For whatever reason, Mom or Dad has been admitted to the hospital. As your parent’s primary caregiver, you will now add “advocate” to your job description.
Let me say this very clearly: every patient in a hospital bed needs a friendly and loving advocate by their side, someone who will help care for the patient and ensure the patient gets the best possible care from the doctors and nurses.
A Care Diary
The first thing to do is to go out and buy a notebook. This will become your “Daily Care Diary”. Use a fresh page each day and date the page. You are going to write down three things: 1/ summarize what the doctor tells you about your parent’s medical condition. Just use simple words. 2/ Writedown any problems your parent is having. And 3/ Write down any questions you may have for the doctors and nurses.
Your care diary will help you keep track of the tests and treatments your parent receives. Your questions for the medical staff will be organized and right at your fingertips. And you can ask for help for the various problems your parent experiences. Doctor’s and nurses are very busy. They will appreciate your organization.
Your parent will need someone by his or her bed during the day. If they routinely sleep through the night, you won’t need to add night care. Now is the time to call in family members so you can take shifts. Five hours is plenty per shift. If you don’t have family members who can help, consider asking a friend or two to come and take a shift. Don’t burn yourself out by sitting for 12 hours by your parent’s bedside. You need to pace yourself.
The Caregiver’s Role
Your role is to provide bedside care to your parent. Nurses no longer have the time to do this. Help Mom to open up food packages. Encourage Dad to eat his meals. Make sure the patient drinks sufficiently. Help your parent walk to the bathroom. Massage your parent’s back so it doesn’t get stiff while lying in bed. Hospitals are usually very dry so bring some moisture lotion and lip salve (like Chapstick) in and apply it to your parent… Find out where the clean sheets are kept and change the sheets so your parent’s bed is fresh and comfortable. Look for, or ask for, extra pillows and blankets if necessary. Consider bringing in your parent’s own pillow from home to use instead of the hospital’s pillow.
All of these things will increase your parent’s comfort. It’s no fun being in a hospital bed but with your tender care, and your Care Diary, you can go a long way towards making sure your parent gets the best possible care during his or her hospitalization.