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The Care Of An Invalid

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: Nerves And Common Sense

TO take really good care of one who is ill requires not only

knowledge but intelligent patience and immeasurable tact.

A little knowledge will go a great way, and we do not need to be

trained nurses in order to help our friends to bear their illnesses

patiently and quietly and to adjust things about them so that they

are enabled to get well faster because of the care we give them.

f we have only fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen

minutes at night to be with a sick friend, we can so arrange things

for the day and for the night that we will have left behind us a

directly curative influence because our invalid feels cared for in

the best way, and has confidence enough to follow the suggestions we

have given.

More depends upon the spirit with which we approach an invalid than

anything else.

A trained nurse who has graduated at the head of her class and has

executive ability, who knows exactly what to do and when to do it,

may yet bring such a spirit of self-importance and bustle that

everything she does for the invalid's ease, comfort, and

recuperation is counteracted by the unrestful "professional" spirit

with which the work is done.

On the other hand, a woman who has only a slight knowledge of

nursing can bring so restful and unobtrusive an atmosphere with her

that the invalid gains from her very presence.

Overwhelming kindness is not only tiresome and often annoying, but a

serious drag on one who is ill.

People who are so busy doing kindnesses seldom consult the invalid's

preferences at all. They are too full of their own selfish

kindliness and self-importance.

I remember a woman who was suffering intensely from neuralgia in her

face. A friend, proud of the idea of caring for her and giving up

her own pleasure to stay in the darkened room and keep the

sufferer's face bathed in hot water, made such a rustling back and

forth with her skirts in getting the water that the strain of the

constant noise and movement not only counteracted any relief that

might have come from the heat, but it increased the pain and made

the nervous condition of the patient much worse.

So it is with a hundred and one little "kindnesses" that people try

to do for others when they are ill.

They talk to amuse them when the invalids would give all in their

power to have a little quiet.

They sit like lumps and say nothing when a little light, easy

chatting might divert the invalid's attention and so start up a

gentle circulation which would tend directly toward health.

Or, they talk and are entertaining for a while in a very helpful

way, but not knowing when to stop, finally make the patient so tired

that they undo all the good of the first fifteen minutes.

They flood the room with light, "to make it look pleasant," when the

invalid longs for the rest of a darkened room; or they draw the

shades when the patient longs for the cheerfulness of sunlight.

They fuss and move about to do this or that and the other "kindness"

when the sick person longs for absolute quiet.

They shower attentions when the first thing that is desired is to be

let alone. One secret of the whole trouble in this oppressive care

of the sick is that this sort of caretaker is interested more to

please herself and feel the satisfaction of her own benefactions

than she is to really please the friend for whom she is caring.

Another trouble is common ignorance. Some women would gladly

sacrifice anything to help a friend to get well; they would give

their time and their strength gladly and count it as nothing, but

they do not know how to care for the sick. Often such people are

sadly discouraged because they see that they are only bringing

discomfort where, with all their hearts, they desire to bring

comfort. The first necessity in the right care for the sick is to be

quiet and cheerful. The next is to aim, without disturbing the

invalid, to get as true an idea as possible of the condition

necessary to help the patient to get well. The third is to bring

about those conditions with the least possible amount of friction.

Find out what the invalid likes and how she likes it by observation

and not by questions.

Sometimes, of course, a question must be asked. If we receive a

snappish answer, let us not resent it, but blame the illness and be

grateful if, along with the snappishness, we find out what suits our

patient best.

If we see her increasing her pain by contracting and giving all her

attention to complaining, we cannot help her by telling her that

that sort of thing is not going to make her well. But we can soothe

her in a way that will enable her to see it for herself.

Often the right suggestion, no matter how good it is, will only

annoy the patient and send her farther on in the wrong path; but if

given in some gentle roundabout way, so that she feels that she has

discovered for herself what you have been trying to tell her, it

will work wonders toward her recovery.

If you want to care for the sick in a way that will truly help them

toward recovery, you must observe and study,--study and observe, and

never resent their irritability.

See that they have the right amount of air; that they have the right

nourishment at the right intervals. Let them have things their own

way, and done in their own way so far as is possible without

interfering with what is necessary to their health.

Remember that there are times when it is better to risk deferring

recovery a little rather than force upon an invalid what is not

wanted, especially when it is evident that resistance will be


Quiet, cheerfulness, light, air, nourishment, orderly surroundings,

and to be let judiciously alone; those are the conditions which the

amateur nurse must further, according to her own judgment and, her

knowledge of the friend she is nursing.

For this purpose she must, as I have said, study and observe, and

observe and study.

I do not mean necessarily to do all this when she is "off duty," but

to so concentrate when she is attending to the wants of her friend

that every moment and every thought will be used to the best gain of

the patient herself, and not toward our ideas of her best gain.

A little careful effort of this kind will open a new and interesting

vista to the nurse as well as the patient.