Loved one getting discharged from hospital? Worried about how you are going to manage looking after them at home?
Get a copy of this booklet. It can help you understand the basics of home health care and family caregiving.
This booklet is for you if you are about to take a loved elder back home after getting them discharged from the hospital.
The idea behind this booklet is to provide you with some basic information that will help you through the daunting process of looking after a recuperating elder loved one at home.
While the doctors will give you details on further medical treatment, they generally do not have the time to get into the details of routine aspects of caregiving. These routine aspects, such as managing hygiene, using diapers, preventing bedsores and maintaining a positive environment, go a long way in speeding up the process of recovery.
We hope you find this booklet useful and look forward to your feedback. Do write to firstname.lastname@example.org for any suggestions or clarifications.
When you first start looking after an unwell loved one at home, it is likely that you feel overwhelmed by all the responsibilities that come with the role of a family caregiver. After all, if you are not a doctor or a trained nurse, many of the tasks you have to take up will be entirely new to you.
You may very well feel that you are facing challenges that are uniquely your own and you are being left all alone to tackle problems that you are ill-equipped to handle. This is normal and all of us, first time caregivers, go through this initially. Thankfully, this is not true.
With medical science having improved by leaps and bounds, medical conditions that used to be fatal until a few years ago are now being cured or managed thereby ensuring that people live longer lives. As a result, every day, there are more and more people being provided health care at home by family members and professionals.
This is a good thing because there is now a wealth of information and support that will allow you to manage your role as a family caregiver.
So, don’t worry. There is a lot of support available and you have started down the right path by getting hold of this booklet.
Just remember, you are not alone.
First thing to do is to set up the network required to look after the care recipient. Though there will always be a primary caregiver, who is usually the spouse or child of the care recipient, it is not always possible for one person to look after the recovering patient. Therefore, it is important for all other near and dear family members and friends to pitch in as best as they can.
So have a family meeting and distribute roles and responsibilities based on how much time and energy each person has. Everybody will have to contribute. It will mean that there will be some change in everyone’s life and schedule and they will have to acknowledge that and be prepared for it. To summarize
Looking after an elder ailing person is not an easy task. One bedridden person at home can keep an entire army occupied, sometimes. So, it is not always possible for family members alone to look after the elder patient.
Under such circumstances, don’t hesitate to get yourself professional outside help. There are many agencies that provide home nursing and nursing assistance support. Approach one of them or ask your hospital for more details. Sometimes, the nurses and ward boys on duty will be able to recommend agencies and freelance professionals.
Do not just hire the first person that is recommended. Meet a few. Interview them. Do background checks and reference checks where possible and ensure that you are comfortable with the person you are hiring.
Remember that this person you are hiring is going to be in your house for long periods of time and will eventually know the schedule and whereabouts of all the members of your household. So, it is important to hire someone you feel is reliable.
Once you have hired one or more professionals, make sure that the environment is conducive for their working. Do not use them for household work or other non-patient related work. Do not expect them to work 24 × 7. Treat them nicely so that they are in a good frame of mind which will enable them to treat their patient with kindness and caring. Don’t leave cash lying around and remove all valuables from sight so that there are no temptations or misunderstandings. In summary,
When you have a loved one who is bedridden or is having mobility issues at home, you quickly realize how senior unfriendly one’s house can be. However, you can do simple things to make the house more senior friendly.
Hygiene is one among the most important ingredients for successful recovery. Maintain the highest level of hygiene possible in the house at all times. This includes you, all visitors, hired help, the patient themselves and the entire environment within the house. Ailing elders are susceptible to infection and unnecessary health complications can make them suffer more, will lead to additional physical and mental stress for you and cost more by way of hospitalization, doctor’s fee and medication.
One of the biggest (and thankfully eminently avoidable) problems faced by bedridden patients is the bedsore. Also known as pressure ulcers, bedsores occur in people who are lying in bed for long periods of time. When a person is lying down in the same position for extended periods of time, some parts of the body get compressed between their bones and the bed. This creates a disruption in the blood circulation to some of the skin cells. Deprived of oxygen, these skin cells die thereby forming the nucleus of a bed sore. Bedsores can be extremely painful, take a long time to heal and lead to further complications if left untreated.
To prevent bedsores from developing, there are a few simple steps to follow.
Adult diapers are a caregiver’s best friend. Used (and changed) properly, they reduce a lot of work for the caregiver, while providing immense comfort for the care recipient.
There are quite a few products you may have to get familiar with. Here are a few to get started on.
A patient cot is an important piece of equipment that can make life comfortable for the ailing one and easier for the caregiver. There are many types of patient cots—Semi Fowler, Fowler, 3-function, 5-function, motorized and non-motorized, and with wheels and without.
A semi-fowler cot will allow you to lift the head side up so that the patient can be completely supine (as on a regular cot) or can be made to recline at various angles.
A Fowler cot, apart from allowing one to raise the head side (as in a semi-fowler), will allow you to raise the cot at the knee level as well so that the leg can also be raised.
A 3-function cot, will in addition to the above, allow the height of the cot to be adjusted. A 5-function cot is a typical ICU cot that will allow you to tilt the bed in multiple ways.
While a manual cot will provide cranks to do the raising and lowering, a motorized version will provide a remote control with buttons. Buy a motorized cot if the patient is interested in and capable of using the remote to change their own position, otherwise go for a manual cot.
Avoid wheels. They are usually required in a hospital environment, but at home they may be counter-productive.
Cots come in various ranges from low end economy made of mild steel and painted, to hi-tech aluminium, powder coated, with ABS head boards and side railings and motorized.
For typical home use, a manual semi-fowler cot should be sufficient.
There are various other pieces of equipment that you may require depending on the needs and condition of the patient. These include:
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