I have had a few days practice now as a caregiver so now I decided its about time I figured it out and am trying to be a good caregiver. Here are my thoughts:
1. Sense of humor is essential. If the patient is whining about his pain level, drain, catheter, boredom, lack of mobility, etc. a good smart ass comment will usually make him crack a smile. Which is followed by 'ow, don't make me laugh, it hurts'. So maybe that isn't a good idea but the humor part is good.
2. An entertainment plan. A bored patient is a crabby patient. I bring the newspaper which isn't really important, just the funnies and tv guide section. We play scrabble and crank the tunes (Rock and roll only) on the internet radio he has. So he sits there bobbing his head to the music and beating me at scrabble.
3. An exercise plan. The more he walks, it will help his digestion kick in, which will allow him to get out. I insist on a walk at the beginning and end of each visit and yesterday instituted death marches through the hospital. Out of the hospital he always accuses me of taking him on death marches, which I consider to be nice long walks. But now that he is catheter free, I take him on death marches to the farthest end of the hospital, across to the other side and then back to the far end. Whining not allowed. He has started going on walks without me but they seem to be a bit shorter.
4. Medical care. No I am not a nurse but he is supposed to be breathing into the stupid little lung clearing thingie ten times each hour, and suspiciously has always just done it when I arrive... That is the extent of my medical care. I hope he gets his drain out before he comes home because I am not sure I could deal with that at home.
5. Being nosy. I ask questions of the nurses and doctors. Questions like: when do you think he will get out? When do we get the pathology report? Is there any reason he has to have the second IV in his arm still? He complained about a headache (and told me he didn't think they could do anything for him) and I mentioned this to a nurse and he got Tylenol.
6. Being there. I think this is the most important part. I just go and hang out with him as if we were at home. (I would bring the cat but I don't think that is a good idea). As a professional patient myself, I find the worst things are when people evaporate when you aren't feeling well. There is some of the issue of giving sick people some space but there is no reason not to just hang out as much as I normally would with him.
7. Bringing little things. Yesterday he requested a cup of decaf Starbucks coffee. I said sure, no problem and made a special stop at Starbucks to get it. I walk up to the counter and ordered two small decafs (I don't use their fancy language) and was told (drumroll please) 'they stop serving decaf after 10 am as they find they are throwing most of it away'. What a wonderful level of customer service - they offered me two expensive alternatives - Cafe Americano or another one. They didn't understand why I didn't leap at the option of spending more money. (I think they should just make decaf in smaller pots so they throw out less.) So I left and brought coffee, which apparently was somewhat borderline, from the hospital cafeteria. Today I'll bring decaf from the hospital coffee shop.
Once we get home, which should be tomorrow, none of this stuff will change, except he will get to make his own toast instead of having it delivered on a giant domed tray.
In the meantime, I have to leave here for a special day of fun and games in 50 minutes and I have not yet eaten or showered or given the cat his antibiotics (now there's a caregiver battle). I have a therapist appointment to talk about my stress level and then visit Walter and then I get to have a lovely giant needle in my sacroiliac joint to relieve pain and then back up to visit Walter and the my sister will drive me home (and help me set up the futon bed - but she doesn't know that yet so don't tell her). We want to have a bed he can stretch out on downstairs during the day if needed for the first couple of weeks when he is limited in number of trips up and down stairs. Perhaps it is time I stop typing in get my (fat) butt in gear and get ready.