TBI Early Days – First Steps to Helping Caregiver Cope
Help make a list of people to contact – focus on email or phone numbers for people whom you can text. Help prioritize: who needs to know right away versus who might want to know but doesn’t need to immediately.
People who will need some outside help: children living at home or aging/ill parents for whom the caregiver or patient is responsible in some way.
If children living at home – will they need a place to stay or someone to stay with them overnight? Will they need transportation to school? Will you need to help with arrangements for events they must attend or help to cancel other activities for the time being? Focus on the next few days at this point.
Other people for whom this family is responsible – aging or ill parents, etc. Who is a concern and what is needed in next few days? Is there someone else who could step in for now?
Pets – list names, types, food (how often, where stored, supply), safety issues (friendly or ferocious, escape artists). Is there a neighbor who could feed, walk, let out? is there someone else who does often this when family is out of town? Any other possibilities?
Housekeeping issues – check to be sure
stove is off,
heat or air conditioning set to keep utility bill low,
someone will take out trash in necessary,
doors are locked,
lights are on a timer (or turn on a hall light),
someone will bring in the mail and keep newspapers from piling up in the yard.
Paperwork – help caregiver
set up an easy to carry file box (office supply stores have cardboard ones that work great) or a large notebook for all the paperwork;
go through the most essential papers to see what needs to be done, what the hospital offers in the way of support, what material will help the caregiver to understand the situation;
start a journal to record what happened, what the doctor said, what questions should be addressed to hospital staff, what needs to be done, etc.
Self-care – Caregivers are in emergency mode and unlikely to eat or sleep regularly. Their health may seem to them like the last thing to worry about, but exhausted and ill caregivers are not up to the task at hand.
Hospital cafeterias are infamously boring and may not even offer the best nutrition, but surely they have smoothies, turkey sandwiches, apples, bananas, maybe even a decent salad bar. If the caregiver won’t go, pick up something you are sure he/she would normally eat, and then try to make sure it gets eaten before you leave.
Health bars, milk shakes, and takeout salads from outside the hospital can be smuggled in to caregivers who are sitting in waiting rooms or at the patient’s bedside.
If the caregiver won’t go home to sleep, try to scare up an afghan or blanket (hospitals are kept cold to discourage germs).
Offer to sit with the patient while the caregiver gets outside for a 15 minute walk.