June is National Safety Month and a perfect metaphor for caregiving in every season. As doctors, we are the vanguard of caregiving; hence safety is always a consideration for our patients…and ourselves. ‘Better safe than sorry’ may be a cliché for some, but for us it’s a way of life.
Summertime signals a change in routine for many of us, including our patients, especially those who care for older adults. The kids are home or off to camp, travel plans need to be finalized for the annual family reunion; perhaps, finally, a much-needed vacation is being taken. Whatever may be on the summer’s horizon, there may be more planning and coordination to attend to.
Those of us who have experience travelling with a senior or disabled loved one may have this down to a fine science; those who are managing summer travel and caregiving for the first time should be encouraged to relax and enjoy the adventure!
Feeling safe is a luxury for many frail seniors. We need always be mindful that they should be made to feel secure in their surroundings and confident that they will not be left alone or in harm’s way. We also need to be mindful that we too need to feel safe and the only way to that goal is through our self care.
Here are some things to consider when “summer-izing” your practice for seniors and their caregivers:
- Remind caregivers to make sure their loved one is kept cool and hydrated. Seniors don’t manage well in heat, particularly if they are on many medications. Excellent information on this subject can be found at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/elderlyheat.asp .
- If they will be using public transportation, especially air travel, advise them to make sure they understand the rules and regulations their loved ones will be asked to follow and ask about any amenities available for privacy. They also might want to discuss these things with their loved one prior to travelling.
- When getting away on their own, ask what plans they have for the care of their loved one and make sure they know to give your information to whomever will be providing their care while they are away.
- Giving your patients a heads up on your vacation plans and information on who will be covering for you in an emergency can be extremely comforting for a senior and their caregiver
- Many communities offer special summer programs for seniors and have excellent resources to help your clientele through a long, hot summer.
Summer is an excellent time to go over safety procedures and precautions in your office with your staff. Being confident that they know evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency will assist them in staying calm should a situation arise.
By all means, make sure you establish a routine for yourself as well, using the summer as a springboard! “Take Your Oxygen First” by looking into every aspect of your being: medically, psychologically and socially.
Have a safe, caring, and memorable summer.
By Jamie Huysman, PsyD, LCSW
Dr. James Huysman, PsyD, LCSW aka Dr. Jamie is a fierce advocate of patient-centered healthcare and a work force in touch with its own wellness. He is a popular conference speaker and media guest on the topics of caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue and addictions and healthcare reform. Dr. Jamie blogs for Psychology Today and sat on the NASW committee to establish national protocols for certification and standardization of caregiving practices. Dr. Huysman writes for Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines. He co-founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and created the signature programming for its psychosocial drop-in model, Leeza’s Place, opening 8 national locations, each with a different funding partner, in a four year period. He co-wrote the acclaimed caregiving book, Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss, with Gibbons and Dr. Rosemary Laird. He also contributed to the Healing Project’s offerings, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. He currently works as Vice President of Provider Relations and Government Affairs for WellMed Medical Management in Florida, a UnitedHealthcare company.