Brian was 72. He was in hospital because of heart failure and respiratory issues just before the level 4 lockdown was about to be implemented. He needed to be discharged immediately before the influx of potential Covid-19 patients. Going home by himself was no longer an option in his condition.
He and his family had to discuss the inevitable. Was he ready for a rest home?
Michelle, a Careerforce staff member and one of Brian’s daughters, shares, “To be honest, this did not sit well. He was of the generation that you work hard, buy your house, pay it off and know that will be your only home until the end. A rest home did not appeal to him.”
The family agreed that the best course of action for the moment was to have him live with Michelle and her family. Brian would continue to get visits from his support worker, but Michelle and her sister were going to have to do the rest. “A support worker comes and provides personal care needs, like showering him, and changing him. Everything else is basically taken care of by myself and my sister and that includes administering his medication and injections. He is on 18 to 21 pills a day and they are taken at separate times through the day; morning, lunch, dinner and bedtime,” explains Michelle.
Michelle and her sister received training to do the injections by a district nurse. “In the first few days we had a district nurse who came three times a day to administer Dad’s injections. We felt that due to the current situation, with the district nurse out in the community visiting other clients, my sister and I identified the need to take on board the administering of the injections.”
“It would mean less people in our bubble and keeping dad safe as he is high risk. So, we asked to be trained to take on that responsibility. I must admit it was scary at first but now it is easy as pie, and dad is very happy.”
They initially planned the arrangement be short-term, but they found their dad is happier and healthier living with them. It also helps to cheer Brian up having his granddaughter by his side. “I would say my 10-year-old daughter was really excited about having her Poppa come and stay with us and they have had some really great and special times together.”
Having wrap-around support helped tremendously as the whole family settles into their new arrangement. “The support was put in place straight away including community nurse visits and all his equipment supplies. A dedicated social worker helped coordinate it all. We learnt how to inject him within seven to ten days.”
“It helps having the same support worker coming each day. We are lucky we have had the same person coming to dad for the last four years. The support worker is very genuine, loving, caring and loves having good banter with dad. They have a great professional relationship and she does a great job.”
Michelle advises other family carers to look after themselves to avoid burnout and stress. “There have been sacrifices which have had to be made such as the commitment to work from home so we can be there for him. Our lives have changed; myself and my sister have to schedule around dad’s needs.”
“There are days when I am tired, grumpy and there are definitely signs of burn out. I guess how to manage this is self-care for yourself. I make sure that I take time for myself and going on walks.”
“I just keep putting myself in dad’s shoes and I guess along the way, I’m teaching my daughter about caring for someone, and showing empathy and kindness.”
“There are those warm fuzzies when you are sitting on the couch and your dad just wants to hold your hand and you put him to bed and he says, ‘I can’t do this without you’. It has strengthened our relationship. It has also taught me about patience.”
“And what makes it even more special is that dad tells us that he is living his best life with us.”
Carers NZ provide information on services, support and resources for family carers. Visit their website to find out more: https://carers.net.nz/.