Caregiving Goes Beyond The Patient
As a caregiver, my job involves helping the patient and, often, the family. This story is about James, a 35-year-old man who lived with his older sister Ruth.
I arrived for a 15 minute meet and greet with James, and a 45 minute care planning meeting with Ruth. When we walked into James’ room, the greeting portion was him lying on the floor with a dazed look and blood covering his face. Ruth gasped, and I asked her to please call 911, then kneeled by James’ head, introduced myself and asked him if he could hear me. His mischievous grin and attempt at sitting up told me yes, but he lay back down and started crying with small painful sounds.
I held James’ hand and Ruth returned with a wet cloth. I located a 2 inch split in his center forehead. Thankfully, it was a superficial wound we fixed with secure bandaging. No stitches or ambulance ride required.
After everything settled and James went to rest, Ruth explained that her younger brother had injury induced dementia that caused him to regress without warning at anytime. His toddler years seemed to be what he regressed to most often. He could not verbalize coherently, cook for himself, and could not keep basic hygiene without help. His humor, curiosity and penchant for mischief were fully intact, though. This combo made for nonstop entertainment, according to Ruth. She was exhausted.
Her relief was tangible when we realized James’ injury that day was from jumping on his bed for a Superman flight towards his dresser, and we could hopefully avoid this by introducing a trampoline outside of his bedroom. James loved that trampoline.
As caregivers, we help patients and lower stress for the family.
A few years later, on my last day working with James and Ruth, we reminisced and laughed about our introductions. In the end, Ruth just needed an extra hand and eye; someone able to see past the stress and remind her of simple solutions and always to laugh.