Caregivers 101

Mental health is so dynamic it is important for those dealing with health challenges to have constant help and support. The first line of help is found in caregivers. When Dr. Mutiso wrote about Bipolar, he mentioned a patient called Kim who came in to see him absolutely excited and accompanied by his three brothers who were alert and looked like professional bouncers. This is a good example of caregivers.

So, let’s start at the beginning with a definition.

A caregiver is someone over the age of eighteen, who takes care of another person. A caregiver is committed to assisting people who are sick, injured, mentally or physically disabled, very young, elderly or fragile and is responsible for the direct care, protection, and supervision of individuals either part-time or full-time.

Sounds simple enough, right? But there is more.

A primary caregiver is main the person who takes on the responsibility to care for a patient. They spend the most time with the patient and are the first line of response and defence as they watch, care for and protect the patient with a desire to see them get well and become independent again. Very often primary care givers are close family members but they can also be trained professionals depending on the extent of illness and the care needed.

The role of the caregiver varies and totally on the patient’s needs. The demands and requirements will vary from one patient to another but the basic role of the caregiver includes:

  1. Personal care like bathing and grooming, dressing, toileting, and exercise.

  2. Food preparation to maintain the right dietary requirements

  3. Helping run the home including shopping, housekeeping, laundry, and other errands.

  4. Escorting the patient to different places

  5. Administering medication at the right time in the right dosage

The reality is that it is not easy to be a caregiver.

Many times people have taken up the role of caregiver and been unable to keep it up because there are some special traits of a caregiver that make one's work easier. Let’s start with excellent verbal and written communication I that ensure good notes and records are kept to that build history for reference in doctor’s reviews and assessments. Astute observation skills to keep track of any changes like improvements, deterioration, responses to medication etc are also important.

Additionally, a caregiver needs the ability to follow set rules and processes, time management, organizational skills, empathy and compassion. A good care giver is extremely patient, compassionate, attentive, dependable and trustworthy that enables families to be sure that their loved one is in capable hands. The patient also needs to be comfortable with the caregiver to ensure lasting improvement.

Another big question is the place of continuous care. Many people ask “Why do we need continuity of care?” There isn’t a simple answer but there are key benefits of continuous care. The evidence indicates that continuity is valuable and important to doctors and patients as it creates room for improved health and relationship with patients. It also enables the family, doctors, and caregivers to work together more effectively and therefore improve the clinical treatment outcomes. Caregivers are important because they help keep close track of patient health and improvement as well as catch changes in behaviour before they become a major problem or get out of control.

In recent times, physicians have often been referred to as caregivers or providers. This is important because they are usually able to connect with the patient and willing to understand their needs and the right combination of medication and other remedies needed to provide relief and healing.

If helping people comes second nature to you, you might be ready for a career as a caregiver.

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