I’m visiting my elderly mom who was injured in a serious car accident a little more than a week ago. She was going to be released from the hospital with no one to care for her even though she was in no way capable of caring for herself.
My decision to fly out of state to look after her was not easy because it meant leaving my husband and children to fend for themselves, it meant parting with hard-earned money in order to buy a plane ticket, and it meant taking time off from work during a very busy season. I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do and there was no one else in a position to do it.
I never feel super comfortable helping sick or injured people because I don’t have a medical background or experience. However, during this time of caring for my injured mother, I learned a few important things about caring for someone who is sick or injured.
Here are some ways to be a valuable source of help, even if you don’t have a lot of medical background.
1. Listen to the what the professionals say regarding the illness or injury.
Even though you may not have medical knowledge, others do. If possible, visit the doctor with your friend or loved one so you can hear what types of instructions they have received and so you can ask questions. If you do not have a chance to visit the doctor, ask your friend or loved one what types of instructions the doctor has provided up to this point. For instance, in the case of my mother who has, among other things, cracked ribs, I learned the importance of her exercising her lungs so she’ll avoid getting pneumonia. Knowing this helps me to make this type of exercise a part of her daily routine.
2. Listen to the patient.
Unless the patient is wanting to do things that the doctor says he shouldn’t, pay attention to and accommodate the requests of the patient. For instance, if the patient wants to lay down for awhile, give the patient an opportunity to rest. If your friend or relative who is hurting wants to try taking a walk, assist him on a short walk. Don’t assume that you know what is best for your friend or relative. Simply listen to what they express to you as needs and wants and do the best to accommodate them.
3. Search for resources.
One of the best ways you can assist your friend or loved one who is sick or recovering from an accident or injury is to look for other sources of assistance. For example, there may be programs available through hospitals, churches or other nonprofits that can provide in various ways. Meals on Wheels is one example of an available resource.
4. Take a break.
Even the most devoted caregiver needs a break. Be sure to have others who can assist you in caring for your friend or relative. Breaks can be simple such as taking a shower or nap, or bigger such as getting out for a day of fun and relaxation. Ultimately you will provide better care if you rest and relax and get away from your duties from time to time.
5. Let go of guilt.
Your time to care for your loved one may be short-term. For instance, in my case, I can only miss a week of work and will be heading back home later this evening. My mom is not yet ready to be on her own, but I can only do what I can do. I’ve done my best to make sure she has food in the house and people to drop by and check on her. I’ve also spent time making arrangements for her to have nurses stop by. I’ve done everything I can to make sure she is ready to function as well as possible on her own. Though some may feel or wish I could do more, I need to let go of guilt and the expectations of others, knowing I’ve done the best I can, under the circumstances.