Caring for a family member or friend is a big task. Not only are you anticipating the medical treatment, but you are also thinking about their recovery. And there’s a probable chance that you haven’t cared for someone going through this type of treatment. Because of this, it can be challenging to anticipate their needs.
While every medical treatment is different, putting your loved one at ease is the main priority. Remember, they are likely nervous and anxious about the treatment itself. Therefore, they may not be thinking as much about the recovery as they are about the procedure itself. This is where you can step in and help. Below are four ways to help loved ones during medical treatment and recovery.
1. Plan Ahead and Put it on your Calendar
First and foremost, planning ahead will do wonders. If it’s a scheduled procedure, you and your loved one should talk about their plans. They may express their worry to you and make how they hope the treatment day will go. For instance, they may want a few close family members present during the procedure, or they may only want one person. This is where you should also discuss their recovery plans, including who will be the primary care person.
However, not all procedures are scheduled far in advance. If this is the case, do your best to plan as much as possible but don’t burden yourself too much. Focus on your loved one during this time rather than worrying about how they will be doing weeks from now. Ask the medical team what they suggest as far as recovery is concerned. They will be able to share specific recovery tools, such as bandages for wounds or heating pads for soreness.
Once you have a sense of these expectations, you can begin planning for treatment day and the first few days at home. Help your loved one pack a bag for the hospital and ensure you know when and where they need to be at the facility. Also, know who will be visiting them while they are in the hospital and while at home. The hospital may limit who can visit, so be sure to ask these questions ahead of time. Lastly, make sure their home is set up well for recovery, especially if their mobility is going to be limited.
2. Set Calendar Reminders
After going through any kind of procedure, it’s all too easy to just lay around in bed and watch television. Hours and days can easily blend together, making it harder to focus on getting better. Even though resting is essential, being sedentary can actually impede recovery. For example, staying immobile after knee surgery can lead to a buildup of scar tissue. Setting reminders on your Calendar or your loved one’s phone to remind them to get up and move can benefit how quickly they rebound from the surgery.
Calendar reminders can also be utilized and set for other tasks that may be easy to forget. Laying around all day makes it easier not to have an appetite. Creating a timer for when your loved one needs to eat meals can ensure they are getting the nutrition they need to heal. The same can be said for drinking water stretching. If physical therapy is part of the recovery process, make a note of what exercises need to be completed and how often.
Of course, there’s a balance when it comes to setting too many reminders. It can end up being annoying and burdensome for a calendar alert to go off every other minute! While your loved one is still trying to get into a groove with their recovery, little reminders can be helpful. However, once they remember to get up and take their medications after eating, then you can pull back on how many reminders you set.
3. Meal Prep
Another way to set you and your loved one up for success is to meal prep. Eating nourishing, well-rounded meals is important for healing. And yet, it’s all too easy to order takeout when you aren’t feeling great. Having pre-cooked and planned meals that are readily available can help avoid the delivery temptation.
Chances are, however, that you, as a caretaker, already have enough on your plate. In this case, you can send out a meal planning calendar. That way, friends, neighbors, and family members can all sign up for days to bring food. Another option is to set up a meal delivery service that provides cooked meals that only require heating.
And if you like to cook, think about meal-prepping different items that will freeze well for your loved one. Casseroles, soups, chilis, and stews all tend to do well frozen and can be easily defrosted and heated. Other items, such as canned goods and pasta, can also be purchased beforehand and kept on hand. Lastly, think about making a grocery delivery schedule so your loved one can also have items that they really enjoy available.
4. Provide Entertainment
It’s normal for you and your loved one to feel isolated and somewhat depressed during this time. You will likely feel burdened by having to care for them, and they will likely get bored sitting around during recovery. To avoid both of you feeling out-of-sorts or bored — try to think of entertaining ways for everyone to be engaged. There are only so many T.V. shows to binge-watch — but they are still worth a try. Ask your co-workers and family members for some recommendations.
Before the procedure, think of hobbies or pastimes that your loved one currently enjoys. If they like to read, go to the library or buy some new books. Again, ask for suggestions so that you get a variety of book titles that are engaging to keep your loved one, neighbor, or friend involved and entertained.
Most people will need to feel connected to others — so inform their friends of the situation and ask them to call your loved one occasionally. Learning a new craft like knitting or needlepoint can also be a fun way to spend time. And thankfully, there are numerous YouTube videos and classes available online for various crafts.
This is also a great time to dust off board games and puzzles! If you have kids in the family, they will likely be thrilled to have a readily available friend to play with. With all of these suggestions, you shouldn’t feel like you have to plan every hour of their day. They will, of course, need the time to take naps and recuperate.
Remember, It’s Normal to Struggle
Caring for a loved one during and immediately after a medical treatment is a major responsibility. Even if you want to be there for them 24/7, it may not be realistic. Your life will be compromised too much to be there for them around the clock. However, you may feel solely responsible to care for them. Still, it’s important that you don’t neglect your own needs. Planning ahead can help ease this feeling, as can reaching out to others for additional support.
If your loved one’s needs are beyond what you can provide, consider hiring a part-time nurse or caregiver. A professional understands the unique situation of caring for someone and can be there in ways that you may not be able to. Not to mention, they can take night shifts so you can maintain your strength and rest peacefully too.
With all of this in mind — no matter how much or how little you can provide — know that your loved one is appreciative of you. While they may not say it aloud every day, just being there for them is enough. Anything else you can do to make their day easier is icing on the cake.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels; Thank you!