John and Briita Hall are no strangers to caregiving. John cared for his first wife, who suffered with terminal cancer for 12 years. He later became Briita’s caregiver when she underwent treatment for breast cancer. On and off, it’s been Briita’s turn to care for John while he’s recovered from a series of surgeries due to significant hip and leg issues, some dating back to his years of service during the Vietnam era.
Through the years, Briita has identified four important tips that have made her a better, more confident caregiver.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to question hospital staff. You need to know who, what and why as you prepare to take care of a loved one at home. And you need to be proactive in getting information from the healthcare team — information that will help you and your loved one at home.
Tip #2: Being persistent can lead to peace of mind and relieve caregiver stress. When you’re caring for someone at home, you might have to go out of your comfort zone, and that means running into potential problems when things don’t go as expected. When my husband, John, came home from the hospital, he needed to be on an IV for six weeks. The IV wasn’t working properly, which was frustrating for both of us. We needed to get to the right person to alleviate the problem, which turned out to be an easy, anxiety-relieving fix.
Tip #3: Use your resources. As a caregiver, it’s important to know which outside resources are available to you. When John first came home in a wheelchair from one of his surgeries, I had a hard time maneuvering him around our 1960s-style ranch home. There were banged up walls and more than a little frustration! We also needed an outdoor ramp. That’s when we found out about “My Home & Office Medical Interior Design,” a fee-for-service program offered by the University of Michigan Health System through its Home Care Services Division. The first thing they helped with was installing the ramp.
Tip #4: Be prepared and proactive! Although John isn’t currently using a wheelchair, we may one day be faced with that scenario. After consulting with Andi McDonnell, manager of My Home & Office Medical Interior Design, and Senior Interior Designer Margie Cockle, our idea of remodeling the bedroom turned into a complete home renovation, including a master bedroom addition with an ADA-compliant bathroom, walk-in closet and nearby laundry room.
It has made all the difference in the world to know that our home is wheelchair-friendly — when or if the time comes. And the private bedroom is like a little oasis, especially when our five grandkids (four of whom are under the age of 5) are here and one of us needs a rest!
The University of Michigan is home to one of the largest health care complexes in the world. It has been the site of many groundbreaking medical and technological advancements since the Medical School first opened in 1850 and is nationally ranked in a broad range of adult and pediatric specialties, according to U.S. News and World Report. Visit UofMHealth.org to learn more.