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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Insisting you need to be involved in your relative’s care plan can be intimidating


January 30, 2017, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

Four years ago, Mike Bachner’s wife developed a strep infection that progressed to sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis. She ended up spending four months in hospital, including a stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at University Hospital in London Ontario.

Sitting in the ICU waiting room, Bachner, who is an executive search professional, observed the other caregivers around him. “I could tell that some would not be very successful in communicating with providers and navigating the system,” he says. “To get your point across, you must be professional, rational and calm.”

Caregivers must be effective advocates for the people they’re caring for, Bachner says, and full partners with the health care team in their care. He admits it isn’t always easy. “The system can be intimidating,” he says. “You’re under stress and your primary concern is with your loved one. Somehow you have to quietly insist that you are part of the process and must be involved in the overall care plan, without poisoning your relationship with the provider.”

When his wife was ill, Bachner felt overwhelmed by the “medical Blitzkrieg” that went into action. “I didn’t feel I had enough information.” Eventually he succeeded in getting health care providers to give him the full story in a way he could understand.

That experience taught him another valuable lesson: to be an effective caregiver you have to look after yourself. “I became robotic, running on fumes,” he says ruefully. “The staff in the ICU would ask me if I was okay. Fortunately, I had a good support system behind me.”

Now Bachner is part of an innovative project, “Connecting the Dots . . . Smoothing Transitions for Family Caregivers” that will help family caregivers facing challenges like his. The project, one of four Changing CARE initiatives across Ontario supported by the Change Foundation, brings together several healthcare partners and caregivers in the Huron Perth area. It will focus on addressing the needs of caregivers by defining their roles, and by working with caregivers and providers to co-design care and communication. Bachner says he had no hesitation getting involved. “The health system preserved the life of my wife: I feel a duty to give back.”