Old age is often considered as a time when people are free of their professional and personal responsibilities and live a carefree life. However, the reality for most elders is completely different. Just because one has retired, doesn’t mean they do stop being mindful of life’s rigours.
Add daunting health challenges, weakening mobility, and chronic or lifestyle ailments to the mix—and it can become a battle. Things are even more challenging when a person is bedridden. They are dependent on family members and caregivers for their needs.
Apart from concern and compassion, there are certain practices to be followed that can improve their living condition. These will also ensure they don’t suffer any additional discomforts. Here are some tips that will help people with bedridden elderly people at home.
1. Take care of their personal hygiene
Hygiene is very important for bedridden patients. If the person is unable to take a bath then the attending person should help with a sponge bath or use a shower chair to bathe the patient.
Their fingernails and toenails need to be trimmed regularly to avoid any scratches. Make arrangements for a haircut or shave periodically as grooming can help the person feel confident and respected. Their clothes should be changed regularly and moisturizer must be applied to keep the skin smooth and avoid any body odour.
Oral hygiene should also be followed and a dental kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bowl of water, and bowl to spit water etc should also be kept at their bedside. Good physical hygiene can make a person cheerful and healthy.
2. Maintain good bed hygiene
Since the elderly have to spend almost all of their time in bed, it is crucial to maintain utmost hygiene. Bedsheets need to be changed regularly as there will be food stains, dirt, skin particles, and various other types of soiling.
Further, it must be ensured that the bed is in a well-ventilated place without any dampness—since damp and dark places can help bed bugs breed. Elderly people also need to be routinely checked for bedsores. As far as possible, cotton bed sheets should be used.
3. Chest and lung care is of the utmost importance
Since they are bedridden, the elderly might be vulnerable to liquid accumulation in the lungs and chest congestion. If not monitored, such conditions can lead to pneumonia or viral infections.
In the wake of the prevailing covid-19 pandemic, this area has become even more critical and shouldn’t be ignored. Keep changing their position or posture, and give steam or other support whenever needed or advised by the doctor.
4. Make toilet assistance arrangements
In case the person is completely bedridden, an arrangement must be made for bedpans and urine bottles or other such things to help the person relieve themselves whenever needed.
Their bowel movements should be monitored and if there is any disruption or discomfort observed then the necessary medical support or medication should be given.
5. Ensure they eat balanced meals
Balanced nutrition is a very important component of elderly care. While the elderly are bedridden, it becomes very important to give them a healthy and nutritious diet. Keep a record of the dietary needs of the person, his/her eating habits and preferences (veg/non-veg) and get a diet chart created by a qualified nutritionist/doctor.
6. Maintain a good home ambience
The elderly are already in a lot of physical discomfort due to a lack of mobility. There could be pain and other problems due to any disease that the person suffers from.
In such a context, it is essential to make the environment as clean, hygienic, and cheerful as possible. Make sure the place is reasonably well lit as per the need, the necessities are right at their bedside, and the place is well ventilated. Reduce noise levels as far as possible.
7. Ensure that you engage with them
Loneliness and the sense of being discarded is a common challenge for bedridden elderly. Caregivers should ensure that they feel valued and cared for. Spend time talking to them, understand things that interest them, and make arrangements for them. For instance, someone might be fond of reading or watching television or listening to music.
However, care should be given to avoid adding any stressful element to the bedridden person’s routine such as news of conflict or crime etc. Talk to them about their thoughts, make them indulge in board games, hobbies and you can even read books to them if they are not able to read on their own. The idea is to keep them engaged and make them feel cheerful!
8. Take extra precautions during covid-19
Covid-19 has been an unprecedented pandemic and has severely impacted healthcare services globally. The elderly are at the greatest risk of the disease due to their weak immunity—especially if they suffer from some co-morbidity such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma/COPD, heart disease or cancer etc.
Due to the pandemic, hospital visits of the elderly with chronic conditions have been impacted and therefore, family members need to make adequate provision for their medicines. It is also important to arrange for home check-ups, diagnostic tests, and health monitoring with the help of home healthcare service providers.
Life expectancy is rising with improvement in medical science and with due attention, we can make this long life a happier one for the bedridden elderly. Apart from the above-mentioned suggestions, one should also take expert advice, medical opinion, or help from professional caregivers in case any other challenges are faced in caring for the elderly parents or other family members at home!