gmhTODAY 06 gmhToday Jan Feb 2016 - Page 78

{ } AGING with an Attitude Why Can’t My Caregiver Do Other Things? By Dorie U. Sugay Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides living-assistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive one-on-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independently of Visiting Angels. 78 T he job description of a caregiver is often misunderstood and people tend to “get creative” with it. Thinking a caregiver should do anything a domestic helper would is understandable but inappropriate. The problem starts with the government which categorizes caregivers as unskilled workers. Caregivers have been kn own to make split- second decisions that have saved lives. They are expected to think out-of-the box — fi nding ways to encourage your parent to accept help, eat even when he/she isn’t interested, and, in some cases, convince a loved one to continue to live with some level of gusto. They may also gather data that could possibly help the doctor fi gure out why a parent is not responding to a new medication. Caregivers use basic psychology to lift one’s spirits, they use their knowledge of the human body to ensure people’s safety and they carry out medical instructions as provided by the doctor. It is atrocious to say they are unskilled and ignore their experience and training. So, what can they do if not blow leaves off your porch when your mom is napping? They give non-medical care. The State is ultra- protective of patient health — dispensing of medication, shots, enemas, catheterization, monitoring your blood pressure, etc. can only be performed by a nurse. And the nasty rumor is true — only a nurse or certified nail specialist may cut a clients toenails to prevent possible infection. What are ADLs? The day-to-day sup- port (Activities of Daily Living or ADLs), a caregiver can provide. This includes: hygiene (bathing, grooming, shaving and oral care); eating (assistance in cutting up food, etc.); toileting (assistance dealing with incontinence); dressing (assistance taking clothing on and off ); and transfers (helping move from bed to chair, wheelchair to toilet or to a car, etc.). In practice, the list has evolved to now include meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping (of only the client’s occupied space), errands, and even assistance with exercises. Sounds simple, but clients still seem unsure of what they can ask caregivers to do. Here are just a few of the creative questions we are asked at Visiting Angels. “My husband is too heavy, I don’t want to hurt myself. They can lift him, right?” “Can she take orders for my internet business while Mom is watching TV?” “My wife’s blood pressure goes up when I am messy, can they clean up after me, for her sake?” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN “Can the caregiver go up the attic to bring down the boxes and sort through them?” “Our caregiver is a great cook, why can’t she make enough for the whole family?” I’m always reminded of the question from a 50 year-old local realtor that still makes me hyperventilate: “Can you send me a caregiver who is beautiful and will wear stilettos so she can accompany me to a party I have to go to…you know, make sure I don’t fall, since I am still weak from the stroke?” I must always remind folks that our CAREgivers are not housekeepers although they will straighten up rooms where the client hangs out. (Especially in a home where infection control is needed). Please hire house- keepers for major clean-ups! And no, they can- not get on a ladder to clean the cobwebs from your beautiful high ceiling or reorganize your hoarder aunt’s home. On another note, experienced and/or trained caregivers know the proper techniques to transfer a client but they are not “Amazon” men and women. If transferring your hus- band can hurt your back, it can hurt theirs as well. You may need a lifting mechanism — a OSHA-compliant agency will not allow a care- giver to lift more than 25 lbs. dead weight! Safety and care are the caregiver’s priori- ties — they need to be within earshot to be able to respond to a call for help. Why can’t the caregiver make your bed like 5-star hotel maids do? They are trained to provide care – if you want your Mom’s bed made that way, you need to train the caregiver but not expect them to do as well—their gift is in giving care. The bottom line: care includes not just physical assistance (grooming, for example), but engagement or emotional support (for mental health) and monitoring (which could include sitting with the client) to be sure they have help should they need it. Oftentimes, the mere presence of the caregiver actually provides the client peace of mind and comfort. Many a time, a client is prevented from falling because the caregiver was right there when the client attempted to stand up and got dizzy, or the client was saved from choking on food. You don’t ask the plumber to help change your grandchild’s diaper while he waits for a clogged drain to clear. Allow your care- giver to focus on providing care to your loved one. If you are uncomfortable paying them to be there during down times, work with the Agency or the caregiver directly, to have them there during the busier times. Let them do what they are best at —giving care. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016