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No Training? No Problem! [Family Caregiver Tips]

Jun 15, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of Montclair and Hasbrouck Heights

Most family caregivers take on this role out of the blue, to an extent. One minute, their senior loved one is fine, and the next, they require some degree of care.

Whereas formal caregivers are required to undergo hours of training before becoming certified to administer help, family caregivers are thrown into the position with little to no relevant experience.

If this has happened to you or you feel it might sometime in the future, don’t worry. Here are the biggest ways you can help your senior as their caregiver, even without prior training:

Help with Meds

A common issue seen amongst older patients is their poor medication management skills. It can become especially complicated to keep track of all of the different kinds of meds, doses, times to take them, so on and so forth – especially since most seniors are on at least a couple different ones.

This is where you can greatly help their health and to keep them on track. Knowing they’re taking their medications as they should will also help you feel less stressed as a concerned loved one.

Try making a spreadsheet or downloading an app to keep track of your loved one’s medications. You can also purchase an automatic pill dispenser, where the only work you will have to do is load it with the medications. Even if you’re caregiving from afar, some models of these machines will send you an alert if a medication has not been taken. They are incredibly useful tools that even you yourself might consider using in the future.

Another note to make on this topic is to keep track of side effects or adverse reactions of the medications. For example, if one of the cholesterol or blood pressure medications says to avoid eating grapefruit, make this known to your loved one and constantly remind them of it.

Their Nutrition

Though food intake is incredibly important, especially as older people tend to lose their taste buds and appetite, water intake also falls under this category.

Seniors are known to be dehydrated, partially because their desire for thirst decreases with age. Doing little to no physical activity can make them crave hydration even less, so it’s important to encourage them to drink lots of water. If they’re having a difficult time with it, try more flavorful drinks that are comprised mostly of water, such as herbal iced tea.

In regards to food, stick to whole foods. Avoid processed products as much as possible, as these tend to contain added fats, salt, and chemicals that can make your loved one feel bloated. Lean proteins, fatty fish and fresh produce are the way to go.

Keeping a Watchful Eye

Sometimes, part of caregiving is simply being observant. Are they acting funny today compared to normal? Does their chronic medical condition appear to be advancing or changing? Are they more tired today or craving water more than normal? Are they in pain?

Keep track of any anomalies and report them to their doctor, as they could be signs of an underlying medical issue.

Preventing Infection

Caregivers and other healthcare workers are taught and required to wash their hands constantly throughout the day. That is because it is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.

You should do the same, and encourage your loved one to wash their hands more frequently (and more adequately), too. Here are some tips:

  • Use warm water and soap dispensed from a bump, not a bar of soap.
  • Rub your palms, wrists, and get under your fingernails, too.
  • Wash your hands before and after any contact with your senior, after you use the restroom, and before preparing meals.
  • Keeping little bottles of hand sanitizer around the house can also help.

Moving Them

Many home caregivers hurt themselves by moving their loved one with the wrong form or with little to no equipment.

Be sure to use your legs, not your back, when helping transfer your senior. You can also purchase a gait belt to help move them. This belt gives you more support on their body and more grip to move them safely. If it becomes too dangerous or burdensome to move the on your own, you may need to hire someone to come help you do it (and they can help with other caregiving duties, too!).

Above All: Communication

Remember that your loved one needs you, and patronizing them or babying them isn’t going to make them feel any better about their situation. Treat them with respect, let them talk to you about their worries and concerns, and be communicative about what you’re doing in all aspects of care.

If your loved one has a cognitive impairment like dementia, they may begin to make less and less sense and get easily agitated with you as time goes on. Remember to be patient and realize that they are confused and mean you no harm. Good communication is the key to maintaining a strong relationship so that you can provide high quality care to your loved one in need.

If you need some help learning the ropes or just need a break - call our office or check out our respite care services page to find out more.

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