Caregiver Guide: Helping with Recovery from Illness

Understanding the Problem

Taking care of a family member who is recovering from surgery or an illness can be very demanding for both the caregiver and the person who receives care. This section will give you guidance in how to make the older person feel comfortable and at ease while he or she gets stronger with your help and support. At the end of this section is a part on setting up a sickroom and administering care with practical suggestions for giving care to a person who is ill.

You may need to purchase or rent medical equipment and assistive devices. If so, check the yellow pages in your phone book for local medical equipment companies. Hospital staff (nurses, therapists, and social workers, and discharge planners) can tell you what equipment you will need and will make suggestions about how to obtain it. The healthcare provider can arrange for visiting nurses and therapists to visit the home to assess your equipment needs and to show you how to use it.

Your goals are to provide safety, support, encouragement, and assistance

Tender loving care is the best way to boost the person's spirits. Keep in mind that he or she was once independent and now needs to depend on you for encouragement and assistance.

Give the older person as much control as possible. You should involve him or her in the decision-making process. Ask questions such as, "What clothes would you like to wear today?" and "When would you like to take a walk?"

As the older person becomes stronger, do not rush him or her into new activities. It takes time to gain strength. The older person may not want to do new exercises, saying, "I can't," but really meaning, "I'm scared." Introduce new activities slowly and explain them in detail.

Encourage getting out of bed

It is a myth that bed rest is good for a person recuperating from illness or surgery. Sitting or lying in bed can cause many problems to the body such as bedsores, kidney failure, chest infections, muscles shrinking away, reflexes becoming inactive, and blood pressure increasing. In addition to these problems, a person who remains in bed for several days and then gets up may experience dizziness, fainting, stiff joints, weakness, and problems with muscle malfunction (muscles that don't communicate with the brain).

Your goals are to:

  • Prepare a room where the older person can be cared for
  • Make sure the older person is comfortable
  • Be encouraging about progress
  • Prevent the complications of bed rest

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