The care and nurturing of the home-bound chronically ill person is challenging. Whether the illness is acute and of sudden onset or of slow onset, time takes it toll on the ill and on the care giver. The responsibilities can become overwhelming, especially for family members providing such care. The issues are many and the support for care givers from friends or peers is often lacking due to the isolating nature of their work. No doubt that whether care givers are paid or unpaid, whether they do it voluntarily or because it is their paid job, the responsibility is enormous and the burden is great.
If the job is shared with another family member it is not usually evenly split, one person always having the main responsibility. Family members providing care for their loved ones find themselves sandwiched between multiple responsibilities. Many have spouses and younger children at home and others are employed outside the home. Regardless of the diagnosis or reasons someone is ill, debilitated and in need of care, many of the issues are the same.
Among the most common affecting mental acuity and causing some degree of debility and impaired functioning include Alzheimer’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Brain Tumors, Epilepsy, HIV and/or AIDS, Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Strokes, and Traumatic Brain Injuries. But, although there are many different reasons for brain impairment in older adults, the ensuing problems are very similar. Often the affected persons suffer from excessive drowsiness, confusion, depression, delirium, insomnia, tremors and Parkinson’s-like symptoms, incontinence, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, falls leading to fractures, changes in speech and memory, and poor dentition and caries. Frequently there are other health-related issues such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and many other requiring multiple medications and treatments be given in the home by the care giver.
It is agreed among professional health care providers that support for those providing care at home is an essential and a neglected part of the continuum of care. Future articles will focus not on the problems of providing care at home, but on offering practical solutions for care givers to preserve the integrity of the home and family unit with fewer disruptions, enhance the quality of life of the person being cared for, and help preserve the health and well being of care givers at home. Care Giver resources: Los Angeles Care Giver Resource Center www.losangelescrd.org. Personal Assistance Services Council of Los Angeles County www.pascla.org.