Karla News

Caring for Elderly Parents at Home

Bedsores, Caring for Elderly, Elderly Parents

Many children of elderly parents will do anything they can to keep their loved ones out of a long-term nursing home or care facility, including taking them in to provide care for them in their own homes. Almost 85% of families take care of their elders in the home either full time or part time, and most of those caregivers are women.

Before deciding to attempt to take care of your aging parents on your own however, there are many things to consider. First of all, realize that your decision to offer your home to your elderly mother or father, or even both, affects the entire family, including your own children, and your husband or wife. The daily stress of providing care for an ill or handicapped parent or one suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly trying. Before you bring an elderly parent into your home, there are several things you must address, such as their living space, medications, serving the proper kinds of meals for their particular dietary needs, especially if they’re diabetic, and helping them to maintain proper hygiene. If your parent is bedridden, family members must prevent bedsores and provide a safe living environment. None of these are easy, but with a few tips, the transition from son or daughter to primary caregiver for your parent may be easier on everyone involved.

Preparing a Room for your Parent: Make sure the room you provide an elderly parent is clean and away from drafts. Fresh, cheerful paint in soft yellows or greens create a soothing and calming effect. Adequate lighting that allows for reading as well as a place to sit other than the bed is ideal. If a television set is placed in the room, make sure you have a remote control for it. Some people also suggest placing a baby monitor or a bell of some sort near the bed so that your parent, whether bedridden or not, can easily call for help if necessary. For most seniors, a bedroom on a ground floor near a bathroom is preferable. If your house is already crowded or has only one bathroom, you may want to consider purchasing a bedside commode for added convenience.

Medication Schedules: One of the most important jobs you may have as a caregiver is to make sure that your elderly mother or father gets their necessary medications, and on the schedule set by their physician. It’s also a good idea for the caregiver and other family members to know what each medication is for and how it works. Purchasing a pillbox designated with either A.M. or P.M. and days of the week help keeping up with medications easier to remember. Be aware that many elderly patients don’t take all their medications, or may forget whether they have or not, so make sure you keep track or dole them out yourself.

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Hygiene: One of the most difficult things for elderly parents to admit, especially to their children, is that they need help with basic daily needs such as bathing and toileting. Some are so ashamed of their inability to take care of themselves that they become short tempered and argumentative. Be aware that such feelings are natural and their anger isn’t directed at you, the caregiver, but at the situation that they find themselves in.

Make sure that the bathtub is equipped with safety handles or grab bars to assist an elderly parent in and out of the tub. When that endeavor becomes too difficult, they may have to resort to taking showers while sitting on a bathing stool. These pieces of equipment can be found in local medical supply stores. If your parent is bedridden, encourage them to take a bed bath at least two to three times a week. If you need to give them the bed bath, take the time to learn how to do so properly, both for the comfort and benefit of your parent.

Don’t forget that your elderly father may feel a lot better about himself if he’s freshly shaved every morning, or that your mother may want to apply some makeup or have her hair done. Such little things go a long way to maintaining self-esteem in people who have lost freedom, mobility or self-confidence as they age.

Toileting: It’s a basic fact that sooner or later, your parent may need help getting to the toilet. Treat such needs matter of factly and without creating a fuss. It may help to install a toilet safety frame around the toilet that aids the elderly in sitting and rising, and offers stability and something to hang on to. A raised toilet seat is also helpful, especially for those who are recovering from hip surgery or back trouble. Make sure that toilet paper and tissues are always within reach.

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Another topic of extreme embarrassment to many elderly people is the need to wear protective briefs because of incontinence issues. Again, remember that your parent is more than likely a proud person who is as horrified as anyone else to realize that they need such protective measures, but it’s a fact of life that we’ll all have to deal with sooner or later. As with other personal issues such as this, be matter of fact and don’t make a fuss.

If your parent is bedridden, you may have to help them with the use of a bedpan. While this may not be the most pleasant of chores, again remember how your elderly parent must feel. Be discreet and matter of fact, and offer support and encouragement at all times. There are several different kinds of bedpans, and purchasing the one that will best suit the needs of your parent must be found. For those recovering from hip or back surgery, a ‘fracture bed pan’ is best, as it’s smaller and designed to slide easily under the hips. As most bedpans these days are plastic, you don’t have to worry about keeping them warm, but try to ensure the comfort of your parent when helping them get situated to use one correctly. Empty bedpans quickly and discreetly, then rinse and store. Make sure that your parent has the privacy they need, and any supplies such as toilet tissue before leaving them alone.

Bed care: If your parent is bedridden, it’s extremely important to make sure that you prevent bedsores. While they may seem trite to many, these sores can cause major problems down the line if not treated promptly. If not cared for, a bed sore, which starts off as a reddened area, can quickly deteriorate into a pressure ulcer, or as they are more commonly known, as decubitus ulcers. They form on buttocks, heels, elbows, shoulder blades and knees, as well as the spine, so check often for signs of any forming. Keeping the bedridden parent turned throughout the day, or have them shift position and move around often, which helps in preventing bedsores. If at all possible, encourage your parent to sit up on occasion, and make sure plenty of pillows are avilable for support and comfort.

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Prevent Falls: Falls for an elderly parent may spell disaster. Broken hips, knees, elbows or worse, backs, can be a devastating injury to a senior. Arthritis and osteoporosis make seniors especially susceptible to bone injuries, so take care in advance to make sure their living space, as well as your home, is as ‘senior safe’ as possible. Make sure the bathtub is lined with non-slip stickers or adhesives. Install safety handrails near toilets and in the bathtub, and avoid the use of talcum powders, as the residue is extremely difficult for elders to see and causes slippery surfaces. Make sure that electrical cords are tucked safely under rugs or along baseboards and don’t leave things lying around on the floor.

Medical Equipment: Your elderly mother or father may need some sort of medical device, whether it’s a hospital bed or a walker or cane or other supportive equipment. These items can be rented or purchased at a medical supply store and can help an elderly person maintain an invaluable semblance of independence.

Taking care of an elderly parent is no easy task, but there is help out there, if you know where to look for it. Check out the local services in your area that allow volunteer helpers or meal programs. Check into transportation services for your parent so that you don’t have to take them to every doctor’s appointment, and to offer them the opportunity to get away from the house once in a while. You may also want to check into local adult care services to offer both you and your parent the chance to be alone or with others of the same age. The worst thing a caregiver can do is to be on call 24/7, as everyone needs a break once in a while. Family support is necessary and vital for anyone choosing to take care of an elderly parent at home, but there are also community services that will help make such a task a little easier on everyone involved.