The Caregiver


Your Roles as Caregiver



Caregiver's Responsibilities


Understanding the Nature of Illness and Treatment:  You and your care recipient must understand the nature of illness.  This is crucial for both of you to participate in all treatment and care. Knowing the side-effects of medications, for instance, will help you to recognise adverse reaction promptly. You have the responsibility to question your doctors when in doubts.  Be an educated caregiver.  Reading on the related illness and treatment will further broaden your understanding.

Involve the Person in His Care:  Encourage the person to be as independent as he can.  You have to assess the level of care required because the person may only need partial assistance.  Assuming full responsibility in his activities of daily living is not going to help in his recovery.  You should also encourage and support  the  to communicate with his healthcare professionals and when necessary intervene on his behalf.  Do not just focus on positive outcomes.  Sometimes you have to be realistic when you speak with your care recipient.  You have to exercise your judgment, in that given situation, on what to say and what not to.  

Build Up Your Confidence:
 Nursing skills are best learned by practice.  You may be new in performing some tasks, nevertheless you should take every opportunity to learn and brush up your skills.  Get the nurses to supervise you and allow return demonstrations until you are comfortable in doing it yourself.  Your confidence and competency in handling any procedures is important not only for the person's safety but also to win his trust on you.

Ensure Your Care Recipient's Privacy:  Always preserve the person's dignity by ensuring privacy when rendering your care.  When performing any procedures that requires the person to be undressed, never expose him unnecessarily.  Towel or blanket, for instance, can be used to cover the person's lap when using a commode.  In addition, do not reveal or share the person's information without his consent, even to close relatives.
Plan Your Care:  If there are a few caregivers, schedule your duties.  Make a list of the tasks required in the care.  A time-table for the day is also useful for every member to follow.  Each one can take their turn in caring, with perhaps one member of the family taking overall responsibility.  Also identify a family doctor who can help you with the long-term medical care.  He will also be able to help you to decide on the best way to manage your care recipient.  Planning ensure
s the consistency of care.
Carry Out Instructions Punctually and Exactly as Ordered:  All prescribed treatments such as medications, ryles' tube feeding, changing of wound's dressing etc, has to be carried out punctually.  The implications for not doing so could cause irreversible harm to the person.  Be firm about any medical instructions you have been asked to carry out.  You have the full responsibility to ensure that all treatments are given at your best capabilities.  If you are afraid of forgetting the schedules, write them down in a time-table.  Also keep a note book to remind you of any follow-up appointments.
Be Patient and Comforting:  When attending to the person needing care, before you begin any procedure, explain what you are going to do, what is required of him and how you will help.  This is important to alley his anxiety and to gain co-operation.  You may need to reassure the person or repeat an explanation if necessary.  Do not be in a hurry.  Your movements should be gentle and calm whether or not a person can respond; a stroke person, for example, may be unable to speak but will be aware of your mood and your concern for his welfare.

Be Discreet and Observant:  Watch the person's progress so that you can report any changes to the healthcare professionals.  Make it a habit to record and report any abnormalities you have observed to your doctor-in-charged.  Never assume any signs and symptoms presented as expected outcomes of treatments. In any cases, do not alarm the person by your observations.

Work as a Team:  Team working with all caregivers, including your healthcare professionals and community services, is important. Sharing of information with your team members, such as discussing the person's condition or reporting an observation, will ensure that your care recipient receives the best possible care.  If condition allows, feedback to him his progress so that he understands and appreciates the treatments given.
Do not Breed Resentment:  Your care recipient is likely to be more self-centred due to his illnesses and hence may make unkind or hurtful remarks on you.  Even you know that he may not mean to hurt you, it is better to tell him if he is upsetting you.  Keeping your feelings hidden will soon breeds resentment.  Also learn to be tolerant when the person is difficult to help or is slow to perform everyday tasks.  Remember that your assistance and company is very valuable to someone who is ill.  Always speak to the person in his presence, not about him.  Careless conversations over an unconscious person are sometimes clearly heard by that person.  Hearing is thought to be the last senses to fade.

Practise Good Hygiene:  Be clean and tidy, both in your person and in the way you work.  Proper hand washing is important.  Always wash your hands before and after a procedure that involves direct or indirect contact with the person, after contact with any wastes or contaminated materials, before handling any food or utensils, or at any time hands become soiled.  Avoid wearing accessories such as jewelleries or wrist watch because it provides a place to cultivate microorganism and may also scratches the skin of the person who you render care.

Care Recipient's Interest Comes First:  If you find that you can no longer manage the person, let him know rather than compromising your care.  Never be afraid to admit to having problems or to ask for help.  Here is a list of community resources that may be useful to you.  If you just need a listening ear, here are some counselling services provided by voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore.


Know What are the Resources Available to You:  There are various resources in Singapore that are useful to caregivers.  You must know what are the resources available and where you can locate them.  Keep a list of the contacts that are relevant to you for quick reference.  You may refer here for more services from voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore.  For services by commercial companies, please refer to Home Nursing Services and Other Home Attendants.


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Questions to Ask When a Treatment is Recommended


When a treatment, procedure or test is recommended to your care recipient, there are some questions you should ask your healthcare professionals:


Why is this treatment, procedure or test being recommended at this time?


Is this treatment, procedure or test absolutely necessary?  What are some of the other options available?


What are the next steps?


What are the risks and benefits from the test, treatment, or procedure?


What are the implications if is not done?


How long will the test, treatment, or procedure take?


How soon will the results of a test be in?


How much will this cost, and how much is covered by Medisave or insurance?