“Are you an Invisible Patient”
After reading “Seeing the Invisible Patient” in the New York Times (11/17/2014, Jane Gross), I realize that caregivers are often invisible patients. A caregiver often cares for others because it is what is expected. Regularly it is the doctor, nurse, and home health workers that fail to recognize the warning signs that the caregiver is overburden, stressed and needing support and help.
The caregiver is often overwhelmed and immobilized with responsibility, which results in self- neglect. Doctor appointments are dismissed, they eat on the run, sleep deprived, depressed, and lack of social interactions. This results in their suffering in silence, which is not intentional; it is a way of life. If the caregiver does not take care of themselves and get the support they need silent suffering may eventually culminate in a major catastrophic illness.
You may ask “How do I take care of myself and get the support I need?” Great question! First, keep your doctor and dental appointments (you must stay healthy). Take your medications as ordered. Exercise on a regular basis-walking IS a form of exercise. Have a list handy of things friends and family can help you with. For example: they can sit with your loved one once a week while you go to lunch with a friend, church, go shopping, doctor appointments, cut the grass, mail packages, etc.
Secondly, keep a journal and take it with you to their doctor appointments. This will help you remember behaviors or situations that are difficult to manage. Be sure to note time of day, new medications, or increased stimulation to give a clearer picture. Ask your medical team for resources to help at home. There are respite services available to provide you with the needed break to get refreshed.
Letting people know what you need will EMPOWER you, lighten your burden, decrease feelings of loneliness and relieve symptoms of depression. You will be invisible no more.
Editor’s Note: Submitted by Valerie Taylor, RN, BSN, CEO and founder; Elder Placement/Referral Specialist for South Texas Alternative Choice, LLC. She may be reached at 210-239-1167, or visit her on the web at www.gostac.com