As a caregiver you may need to provide for all aspects of your loved one’s comfort. There are several types of care your loved one may need from you or others.
Part of caregiving is providing physical care to your loved one. Ask your loved one’s healthcare team about the types of care that may be required of you. We suggest keeping a log of medications and reactions, physical symptoms such as pain or tiredness and any therapy being provided.
Some important questions to ask the healthcare team about physical care:
Lifting and Moving: proper techniques
How can I protect my back while lifting and moving my uncle?
Bedpans: using and cleaning
How do I help my mother use a bedpan and how do I clean it?
Pressure Ulcers: avoiding bed sores
How can I prevent my father from getting pressure ulcers or bed sores?
Incontinence: protecting from discomfort
How can I help my sister with her incontinence?
Skin Care: maintaining cleanliness and preventing dryness.
How can I help my brother take care of his skin so that it is clean and doesn’t become dry?
Physical care tips:
- If possible, have someone help you with the morning and bedtime routines, if your loved one needs a lot of assistance, since getting up and going to bed often are the most challenging times of the day.
- Practice good oral hygiene that includes tooth brushing, denture cleaning, and cleaning around the gums, preferably after every meal. Good oral hygiene helps to prevent tooth decay, tooth loss and gum diseases, as well as secondary infections that can result from poor dental care. Persons with disabilities or medical problems may need special care in addition to daily hygiene routines.
- If your loved one is disabled, has poor eyesight or problems with memory, you may need to remind them about personal hygiene and/or assist them.
- Older persons with limited movement should be turned in bed on a regular basis to prevent pressure sores. Correct bedding, such as sheepskin or egg carton bed coverings and/or an air mattress, helps to prevent pressure sores. It is important to move older persons with disabilities at least once an hour, even if it is just to reposition them, to do range of motion exercises, and to have them sit in various chairs that offer sufficient support.
As a caregiver you may need to provide for all aspects of your loved one’s comfort. In addition to ensuring your loved one’s physical comfort, you can also provide emotional and spiritual comfort.
Your loved one may have emotional and spiritual pain. They are experiencing many losses including the loss of control over their own life. It is important for you to continue to describe what is happening to the healthcare team. Talk with a social worker, clergy, or spiritual caregiver to help you find resources for additional emotional and spiritual support.
Take some time each day to talk with your loved one about their feelings. Be patient and listen to what they want to share with you. Whatever feelings they have - let them know that they have a right to feel that way; do not try and talk them out of their feelings. Your loved one may wish to discuss their fears or concerns with someone else - encourage them to do so. Offer to contact a friend, counselor or chaplain, and give them privacy when they discuss these issues with another.
The following suggestions are for the caregiver to help enhance your loved one’s quality of life and are some examples of providing emotional and spiritual support.
Meal times can be pleasant social events, when you can be together and talk. If your loved one is confined to bed, you can sit and talk while he or she eats and bring a tray in for you. There are a host of eating utensils and accessories that make eating easier for persons with disabilities.
Use an attractive plastic tablecloth or place mats that are easy to clean and a towel, apron or other covering for your loved one’s clothes, if there is a tendency to spill food. Use light-weight, plastic easy-grip glasses, or cups with handles. If there is a lot of spillage, try a drink holder with a lid and plastic straw insert.
Consider having a vase of flowers on the table or next to the bed, if your family member or friend is confined to bed, and open the curtains and let the sun shine in.
Entertainment, Entertaining and Travel
These activities can also enhance the quality of life of your loved one and family.
- Check the TV listings and choose your favorite programs to watch each day rather than having the TV on nonstop
- Get large print and talking books from the library and read together
- Check for special events that are low-cost or free. Invite a friend or family member to join you, preferably one who can drive or help you if needed
- Go out to eat at restaurants
- Visit an art-hobby store and see what is available in the way of arts or crafts projects that you can enjoy together
- Invite family and/or friends for dinner or lunch. If you have limited funds to entertain or do not have time to prepare food, have them over for dessert or snacks; ask each of them to bring something, or to chip in on a carryout meal
- Plan day trips to local places of interest, inviting a friend or family member to join you
- If you have the room, invite family member or friends to come and stay with you for a while in your home
- Check colleges, religious organizations, and community centers for free activities
- Visit museums, galleries, botanical and zoological parks or a petting zoo
- If appropriate, get a pet. Your local shelter has many pets available for adoption
- Get a computer so that you can e-mail friends, join in chat rooms, learn about things that are of interest, and enjoy computer games
- Ask your local Area Agency on Aging about friendly visitor, volunteer, and telephone reassurance programs
- Many fraternal, religious, and social organizations have activities specifically for older people; this can be a great way to extend your circle of friends and supportive network