Family caregivers get help from training program in Mt. Lebanon
Jane Settembre feared a lack of knowledge would hinder her ability to care for her ailing father at home.
“It was all new to me,” said Settembre, 65, of Green Tree. She helped her mother, Norma Heselbarth, 91, tend to her father, Thomas, who had heart complications. He required round-the-clock care but did not want to be placed outside his home.
To ease their fears, the women took part in caregiver training through Family Hospice & Palliative Care, based in Mt. Lebanon, where they learned to help Thomas Heselbarth with walking, bathing and medicating.
“To know people could prepare us was really a comfort,” Settembre said.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly one in three adults in the United States cares for a loved one who is elderly, sick or has special needs. Hospices offer help for people coping with the emotional, physical and mental challenges that can accompany that role.
Family Hospice & Palliative Care's Compassionate Caregiver Training Program includes a two-hour session designed to teach familiarity with physical care and safety for the caregiver and patient.
At one of Family Hospice's five regional locations, participants learn to administer medications; use equipment, including hospital beds, oxygen tanks, nebulizers and feeding pumps; and skills such as positioning, bathing and feeding patients. Caregivers can repeat seminars.
David Colley, who facilitates the training at Family Hospice, said it's important for trainers to listen to each family's story to fully understand the needs of a patient and develop a lesson plan for the session.
If the person is ambulatory, for example, trainers work on how to avoid falls. He teaches caregivers to draw morphine into a syringe. They talk about bathroom access, cleaning, skin care, bed positioning, mouth care and feeding.
For those who are parents, he encourages them to rely on skills they used when their child was young.
“I tell them this is not rocket science,” he said. “The more they buy into that, the more confidence they develop.”
Colley said for some people, talking about their loved one's inevitable decline is too much at first.
“Sometimes families don't want to go there,” he said. “I ask them to come back for a second session. It's a good way to ease them into it and be respectful.”
Settembre called the program “phenomenal.” As a result of a leaky heart valve, her father suffered kidney and liver complications. He needed to be turned every two hours in his bed to avoid developing sores and required morphine to assist with his breathing.
Settembre and her mother felt confident in their abilities to meet his needs. The class taught them how to use a sheet to help move him, how to avoid falls on his walker and how to change his bedding.
“They teach you all kinds of things, little tricks,” Settembre said. “It was just a really comforting experience. We were struggling and (the class) put it all into place for us.”
Thomas Heselbarth eventually was admitted to Family Hospice, where he spent five days before his death on Nov. 9. He was 89.
“He was able to die with dignity,” Settembre said.
West Penn Allegheny Health System's Forbes Hospice offers a transition-to-home program, in which patients who are leaving the hospital but require at-home care spend a few days in hospice so family members can learn care procedures.
It addresses “things families worry about, things they think only a professional can do at home,” said Maryanne Fello, hospice director. “The goal is to help families not be afraid and to help them see what's ahead. They can do the things before they go home, not just watch us.”
Knowing how to bathe, medicate and care for a person helps on an emotional level, Fello said.
“When a family member feels more competent about the physical care, it assuages their fear about the emotional part,” she said.
Kathy Tanaka, social work supervisor for North Versailles-based Three Rivers Hospice, said at first, most caregivers don't feel qualified to tend to loved ones.
“People are so afraid they may not have enough information,” she said. “We talk to them about the whole process, what's going on with the person's body, how to tell whether their loved one is having pain. We talk about changes in functioning, what to expect as far as eating.”
For some caregivers, just knowing they're not facing challenges alone is comforting, Tanaka said.
“They feel they can confide in us,” she said. “We help them understand this is a gift to them, to be able to care for a relative.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Revised anti-nepotism policy lets Allegheny County judges keep family in jobs
- Fitzgerald stacks legislative wins as Allegheny council members struggle
- Transplant patients in limbo over coverage under UPMC-Highmark pact
- Bucar grilled by City Council, likely to win approval as public safety chief
- $24M water filter project at Aspinwall treatment plant nears kickoff
- Motive remains unclear in slaying of Kennedy Township man
- United States proposes tougher rules for moving crude oil, ethanol by rail
- Army defends job cut notices to captains in Afghanistan
- I-79 resurfacing to start in Robinson, Wexford areas
- Newsmakers: Miriam Klein, Amy Kerr
- Castle Shannon mayor honored by statewide association