10 Ideas to Help Senior Spouse Care Givers

by francy Dickinson                    www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My husband came home last week from hospital. He had a stroke and is now recovering. He went into a care facility for only two days and hated it and demanded he be home again. I’m way over my head and heard about your blog- Help!
First, I’m very sorry you are both going through this health challenge. You will see in my many blogs that as a person who has spent many years as a full time care giver – now, caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s/dementia – I feel very strongly about being the lead in the Health Care Team between my husband, the doctor and me. I’m the care giver and I do most of the work and I am clear headed, therefore I get to make the rules and the rules have to include my own (as well as my senior’s) good health, energy and happiness. The senior in care comes first, but just like raising children – the mom/spouse care giver has to take charge and stay strong.

Here are some ideas just to begin your process.

  1. Get a formal Health Care Directive in place that shows that you can make health decisions for your spouse. It will also give you the ability to ask for his medical information. You do this by filling out a form (from office supply store or software called Family Lawyer) Have it notarized and then you make copies for Dr’s and hospitals, so you are able to be in charge as your spouse’s health team partner.
  2. Talk to the doctor about having a Physical Therapist helping you at home. In-home care of professionals and care givers is really important when you’re just “at the beginning stage” of a health challenge. You will be helped and you will learn from them. Don’t try to do it alone, even if your senior is demanding privacy. Stick up to your own needs, get a team in place. Therapists, care givers, bath people all of them are there for you to use. At least for the first few months while your senior is adjusting to his recovery.
  3. Emotional changes happen when a senior is recovering from a stroke. Their mind has been affected and it will show signs of change. Those changes may heal with time, but it takes loads of time. So if you feel your senior shows signs of anger issues, confusion issues, and speech or memory changes – share it with the health care professionals. Do not be afraid to share these changes with doctors and care givers, it’s not a private issue when you are on a health care team. It is reporting serious change that can be treated with therapy or medications.
  4. Keep a notebook with a daily log. Write down the pills that are given and the time, any response to the medication, the emotional and physical changes you notice.
    *Example: George was starting to shuffle in his walking with his dementia; I reported that to his neurologist on our next appointment. Dr changed his meds and 24 hours after the new meds were taken, George was walking normally again. You keep the running tab of things that seem out of place as well as things that go well. So you are prepared to talk to the medical professionals and get them to join your team and all of you will work towards your husband’s recovery.
  5. Sit down with your husband and go over rules of the road. Just like you would with any teen ager -there are house rules to establish. The medications have to be taken on time each and every day. Exercise will be done in the morning and evening, no matter what is going on. Visitors will only stay 30 minutes and then off they go so they do not wear down the senior. Getting dressed, using the walker, practicing their speaking, and eating good food is not a choice it is a requirement. It may sound dreadful to have to go over everything, but this is what has to be done to get him well.
    * Yes, you will find your relationship does take a change. But it is all for the betterment of your senior and to their good health. If you have been the passive person in the marriage/relationship then you will learn to be assertive, because that is what is required during this healing time.
  6. Go online and read about your spouse/senior’s condition. You will find so much information. There are chat rooms filled with folks walking in your footsteps, so join them. Twitter me at @seniorcaretips. Do not be alone. Do not be afraid. Sure life is great when both parties are well and happy, but real life comes with bumps. Just know that learning about how to give care and what is required of you means getting answers from those that have gone through a similar recovery. It will make you strong.
  7. Who is in charge?
    I had to change my own health care directive a few months ago. I removed my husband’s name and put down my sister as my Power of Attorney for health care. It was so hard to do. My hubby has treated me as a princess for over 30 years. But, he has dementia; he cannot make decisions for his own health now, let alone my health. So the change had to come.
    Change, it is always foreboding. Facing tough decisions with your spouse/senior is a very hard thing to do. But you will do it. There are no bad decisions in health care, there are just different choices. You’ll listen to your spouse/senior, listen to the health care people and your own inner voice and then you will decide on a treatment that makes sense to you.
  8. Family members are loving and want the best. But they are not there giving care-you are! You’re there giving care 24/7. You do not go home at night or take the day shift only. You are there day after day and you know how your spouse/senior is doing. You can see the changes for good and bad and you have to trust your own decisions. You will find that family will try to guide or lecture you. That is fine, hear them out, but remember you are in charge and you are going to make the decisions. To go against what you feel is right because a son, daughter or Uncle has forced their opinion on you – is not right. You have to be strong and have faith in your own choices. The health care team: You, your spouse and your doctor.
  9. Set up your home for recovery. A bed may have to be moved, a walker, bath chair and commode may have to be added and used. Just remember, that the old way of life is on hold while your spouse/senior recovers. Think care giver thoughts and keep things cleaner than normal, be more organized, and follow health care instructions to the tee. Do not allow the spouse/senior to make the rules, remember? Their recovery is going to take you to be strong and follow the health care professional’s suggestions, not his.
    * My husband’s good friend got a knee replacement and went to the therapist and did all the exercises- totally recovered with good speed. His second replacement- a few years later- he did not go to therapy, he thought he knew how to do it on his own. He has never recovered and limps. He told me he thought he only had a few years left to live, now ten years later, he’s very unhappy about the choices he made.
  10. You, you are the “it girl” now. The spouse that is well is left to be the spouse/senior in charge of the health care plan. It is not easy and can be very emotional. So, what does that mean? You need to reach out and talk. Talk to a support group online or in a group by your home, to your family or best friend. You need to eat well, drink water like a mad person, and sleep. If you do not sleep at night, then take naps. You have to stay strong, and that means you need to walk away every week. Walk out of the house for a walk around the block, a drive to meet a friend for coffee or shopping. Get out and get a fresh look at the world. Your strength is going to help your spouse/senior to gain strength again.
    *I always keep a diary to express myself. I write three things that made me happy today and three things that upset me today. After just a few days- you can look back and see the things that bother you or that bless you. After a couple of weeks you can even look back and say – “Hey, I have to stop letting that word, or person or action bother me. Or I have to order more chocolate ice cream because it always makes me happy.” It’s my own self help- and it has carried me through years of care giving.

     

    This is just the beginning. There is always more and please take time to read more of my blogs and join me with my on demand talk shows on all sorts of senior care issues at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/SeniorCareWithSpirit

    I have so much info to help you on your care giving adventure. I even wrote a Senior Care-Giver 101
    Workbook to make the check off lists of daily tasks and how to give care and home nursing techniques easy for you. The workbook is at http://www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
    click on Products.

     

    Thanks for all you do for your husband and for reading the post. Blessings, francy

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