Tag Archives: transplant support

Five Myths About Caregiving

“The word ‘caregiver’ often conjures up the image of someone who stands next to a bed distributing pills or wiping a brow. In reality, a caregiver takes on numerous roles.  For me, becoming a caregiver after my husband’s diagnosis has meant taking on the responsibility of all the household tasks, jobs that my husband and I used to divide up and share. Almost every single task is now done by me, from financial planning and home repairs to car maintenance and the bulk of parenting.

caregiving

“Almost every single task is now done by me”

Here’s an example of how our lives look different now. Braden and I used to enjoy working outside in the yard together. He would take on the larger, heavier jobs such as trimming weeds, mowing and using the snow blower.  Now, all of that falls on me. Being a caregiver has also made me the ‘practice coach’ for our children as they participate in sports, something Braden enjoyed doing before the days of oxygen tanks when he could run and move around easily. Many times I feel like a single parent, taking on things I never thought I would have to do by myself.

single parent

“Many times I feel like a single parent”

With that in mind, I would like to share some of the misinformation I’ve dealt with as a caregiver. Statistics are from this source.


Myth 1: Caregivers are middle-aged mothers, wives and daughters.


Although I fall into this category, statistics show that today about 40% of caregivers are men, and many caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 34.

caregiver

40% of caregivers are men, many between 18 and 34


Myth 2: Caregiving is done in addition to someone’s full-time job.


In reality, about a third of caregivers quit their jobs or reduce their hours in order to care for a loved one. In many cases, caregiving becomes the person’s full-time job and their career is put on hold.

job stress

A third of caregivers reduce their hours or leave their jobs entirely


Myth 3: People already know how difficult caregiving can be.


Many caregivers suffer in silence and do not ask for help. This is another category I fall into at times. People who help take care of a loved one often have generous or strong personalities and either do not like to or do not know how to ask for help.

help

“People are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking”

The problem with not reaching out is that it creates a deficit of support: often other people are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking or the stress the caregiver is under. Which leads to this fourth myth…


Myth 4: Caregivers should always be positive and shouldn’t complain.


There is a fine balance for me between sharing personal details to keep people informed and maintaining privacy.  Our family tries to maintain a positive outlook, so talking openly about the illness and related problems was a challenge until we learned several key things.

happy

Are caregivers allowed to express their frustrations and difficulties?

First, we are not alone in our experience; most people have been touched by something similar. Second, dealing with these issues has enriched our lives. Being able to share our challenges provides us the chance to not only help others but to help ourselves, too. The updates we share on Braden’s HelpHOPELive campaign page are a wonderful opportunity to keep our family and friends informed and discuss caregiving as well as Braden’s journey towards transplantation.


Myth 5: Caregiving is a thankless job.


Being a caregiver is stressful and often discouraging, and it can be overwhelming.  But caregiving is also very rewarding at times.  Some caregivers experience an emotional and spiritual sense of fulfillment. Taking care of someone you love provides opportunities to grow closer and form bonds with each other and other members of your family or support network.

Understanding and dispelling these caregiving myths may help us to seek assistance, gain support and lessen some of the stress we encounter as we help take care of someone we love.”

Braden Richards HelpHOPELive

Beth is the wife and caregiver of HelpHOPELive client Braden Richards


Beth is the wife and caregiver of Braden Richards, who is fighting a rare autoimmune disorder. Braden and Beth are fundraising with HelpHOPELive for the out-of-pocket costs associated with a lifesaving lung transplant.

The Rewards And Challenges Of Transplant Social Work

You already know what it feels like to prepare for a transplant as a patient. But how do transplant professionals view the process? We asked Laurie McDonald, a clinical social worker and case manager for the UNC Center for Transplant Care, to answer our questions.

heart in hands transplant


What are some of the biggest challenges of transplant social work?

At times, I really, really want a particular organ recipient or donor to succeed, but based on his or her circumstances, that person is just not a suitable candidate. After years and years of this line of work, I have to console myself with the truth: transplant is not for everyone. For some, a transplant will make the situation worse instead of better. It’s difficult to keep that message at the forefront when the person in front of me truly believes a transplant will save them.


What are some of the rewards you experience?

Just this week, two people were transplanted in a row. Now, they are delighted to be breathing without supplemental oxygen and walking more easily than they have in a long time. To see joy and relief on the faces of transplant recipients and their family members is wonderful. I love seeing patients years post-transplant living full lives that honor their donors. Transplant remains a daily part of their lives, but it is no longer the central focus.


Have you witnessed areas of progress in transplant assessment?

Within the past few years, we have become more invested in transplant assessment tools that will give us concrete, unbiased information. When a doctor recommends lab work, those tests will result in definitive numbers that the doctor can use to diagnose and treat you. When you’re dealing with social and emotional factors, it’s far more difficult to accurately quantify and represent a patient’s profile.

We have started using a validated measure that is linked to patient outcomes developed by Jose Maldonado at Stanford. I use this risk assessment tool to come up with a score that reflects a candidate’s psychosocial situation. It’s imperfect, but it’s absolutely progress. It makes it far easier for team members to compare information and communicate across specialties. Personal and even subconscious biases are always a factor, so it’s extremely important for us to continue to take steps in this direction.


What advice would you give to those who are considering transplant social work?

Do it! It’s stimulating, rewarding, wonderful work. I absolutely love it. 15 years in and I’m not bored yet!

Quality improvement is really important in transplant in general and at UNC in particular. We are always learning and working to do things better. There are advances in medication, medical techniques, social evaluations and other areas happening constantly. It’s really an interesting place to be.


Share your experiences as a transplant candidate, recipient or social worker on Facebook.

6 Ways To Help A Loved One Prepare For A Transplant

Do you have a friend or family member who is preparing for a transplant? Here are six key pieces of advice for caregivers and supporters from Laurie McDonald, a clinic social worker and case manager for the UNC Center for Transplant Care.


Ask the person what he or she needs. Don’t assume you already know.


Be involved with the person’s care team. I love when I see a whole group of people come to a patient’s evaluation. They all get to learn about the process together, and identify where they can fit in and help.


Your loved one will need emotional, physical and financial support. Every person must find the way they can contribute most based on interests, skills and comfort levels. One person shouldn’t (and can’t) do it all.


Prepare for some surprises. Support networks are not always what you’d expect. Long-time friends may falter while people who are barely acquaintances step forward and come through.


A real challenge after transplant is dealing with medications and their side effects. Your loved one’s mood might be all over the place. Don’t take irritability and other side effects personally. Develop a protective skin.


Find your own outlets and support networks. Everyone needs a break.


What’s your best piece of advice for helping a loved one prepare for a transplant? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and on Twitter.