By Paula Erwin-Toth MSN, RN, CWOCN, CNS
Ah February! The month of love and romance. Regardless of whether Buckeye Chuck or Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter for those of us who live in the northern climes winter seems cold, dark and endless. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real possibility and the idea of hibernating until spring is tempting. If you are living with a chronic wound, this time of year can be especially problematic. Getting out for groceries, doctors appointments, or worship can be a major undertaking. The challenges for home care nurses are incredible.
I once worked for a home health agency in a rural community in northeastern Ohio. I learned to shovel coal into a coal furnace for a 90 year old couple who were unable to make it down to their basement, drive though tunnels of snow higher than my car and wait to be pulled out of a ditch until after the cows were milked. Every health care provider should spend time with a home care nurse. Caring for people in their own environment is, as the saying goes, priceless. During orientation our nursing director said something that has stayed with me for all these years "Remember, you are a guest in your patient's home." You learn to appreciate the challenges they face on a daily basis. Medications, diet, activity, mobility, pressure reduction, skin care, wound care, management of incontinence all have new meaning when the person is no longer in a controlled environment. You see, first-hand, what not only the person is going through, but what their caregiver is experiencing. Caregiver burnout is not uncommon. Many times, the person rendering the care ends up with health challenges due to exhaustion caring for their loved one.
The home care social worker can be an invaluable resource to nurses, patients and caregivers alike.
What can we do? No matter what setting you work in, regularly assess how the patient and their caregiver are getting along. Ask open-ended questions. Know how to refer them for help. Meals on Wheels can help provide nutrition assistance, some churches have resource nurses who can tap into volunteers to help with shopping and act as sitters to enable the caregiver to get some 'downtime', senior transportation can help getting to appointments to name only of few services they may need. Support groups, such as the WIN (Wounds In Need) group of the AAWC (Association for the Advancement of Wound Care), can offer both patient and caregiver valuable information and support. Sometimes just knowing you are not the only ones living with a chronic wound can make a huge difference in coping with the situation.
We all show love in different ways. The care and dedication all of you render to your patients is one of the highest forms of love- love of mankind. Your efforts make more difference than you know. Take the time to appreciate and thank one another on Valentines Day and every day.
About The Author
Paula Erwin-Toth has over 30 years of experience in wound, ostomy and continence care. She is a well-known author, lecturer and patient advocate who is dedicated to improving the care of people with wounds, ostomies and incontinence in the US and abroad.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.