A Day in the Life of a Caregiver
We talk a lot about caregiving duties on this blog, but if you are new to the task, then you may be wondering: “what does a typical day look like?” Of course, it is different for every patient, but here is an outline of what a typical day's work might involve for a caregiver looking after a patient in their home:
Caregivers will assist with getting the patient up out of bed, usually at around 7am or 8am. It is important for both caregivers and clients to get enough sleep (which is at least eight hours per day for most people) in order to function well and stay healthy. The elderly or patients dealing with chronic pain often get less satisfying sleep, and so may need longer periods of rest.
While waking times can be adjusted to the needs of the client, it is a good idea to keep a regular routine that is in step with the environment and culture around them. So typically, the waking hour works well for both patient and caregiver.
The patient may require some personal care as soon as they wake. This may entail assistance with getting to the bathroom, washing their face, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. They may also wish to shower or bathe at this time. Next, the caregiver will prepare breakfast. This is also a good time to distribute any required medications, checking that the correct pills are there and that their client takes everything that they need.
The patient may have appointments planned such as medical appointments, social engagements, or visiting a community center. If they have their morning free, then this is a good time to do exercise. This could be a simple 20-minute walk outside, or something more strenuous like muscle-strengthening activities, aerobics, or therapeutic exercises which restore and reinforce mobility. Whatever the case, the caregiver will need to accompany them throughout, rendering assistance with transportation and utilization of any required equipment.
Similarly, if the patient has a medical appointment, then the caregiver will help them get to the doctor's office or hospital. This could involve driving the patient to the appointment, or in absence of a personal vehicle helping them onto public transport, calling a taxi, or managing shuttle transport when facilities provide it. Once there, the caregiver will get their patient registered at the front desk, and possibly accompany them through the appointment itself before taking them home again at the end.
The caregiver prepares lunch and eats together with their patient. Meals should not only contain essential macro nutrients, but be prepared in consideration of any allergies, dietary restrictions, or orthodontist such as dentures. In the latter case, food needs to be soft in texture, as hard foods can be prohibitively difficult to chew, swallow, and digest properly.
Over lunch, both patient and caregiver can make plans for the afternoon. It’s always beneficial to set a timetable so that patients know what to expect, and so they can make their preferences heard. Furthermore, planning will help both parties cope with the requirements of the day.
Of course, lunch can often be a social time, when friends come for a visit (perhaps also accompanied by their respective caregivers). Activities or amenities may need to be set up in order to facilitate a positive interaction.
This could be a time to spend with friends or family, or to attend more appointments. Or, in the case of the elderly or patients undergoing rigorous rehabilitation, the afternoon can serve as a comfortable time to take a nap and digest the midday meal.
If the patient has been busy in the morning, and especially if they have been physically active, a rest of an hour or two can be beneficial to mood and overall well-being. Also, sleeping for a short time in the afternoon enables the client to stay up later into the evening, which can facilitate social activities and time for hobbies.
During this time, the caregiver can complete tasks around the home such as cleaning, washing dishes, doing meal preparation, handling paperwork such as bills, or making medical appointments.
In the later part of the afternoon, the client may go for a short walk or spend some time outside getting fresh air. Alternatively, if the weather is bad then they could stay in and play games or puzzles. Mental stimulation is every bit as important as physical exercise for overall well-being, so even a rainy day can yield a net positive. This is true for both the elderly and younger patients, so caregivers would do well to have such activities on-hand.
Now the caregiver can prepare dinner, it is important for the meal to be nutritious and easy to eat. Appetites can vary considerably, as some may have very little appetite due to medical conditions, while others may take great joy in food and eating. A special consideration for the elderly involves diminished or altered olfactory senses, which may require specially seasoned meals to adhere to the patient’s flavor pallet.
People with dementia can forget to eat, as they often forget when their last meal was. While all patients benefit from setting a meal schedule and sticking to it, this is especially true in dementia cases. This regularity naturally complements medication schedules, as well, making it more likely to avoid missing doses.
Evenings can be a challenging time for patients due to reduced energy and worsening symptoms, especially for clients with severe dementia. Caregivers can render moral and logistical support in treating these symptoms, overall enabling the patient to feel heard in their complaints.
If, on the other hand, the patient is feeling relatively well, the evening is a great time for some extra mental stimulation. This may take the form of working on projects or hobbies, or perhaps settling in with their caregiver to take in a movie or radio program together.
Once the evening is over, the caregiver will take the patient to bed, ensuring that all their personal needs are met. This includes using the bathroom, taking care of hygienic concerns such as brushing teeth, ensuring ready access to drinking water throughout the nighttime, and so on. Finally, the patient will be helped into bed, and made sure they are comfortable.
Depending on the needs of the patient, caretakers may either return home, or they may stay overnight. In the latter case, they will need to remain ready to act should the patient suffer a fall in the night, or else experience elevated pain levels related to their condition. Patients with fewer mobility issues may remain restless through the night and take to wandering the premises. This is especially true of dementia patients, and vigilance will be required of in-home caretakers to ensure they don’t accidentally harm themselves.
It’s easy to see, care giving is an intensive and demanding job that requires organization and hard work, as well as patience and understanding.