I’m A Caregiver For A Liver Patient. What Can I Expect?
caregivers play an important and often underappreciated role in the liver disease process. They are the unsung heroes. Many people, even including family members, are often unaware of the burden absorbed by a caregiver.
The caregiver plays many roles, which may vary based on the severity of the liver disease including:
- Lifestyle Monitor. Anyone diagnosed with fatty liver disease SHOULD change their lifestyle, including both diet and exercise. The patient will need encouragement to adopt and maintain lifestyle changes. The caregiver is likely to get plenty of pushback from the patient and should not take it personally.
- Meal Planner and Chef. It will become increasingly important to maintain a liver-healthy diet. The caregiver and the patient should take a fresh look at meal preparation and seek diet guidance.
- Medical Liaison. It’s always a good idea for the caregiver to accompany the patient to doctor’s appointments. There is often just too much information for one person to absorb. It helps for two people to attend and compare notes afterwards. Eventually, it may fall to the caregiver to arrange and keep track of medical appointments.
- Gatekeeper. As the disease progresses, the caregiver will increasingly need to shield the patient from unhealthy situations and exposure to germs in social occasions and other large gatherings. This extends beyond germ avoidance as the patient sometimes may not be in a frame of mind conducive to interacting with others.
- Emotional Rock. As the disease progresses, the patient is likely to experience plenty of emotional ups and downs. Someone must provide the support to help the patient through this roller coaster ride. If it becomes a major problem, professional help should be sought. But on a daily and hourly basis, it is the caregiver who provides much-needed support. This may be the most difficult role because the caregiver is often going through the same ups and downs. It takes a team.
- Driver. There could reach a point, typically later in the disease progression, where the patient develops a “foggy brain” and may be unable to drive. You will be the family chauffeur.
- Decision Maker. A foggy brain may also affect the decision-making abilities of the patient. The caregiver must “step up” and perform these financial, health and household duties as well.
There are risks in being a caregiver. Probably the biggest is the threat to your own health. So much time may be spent worrying about the patient that the caregiver’s own physical and emotional needs often go unattended. Don’t let this happen to you!!
Attend to your own needs, including medical appointments, and recognize that you will need a periodic break. Find someone, a family member or a good friend, to give you a break from time to you time. You will need it. Don’t hesitate to vent. Find someone who will just listen. Also, forget about staying on schedule. You will continually be at the mercy of the patient’s health and emotional needs, which often change unexpectedly. If it seems overwhelming, the National Alliance for Caregivers (www.caregiving.org) might be helpful.