This article speaks to the importance of acquiring professional caregivers when needed.
In addition, it is wise to plan in advance for this situation. Don’t let reality force you into making a rushed decision.
A daily living and lifestyle research by a famous international magazine has indicated that the majority of seniors would choose the comfort of their own homes when given a choice where to spend their last years. This is totally understandable due to the independant lifestyle possible in a familiar community environment.
The other side of that coin is that at least 30% of senior citizens require assistance with some part of their daily living activities. If they are not living with a partner who could fulfill this task, there are a few options to consider how to deal with it in advance. We are all familiar with the fact that getting old means various things to different people, but the simplest of daily tasks could become a huge stumbling obstacle in a physical or mental way (or both).
Initially, when the need for assistance arises with a post-hospital patient or the caring for an elderly person, it is normally a family member or friend that steps in to lend a hand and take care of whatever is required. However, there are a few points which may become an issue on why a family member should not take care of their own on a permanent basis:
• They may already be tied up with their own responsibilities;
• They normally do not have the time to study caregiving properly;
• They tend to become impatient because they are familiar with the person and directly emotionally involved.
Looking after your own family / friends may work for a limited time and it’s fine for minor situations and not-so-serious cases. When this burden of caring for a family member becomes too heavy, the aid of a caregiver is considered as an alternative to frail care facilities.
Irrelevant of the choice between acquiring a caregiver at home or moving the patient to a frail care center, there is another very important aspect involved and that is to focus on the actual quality of care that is offered / supplied. A lack of knowledge in this department can literally get the paw-paw in the fan in no time, should you find out too late and the damage is irreversible.
Firstly, the immediate caregiver responsible should have adequate training and practical experience to be able to deal with a patient’s medical and physical condition – not just their weight but their temperament/personality and emotional needs. Giving a patient the basics and then left in a room or in a wheelchair somewhere out of the way is not taking care of a loved one in anyone’s books.
Secondly, family members should really anticipate the complexity of taking care of a loved one and conduct proper research on what would be in the best interest of the person in question. Caregiving is rarely discussed until the responsibility becomes a reality. This happens when the crisis appears at an unholy hour and very important decisions are made in a hurry which sometimes do not end well – not to speak of time and money wasted.
Thirdly, a person that has been independent all their life suddenly ends up in a wheelchair or as an elderly person – incapable to continue doing simple daily tasks, due to a physical impairment. This is not only an obvious physical limitation – this person has to make amends with the mental fact of being an invalid and / or the fear being a burden to their family and friends.
Accepting assistance actually manifests as a major psychological problem in many cases and it could take weeks and months for a family to prepare a member to accept someone else in their space – even when that person is there for no other reason but to contribute positively to their quality of life. This takes time and the recommended route is to take baby steps to introduce a caregiver for a few hours one or two days per week before you progress to a scheduled routine that works for everyone.
There are various training institutes for caregivers in our country and each have their syllabus of basic training which should consist of theory as well as practical examination. Then there are optional courses available such as specialising in Dementia or Altzheimer’s or even a Certified Nursing course.
When looking for a caregiver, the best advice is to start with the best you can afford and negotiate an hourly rate that works for everyone. Caregivers with the best quality training, practical experience and stable references are not costing much more than the ones without.
Hindsight teaches us that it is worth doing some homework, spending some time and getting to know the applicants before you appoint them. Check out the references. Ensure they can communicate clearly and understand the applicable language for the patient intended. It is your right to ask about their previous experiences.
If one could explain the fragility of an elderly person’s skeletal system, you may understand that it only takes one fall or incident to have serious injury /consequences such as permanent back or neck injury. The top quality training facilities have very specific instructions in place on how to move a patient and assist with their mobility. There are no grey areas and everything has an international prescribed procedure in quality caregiving.
Something very important to remember with Dementia / Alzheimer’s patients, depending on the stage of the condition, is that they will continue to struggle getting used to a new environment as the part of the brain (hippocampus) that remembers or stores memories becomes non-functional. If at all possible, keep the person in the same place where they have been all their life.
That said, professional caregivers are able to take care of such a wide range of responsibilities and chores at home that the list is actually endless. It is not uncommon that this person taking care of a person, becomes not only a much needed companion to the patient, but almost like a member of the family.
Caregivers are a very special breed indeed and worth their weight in gold when you are fortunate enough to discover a good one.
Article by: Gideon Schutte