Experience is a Great Teacher

Assertive or Aggressive 2

While I appreciate the years of education a professional caregiver has, it’s still really hard for me to leave Mark at the hospital. I realize they can be an expert in their field working with people who have a wide variety of disabilities and illnesses. They may have the education and the skills of an excellent doctor, nurse or therapist, but that doesn’t make them an expert on the person they are treating. Even though I know this, it’s difficult to stay calm when they don’t know how to do something which seems obvious because it’s common to me such as transferring, bathing and the other daily tasks of caring for Mark.

The memory of three hospital admissions in 2013 for blood clots is still etched perfectly in my mind. They didn’t know how/or want to transfer him so he was bedridden for a few days. I watched him get weaker as they treated him like he could not move. I asked the doctor if the nurses and aids weren’t getting him out of bed because of the blood clots. He said no, in fact, lack of movement brings on blood clots. I asked him to please order Mark some therapy, which he did. To my surprise, the therapist wheeled in a bedside lift.

“I don’t use a lift to get him up,” I said.

“Well this one will not only help me get him up, but he can walk with this lift stabilizing him.”

I watched anxiously to see how this would work. The harness was complicated and appeared to be new to the therapist. Mark was in a weakened state and this method of getting up took little effort on his part. He wanted to help, but was confused by this foreign process. It took nearly thirty minutes to get him in an upright position, leaving little time for walking.

“He can walk with a walker,” I stated.

The therapist looked at me like I was crazy.

“I will bring it tomorrow and we’ll show you,” I said and the next day, I did just that.

With assistance from the therapist and me, Mark took steps the length of the hospital room. The therapist was impressed and amazed he could do it. I was shocked at how fast he had weakened because he usually walked better and much further.

It took the full month of August 2013 in a rehab center to build up his strength again. This hospital experience taught me I needed to let them know immediately Mark’s capabilities and I took the walker to the rehab center.

With the bitter taste of last year’s experience still fresh in my mind, I was worried about how this year’s hospital stay would go and decided I needed to be more assertive with the professional caregivers. Shortly after we entered his room and met the nurse and aide who’d be caring for him for the next two days, I asked, “Would you like me to show you how I transfer Mark into bed?”

“Sure,” they replied in unison.

Standing directly in front of him, I lifted his foot and I swung the leg rest to the side to move it out of the way. I followed the same routine with the other foot while Mark unfastened his seatbelt. With his feet on the ground and carefully positioned with the foot closest to the bed out in front of the other, I placed my feet in front of his to hold them in place. I wrapped my hands over his shoulders and tucked a few fingers under his arms. With my knees pushing against his legs, I pulled upward with my arms as he stood.  He’s 6’2” when he’s upright and his height usually surprises people when they see him stand for the first time. I used my legs to help direct him as we pivoted to the side of the bed and I lowered him to a sitting position. As he lay back, I picked up his legs and swung them onto the bed.

“You do this by yourself every day?” the nurse asked.

“Yes. It’s really not that hard after the initial pull. I use my knees against his to help him straighten upward.”

“It looks hard; you must be really strong,” she said.

Some people may take that as a compliment, but I felt like she was saying, that’s too difficult for us to do. I left for work worried that he would be confined to the hospital bed all day long and when I returned at night my worry was confirmed. Someone had even written on the white patient information board in his room “bed rest”.

My blood nearly boiled, but I took a deep breath and asked who wrote the “bed rest” order. No one knew, so I wiped it off the board. “He can lose strength so quickly and with me being the only one to transfer him at home, I need him to stay as strong as possible.”

“You have your routine and you’ve been taking care of him for a long time. It’s second nature to you, but it isn’t to us,” the nurse said.

I knew she was right, it is second nature to me and not to them, but I was also right, he needs to move to keep up his strength. By both of us being assertive and expressing our concerns, we came to an understanding with a plan for physical therapy while he was there. I didn’t necessarily like that they wouldn’t get him up and it’s hard for me to understand that some nurses and aides are not comfortable doing transfers, but we found some middle ground. I realize that rehab centers are different than hospitals where the majority of the patients are capable of walking or transferring into a wheelchair with minimum assistance and transferring Mark does take more assistance. However, I do it every day so it’s an obvious part of caregiving to me.

It’s not always easy to express what I think and feel in a positive way, creating mutual respect, when I view things differently than another. I don’t want to be passive by giving into what I don’t believe is right. If I don’t express my feelings, I get upset inside and after time it can build until I explode or become aggressive by yelling or being sarcastic. I don’t want to be disrespectful of others and their opinions. Being assertive is the ideal middle ground—where I want to be. Sharing what I have learned through my experience with professional caregivers can be intimidating and difficult. Tuesday I’ll share some great information I found on how to be assertive without offending another.

What positive experience have you had sharing what you know in a difficult situation?

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2 thoughts on “Experience is a Great Teacher

  1. You are a wonderful caregiver to Dad for many reasons, and one of those reasons is because you are his greatest advocate. You aren’t afraid to be assertive and stick up for him when needed. You believe in yourself and your capabilities to take care of Dad, but you also believe in Dad and his capabilities to do more. I think that’s wonderful!

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