Friday, January 22, 2016

Caregiver Road Kit

Leaving Vernon, VT-October 2015

I've learned a lot since Mom's been home. (That happened just before Christmas.)  One thing I have learned is to always have ready--or ready to throw together--what I'm calling my Caregiver Road Kit.  The kit includes items to keep Mom safe and cared for properly and items for me.  The object is to make sure Mom's information is up to date for doctors and such, to make sure my own productivity is not impacted too badly, and to keep us both nourished and entertained.  (There's usually lots of waiting!) 

My kit is pretty simple right now, but I'm sure it will change over time.  Right now, I usually have:  A folder with Mom's information (prescriptions, surgeries, and any other information that may be needed,) a book, a magazine, my phone, sometimes Mom's phone (she's unable to use it, but I read her her texts and respond based on her dictation,) a device (tablet or netbook,) snacks for both of us, and (sometimes) water, and chargers for everything.  I even have extra chargers, because my guy insists that I not go anywhere without a Solio charger. I make sure the tote I use is big enough to hold my purse and even extra clothes if needed, and of course, I always bring at least one extra oxygen tank.  Mom is on oxygen 24/7, and you just never know when a valve is going to stick or a regulator isn't going to work, or a gasket is going to give out or whatever.  I hate working with the tanks, but I've quickly learned how to stay prepared for anything!

The only thing I haven't quite gotten right is knowing at what point to call the home care agency to dismiss the incoming caregiver. Sometimes, you want them at home, even if it means they spend some idle time, in case you come home on the same day.  You will be very tired from your day's adventures and may need to go to sleep.  Your charge will be tired as well and will still need care.  It's important to have a safety net in place.  It's also much easier to cancel a shift at the last minute than it is to find a caregiver at the last minute.  With this most recent situation (the reason for this post,) I was lucky and had an experienced caregiver at home when Mom was taken to the hospital last night.  She walked me through what to do.  Now, I know what to do about today's care shift.  (HINT:  Good caregivers are like gold, so they should be treated like family.  Never treat them as simply "the help."  They can be life savers, both literally and figuratively!)

As a family caregiver, I'm learning as I go.  Though I knew Mom would be coming home and would need care, no one took me by the hand and told me what to do to prepare.  I'm walking this path alone, so my goal with posts like this is to help others who, like myself, feel overwhelmed and don't know what they are doing yet. I know it will not get easier, but I also know that I will get better at it.

If you are in a region hit by or expecting major snow, please stay safe!  Luckily, the hospital where we currently have Mom is close to home.  I don't know yet whether Mom will weather the storm at home or here, but my goal is for her to be safe.