Top 10 tips for caregivers of bedridden patients

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Caring for a family member or person confined to bed is no easy task. A person may be bedridden due to paralysis or a major fracture or he/she may be in bed following surgery or may have a serious heart or lung condition that requires them not to exert themselves. Whatever the cause, follow these tips to ensure good health of a bedridden person:

Top 10 tips for caregivers of bedridden patients

  1. Put yourself in their shoes: Understanding what a person confined to bed may be going through is the first step that caregivers should acquaint themselves with. Draw up a daily schedule of what needs to be done and make a chart of medicine and food timings. Schedule time for reading, watching TV programs and bathing. This will provide a sense of purpose to the person. The caregivers should involve themselves emotionally as emotional dependence is as important as physical dependence.
  2. Get professional help: It is acceptable that taking care of another person 24/7 is difficult and challenging. So, if your budget permits, try to get a nurse or helper for a few hours so that you can work, socialise or have some time for yourself. This will help you be more cheerful, and the ailing person will be positively affected by your good mood.
  3. Preventing bedsores: Bedsores are a nightmare once they form, so make sure that the person is moved gently and his position changed regularly to avoid them. The medical term for a bedsore is decubitus ulcer, and it occurs when there is a break in the skin, either over a wound or over a bony area. It is commonly seen on pressure areas like the back, buttocks and elbows. After bathing or sponging, keep the skin dry, using talcum powder or moisturizer. If an area of skin appears pink, it is the first sign of an ulcer so get medical attention and do not rub the spot as it will worsen the condition.
  4. All about hygiene: Pay attention to dental care and make sure the person brushes teeth at least twice a day. For bedridden people it may be too tiring to have a full bath daily. So, shampooing the hair twice a week and bathing every other day will suffice with sponges given on the other days. If the person uses a bedpan, make sure that the genitals and/or anus is wiped clean after each use.
  5. Changing sheets: As the person spends almost all his time in bed, the sheets get dirty due to food particles, hair and skin flakes, so change the linen regularly including pillow covers. Make sure the mattress and blanket are dusted and aired periodically.
  6. Give some thought to the menu: A bedridden patient’s diet needs to be customised. An old person may not be able to have excessively spicy or fatty food. Give small amounts of food frequently as the person’s appetite will be less due inactivity. Ask the doctor if a protein supplement or health drink is useful for additional calories and vitamins.
  7. Choose an appropriate room: Since the person will be confined to his room most of the time, make sure the room has good natural light and is well ventilated. Place the bed a little away from the window so that the person does not feel chilly at night. Choose a room with an attached bathroom which is big enough to accommodate a bedpan and stool for bathing.
  8. Nursing care: If the person is being fed through a tube or if he has a urinary catheter, ask the doctor when it has to be replaced and what is the daily care for it. Keeping a tube or catheter for too long may lead to infection. A trained nurse can deflate a urinary catheter before taking it out and put in a new one.
  9. Grooming: Grooming must play a part in the person’s daily schedule. Nails and hair must be trimmed regularly, male patients must be shaved every alternate day on the face, and women patients should be allowed to wax or shave their arms and legs to look presentable. Looking after them this way keeps their morale high and encourages them to help themselves to get better soon. Remember, a positive attitude is half the battle won.
  10. Exercise: If the person needs to slowly regain the use of his muscles, it is important to have a physiotherapist’s input. The exercises and manoeuvres should be explained to the caregiver and the patient so that the same can be replicated as often as prescribed.

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