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I have been a caregiver for only a few months now for my Mother (brain, lung, breast cancer). I am on my own as the rest of my family (sibling, aunt/cousin) do not offer much help. My biggest frustration is not knowing if I am missing important signs while taking care of my Mom. For example, tonight she is more confused than normal and I believe she has a fever. She says she is 'fine', but then complains that it's hot in the house (though the temperature has not changed from the time she told me it was 'ice cold'). She won't let me take her temperature, so now I will be worried all night about her condition. Twice before when she has been disoriented or less responsive than normal I've had to take her to the emergency room for what turned out to be pneumonia.

My question for other solo caregivers is this: How do you know you're doing the right thing - especially when there's no one around (no other family) to consult? I wish I had the second opinion of a spouse (I'm not married) or sibling (who's raising her two small children and not present) to make sure I'm making the right decisions. My Mom is very stubborn, so if I tell her that I want to bring in a home care nurse, she'll flat out refuse. All thoughts and ideas welcomed. Thanks.

Grace

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Wow, I'm sorry to hear! And I commend you for your great care! I work with seniors with severe alzheimer's and they also cannot convey their needs and wants. It really takes common sense and intuition to provide care to someone so helpless. I do have my ways of successfully working with such seniors and I have a blog where I do post some of these methods: ageandthecity. I would suggest that it's through repetitive responses that you'll fine your answer. You might also need to trick your mother into letting you take her temperature, by perhaps having a friend call in and pretending to be a nurse who needs a prompt temperature for records. Your mom might be feeling poorly about having you care for her instead of the other way around. If you can afford it, home health agencies can even send in nurses to help. Good ones specialize in sending really nice caregivers that can help your mom feel comfortable.
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You don't.

You'll gain confidence as you get more experience, but the bottom line is that we all do the best that we can with the information available to us.

One resource I found hugely helpful both while I was raising children and when caring for my husband with dementia is the free Nurse Help Line offered by most insurance companies and many clinic. When the issue is a medical one it can be very reassuring to talk it over with a trained medical professional. Of course the first thing they generally ask is the temperature. With my husband I often had to say, "He won't cooperate with taking it, but by the hand-on-the-forehead method I don't think it is very elevated." The other frequent question when a cough is involved is the color of the sputum.

Find out what resources like this are available for your mother, and have that number handy by the phone.
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Wow, God bless you for being there for mom! Best advice I can give you about knowing what is right or wrong decision? Make it from the heart and make the decision on what you know she would want and what you would want in the same position. When it comes down to it, you're a wonderful daughter who is acting out of love. How could that be wrong?
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I have learned that when in doubt, error on the side of caution. How easy is she to take to the ER, though?
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