By Paula Erwin-Toth MSN, RN, CWOCN, CNS, FAAN
This November marks the second annual National Family Caregivers Month. Family caregivers are the unsung, unpaid giants of health care. Some are suddenly thrust into the role; others take on caregiver duties more gradually. In fact many people do not even self-identify with the term 'caregiver'. They think of themselves as husband, wife, son or daughter doing what they want and need to do for their loved one.
Many of you reading this are, have been, or will be caregivers. You will do this as you juggle work, other family members, pets, chores…in other words, trying to do it all. This is where all of us—clinicians and family caregivers alike—need to know where help can be found, how to ask for it, how to communicate with your loved one and other family members and perhaps, most important of all, how to take care of yourself.
That last task can be the most difficult of all. How often have you found yourself frustrated when a family member drops off a patient at the wound center and there is no one present when you examine the person and perhaps modify the wound care plan? I have shared that frustration since many times the patient is not the one doing their care at home and you need to communicate with the family. If the person with a wound is in the home setting, we always ask (some try to insist-that rarely works out well) that a family member be present during the visit.
Support for the Family Caregiver
All of us need to give thought to what the family member is doing. It may be their only chance to go grocery shopping, get a haircut, the oil changed in their car or even renew their driver's license. Is a compromise possible? Do you have any idea of when the patient will be seen? Does the family member have a cell phone you can call when you are ready to see the patient? Chances are they are not that far away and can get back in time so you can talk to them in the presence of the patient to discuss progress and any modifications that may be required to the wound care plan.
Be sure the family caregiver has a list of resources they can tap into for support. Take time to ask how they are doing. Many of us have seen caregivers collapse from exhaustion and illness having used all of their energies caring for others. I once found a caregiver sound asleep in their car. This is where all health care providers can step up to the plate and thank as well as support all the unpaid family caregivers who give themselves every day to help their loved ones.
Resources for Caregivers
There are numerous resources available for caregivers and addressing incontinence. Many are ".com' rather than ".org" so are industry supported.
General Information of Aging and Resources
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
National Council on Aging
National Alliance for Caregiving
Family Caregiver Alliance
MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation
National Association For Continence
The Simon Foundation for Continence
International Continence Society
Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society™
Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates
American Urological Association
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
The Caregiver Partnership
Nearly all the absorbent diaper product companies and incontinence skin care companies have information links to educate patients and caregivers, as well as sell their products.
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.