Caregivers everywhere will tell us that each day offers a new picture of the friend they care for. This picture can and does run an expressway of highs and lows. The highs can make us laugh, cry and be the happiest person in the world or they can knock us down to the lowest point we will think we have ever been.
Here is the good news. The important lifeline for many caregivers is they can control the ups and downs of care giving to a great degree. All the emotions of our friend can be mirrors of us. If we as caregivers are having a bad day or something upsetting has just happened leave this outside the door of your friend’s house. Just like when we go to any job in a bad mood, most people around us can tell. When everyone is well, in this circle we have just entered, people leave us to sort out our own stuff. However, our friend needing care cannot do this, so many, many times they simply mirror back the save frustration we have going on.
Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) are just that. Everything we do to take care of our selves each day from the most private and basic to the most difficult and public part of us. Because ADL’s are so basic we must attend to them no matter what else is happening. These are brush our teeth, use the restroom, comb hair, take medicine, bathing, getting dressed and so on. We probably have the truly big picture here. So what can we do when this train is off the track? The most important word in our vocabulary will become Simplify. We all know that we cannot argue with our friend and win. So we can simplify – don’t want to take the medicines, OK. Try leaving that for a little while say, five minutes, and then give only half of the seven or eight pills this person has to take. Go back a little later, say another five minutes, and give the rest of the pills. Our friend may tell you ‘this is not all my pills’, agree say we must have forgotten and give them all of the pills. Let’s say our friend does not want to use the restroom. Let go of that thought for a few minutes and then go back as though the first exchange of ‘No’ did not happen. I think you are getting the picture. If we must let some ADL’s go how about the ones that are not life sustaining. Trade off medicines for getting dressed. Would it really be so awful if our friend stayed in their robe all day or until noon? Trade off washing hair today for using restroom. (Each time you come back to the chore, it will be new for our friend. Or at least our friend will perhaps not be so frustrated by it.)
At this point, we notice that what we are doing is giving some control back to our friend who is losing all control. This is especially important in a skilled care setting, because we have taken even the most private decisions away from our friend. And yes, even with the illness or accident our friend is still in that same body they always have been. They may not be able to express their wishes, that is what we as caregivers are for. Caregivers carry not only the physical weight of this role but almost more important we carry the human role of our friend. We should not only always remember that and keep this thought front and center in each thing we say and do for our friend.
Always ask permission to accomplish a task for our friend. As professional caregivers working in a professional setting (nursing home, assisted living, adult family home or perhaps we go into their home) our friend should not be addressed in a familiar, term of endearment. These words although spoken with true caring can create problems far beyond our mind at the time. These are words like (Honey, Deary, Love, Mom, Grandma, Sweetheart, and so forth) unless they really are our Mother, grandmother, Grandfather and so forth.