How to be a Stellar Caregiver:

  1. Learn about each pre-surgery test and procedure that is recommended. Learn the full name and acronym of each test performed. Ask the providers why he needs this test, what will it show, and why is it important? What are the pre-test rules? How long will the test take? Does he have to be sedated? Is there anything else we need to know about the test? Which doctor will provide test results, and what are the next steps?
  2. It’s important to track regular medications and keep providers informed of changes and additions. What medications needed to be stopped for a procedure? Were there any negative reactions to stopping medication? What new medications have been added, at what dosage, and how are they administered (intravenously or orally)? How long will he be on the new medication?
  3. Keep track of food, which substantially affects all aspects of health. The combination of my husband’s diabetes, him not eating the usual amount of food, and effects of medications, it was challenging to determine appropriate amounts of insulin. I made a chart of his medications, the dose, what time of the day he took it, and who prescribed the medications. I kept a copy of this in my purse. I also made a chart for him to track his glucose readings and how much insulin he was injecting.
  4. Stay in communication with providers, ask questions, and take notes. While he was in the hospital, I got there early so that I could discuss his treatment and took notes on what the doctors said.
  • Visit when you can. Share what is new that is happening that they might be interested in. Keep it positive. Don’t discuss negative family issues or what family members are saying about the patient unless it be a benefit to their well-being.
  • Bring a comb or a brush and help with simple hygiene activities. Simply helping them to look better helps them to feel better. Clean their glasses, if they wear them. I actually trimmed the hair out of my husband’s ears. It made him laugh — he said it tickled!
  • Bring a newspaper, book, or an activity the two of you can read together. It helps to have something to focus on other than staring at each other. We worked on crossword puzzles in between his naps.
  • Watch television for short periods of time if they feel like it. We watched football. He slept through most of the game, and so did I! Having company for activities that they would normally be doing at home can make them feel good and less lonely.
  • Be sure to take care of yourself. This is so important! Keep a routine so that you are getting enough rest and eating well. This is especially important if you’re the only visitor and if you are going to be the caretaker when the patient gets to go home.
  • Hospital have patient advocates to assist in answering questions, addressing complexities, and finding a care center for the patient to accommodate their needs. These advocates are extremely helpful in covering all of the needs of the patient — and caregivers! — and will work with your health insurance provider and you for the right location.

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