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When Serious Illness Comes Home
Bonnie Moss 2007-10
Someone you love gets ill, very ill. What do you do? It can be your child, your spouse 
or partner, your elderly parents or a sibling.

There are many who find themselves in the role of an instant caregiver. Lucky for 
those with training or vast knowledge of the medical and health system. This 
background comes in handy.

There are many who are unprepared for what can be one of the most challenging 
situation they will encounter during their life. Caregiving can be overwhelming, 
stressful and confusing.What do you do? Where do you start to learn about what 

to do? Common sense plays a big role, but there are other demands on the caregiver- in 
terms of physical, mental, emotional, social and financial state. You're in for a tough role, 
one that can not be taken lightly.

For those who are computer savvy, get on the internet; there is a lot to learn about 
your new role as a caregiver. Otherwise, your family doctor can be helpful in directing 
you to services available in your community. Do not hesitate to ask relatives and 
friends for advice. Most of us know someone who's been there and done that.

A caregiver or carer, needs to be prepared for the new role. This can be temporary, 
at worst, indefinitely longer than expected. This means heavy demand on your time, 
your patience, your coping skills, a test of your stamina and most importantly, 
of the love in your heart.

Things to consider:
Physical environment

Prepare the sick room. What gadgets are recommended for the patient? How much 
room is needed? Are you prepared to rearrange the room?

Make supplies accessible, to make it easier especially at night. Take time to arrange 
these supplies, from clothing to basic hygiene accessories needed regularly.

Rest area for the caregiver when it is necessary to stay in the same room as the patient.

It helps to have a bright room- some patients prefer a darkened room; try to talk them 
out of it. Soft lighting may help.

Sight and smell may not be as obvious to the patient and caregiver, but consider the 
reaction of visitors to offensive smells. Try to keep the room properly ventilated. Pay 
attention to general hygiene- of the patient and the room. Fresh flowers now and then 
not only cheers up the patient but gives the room that necessary "lift." Do not overpower 
the room with air fresheners and the like.

These sound like a lot of work- but keeping on top of these make it easier.

Patient care

There is almost always the need to help the patient in and out of bed. This means lifting. 
There is a right way and a wrong way to lift anything. Many caregivers suffer personal 
injury from lifting. Be kind to yourself. Learn how to do lifting properly. Seek help 
as necessary.

Personal care and hygiene for the patient requires patience. For bedridden patients, 
find ways to minimize or eliminate bed sores. Anything that adds discomfort to the patient 
means discomfort for the caregiver as well.

When possible, encourage the patient to be interactive. Be gentle and kind- the patient 
has feelings too, despite their condition. The patient needs to be reassured of 
love and respect .

 Caregiver's welfare

This is not a 24/7 duty. No one can do this without taking respite time. Rest when you 
can, know that there is a limit to human endurance and patience. Learn to ask for help 
from relatives, neighbors and friends. It may surprise you that your next door neighbor 
who you think is snobbish can be most compassionate.

  Take up meditation 

Always give yourself time for yourself. A few minutes of meditation can do wonders for 
you. The benefits of meditation stays with you long after your duties are over. It is one 
of the best ways to clear your mind, helps you to connect with your inner self to draw 
from that deep well of strength, patience and courage. 

It is a way to help you keep calm as you deal with your role as a caregiver.

Remember that your life must move on. Amid the duties and demands on your time, 
take a break and do the things that interest you. Be responsible for your own health 
and well being.

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