Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tips for Caring For Ill or Bedbound Loved Ones

Back to my blog home page:

Tonight, for those of you who are taking care of a loved one or who know someone who is a caregiver, this blog is for you.

Taking care of a loved one at home is one of the biggest sacrifices you can make. It can wear you out.

I want to share some recommendations for caregiving, simple things that can make a real difference for you if you are giving care to someone who is ill.

I did a google search to see what others had written.

Jennifer B. Buckley wrote an online article called Home Care Tips for Elderly Loved Ones in which she made four good recommendations.

  1. Keep a small pitcher at the bedside for accessing fluids.
  2. Avoid placing mirrors by the loved one. It can confuse them.
  3. Buy your loved one's clothing in basic colors for increased ease in allowing them to choose what they want to wear.
  4. Use large numbers and dials on remotes and phones.

All good recommendations....

From therapist's eyes, I see some additional things that I believe are really helpful.


The best thing you can do for your loved one is to keep them from getting pressure sores if they can no longer move their limbs in bed. You can do that by:
  • Making sure the head of the bed is kept below 45 degrees if they are in a hospital bed at home. Above this angle, and they are at high risk to get a pressure sore at the sacrum (to put it bluntly, the top of the butt crack).
  • Floating the heels by placing a thick pillow (or a thin one doubled up) just under the ankles so that the heels do not touch the surface of the mattress.
  • Positioning your loved one on the flank of their buttock, which is the fleshy part, when you turn them into sidelying,
  • Putting a pillow between the knees.


If your loved one is unable to be bathed in a tub or shower, you can still bathe and shampoo your loved one's hair.

The following technique is taken from Bathing Without a Battle, which describes a technique called The Towel Bath which has been used in skilled nursing facilities and by home health agencies. I had the pleasure of trying this technique with a great OT at one of my assignments. This technique is especially calming and effective with dementia patients who may become combative if you attempt to shower them.

Click on the colored link above to print out the full instructions!

For shampooing, this is a great product:

It's a one-step, rinse-free cap that fits over the head after you warm it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  It feels great. It fully washes and conditions the hair. After massaging the cap, you pull it off, blow dry the hair and comb.
No more greasy, "I-can't-wash-my-hair" locks.

Medical Equipment

Your loved one may qualify through insurance or Medicare for a hospital bed, wheelchair, walker or 3 in 1 commode.

This equipment allows optimal movement and positioning of your loved one in the home. The commode increases safety by allowing your loved one to use the commode at the bedside at night to reduce the risk of falls.

Meals on Wheels

Having one meal provided for each day may decrease the burden on you to cook meals. Don't be afraid to receive assistance from community or church groups.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout: Be Aware!

Common warning signs of caregiver burnout:

  • You have much less energy than you used to
  • It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around
  • You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
  • You feel overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless
(Thank you, HelpGuide.Org...)

The best thing you can do for yourself as a caregiver is to connect with services and people who can help you. Check out The Family Caregiver Alliance Website for info on how to find these resources.

This is just the beginning of the list. If any of you have specific ideas to share, I would welcome your input!

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