Bedridden Seniors

15 Tips On How To Care For Bedridden Seniors

Caring for a bedridden loved one? Here are the top 15 tips for caregivers managing a person who is bed-bound, including hygiene, comfort and interaction.

by Calvyn Ee

What is “Bedridden”?

A person who is bedridden is someone who needs to stay in bed for an indefinite amount of time. This can be caused by a permanent disability that prevents them from being independent or doing things that they used to, thus requiring long term care. It may be due to a severe stroke, a brain or spinal injury, or advanced forms of cancer.

Being bedridden means having insufficient physical activity, besides requiring loved ones or close friends to serve as informal caregivers to help them with daily activities. Remaining in bed for long periods of time can eventually cause growing discomfort, and possibly lead to other health complications that will only make the recovery process all the more difficult.

Complications of Being Bedridden

If you are caring for someone who is bedridden, take note of some of the many complications that could arise:

  • Bedsores (caused by increased pressure on the skin that affects blood circulation)
  • Constipation (due to slower stool movement in the intestines)
  • Weak bones and muscles
  • Stiff joints
  • Back pain
  • Sleeping issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Depression

The consequences of these complications can further impair your loved one’s recovery if left untreated. They can disrupt your loved one’s comfort and well being, and could even be a catalyst to further medical troubles. It is thus important to keep your loved one as comfortable and as active for as much as possible, adjusted to their own medical needs.

The process of caring for bedridden loved ones will be quite demanding because of their dependence on you. With the following tips, we hope that it will be a much more manageable caregiving experience for you.

Rehabilitation Programs

Rehabilitation programs, such as physiotherapy and speech therapy, are a very effective way to help alleviate bedridden complications.  A professional therapist, or a multidisciplinary medical team, will be assigned to help your loved one and monitor their physical well being, depending on your loved one’s condition.

A multidisciplinary team would provide the most comprehensive approach to rehabilitation, especially if your loved one may have a variety of health concerns that need to be addressed. A multidisciplinary team will be able to thoroughly assess your loved one’s needs and come up with a rehabilitation plan that will effectively address these needs.

While your loved one is still recovering in the hospital, doctors may recommend early rehabilitation as part of the recovery process. It would be ideal to start as early as possible, especially if it can be helpful to nurse your loved one into spending less time being bedridden, while also encouraging their independence over time.

If your loved one is unable to move, a therapist or trained nurse can come to the house to assist with rehabilitation activities. Consult medical professionals on what can be done to accommodate this.

Be Equipped

It always pays to know more about your loved one’s condition. This becomes important once they are discharged, and caregiving now falls to you and your family members. Find as much information that will help you through the caregiving process, such as this list of tips. Speak to the doctors on do’s and don’ts, and be sure to consult them if anything new and unfamiliar arises. Every little bit that you know about your loved one’s condition can be a confidence booster for you.

This will also apply to how you use this knowledge to your loved one’s benefit. You may find yourself surprised when you are able to help your loved one with something that can benefit their recovery thanks to all this extra know-how at your disposal.

Be Adaptable

Being able to adapt to changes or sudden occurrences can be lifesaving for your loved one. Having a backup plan for almost any situation can be beneficial to ensure your loved one’s recovery process is not significantly interrupted by unexpected outcomes. For example, if your car has a mechanical breakdown on the day of your loved one’s appointment, you can reschedule the appointment to another day, or find some other compromise that works for you, your loved one and your doctor.

Even the best of plans can have their fair share of hiccups. Do not be too discouraged if something does not work out the way you planned. As long as you can resolve these sudden events without lingering issues, it should be viewed as a significant victory.

Be Aware of Changes

Anything could change in your loved one’s condition, as well. It might be delirium manifesting itself, or it could be something you are entirely unfamiliar with. Be sure to record these changes in a journal, and present these observations to the doctors during the next appointment. If it seems life-threatening, immediately contact the hospital.

Have a Strong Support System

Even with all the additional knowledge you have gained, there will be days when nothing works out the way you hoped it would. In times of difficulty, you should always have a support system to help you weather the bad days while treasuring the good ones. No one is perfect, and mistakes will happen, but it is important not to let these troubles weigh you down and affect your caregiving.

It always helps to have the help of family and friends when you need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of true strength in knowing your limits. Trying to exceed those limits by any means necessary will only do more harm to you and others around you.

If you are having a difficult time, take a step back and ask for assistance. Work out a caregiving schedule between one another, so as to help each other balance out caregiving duties. Keep communicating, and do not hesitate to share your concerns or listen to theirs. As long as everyone helps one another and keeps each other motivated, your loved one will definitely be able to get the best care out of everyone’s collective effort.

Prevent Bedsores

Even when bedridden, some movement will still be needed. Bedsores are of particular concern, given that they will occur if too much pressure is applied to the same area for long periods of time. This can cut off the blood supply to that area, causing the skin to die and an ulcer (the bedsore) to form.

It is therefore critical to focus on getting your loved one moving within their range of motion. Simple stretches and even adjusting your loved one’s position on the bed all can help with keeping the blood flow smooth and preventing the onset of bedsores.

One thing to note is the method of safely turning your loved one around. Ideally, you should turn your loved ones around every two hours or so, and make sure not to drag them. Dragging could cause damage to the skin, which can also be a catalyst for bed sores. If possible, have them sit down in a chair from time to time instead of lying down for long periods of time.

There are a number of ways to help you with moving your loved ones safely and without causing undue harm to them.

Maintain Physical Activity

If your loved one regains some mobility, do not rush them into strenuous physical activity immediately. Slowly build up their muscle strength and flexibility with short exercises. Keep a close eye on them so that they do not fall or trip. As their strength and confidence return, you can slowly build up the intensity to match their gains. Having a routine will make this a regular activity, encouraging better mobility in the long run.

Be sure to stay close to them as they exercise, just in case. Once their mobility begins to improve, help them focus on regaining their independence, and only offer help if it is absolutely necessary. You can start off with simple hand or leg exercises that can be done from the bed, and work your way from there.

Emphasise Comfort

Your loved one’s comfort should not be neglected. If possible, get a pressure-relieving mattress for them that will help reduce the pressure that could cause long term skin breakdown or damage. Make sure their positioning while resting is also ideal; you will need to ensure that they are in a comfortable position that does not put too much pressure on their body or limbs. You can use pillows to elevate their limbs a little higher than the rest of their body, in order to prevent swelling of the limbs.

Be sure to ask your loved one from time to time if they feel comfortable. Change linens if they irritate your loved one’s skin, or make them feel uncomfortable. Make adjustments where necessary, but take care not to interrupt their rest by doing it too often.

Give Massages

Massages are a good way to help improve blood circulation. Given that your loved one will be in bed for most, if not the entirety, of the day, it helps to give gentle massage sessions. Use a moisturizing lotion, such as Vaseline, if possible; make sure your loved one is not allergic to these lotions before using them.

Massaging may help preserve your loved one’s lipid layer on their skin. When in good condition, your loved one’s skin may be better protected from damage. The improved circulation from regular massages will also help prevent skin damage as well. While massaging, be on the lookout for any signs of rash, injury or scabs; inform the doctor if you find any of these.

Keep Them Clean and Hygienic

It is very important to maintain your loved one’s hygiene. Depending on your loved one’s condition, the level of help they will need will differ. If they can move a little with some assistance, try to have them take a warm shower or bath. Otherwise, a bed bath is good enough as well. Emphasize on their independence to do these things unless they really need help.

Bathing helps to refresh and relax them, and can even provide some mild exercise in the process, ensuring their blood circulation is normal. Be sure to pay attention to cleaning their body thoroughly, and to make a note of any irregularities that you may notice. If you find baths do help improve your loved one’s mood, that is a good sign.

Make sure to also prioritize other aspects of hygiene, including dental care, keeping their hair and fingernails or toenails short. Provide them with clean clothes, bedsheets and pillows. If your loved one has difficulty going to the bathroom, or cannot control their bowel movement, be sure to change their bedsheets immediately. Some care providers suggest changing the sheets every two to three days.

Monitor Their Nutrition

It should go without saying that a balanced, healthy diet can be beneficial to your loved one’s recovery. Your doctor will make recommendations of what they should eat or avoid based on their condition; use this as a basis. Make a point to get them nutrient-rich foods that are easy to swallow, so as to prevent choking or other unwanted incidences.

Your loved one’s appetite may fluctuate depending on their condition. If they prefer small snack portions throughout the day, or if they can have regular mealtimes, have a schedule set to accommodate their eating habits. Make adjustments if their appetite improves or changes, and be sure to notify doctors if you feel something may be amiss.

With the right nutrition plan, your loved ones will be able to regain their strength, maintain a healthy weight, and ensure their body is functioning at optimal levels. You should also ensure that they are properly hydrated every day, as water is important for the majority of bodily functions.

Try to keep sugary drinks, junk food, sweets, confectionery and other types of snacks to a minimum.

Improve Their Environment

Making your loved one comfortable can also extend to their room’s furnishings. Ideally, you should reduce sources of disturbance from the room, such as televisions or radios, so they do not interrupt your loved one’s rest. Keep the room well-lit, preferably with more natural lighting, as sunlight can be a natural mood booster.

Make sure that the room is tidy, and make sure access to the bathroom or the room entrance/exit is free of obstructions. This will help to prevent avoidable falls or injuries if you assist them to any other place in the house. Keep the bed close to a nightstand that has an alarm, phone, writing materials or other useful items that could be of help. It also helps to air out the room occasionally to let fresh air in and remove stale air from the room.

Put little mementoes within reach as well, as these can be pleasant reminders of familial love for your loved one.

Be Patient and Empathetic

The caregiving journey can be a tough road, and you may find yourself stumbling along the way. It may be due to a feeling of discontentment or being overwhelmed by the things needed to be done for your loved one’s sake.

It will be hard to adapt, but it is possible with patience, empathy and love for your loved one. Losing one’s independence can be a big shock, and the inability to do anything for yourself and having to rely on others can be very demotivating. The least you can do is to be there for them when they need support.

If things begin to feel overwhelming, stepping back before things escalate can be beneficial for you and your loved one. Communicate with them on how they feel, what you can do to help, and ease any misunderstandings that may arise. If your loved one has difficulty conversing, find other ways to show them that you are here for them and that everything will be fine.

Take Your Time

This goes hand in hand with patience and empathy as part of your caregiving toolkit. The journey to recovery differs from person to person, so it may take a considerable amount of time before your loved one regains some level of independence. You should expect things to take longer than usual, and trying to rush activities will only lead to frustration or worse, your loved one getting injured. Caregiver burnout can also happen when you are caregiving for long periods of time.

The important thing is to take each day as it comes. Having a schedule will help arrange activities throughout the day, while having a helping hand from family and friends can also be good to distribute responsibilities among one another. This will enable everyone to get some time off for themselves, reducing emotional distress.

Seek External Care

If you find it difficult to juggle your caregiving commitments with work or other responsibilities, you can always consider respite care or other external care options to help you out. Respite care provides you with short-term care support for your loved one, while you take care of things on your end without needing to worry over your loved one’s condition. These can be of big help if you are struggling to provide care for your loved one while busy with work or other things on your plate.

Nursing homes are another alternative you can consider, where your loved one will be given round-the-clock care by trained care providers. They will monitor your loved one’s health, help them with therapy and other treatments to help them recover, and even be a helpful hand in fun group activities with other care recipients.

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About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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