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Caring for the Caregiver

By José (Pepe) Valencia

One of the things I’ve learned throughout my practice with the care of elderly, who need all kind of attention 24 hours a day, is a hard fact “The caregiver falls down faster than the patient.”

What I mean is that the person who cares for an elderly dependent should receive equal attention and get enough rest. Otherwise they fall into what we call “burn out” if they get totally exhausted and eventually fail to attend to the patient, even when it is a member of the family.

We all have daily activities, and if we add to them the care of a loved one who needs to be fed, cleaned, mobilized, and treated based on their health status, the moment will surely come when we feel terribly tired and feelings of all types appear. Definitely one of them will be taken care of—courage against the elderly. Surely comes a time when the patient requires more time and attention than just the everyday routine.

Immediate actions must be taken to prevent the occurrence of two very important things: having very negative feelings against the patient or burning out and getting sicker than the person cared for.

My advice, today and always, is to delegate those attentions to an institution or a facility with the proper staff, with vocation, training, experience, and enough time to give satisfaction to all the needs of the dependent elderly. We cannot care for a family member, however much love we feel for him or her, without knowledge in this field.
Its not possible to care for someone if we do not start taking care of ourselves.

But if the only alternative is to take care of him or her at home, either for economic or other reasons, the following points should be considered:

1. The caregiver must not treat the patient for periods exceeding eight hours per day.

2. The caregiver should rest one full day each week, taking care of the elderly patient for only six days.

3. You must feel free to determinate when you can no longer continue with this work.

4. You must have at your disposal medical services to refer to in case of any emergency.

5. You must have the support of the family.

6. You must have the time, patience, dedication, freedom, knowledge, to care and training for the elderly patient properly.

Do you have all of the above? If not, choose to transfer your patient to a specialized center for attention. You’ll see that the quality of life of the elderly, whether family or not, and your own will improve markedly. Soon, in our beloved San Miguel de Allende, a new center with the necessary facilities will open its doors to provide the highest quality of services to those who deserve to enjoy a better quality of life until the final moment, when such care can no longer be provided in the family home.

Dr. José (Pepe) Valencia


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