If you are caring for an elderly or ill family member, you may face challenges you never expected. While being a caregiver can be satisfying and challenging, it can also be stressful when done alone.
Helping to administer medications, organizing and providing care and support, becoming an advocate, instructing and orchestrating professional caregivers and communicating with medical and other healthcare professionals are just some of your new responsibilities.
One important responsibility will be gathering information - for example, information about the illness and treatment options, as well as the instructions and recommendations of primary physicians and medical specialists.
Equally important is providing information to the healthcare team. Because you will likely spend more time with the person in your care, you will, in effect, become the eyes and ears of the doctor, reporting on the patient’s symptoms, behaviour and progress so that the doctor and other healthcare providers can recommend and implement sound medical and care decisions.
How to keep track
It’s important to be as observant and accurate as possible. This will be easier if you keep a notebook or other form of diary. Otherwise, with so much to worry about, details that seem clear at the time of a visit may become blurry soon after — and forgotten completely a short time later:
- Organize it. If you’re using a written handbook, write down recommendations and treatment advice from the doctor in one section or on one side of the page. In the other, record your observations about the patient. Be as specific as possible, and be sure to date and time all entries.
- Take it with you. Your notebook or recording device should accompany you to every appointment with the doctor or other healthcare professionals, so that you can ask and answer questions.
- Keep it all together. The doctor may refer your loved one to other health or caregiving professionals. Record all names and phone numbers, so that everything is in one place.
- Compare notes. You may also find it helpful to compare observations with others who are also caring for your loved one. While you might not think that certain observations are important, when you put things together, you may notice significant patterns that should be reported.
Write everything down
Here are some examples of the types of observations you might record, depending on the nature of the condition and the circumstances:
- Changes or improvements in general physical health and emotional well-being and the specific complaints or symptoms.
- Changes or improvements in your loved one’s behaviours, habits or abilities.
- Symptoms of depression or other mood-related symptoms that you observe.
- Questions that your loved one is asking, or issues that appear to be troubling him or her.
- Inability or refusal to follow doctor’s directions regarding medication or lifestyle modifications.
- Details of any incidents when medication has been missed consistently.
- Results of any observations or measurements you need to administer, such as home blood pressure or home blood glucose monitoring.
- Observations, concerns or questions that you think of now, but can wait until the next medical appointment to ask.
- Things that you don’t understand or are uncertain of in the care routine, such as instructions regarding medication, meals, activities, dressings and other treatment.
Remember: you are one of the most important members of the caregiving team, and your contribution is essential to help physicians and other healthcare professionals do their best job.
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