Caregiving Story

Amy M., My Dear Friend

Age:80
Location:Bridgeport, CT
Cared for by:Elna Hughes
Years of Care:40

 

My years of caregiving go back to when I was a student nurse and cared for my grandmother in her home for two years, until her congestive heart failure condition no longer responded to medication and she passed away. I continued doing home care for elderly parents of friends or relatives throughout my nursing career on an on-call basis.

Empathy, compassion, and understanding the stress that a patient feels when they can no longer care for themselves without help is my strong point. I think it is imperative to "put yourself in the patient's shoes" in order to understand their emotional stress when they have to deal with their dependence upon someone for help.

My strength was tested when I cared for a close family friend at home. She had fallen and broken her hip but refused to go into a rehabilitation facility after surgery, wanting only to be home.

The importance of carefully moving her from one side to the other every two hours to maintain good skin integrity, checking the circulation of the affected leg for any signs of circulatory problems, making sure the affected leg was properly stabilized with pillows, and rolling her to her side keeping her entire body in good alignment was important. I explained to her WHAT I was doing, WHEN I was going to do it and HOW she could help. Well, she often told me she didn't want to be moved, "too much pain", "not in the mood", etc. For pain complaints I suggested she take her pain medication. She did (after some discussion) and all would go well.

There were times when it took a lot more encouragement and explanation to get her to do what she had to do. I understood her very well. She had been a woman who was always "on the go"--shopping, doing laundry, preparing her family's meals, doing the housecleaning. She felt needed and appreciated when she was doing all these things. The approach that worked best, and helped her stop refusing to do the exercises she needed to do, was telling her that recuperation time could be very much shorter if she just did what she could. If she worked with me as much as she could tolerate, she could get out of bed and be scooting around the house a lot quicker. It was a goal she set for herself and she did it. Within 2 months she was "walking about" quite well and 8 months later, she was right back to her regular schedule of being busy 24/7 :-)

It's difficult for some people to care for friends because they don't want to "hurt them with the exercises". They might do more for the patient (friend) because the friend might say "I can't", rather than help that friend work towards being more independent. My feeling and what I tell the friends I care for is "because I care about you so much, I want you to do all you can to help me get you back on your feet. You and I are a 'team', and if you let ME know how you are feeling, I'll be better able to help you get comfortable. You'll do all the exercises and move about properly, so you can be independent as quickly as possible."

Sadly, two years after successfully recovering from her hip replacement, my best friend went into the hospital for shortness of breath. She called me in the morning to say she was coming home the next day. I sensed something and went to the hospital and found she was moderately short of breath. She brushed my concerns aside and said she was fine, she'd see me at home in the morning. I reported my concerns to the nurse on the floor and went home. My friend did NOT return to her home in Bridgeport the next day but rather went to the home of our Higher Power instead where I am sure is is keeping Heaven neat and tidy and greeting all the newcomers when they arrive - she was that way on Earth, I have no doubt she is the same in Heaven.

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