Monday, November 16, 2015

Medication Management 101 for Veteran Caregivers

VeteranCaregiver received this message recently:  “Hi, I'm new to this [caregiving] and yet, I'm thrown in the deep end and need to manage 19 daily medications; can you help? No one will help me manage this now that we’re home!”

This is a challenge many caregivers confront and you are not alone.  There was even a television news photo (below) of a plastic grocery bag of meds for a single month – now that's a visual!  Many veterans are on multiple medications and as caregiver, keeping track of the medications is one thing, and tracking the effects of them is another.  It’s critical to start at the beginning:  create a Medication Log.  If you are hurt, absent, or sick, someone else may need to step in, so this is not an empty exercise.
CBS News Image 2014
You probably have a notebook, binder, or journal you keep appointments in, or some way to track this medical journey.  Add to your system the Medication Log, and note the drugs, dosages, time of day to take, and learn what each medication is for.  There are many good apps that consolidate this information for you.   In the large medical bureaucracy, and with the lack of fully centralized records, share this Medication Log at appointments to be sure each practitioner knows of the med prescriptions.  Every time a drug is changed, dosage adjusted, or medication removed, keep an eye out for any changes in behavior that might be connected.  YOU are the one living with the vet day in, day out, and you'll notice these things sooner than anyone.   

It’s important to know that meds mailed to your home should be called in earlier than needed to allow for on-time delivery, and be especially aware of months with 31 days in them with an automated system. If the 30th is on a Friday, it has happened that the mailed prescriptions may arrive after the weekend, meaning that well-managed pain or other condition under control will now go untreated until Monday.   Request a contact to call if more urgent behavioral or physical effects to medication occur; this can help you avoid a trip to the emergency room. 

Be aware that if you relocate to another VA that the medications may change, which means you'll be keeping track of changed meds, dosages, or differences in the drug formulary (if there are any). 

Keep a copy of the medication list in a set place in case something happens to you and someone else must step in to assist.  Over time, using a watch, alarm clock, or a smartphone, it may be possible to create more independence with your family member as they schedule and remind themselves of medications and timing. With planning, communication, and observation, managing medications and noting their effects will help convey important messages to the care team.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Monday, November 9, 2015

Caregiver Self-Identity: Who Am I Now? It's YOUR Choice --

A caregiver wrote VeteranCaregiver recently saying, "I used to be a marketing executive before becoming a full-time caregiver.  But I've lost my identity and don't feel accomplished or even know myself anymore?"

Such a good question; our self-identities can be swallowed whole by caregiving.  It can happen gradually over time, but you are not alone.  It's very easy to get lost in the daily grind, completing tasks, becoming more and more tired, and tending to everyone’s needs except your own.  You are last on the list.

Truthful statement:  only you can carve out time for you.  If you have become accustomed to putting aside everything that once gave you joy, does that help your situation at home?  Does it help you feel good, or like a martyr.  A therapist once said this:  “You need to choose, are you a martyr or a victim?”  Neither of those labels felt good, and were rejected.  How dare she say that?! 

But, if we make the conscious choice to set our boundaries, set aside a small portion of the day, and refuse to relinquish ourselves to others’ needs entirely, we will be better caregivers and individuals.  You haven’t lost your gifts and talents, and those unique traits are inside you – you just need to take the tarp off and give yourself permission to claim them.  
There will always be those who complain, and complaining is fine if it leads to possible solutions, but of little value if not.  No judgment here, but only you can help you begin your personal growth or to beef it up.  Best of all, you have now learned new skills, some of which you may take for granted.  Did you ever think you’d be able to direct the medical care of a loved one, or wade through bureaucracy with determination and purpose?  These new skills have made you a stronger, more accomplished version of yourself if you’ll stop to recognize it! 

Take the time to write down your skills; what are you good at, what are your new talents, even write a resume.  Add notes on your smartphone, and read them to yourself or post it on your mirror to remind you that you are worthy, smart, savvy, and you matter.  Create a LinkedIn profile because in doing so, you’ll realize your skills are valuable, and you'll have an identity outside of your daily role.  Then Follow other people of interest and start learning anew. This is Post Traumatic Growth.  Many caregivers find new skills and experiences give them new capabilities, and IF they consider them, new self-confidence.  You are "more" than your daily caregiving!

With introspection, time spent thinking about you - yes, you - you will see ways to reinvent yourself, recall your strengths, and take back you.  You are worth it - take the time to believe it!

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Social Media: Joy & Peril ... It's Here to Stay!

We’re sure you’ve argued both sides of the fence on this topic of whether social media and the Internet has made a caregiver’s life better or worse.  We think it's done both. With a short phrase typed into a search engine, you can find multiple sources of information in milliseconds. 

There is ease in using social media to connect you to smaller groups who understand your situations and allow you to connect with someone across the world. Medical information can help your caregiving, and you can find apps for most everything.  Yet, it’s still up to you to find credible sources and to check the validity of the information.  Believe it or not, not everything you read online is correct!

The opposite view is that we are now at arms-length from people and more isolated from one another.  Online friendships can form instantly when someone agrees with a Facebook posting you made.   It also has the potential for harm when a comment is perceived negatively or judgmentally.  We've seen serious actions and consequences when a caregiver is hurt by public comments or even betrayals of trust.  Comparisons are made nearly every day, and the lens with which you view a comment can turn an innocent post into a hurtful jab, or you may miss the point entirely as you grab a view on your phone at the stoplight.

As caregivers, it's nearly universal that support and information will be sought online.  But, because studies and good old common sense are telling us that we’re often “overly attached” to our phones and tablets, and we know it, what are we doing about it?  Science also proves that in teens, social media is adding to depression, what others are doing/buying/saying, and cyber-bullying continues.  Think it’s only in teens?  No, it can happen to any of us.
What to do?  Try to keep yourself in a healthier, more balanced place, and set limits on what you will share online and to whom. There are full medical histories on the Internet, and that's your choice, but think of the potential years from now.  Know that anyone and everyone can access some of your information somehow and if you don’t want it out there, do not post it.  Employers still Face-stalk, and so do other officials, so don’t leave yourself open to interpretation that may harm you or your family.

UNPLUG sometimes. A certain hour of the evening, a cyber-free Sunday, two hours during the day so you accomplish more of what you set out to do.  Yes, you’re likely to be texted a million times if you go out, but sometimes adding space in your caregiving relationship can help you both.  Inter-dependence and co-dependence is hard on a family, and even medical staff can add to the dependence versus independence.  Be mindful and be aware.
Balancing your time can start with seizing back one or two of the many intervals each day you check your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page.  Or, use that time to go to a personal learning or favorite hobby website and take your mind off tasks for a while.  The best alternative is day-dreaming – it’s a hopeful and non-electronic means of recharging! 

Linda Kreter & the 
VeteranCaregiver Team