Secrets of the observant caregiver
Determine your patient’s baseline behavior
All patients are different, just as all people are different. Personality, sense of humor (or lack of it), food preferences, general mood and outlook on life; all of these and so many more characteristics go into what makes us who we are. It’s important to understand if a behavior if out of a person’s “norm”. For example if a normally optimistic personality becomes regularly quiet or morose, this is outside of their regular behavior and may be cause for some investigation. Everyone is entitled to have ‘bad’ days, but an observant caregiver will know when an unusual behavior is showing itself on a more regular basis than it should be, but only if they have gotten to know their patient’s baseline behaviors.
Watch for dehydration
Now that summer is here, dehydration is a even higher risk than throughout the rest of the year. Is your patient visible drinking in front of you? Do you know how to check for dehydration? (Quick, gentle pinch of the skin above the wrist; it should bounce back quickly). As temperatures swell, being observant regarding dehydration could save someone’s life.
Look for physical discoloration, bruising or sores
During shower time or a bath visit, be observant for bruises, sores, rashes, swelling, edema or any other physical changes to the skin. Causes can range from injuries (falls or otherwise), heat rash, medical conditions, illness or even medications. Included in this is being observant to changes in any pre-existing things, like moles, “age” spots or freckles.
Keep an eye out for memory issues and know when they aren’t a normal sign of aging
Once you’ve established what your patient’s baseline behavior is, you’ll have a better understanding on how strong their memory skills are. As we age, our memory tends to fail us, but when does it cross the line into something we should be worried about?
Communicate, communicate, communicate
It should go without saying that a caregiver is often the person most relied upon and trusted by the family of the patient to communicate needs or changes in need to the family. The caregivers are the people in the patient’s life with the most regularity and observant aides will be able to relay any concerns to family members.
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