May 1, 2004
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis
ONE OF THE important duties of caregivers is to maintain a high level of preparation. Good caregivers strive not only to serve the everyday needs of a care receiver, but also work at being ready for any eventuality.
The following is a list of things a caregiver can do to help ensure the best for his or her care receiver:
1. Before you leave on a trip, even if it is a local one, be sure you have a complete list of medications with you-not only the ones prescribed by your doctor, but any over-the-counter medicine, such as vitamins and herbal supplements. Keep in mind that some over-the-counter meds could interfere with your prescription drugs.
2. Bring along the info you need from social security and insurance cards-not the cards themselves. How many times have you taken your loved one to the doctor and had to show his or your social security and insurance cards? If you are like me it's every time, and you probably have them, along with all pertinent information, in your wallet or purse. I have recently discovered that's a big mistake as we are putting ourselves at risk for theft.
To solve this problem, I made copies of our social security and insurance cards, but I blot out the ID numbers. When we need to go to the doctor, I just tell them the number. If you have trouble remembering it, write it down on a separate piece of paper with no information as to what the numbers mean. Along with the social security number and insurance information, I list my phone number and people to call in case of an emergency.
3. Each time before a doctor visit, update the date and any new information by adding, deleting, or changing whatever is appropriate. Give the list to the nurse to put in their files. If you have a computer, you should make a permanent list of each medication, with strength of milligrams and times of dosage. You will be surprised at how pleased the doctor and particularly the nurse will be to have all the information right at hand without using her important time copying down your medications from the bottles themselves.
4. If it's necessary for you or your loved one to go to different doctors, list the doctor and the reason for that particular medication. Write on the bottle the name of the condition it treats. Carry a pad and pen with you so that if you get a new prescription, you can write the correct spelling of its name, the dosage, and so on after asking the doctor.
Pharmacists are as prone to error as the rest of us. If you go to a new doctor, he may prescribe medication that you're already taking. At least this gesture could alert you to taking an unnecessary medication.
5. One should always slow down when driving in the rain. You can check out this precaution with your local state highway patrol. Recently I made a very rainy trip to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I thought I was being cautious, using cruise control when appropriate. I had heard of hydroplaning, and until that trip I had never experienced it. Hydroplaning happened to me several times on this trip and it was a very scary experience. Later I discovered that when the road is wet, drivers should never use cruise control because if you hit a pot hole or slick spot, cruise control keeps going at full power, causing you to lose control of your automobile.
6. Install and maintain smoke detectors. Recently our local fire department held an investigation into a fatal fire in which a man died while sleeping in his home. Surprisingly enough, people generally don't smell things when they sleep, and smoke has a narcotic effect that puts them into a deeper sleep. This is why smoke detectors are essential. If you do wake up and smell smoke, you shouldn't stand up as you may be quickly overcome by smoke. If there's a fire in the house, the best air will be about a foot from the floor. You should roll onto the floor and crawl toward the door. But if the door or knob is hot, don't open it. An onrush of oxygen will feed the fire, which then might flash in through the open door.
My local fire department provides free smoke detectors to residents. They will even come and install them, as well as replacing batteries to smoke detectors they did not provide. If you're unable to keep your smoke detector in proper condition, call your local fire department and ask if they can assist you.
Recently our fire department acquired thermal imaging cameras. These cameras help firemen find people in smoke rooms and see "hot spots" in walls or ceilings. No fire deaths were reported in 2003.
7. If you have a gas water heater and want to test it for a backflow of exhaust, hold a match under the water heater's draft hood. The flame should burn upward toward the flue. If it flickers downward or goes out, call for repairs. A backflow of exhaust can send deadly carbon monoxide into a house.
Hopefully these tips I have used can help you along in your caregiving.
Copyright © 2004, Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis