As caregivers, we know the realities of aging.  We know the complexities of end of life care.  We have ridden the emotional roller coaster of caregiving, and know exactly what each up and down felt like.  We were given the ultimate gift–our loved one’s trust–as they could no longer care for themselves and had to relinquish control.  And whether we expected it or not, we were handed the baton and we hit the ground running. We did our best to cope along the way and through this labor of love learned more and have done more than we ever could have expected.

I’m starting the following list with snippets of what I learned at the bedside, and hope that it will be a way for other caregivers to recognize their achievements, share their experience, and see just how far they have come on this caregiving journey.  These are things people usually don’t talk about at the dinner table … but then again, caregiving isn’t for the faint of heart!  Be sure to add “what you know” to this list by sharing in the comments below!

  1. I know that nectar v.s honey thickened liquids are and I know the easiest way to prepare them.
  2. I know how to change an adult brief in bed and know that without protective ointment adults get diaper rash, too
  3. I know how to reposition a loved one in bed every two hours to prevent bed sores
  4. I know how to use a gait belt to do a 2-person lift and transition 
  5. I know how easily older, fragile skin tears and bruises
  6. I know how to bathe a loved one in bed without drenching her
  7. I how to get the pillows positioned jusssst right (at least most of the time)
  8. I’ve provided empathy and reassurance at times, and tough love at others
  9. I know which denture adhesive works best, how much to use, and how to put those babies in the right way
  10. I know how to use oral sponges to clean pocketed food out of a loved one’s cheek
  11. I know how to flush a PEG tube, change dressings, and how to use soda to clear a plug
  12. I know how to dress a loved one in bed without hurting her
  13. I know how to feed a loved one with dysphagia and how to tilt a glass of liquid just right for a good swallow
  14. I know how to use a draw sheet to reposition and how to roll a loved one in bed
  15. I’ve helped disimpact a loved one when laxatives and suppositories didn’t work
  16. I know what sleep deprivation feels like and when I’ve reached my last straw
  17. I know that taking care of myself first is the most important way to give care to another, but it’s also the hardest task to prioritize
  18. I’ve helped our loved one use a bedside commode and a bed pan
  19. I’ve charted every activity to track bowel movements, appetite, medication, mood, doctor’s appointments, etc. over time
  20. I know how to make oatmeal perfectly–and I always get it just right, by the third and fourth try
  21. I know how to maintain skin contact with a hospice mattress to prevent breakdown
  22. I know how to give a loved one privacy when using the toilet, without leaving her unattended
  23. I know what helplessness feels like when watching a loved one in pain
  24. I’ve suctioned a loved one choking on her own secretions
  25. I know how difficult, stressful, and rewarding caregiving is, all at the same time
  26. I know how to preserve dignity at the end of life
  27. I’ve held a loved one as she took her last breaths
  28. Lisa V. knows that the act of dying is not simply someone taking their last breath
  29. Lisa V. knows the importance of a simple touch
  30. Lisa V. knows that the family is as important as the patient in the dying process
  31. Lisa V. knows that non verbal doesn’t mean someone cannot communicate
  32. Judy B. knows how important smiles and gentleness are in the caregiving process
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