Back in August, Martha Brady wrote a beautiful post about reaching the caretaker at church.
Reaching the Caretaker was a perfect topic for my plan to write this 31-day challenge of a Treasure Trove of Helps for the Minister for the minister. I asked Martha if she would write more for me and she graciously obliged. Before you read too far, you should probably go read the August post “How do You Reach Out to the Caretaking Spouse? … so go ahead and click here.
Introducing Martha …
Martha Brady is a wife of 48 years, mom of 3 daughters, and grandmother of 7. She is also a retired RN and pastor’s wife, now retired.
She has been epileptic since age 20 and had chronic pain issues in her 40’s. At various times, she has also struggled with depression, possibly as a side effect of some of her medications.
Her husband had a stroke in April 2015. He has some limitations but isn’t helpless.
She has written at GrittyGrace.com since 2010.
I’ll let Martha Take it from here…..
This guest post is a follow-up of one that I wrote back in August from the perspective of the caretaker’s spouse. Mandy Farmer asked me to write a guest post on this topic.
Personally, I have my own health issues, mostly chronic that I have had to deal with over the years. Side effects of medications sometimes get me down as well.
I’ll use this post to discuss caretaking from the perspective of the caretaker with health issues. Often, you are the spouse of the person who needs help. Sometimes his (or her) needs seem all-consuming, even overwhelming! But often, in regard to the care of your loved one, you see no other alternative than caring for them yourself.
As a spouse/parent caretaker of someone who is ill, you need to take account of your resources
You know the amount of physical strength you have. You know the demands your health condition demands of you in terms of financial resources, time and rest. If you have never thought it through, take the time to do it. Figure it out.
- What are the demands of taking care of your loved one?
- Is this a 24 hour a day job?
- What are the physical demands?
- What resources do you have for help?
- Are you aware of resources in your community to help you do this?
- Do you have a good support system where you are?
- By moving closer to family or a larger city, would you have more support?
Talking to a social worker would help you learn about resources to help you. The best way to do that is before they are discharged from the hospital or rehab center. Daycare for dementia patients is available in some communities, having a sitter a few hours a day for a few days a week, getting help with housework, etc. All are things to think about to take stress off you.
Home health nurses are only available for patients who are homebound so it depends on your situation whether your family member will qualify for that care. It will rarely be according to your convenience, however. That nurse has a lot of places to go and has to fit your stop into her route.
Becoming aware of all the qualifications for various types of assistance and care is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Find a convenient way to save receipts, lists of medication, dates and times of conversations you have with insurance companies, billing offices, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. These can often be crucial.
Keeping those things together in a file will simplify things for you if you need to refer back to them. On each doctor visit, be sure you take an up-to-date list of all your loved one’s medications with you as well as any recent ER visits and dates. Cell phones are very helpful for keeping this info together in one place, often filling them in, in multiple places with one stroke.
Keep the names and doctor phone numbers and addresses in your contacts. It makes it very easy when filling out forms. Having all the information on hand will simplify filling in forms for you. Before long, you will be a pro at filling in forms!
Ultimately, you will want to be sure you make the best decision for your loved one re their care. Don’t get concerned to make the perfect decision. That will tie you up in knots. Make the best decision considering all the factors including your resources.
As a nurse and pastor’s wife, I used to cringe when people commented to spouses saying, “I could never put my husband/wife/child in a home.” But they didn’t have a loved one with the situation that person was in. They didn’t have the same resources, or lack thereof, as that person. Sometimes, the best decision for a person with a loved one who needs a lot of care and must also work may be to put them in a home. Don’t burden them by second-guessing their decision when you don’t know all the facts.
These decisions are never easy and we can’t trivialize or oversimplify another person’s decision here. We don’t know the process they had to go through. It’s up to us to pray for them, encourage them and support them as they make their decisions.
Another side to this has to do with ask @grittying for help. I’m thinking of ways I don’t do it now and am learning to do it more. If you are the caretaker for your spouse, you may need to sit down and talk to your children, even if they live out of town.
How can they help you? It will depend on what stages they are in with their families, but often there are things they can do remotely to help you. There may be local friends who can make your load less heavy. Don’t carry the load alone or you will burn out very fast! Accept help when it is offered. Think through ways people can help you so you will be able to offer suggestions when they ask.
It isn’t easy to think proactively in the middle of an acute or chronic illness. So all I’ve said has a lot to do with whether your loved one’s illness was sudden like a stroke or heart attack or head injury. Or whether it is more chronic in nature that has just gotten worse…like dementia, heart disease.
Chronic diseases often give us time to plan ahead. The sudden ones leave us in shock for awhile until we get our wits about us. In the early days of thinking, we’re getting back to normal, we still are dazed but aren’t functioning well. I think we recover in stages. Our awareness of our situation comes on us in stages as well.
If you are seeing changes that seem like downhill changes, you might want to talk to the doctor to find out if they are what you think they are and if there is anything that can be done to help you at this new level. No question is too stupid.
He/she will be aware of Medicare/insurance requirements that will affect your situation as it changes…especially if he is an internist or family doctor primary care physician…or oncologist.
Thanks Martha for helping us learn about the challenges of caregiving.