Help Aging Parents, Grandparents, And Loved-Ones: Can Care-giving Family Members Do It All?

The New Old Age column from a 10/16/12 NY Times recently surfaced. Its subject: family caregivers and the fact that they do many nursing tasks formerly assigned to professionals.

Speaking of “nursing tasks,” the Visiting Nurse Service of New York ran some–I think–wonderful full-page ads. For example, a photo of a nice-looking, elderly gentleman with kind eyes and white hair. The ad reads:

He’s 95, Takes 10 medications, Needs help bathing, walking and dressing,
And feels deeply grateful.

He’s “grateful to the physician who helped him get all the care he needs to stay out of a nursing home, with Medicaid Managed Long Term Care (MLTC) from VNSNY.” This is followed by text enumerating the Medicaid-covered home care and long-term care services, basically nurse care management and home health aide services.

Back to the New Old Age column. It enumerates the tasks family members now do (eg. give injections, manage feeding tubes, manage complicated medications), with “little training and no backup.”

According to the column, in December 2011 researchers commissioned an online survey, involving 1,677 caregivers for adult relatives or friends. Findings: 46% took on medical/nursing tasks in addition to providing ADA (activities of daily living) help.

Of these, 3/4 were managing–often 5-9–prescriptions, which could involve IV lines and syringes. More than 1/3 used meters and monitors. More than 1/3 “took on wound care and described that as particularly difficult.” That resonated! Thoughts of R’s recent non-healing wound.

I watched the unwrapping, cleaning, and rewrapping of R’s wound at the hospital wound care center this winter.  Cleaning the wound area of “debris” as they called it (I’d call it removing unhealthy and dead skin) was done only in a macro sense by those trained to do it. The area was tender initially and even removing the wrapping hurt. Indeed ultimately the truly wonderful doctor himself, took over cleaning the any remaining “debris” and putting on the ointment.

This is getting long. Conclusion tomorrow.


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