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Posted: February 06, 2006

Practical Caregiving

Caregiving Love and Questions . . . (and Answers?)

You wanted to take care of your loved one when they needed it, but that time seemed like a long time off. You did what everyone else does -- procrastinate. You didn't want to think about your loved one having serious health problems. And they didn't want to think about it, either.
 
Then, suddenly the doctor would give his horrible diagnosis, or there was a stroke, a car accident or something else just as bad. The far, distant future was suddenly here. Suddenly, you and your loved one have all these decisions to make that would affect your future, as well as theirs.
 
If your loved one is in the hospital, you wonder how you are going to take care of them. You don't know what kind of care will be needed, so how can you make the necessary arrangements?
 
If your loved one received a diagnosis of a horrible disease, you wonder how you are going to take care of them when things get worse. You simply don't have any idea.
 
Will you take care of your loved one in a nursing home? You know people who have done that and they spend a lot of time visiting their loved one. It seems difficult, but someone else does the physical care for their loved one. That might be the answer, you think.
 
Will you take care of your loved one at home? You don't know very many people who have done that, but it seems so much better than a nursing home. It would be a lot of work for you, but your loved one would be in their own home. That might be the answer, you think.
 
While you are waiting and trying to decide, your friends and relatives tell you what you should do. They all have their opinion and none of them completely agree.
 
How can you possibly know what is the best choice?
 
First of all, you should never do anything because someone else thinks you should do this or that. They are not you. They may have taken care of a loved one, but they don't have the same emotional make-up as you, their financial situation isn't the same and they don't have the same family situation you do. What might work for them might not work for you.
 
However, when someone does offer advice, ask them what their reasons are for suggesting that you take care of your loved one in a certain way. They may have reasons that you need to be aware of. You may even want to write down their ideas for future reference. Just don’t do something because they think you should do it.
 
Talk to your loved one's doctor about the future and what to expect. Ask about the unusual things that may happen. Ask him for his opinion on how your loved one should be taken care of, and be to sure to ask why he has that opinion.
 
Call any organization that might be able to give you information about your loved one's future. This would be an organization related to the problem with your loved one, such as the Alzheimer’s Association or American Cancer Society. Get their brochures and/or other information.
 
Call nursing homes and home healthcare agencies. Ask them about the type of care available for your loved one now and in the future. Nursing homes have complete care for your loved one. Home health care agencies work closely with doctors and can have x-ray machines brought to the house as well as other medical equipment needed.
 
Be sure to write everything down.
 
After you have gathered all the information, sit down with close relatives, friends and children that you want to help make this decision. Discuss the alternatives available, and then discuss your situation. Discuss how you would take care of your loved one at home and in a nursing home. Do you need to work? Do you have health problems such as trouble with your back? What can you afford? What are you going to do to get breaks from the caregiving? Who is going to help you?
 
I wrote a column, Knowing What You Need Is the First Step In Getting What You Need,  which includes a form for you to fill out. This will help you get a clearer picture of what your loved one needs, and what you need.
 
Then, make the decision yourself. You are the one taking care of your loved one. You are the one that has to live it everyday. In the end, it is your decision.
 
Once you decide how you will take care of your loved one, try it. If you find it doesn’t work for you or your loved one, re-evaluate everything. You may need to make a few changes in the routine, or even change whether you are taking care of your loved one at home or in a nursing home.
 
I wish you all the best of luck. Taking care of your loved one is a difficult situation, but there are millions of people doing it and you can too. Be sure to get the help and support you need, and be sure to take breaks from the caregiving. Be sure to take care of yourself. Your loved one needs you.

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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