Friday, September 2, 2011

Closed Doors: Important Opportunities for Caregivers


One closed door.....
In the example I gave last week, a woman used a window of opportunity to access care for her husband after he’d come home from a hospitalization and she realized she could not care for him in that environment. Even after being home for nearly two weeks, he still qualified for rehabilitative care based on the recent hospitalization and related diagnoses. Let’s look at what can happen next. 

Because his underlying diagnoses are degenerative conditions, there is only so much that rehabilitation can do. Improvements might be made. Can he come home again? Perhaps. But what if he can’t? Many people find themselves in this precarious caregiver situation questioning what to do next when the rehab of their loved one gives them a window of opportunity to reassess the care environment and long term picture.

For the vast majority, the desire to ‘go home’ is what drives success in a rehabilitative setting. That’s a good thing. But what happens when the caregiver, perhaps a spouse or adult child(ren) realize that coming home won’t be the best option even if gains are made during rehab? Let’s face it - that’s often a heartbreaking decision to be made. When the reality finally hits that home care is not the best care option, it can feel as if a door is closed. Many caregivers feel they have failed. Then factor in the added guilt-inducing factor when the caregiver knows that care elsewhere will make his or her job easier. Ouch. Did I just admit that? How could I say such a thing? Have you heard those words in your head? If you’re in this situation stop beating yourself up. That closed door will open new ones.

Dealing with the disappointment that it can’t be at home is one thing. Blaming yourself for reality is another. Realize that when the door closed on home care, you have an opening for another way to provide care. Your job, whether taken out of love or a sense of duty, hasn’t stopped. The value of what you have to offer hasn’t lessened, in fact, it’s increased. The only thing that has changed is the environment in which you offer care - the picture looks different; but the need for what you have to offer hasn’t.

Now your work is to find the best care environment away from home. Only you, the experienced caregiver can do that. You are quite likely the only one to know all the nuances of care for your loved one and be able to find the best way to fit those into a facility care environment. Perhaps your caree loves music and the new environment must be one where music can be played, where CD players are allowed, and the singing of hymns is encouraged. Perhaps you need to find someplace that allows patient/residents to play a community piano. Perhaps you can find a place close to home, or more central to other family members wishing to visit. Does she need an environment that offers social activities? Or a weekly church service?
Opens new ones....

Does it matter that you’ll finally get rest that’s probably long overdue? Yes! This is a chance for you to recover (and quite possibly from offering in-home care for too long). As your loved one strengthens in rehab, and perhaps a long term care facility, you need this time of restoration. Reconnect with the things of your life that have been put on hold. When you, the caregiver, have a chance to build up your strength, the quality of the care you have to offer, no matter where it is given, improves.You'll find new energy and strength you can use when giving care in a new setting. 

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