Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Caregiving, the night shift

It's been a while since I blogged, mostly because I've been working nights on a caregiving assignment, and the change in schedule is somewhat disorienting.

The woman I'm caring for is in her mid-90s and quite frail. She lives in an assisted living facility where help is available during the day and at night only for emergencies. She's very fearful of being alone, so I stay with her when needed, and help her get to sleep, and accompany her on visits to the bathroom so that she doesn't have to worry about falling.

She apparently lived alone until quite recently, and I'm impressed. She's 10+ years older than my own mother and has stayed healthier longer. Then she fell and now has painful arthritis in her legs, which increases her fear of falling.

I've enjoyed caring for my own mother, despite the emotional challenges, and I enjoy caring for this woman as well. I particularly enjoy holding her hand to calm her while she goes to sleep.

The first night, I tried to get some sleep while caring for her, but she was up so many times during the night that it didn't work well, and by the end I was desperate and headache-y the whole next day. So I started switching my schedule to be awake during the night. My biggest concern is loneliness. During the night when I'm there, I'm the only person who's awake.

I'm still playing around with my schedule to see what works best. I thought originally that I'd shift my schedule roughly 12 hours. But I think now it will work better if I spend some of my afternoon and evening hours at home, which means I can still take a coaching client and be free evenings to go to social events or political meetings.

There's no way to know how long this caregiving assignment will last. It's been dawning on me that caregiving an elderly patient is always going to be unpredictable because it's based on the medical condition of an elderly person in ill health. That unpredictability is certainly a disadvantage, but there are many advantages, including the opportunity to demonstrate simple compassion.

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