of your trip might be a good way to share the experience with them.

Preparing your home for health care

The advantage of hospital care is that all the facilities and equipment are available to your patient. Bringing them home for care means that you will need to buy or hire the right equipment to make your friend or relative comfortable. Depending on their condition, you may need a hospital-style bed, commode, shower chair, wheel chair or walking frame. Other equipment such as a blood pressure monitor or oxygen machine may also be required. Talk with your patient's medical team about the best place to hire or buy the equipment.

You will also need to consider the safety of your home. Do you have stairs that will need to be modified into ramps? You may need to consider installing a mechanical lift to assist with accessing your home. Grab rails might be necessary in the shower or the toilet, if you patient is able to walk but lacks strength. Non-slip rubber mats are also a great idea for the bathroom if you are nursing a frail or elderly relative.

Meals can be a stressful part of caring for a patient. Sometimes they will have special dietary requirements, which can mean extra hours in the kitchen. If it is possible, cook only one meal for your whole family. Cooking and freezing large batches of food is also a great idea - get your family to help you prepare a stock of frozen food. Again, planning is important. Prepare a menu when you do the shopping and try to stick to it.

Planning ahead for emergencies is also important. Using a baby monitor or personal alarm may be necessary so that your patient can let you know if they get into trouble during the night or when you are not in the room. Keep a list of important phone numbers - doctors, ambulance and pharmacists - by the phone, so that you or others can call for advice quickly. A medications schedule can also be helpful - you can show a medical professional what your patient is taking and when. It can also be helpful to have a back up plan for the rest of your family - if you need to rush your patient to hospital, you need to know that your children, house and pets can be cared for at short notice.
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