Have you heard the saying: You don’t know what you don’t know?
Have you wondered why this statement is necessary?
I will divulge why it demands serious consideration—the analogy of rolling dice. We call what we want, but we get what we get. We do it again and again, hoping for a different outcome. Sometimes we win, but most times, we lose. We always want to win (best outcome) based on caregiver knowledge.
Older adults’ health challenges require caregivers to have essential and sometimes in-depth knowledge about medical conditions. We do not want to roll the dice and expect a positive outcome. Most unintentional harm results from inadequate supervision or failure by caregivers to foresee potential troubles.
Unintentional damage has occurred due to the lack of knowledge of the medical condition. Most caregivers are charged with the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding) without paying attention to signs or symptoms that an aging person may display. Rolling dice is not an option in the caregiving space.
Medical Conditions That Require Caregivers to Be in The Know?
The length of time a caregiver provides care (on average, 15-25 hours weekly), and understanding what to look for and pay attention to is fundamental. Conditions our loved ones face daily include cancers, cardiac issues, diabetes, respiratory ailments and illnesses, issues like arthritis and osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, renal failure, Parkinson’s, and skin and incontinence issues.
Each one of these has areas where a fundamental knowledge base is required. For example, when a care recipient has bowel and bladder issues, what should come to mind? Right…skin care. If the elder has mobility issues and spends long periods sitting (in a wheelchair) or lying; turning, and tracking the skin for redness and breakdown areas is vital. If extra skin folds (called aprons) are present, look under them where many hidden sores are found. By all means, use your nose. Odors can alert you to problems brewing. Alzheimer’s and dementia elders always require surveillance…! Don’t let someone living with these conditions walk the dog alone, drive a car, or cook alone. Why? Forgetfulness is real and can be costly. My dear friend lost her mother, who got into the car and drove down a dark road with a dead end into a lake at night. She was found in the car days later submerged in the lake. This may be a condition where taking away the keys is required.
You never want to bring hurt and harm to our loved ones through the lens of unintentionally having a lack of knowledge.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, mindfulness in the caregiving space is everything. Let’s not roll the dice with our loved ones. Be safe! Be well! Take care!