Practical Tips for Caregiving at Home

Many caregivers are overwhelmed with the idea of caring for someone at home. They see their loved one becoming weaker and more dependent and although their heart is willing, their bodies worry about the day after day physical aspects of providing care. Here are some practical tips on how to make daily life a bit easier as you now embrace this new role as caregiver. Simply cutting a t shirt or nightgown up the back makes it much easier to dress someone who is increasingly weaker. No one, except you, is looking under the bedsheets so leave the pants off as much as you can. If pants are necessary, sweat pants are much easier to slide down and up, rather than struggling with zippers and buttons. As a person becomes weaker and confused they often unintentionally spill things. Try using a child’s sippy cup which has a lid, or a sports bottle with built in straw. The person can still drink for themselves, which they may be insisting to still do, but you aren’t having to change their clothes or bed sheets every time they take a sip and spill all over. If swallowing pills is a problem, try giving the pills in a spoonful of applesauce or pudding. The pills tend to go down much easier that way. Some pills can be crushed, but not all, so it is important to check with your nurse or pharmacist before crushing. Long acting, timed release medications cannot be crushed. Some people I’ve met have used baby monitors so they can hear if someone calls out or needs them as most sick people eventually end up in a hospital bed set up in another room from the caregivers’ bedroom. And definitely as a person spends more time in one location, be it bed or recliner chair, do them a favor and buy more pillows. You will need them to position the person off their tailbone, hips, ankles,and other pressure points to prevent bedsores. People who sit or lie in one position, this includes sitting in wheelchairs, will develop skin breakdown issues, and with their compromised body systems and reduced food intake, problems can progress quickly. I’ve been in many homes where I had to pull pillows off the couch, or roll blankets up to place under a patient’s ankles to keep their heels from developing pressure sores. A bedside commode is a lifesaver, even if used just at nighttime, when the person is too weak to get to the bathroom but is still able to stand and pivot. And as the person remains more in bed, a draw sheet, which can be simply a folded sheet placed under the person, from mid back to upper thighs, is a back saver when pulling up a person in bed or turning a person who is too weak to turn themselves over. And although many patients initially resist the idea of transitioning into a hospital bed in their home, having the option to raise and lower the bed, and use the available rails for the person to hold on to is a must not only for patient safety, but for caregiver ability to maneuver the patient. Lastly, and just as importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. You will burn out quickly if you don’t provide needed breaks from time to time for yourself. When family and friends ask what they can do to help tell them. If you are exhausted ask them to sit watch while you take a nap, or pick up groceries for you, or whatever. Getting  yourself out of the house occasionally can make a difference, and your loved one will be better served by you for it. You are important too.

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