Caregivers, are you doing too much for your patient?
Are you doing too much, even things they could do themselves?
Do you supervise and monitor every move the patient makes?
Do you dress her when she could do it herself?
Do you roll his wheelchair when he could do it himself?
Do you always cut their food when they could do it themselves?
Do you arrange the bed covers when he could do it himself?
Do you slip her shoes on when she could do it herself?
Are you doing too much?
Have you ever thought that maybe you are doing “too much” for the patient?
When you are doing too much for that loved one, then you are taking away their independence bit by bit. They wouldn’t like that, would they? And probably, you don’t really like it either.
When your children were little, they wanted to do it themselves, didn’t they?
Eventually, they wanted to feed themselves, brush their own hair, dress themselves, and tie their own shoes. They were proud to say, “Look, I did it myself!”
Consider what that moment of independence, that pride of accomplishment, might do for your patient.
It’s time to assess when to help and when to let the patient do it himself.
- First, take a good look at the real abilities of the patient. An occupational therapist, physical therapist or home health nurse may be able to help you identify realistically what the patient actually can and can’t do independently. They can also show you how much to help and when to help. They can help you identify a goal to improve independence, such as rolling the wheelchair independently.
- When you have identified skills that the patient should be using, choose a goal for the patient. Make the goal something simple, like rolling the wheelchair to the living room independently once a day, or brushing one’s own teeth daily. Think about what might motivate the patient to try doing that, such as watching television in the living room, or some time to spend primping in front of the bathroom mirror. Motivation for the doing that task is the key to getting the patient to try, and to keep them working at it.
- Introduce the idea of trying the task gently and gradually. For example, when dressing, say, “Do you think you could slip that t-shirt over your head?” instead of automatically handling it on your own. Or, say, “Dad, why not come on into the living room and watch that show on the big television” and let him handle rolling his wheelchair into the room at least some of the way.
You may meet resistance from the patient.
The patient may have long stopped having any expectation of doing something without your assistance. They may WANT you to do it for them, as though this is REQUIRED because it’s your JOB. There may be questions, excuses, or expressions of frustration from them.
Generally, you know that it better for you and for them to do whatever they can to maintain their dignity, their self-esteem, and independence. It isn’t about your being lazy or not wanting to help them. It is about doing what is the best for them to be the best they can be in their situation and condition. In the end, you may have to compromise some and forgive a lot, but a little step in the right direction every day is still called progress.
Humans need a challenge, a goal, a task to accomplish, no matter how small. As a caregiver, give that back to the loved one you care for, and you will probably not regret letting him do it himself one more time.