Caring for a loved one in any capacity, especially if you don’t have much experience in care, can sometimes be a daunting task. Of course, caring for a disabled and/or elderly person is one of the most rewarding, worthwhile and important things you can do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges along the way.
Thankfully, many of the anxieties you may face as a carer can be alleviated by educating yourself on the best ways to deal with the various challenges you could come across. We can’t tell you exactly the best way of navigating every element of care for your loved one, as every person is an individual and their care should be tailored to their distinctive needs – just as we do with every one of our residents at Melrose Care Home. That being said, we can provide some more general advice that may be helpful for your specific circumstances.
With that in mind, we’ll be looking at issues that are commonly faced by caregivers to the elderly to cover as much ground as possible when it comes to providing personal care.
How to do personal care for the elderly
Discussing how to provide personal care for the elderly can be rather complex, because everybody’s needs are different. However, there are some common factors when it comes to personal care.
One such factor is the importance of communication when assessing the levels of care required. This means having open and honest conversations between yourself and the person you are caring for. This way, they can help you understand where they are struggling and what they specifically need help with. It also allows you to understand what they are capable of doing themselves, allowing them to maintain their independence.
Communication is also important between the person who needs care and medical professionals, in order to understand the best way to move forward from a medical point of view. Remember that you are not a doctor and it is vital to consult professionals whenever there is any concern, no matter how small.
Common areas of personal care include things like hygiene and grooming, help with mobility, preparing meals and feeding, and generally doing everything possible to improve that person’s quality of life. All this goes back to the communication we were talking about, as assessing their needs in every one of these areas requires a consistent and open dialogue wherever possible, whether that’s between yourself and the person you are caring for or with a medical professional.
How to care for bedridden elderly
Moving onto a more specific care situation, there is a lot that needs to be taken into account when delivering high-quality care to the bedridden elderly. While we can’t go through every possible consideration here – as the individual’s health and psychological state is unique to them –, we can look at some of the most common issues a carer for a bedridden person may face.
We’ll start off with some of the physical issues that come with being bedridden. A lack of mobilisation can affect things like breathing, circulation and strength. For instance, a person who is in bed for 3–5 weeks can find their muscles have lost half of their normal strength.
Thankfully, there are still things that can be done in order to slow down this loss of strength, including stretching, strengthening exercises and active mobilisation. However, it is vital to get the advice of a medical professional before undertaking any kind of change in physical activity in order to avoid further injury.
Similarly, problems with things like pressure sores, alongside issues with breathing and circulation can be improved through something as simple as proper positioning. A physical therapist can advise you on this and suggest any other actions that could be helpful. Of course, all of this will also improve the general health, happiness and wellbeing of the person being cared for, as being bedridden not only has physical affects but psychological ones too.
Part of a person’s psychological wellbeing in general – but especially for bedridden patients – is their surrounding environment. If you need to spend a large amount of time in one area, then the all-around quality of that space will have a massive impact on your state of mind. Therefore, it is important that you ensure the area is tidy, well lit, clean and that everything your loved one needs is easily accessible within it.
It’s crucial that you allow the care receiver to remain as independent as possible, even if they are bedridden. Studies have shown that fears of being a burden take a heavy psychological toll on elderly people. So, by allowing them to do as much as they can, you can help alleviate this worry.
Other important things to keep on top of are nutrition and hygiene. Be aware that when caring for someone who is bedridden, you will need to take a much more proactive approach with these duties than would often be the case with a more mobile person.
Finally, it’s absolutely vital that your loved one can still enjoy a wide variety of interesting activities, as much as they want and are capable of doing. This can include anything from listening to music, reading, solving puzzles: really, whatever they are interested in. Being bedridden doesn’t mean you stop enjoying yourself or having new experiences. As a carer, it is important to keep that in mind and facilitate it wherever possible.
How to care for incontinent elderly
Incontinence can be something that your loved one will find both stressful and embarrassing, so once again, open communication is extremely important when dealing with this issue. Make sure they know that there is nothing to be ashamed of and that it’s not something that you would ever judge them for. Being unable to properly communicate about this problem can cause needless stress and also prevent proper measures being put into place to improve the situation.
The good news is there’s generally a lot you can do in order to make incontinence less of an issue. A few simple physical changes can make a big difference. For example, AGE UK recommends staying hydrated, unless advised otherwise by a GP or nurse, and having plenty of fibre in your diet to avoid constipation, which can cause greater pressure on the bladder. Speaking of medical professionals, it’s recommended that you seek advice regarding things like exercises which help the pelvic floor, alongside medication. You can also get information on what products may be helpful.
Finally, a good idea is to consider practical home adaptions, especially if mobility is also an issue alongside incontinence. Support may be available in this regard through your local authorities.