If you have a bedridden elderly member at home, life is not going to be the same again. The daily drama will take its toll eventually.
Consider a common issue – the bedsore. It starts with a little redness, and before you know, a little of the skin looks like it has been rubbed off. Next, raw flesh is exposed. It gets bigger before your eyes and the hole deepens till your fist can fit into it.
If quick care isn’t taken, a greater misfortune can follow. Hospitalisation at this stage would mean plenty of dressings, a plastic surgery and generous doses of antibiotics – all at a high cost, and an avoidable one, if I may add.
Detect problems that the bedridden face
These sores, also called pressure sores, take place where frail and dry skin meets bone and bedsheet. They normally happen at angular edges – the hip, shoulder, elbows and near the vertebrae.
Make sure the elderly patient is gently moved over from one side to another, every 40 minutes or so. Whilst sponging, inspect the susceptive areas for redness, tenderness, shine, rawness and pain. Sponging is an energy-consuming and underestimated activity that has to be carefully done. In case a hired help is doing it, it should be monitored well. There are symptoms that a sponger can detect and should report to the doctor.
When spotted early, the sores are easy to tackle. You can use special lotions, powders and creams that can be sprinkled or rubbed to prevent further damage. Invest in a bed that can be moved with easy levers or electronically. Buy or rent a water mattress. In the long run, these things matter. Most of all, cultivate a relationship with a reliable domestic help who is also trained to give basic nursing care.
Learn to manage
One thing that drives most caregivers nuts is the potty problem. Remember, no patient likes to soil himself. It’s a hateful and embarrassing situation for them. Though you have the option of cribbing or venting your irritation out of your system, he or she must lie quietly, helplessly. Not a nice thing to think about. But you can’t wish it away.
Get yourselves a sturdy pair of gloves and a set of disposable masks. Always keep the room, the bed and the patient scrupulously clean, dry and airy. That way, the stink won’t linger around. Keep all utensils handy — bedpan, urine-pot, condom catheters, cotton, tissues and antiseptic washing liquids. Bear in mind that an often emptied bladder is better than changing sheets and clothes. Use old sheets and saris, as they absorb well, are kind to the skin and don’t cause heartbreak when you have to chuck them into garbage. Learn from an expert nurse or an ayah, the technique of changing linen. There’s a knack to it that can keep [your] backaches at bay. Adult diapers are a modern blessing. Buy them in wholesale. It’s definitely cheaper, and saves tiring trips to the market. If you don’t have place to keep a month’s supply, strike a deal with the supplier to do a home delivery twice a week. Follow that procedure for all medical supplies, consumables and drugs. It’ll save you time and effort.
Nutrition is another very crucial aspect. The patient’s restricted movement makes digestion difficult. It is best to follow a dietician’s guidance.
Make them move
Exercise plays a vital role but further deconditioning must be avoided. Circulation of blood is a must; otherwise it could lead to serious complications like gangrene, depending on the patient’s medical history. Inactive limbs must be made to move. Make gentle movements like up and down, twist and turn compulsory and let them repeat it several times in a day.
If the person can sit, and is allowed to by the doctor, coax him to do so. It’ll help prevent bedsores as well. Learn some simple physiotherapy tips, like sharply tapping the back to release the phlegm in the lungs.
Follow a fixed routine. It will not only aid the patient but also give you time for yourself. Fix a wake-up time for them. In short, set a timetable for them — for oral hygiene, sponging, exercise and food. Don’t forget to include breaks — to relax — both for the patient and for you.
While caring for your beloved elderly, don’t neglect your own health. Often in such cases one tends to forget that his/her health is also important. After all your body needs you too. Make sure you eat nutritious food and take sufficient rest.
Sometimes with all the ceaseless and uninspiring caretaking activity, there is a likelihood that you get fed up. You may also feel trapped; knowing there is no way you can give up or say “can’t do it”, either. Whether or not expressed, the possibility exists. It’s natural, so don’t feel guilty, especially if the patient is a loved one.
Remember that sunset is also a part of life, just like sunrise. The patient knows the unspoken outcome – death. However distant it may seem they know it is definite. The depression and the sadness get transmitted from the patient to the caregiver and vice-versa. It’s very important for you, the caregiver, to cheer the patient up. It’s not easy though. There are times when one might even, inadvertently, wish for death. The effort to end many nasty issues is important for people on both sides of the bed.
Get relatives and neighbours involved in events. It’ll give you space and will also break the monotony for the patient. What does one talk to a bed-ridden patient? It might surprise you to know that it’s exactly the same as you would to anyone else — cricket, movies, job hassles, family issues and gossip.
All in all, treat the episode of having a bed-ridden patient as a phase. It will create hiccups and ripples in your life, but time will ease them out. Until then, promise yourself a joke and a prayer everyday. Not one more, not one less. Good luck.
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Many thanks for this useful article. I am a caregiver, going through my own depression caring for a cranky, critical, complaining elder. Many times I am at my wits end what to do. Your article was very helpful
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