Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Carepartner Wednesday--The Carepartner's Alphabet--K
K is for knowledge. Knowledge is essential.
When you first start on the care partner journey, you realise how little you know about so many things.
If there is a disease involved (such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's) you want to find out as much as you can about it. Causes, treatments (medical and non-medical) progression and prognosis are all high on your list of questions.
Then there are medications. What is each one for, what about side effects, and is the dosage correct. How will the interact? Is there a different effect on older people with these drugs?
The system for getting supports is another area where knowledge can be lacking. How to get subsidy for a wheelchair, how to get long term care, respite care or into a day program.
Each level of need brings with it it's own questions. You just get one thing figured out, and another one appears. There is always more to learn and more to figure out how it applies to your specific situation. Every care situation is different and has it's own questions.
In all of this, there is an area of knowledge that can be forgotten, and is at least as important.
You need to know your loved one.
I can hear you now. "What do you mean? This is my mother/father/sister/husband/wife. I've known them for many years. I know them better than anyone." That may be true, and you may share memories with that person that no one else has. But here are a few things to consider:
a) People change. Not everything, but sometimes preferences and even habits can change very late in life. The man who was always up and ready to face the day by 6:00 a.m. now prefers to sleep until almost noon. The sharp dresser starts to prefer t-shirts and track pants. The tea drinker suddenly has milk instead. Just as people grow throughout their lives and even until the end, they can also change.
b) There may be details of preference you've never considered or thought to ask about. Do you know whether your aunt prefers soft pillows or firmer ones? What kind of toothpaste does your mother like?
c) What I like today might not be what I like tomorrow. I'm not always going to like the same thing each time in all areas.
Last year, the peer support group that I facilitate put together a comprehensive, two page document called "What you should know." They considered every aspect of life (from food preferences to clothes, to church attendance to pillows) from the aspect of"If I needed care tomorrow and couldn't tell you what mattered to me, these are the things I'd want you to know.." It was fascinating to me some of the questions they came up with--questions I would never think to ask. They are wiser, because they are care partners.
Get to know your loved one. Go from what you do know, and explore areas where you might not know the answers. It will give you interesting conversation, probably a laugh or two ("I didn't know you don't really like asparagus! I've been making it for you for years!") and you will know a little better the person you are caring for.