Obtain Training From Reliable Sources

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Use Caution When Assessing Needs  

   Caregivers enter their role with guarded expectations and mixed knowledge and skills. Assessing the needs of themselves or their family members is very foreign to them. Therefore, use caution in searching for information to avoid unreliable sources. When seeking information or training, seek reliable sources.

    Caregivers with no professional healthcare training either have no experience in dealing with medical situations or gain knowledge through one of the following avenues:

  • Watching TV or the movies- Non-documentary media sources are unreliable sources of trustworthy information. What you see promotes the story plot only and has no factual basis. The only truth is that the instrument does exist. Still, you cannot count on its use as described, for the purpose shown, as effectively as demonstrated, or anything else depicted.
  • Taking healthcare classes in school- Healthcare changes constantly. As a result, what you learned in school is probably now obsolete or at least outdated.
  • Illnesses or accidents experienced with family or friends-Medical care is individualized based on multiple factors. What works for one person could kill another. Be careful when accepting unsolicited advice.
  • Cultural lore, religious beliefs, or family remedies passed down through generations-All these probably have some basis in fact but are missing important details to make them completely reliable. Use caution and research what you’ve heard against known facts.
  • Scams or advertisements seen in media campaigns-Scams and ads claim to heal everything. Never believe what you read, see, or hear without checking out the source of information for credibility.
  • Researching topics over the internet or reading books-A better option but again, how current is the information, how credible is the source, and can the information be validated by more than one source?
  • Asking neighbors for advice-Often, the advice given is inaccurate, partial, opinion, or gossip. Before accepting and reacting to the advice, consider the source’s credibility.

            While most of these sources provide information about the subject, reliability and effectiveness are often inaccurate or potentially harmful. Therefore, when assessing needs, caregivers must feel confident in their source of information before they can feel comfortable making the correct decision for their family members.

Past Experiences Help with Assessing Needs

     Some caregivers have backgrounds that prepare them for the role. For example, I have a healthcare background that gives me extensive foundational knowledge of human anatomy and physiology and nursing procedures and process. I have insight into general patient care principles and know how to locate resources with that background. That experience and knowledge also give me a sixth sense that something isn’t “right.” Therefore, I pick up on subtle changes in the body because I know what normal looks like, whereas someone who knows nothing about how the body works would probably miss the warning sign.

            Most new caregivers only receive booklets from their medical providers that hit the high notes and rarely include information on caregiving. Rather, the information provided focuses on the booklet’s company’s product. The nursing staff often shares information; however, their knowledge is primarily hospital-based. The difference between providing care at home and in the hospital is significant.

Lessons Learned

            I found that other family caregivers experienced similar frustrations related to getting information. Therefore, I recommend the following.

  • The best source of information on managing at home is another caregiver. A home health nurse is your next best option because they pick up knowledge through interactions with multiple families in the community; however, networking among home caregivers is your best option.
  • Use caution when researching on the internet. Don’t believe everything you read. Usually, what comes up first is a promotionally sponsored source, which means bias in the information. Read multiple sources to confirm that more than one source supports the same facts. Avoid using “Ad” recommended sources as your sole source.
Proper Training Makes It Easier

            I don’t want to imply that individuals who do not have training are not doing a good job in the care they provide. Quite the contrary. I believe that anyone thrust into the role of family caregiver without training and left to sink or swim on their own is amazing and, in my book, a true hero. Family caregivers sacrifice their lives and dreams for their family members.

            Non-caregivers have little to no insight into the magnitude of sacrifice required of a caregiver. Yet, on the other hand, family caregivers do an amazing job of holding their lives and the lives of their families, the care receiver, jobs, other external commitments, and home maintenance requirements together with fragile twine that could unravel with a slight pull of the thread.

            Most family caregivers know more about recognizing the development of an emergency in their loved one than the medical professional threatening them because they have a sixth sense unique to “their person.” Often, the family member recognizes the subtle change before a medical “crash.” For example, I’ve intervened multiple times while my husband was hospitalized, preventing potentially serious harm by healthcare workers making assumptions about what they expected to see or thought they knew.  

Better Prepared with Training

            However, even though the family caregiver knows “their person” better than anyone, they cannot always interpret what they see as effectively and quickly as needed. The more they know, the better prepared to prevent harm and take effective action. Furthermore, prevention reduces the need to repeat actions and saves time and pain, not to mention money. The more they know, the less time they spend re-doing what doesn’t work.

            In addition, caregivers must know how to protect their health and safety by preventing their exposure to harmful germs and knowing the proper way to safely use medical equipment.

            Statistics show that caregivers often die before the family member is under their care due to neglecting their healthcare. If something happens when the primary caregiver needs care? Who becomes their caregiver plus cares for the one they previously did? Will someone else pick up their job duties, or will both the family member and caregiver be sent to an assisted living facility? Learning how to safely care for your family member with the least amount of physical wear and tear on your body while providing their care could lengthen the quality and quantity of a family team’s life.

Toward that end, I recommend that become familiar with information presented on the following topics. The ones I’ve identified below are free and easy to access on Youtube. Please let me know you have difficulty accessing them.

  • Body Mechanics – how to move patients without straining your muscles
  • Preventing Skin Breakdown – measures caregivers can take to prevent abrasions, tears, or other problems of the wounds
  • Emergency Responds Techniques – learn signs and symptoms that something is wrong and what to do
  • Washing Hands – a little soap, hot water, and friction is the perfect way to prevent infection IF you do it correctly.
  • Precautions for Infections – How are germs spread and when can you catch them? 

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