There may be some things in the world of health that remain the same over time, but a whole lot more things change. It can be hard to keep up with the latest knowledge. Caretakers should not be afraid to investigate on behalf of the person they care for. Be curious and be a problem solver.
One of my favorite clients was always asking me to solve problems and invent ways to keep her comfortable. Curiosity and investigation would usually lead me to a solution of some kind. She named me Shirley McGyver. (I’m very proud of that.)
The husband and I have both had to investigate his diagnosis and care. Most of the time when we tell people he has Lewy Body Dementia they say “Lewy who?“ In fact, many people in health care have not heard about LBD, even though it is the second most common dementia behind Alzheimer’s. It has largely been up to family caretakers to know the ins and outs of their loved ones condition and make sure that they are treated appropriately. I belong to two online support groups for LBD and they have given a wealth of information about the difficult and unpredictable course of this disease.
It is important to investigate for others when they cannot do it for themselves. As a caregiver, you don’t have the same limitations that your person has. Often you can see what they cannot, go where they cannot go, and use resources that they cannot access.
Investigative caregiving has led me to:
-research drug interactions when I notice a new skin rash appearing
-check vital signs when my person says they “feel” a heart arrhythmia
-notice hypertension and bring it to the doctor’s attention
-determine that a person’s allergy symptoms are caused by her cat!
-avoid serious problems for my patient by listening carefully to their complaints
Investigative caretaking takes observation skills. It also takes the persistence to follow up on things that just don’t seem “right”.
My “closest to home” example of timely investigation happened years ago when I was still in nursing school. I would visit my grandmother when I was home on weekends. She was an intelligent, sociable lady who was alert, oriented and mentally competent. She was also on a daily diuretic medication for congestive heart failure. I was very surprised one week at school to get a phone call saying that she was disoriented, frantic, and acting very strange. Knowing this was not her usual behavior, I looked up adverse effects of her medication and was able to tell the caregiver that Grandma needed to be taken to the ER to have her potassium level checked. I was so thankful when they were able to reverse her condition quickly and easily by giving her potassium.
It’s helpful to me to think of myself, my person or client, and their medical professionals as an investigative team. Giving frequent, sometimes daily, care means that I have eyes on situations that the doctors never see. My job on the team is to report, as accurately as possible. For that reason I go to all doctor appointments, and all procedures. I also have proxy access to the online health charts of all those I care for. I am well acquainted with all the ladies at the registration desk since I sometimes see them several times a week, with a different patient each time.
I am a private eye (always wanted to be one…).
I am an investigator.
I am a caregiver.