Updated June 22, 2022 – Providing home care of an elderly loved one can be difficult for many family members, but it can certainly come with it’s own set of additional complications if the older adult is bedridden. It can be tough to take care of a bedridden elderly person at home, especially if it’s someone who you haven’t had to take care of for a long time.
But, there are things that you can do to make it much easier for you (as the caregiver) and for your senior loved one who very much needs your help.
There are a variety of health conditions that can cause someone to become bedridden. These include injuries, strokes, and chronic illnesses such as arthritis or cancer.
Bedridden patients may also be affected by conditions that make it difficult for them to move around, such as obesity or paralysis. Regardless of the underlying cause, it is important to provide proper care for a bedridden patient to ensure their comfort and safety.
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What Does A Bedridden Person Need?
Bedridden seniors need a few basic things in order to be comfortable.
- A good quality mattress that will support their body and help to prevent bedsores. A hospital bed may be beneficial.
- Pillows to prop up their head and keep them from getting a crick in their neck. These can be some of the best things you provide them with.
- Sheets and blankets to keep them warm.
- A special bedpan or urinal to help them with toileting.
- Bed tables are a wonderful product for many seniors who have to spend a lot of time in bed.
- A schedule for things like medication, meals, dental care, changing bed sheets, bed bath, toileting, etc.
- Their physical health is still important. This means ensuring that they are getting enough exercise, even if it’s just simple range-of-motion exercises.
- They will need your care and attention to make sure that all of their needs are met.
As you can see, taking care of a bed-bound patient is not necessarily a difficult task, but it does require some planning and effort on your part. By following the tips above, you can be sure that your loved one is comfortable and well-cared for while they are unable to take care of themselves.
7 Tips On How To Best Take Care Of An Elderly Bedridden Loved One
Our tips on how to care for a bedridden elderly person include the following:
- Pay special attention to the integrity of their skin to avoid bed sores.
- Keep the bed linens and blankets clean.
- Proper bedding to make your senior loved one as comfortable as possible.
- Keeping to a schedule which helps with personal hygiene, medications, meals, etc.
- Bathing can be problematic but there are ways to do it properly.
- Providing enough entertainment and activities with some purpose
- If necessary, help them to reposition their body multiple times a day.
Some of these are such simple things but they all go a long way in optimizing the care of a bedridden patient.
Let’s go into some details on each of these individual issues.
1. Avoiding Bedsores (aka Pressure Ulcers)
Many (if not all) elderly individuals have thinner skin – it seems to just be common problem of growing older. As a result – it’s very easy to get skin bruises, cuts and scrapes which can possibly get infected.
But if that elderly person is bedridden, you may have a difficult time avoiding bedsores. There are multiple issues that can cause bedsores, we’ll go over that in just a bit. Just know that these sores can quickly become infected, so it’s important, and a very good idea to do everything possible to avoid them.
5 Reasons Why Bedsores Occur
- Staying in one position for too long which puts a lot of pressure on any one specific areas of the body.
- Being underweight means that you have less fat over bony areas of your body which can then make those areas more prone to bed sores.
- Scraping the skin against any area such as sliding off of bed, a toilet, against a chair, etc.
- Poor hydration can make the skin more susceptible as well
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, poor blood circulation, vascular diseases and others can also contribute to poor skin integrity which can make you more prone to bedsores.
- You can read more about pressure ulcers here at mayoclinic.org
The #1 recommendation to help avoid bedsores is to reposition the body every two hours.
Of course – there’s no 100% method to avoid this issue entirely. I just want you to know that because I know that if you are caring for a senior loved one who is bedridden and they develop a bedsore, I don’t want you to feel guilty if you are following all the guidelines to try to avoid them.
Do all you can to keep that person well fed, hydrated and to move them at least every 2 hours.
Speak with your physician and/or nurse on any medication, creams and/or tools that you can use to help to keep the integrity of the skin as good as it can possibly be.
I know when I was working as an Occupational Therapist in nursing homes we often used Boot Heel Protectors to help with bed sores on our patients’ heels. They worked quite well.
Here are some other tools and gadgets that may be useful for you and your senior loved one.
- Inflatable bed air topper
- Turning Wedge – in the hospitals and rehab units we used to use lots and lots of pillows to help reposition our patients and that often worked but this wedge may be an easier solution for you since it’s just one product vs. lots of multiple pillows to have to change and clean regularly.
- Tailbone pillows – if your senior loved one is able to sit up in his/her bed or even able to spend a little time on a chair then this donut cushion may be useful to alleviate any pressure on his/her glutes and coccyx area.
2. Keep The Bed Linen Clean
Many elderly seniors who are bedridden are also using diapers and incontinence pads as well. It’s extremely important to change diapers and incontinence pads as needed. You want to avoid your senior loved one’s skin to stay in contact for a length of time with urine and/or feces.
The products I can recommend here are…
- Super absorbent adult diapers – Tena is one of the best absorbent adult diapers on the market.
- Heavy absorbency disposable incontinence pads.
- Washable incontinence pads.
- A waterproof mattress protector – this is just an extra bit of protection for your mattress.
- Bedside urinals for men.
- Bedpan to help with toileting.
- Bedside commodes – I like this particular one which is actually more like a bench simply because it’s easier to transfer the bedridden person from sitting up in bed to the commode.
- Transfer boards – I used transfer boards like these multiple times every day that I worked as an OT and they were invaluable.
If any feces or urine does get onto the bed sheets or covers, etc. I would recommend to wash those sheets immediately using the following steps.
- If there is feces on the sheets, remove it with paper towels. Place those used paper towels in a plastic bag and discard the bag.
- Fill the sink or bathtub (whatever would accommodate the item you are washing) with water (a cool temperature). In a bathtub add 1/4 cup of laundry detergent. You can adjust the amount of detergent you use depending on the size of the container you are filling with water.
- Place your dirty items in the water, put on disposable plastic gloves and agitate the water and the material with your hand, swooshing back and forth for about 10 minutes. A human washing machine! If you want to use rubber gloves for this make sure to clean them afterwards with an antibacterial wipe or a cloth soaked in a disinfectant. (Avoid using alcohol to clean rubber gloves).
- Drain the water, twist the material you are cleaning so that any excess water is removed.
- Place your material in a plastic bin.
- Bring everything to your washing machine where you will add any stain treatment product you may have like Shout or Grandma’s Secret or other product. Make sure to apply this stain remover directly to the affected area(s). Follow the directions from your specific stain remover product.
- Wash the sheets using both laundry detergent and chlorine bleach. Of course if your sheets are anything other than white make sure to use color safe bleach!
If your bedridden patient happens to spend any time resting on the couch, you will also want to protect that furniture from urine as well. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
How Do You Change Sheets When Someone Is Bedridden?
The process of changing sheets when someone is bedridden can be a bit more complicated and time-consuming than for those who are able to assist.
1) Have all of your supplies close by and within reach before you begin. This includes clean sheets, a laundry basket, and any other items you may need such as incontinence pads or gloves.
2) Place the laundry basket next to the bed.
3) Remove any pillows or other bedding from the bed.
4) If the patient is wearing an incontinence pad, remove and dispose of it.
5) Gently lift the patient onto one side, being careful not to jar or jostle them.
6) Using a clean sheet, lift the soiled one away and place it in the laundry basket.
7) Place the clean sheet on the bed.
8) Return the patient to their original position on the bed.
9) Put any pillows or other bedding back in place.
10) Wash your hands thoroughly.If the patient is able to walk, they should be encouraged to do so as often as possible to avoid bed sores. When moving the patient, be sure to use gentle and slow movements to avoid causing them pain.
Here’s a video showing you the steps mentioned above.
3. Products To Increase Comfort While Bedridden
You want to, of course, make sure that your elderly loved one is as comfortable as possible while they are in bed so anything that you can do to to help with that would certainly be most appreciated!
Here are some products that I personally use and can recommend…
- Orthopedic support wedge pillow – it’s 4 pieces (of course you can use any ones you like) but I love how this contours to my body to make it very comfortable to lay in bed. Works great when my back goes out!
- Under mattress wedges – to permanently position the mattress so that the head is elevated you can use these plastic wedges that fit under the mattress
- Leg pillows – these are great to elevate the legs and if positioned correctly, it can also relieve any pressure on heels as well.
- Bed tables – my 100 year old mom-in-law is not bedridden but she does take several naps each day and she loves to read. So, this bedside table that tilts is a perfect fit for her.
- Cleaning products for bathing – these no rinse bathing wipes make getting clean while bedridden much easier.
- Waterless shampoo and conditioner – this is a great little product. It’s a cap that has shampoo and conditioner in it – allowing you to wash and condition someone’s hair without having to mess with water and other messy elements. Here’s a video showing you how it works.
4. Keeping To A Schedule
When you are bedridden – it’s very easy to lose track of time. And for caregivers, the multitide of time consuming tasks can make time slide away so quickly, you wonder where the day went.
For these reasons, it’s very important to do all you can to keep to a schedule. The benefits are many…
- Daily routine helps to keep you on track with medications, hydration, eating and sleep patterns.
- Routines help to reduce stress (having predictable and structured events can greatly reduce stress).
- Routines also help to increase a sense of safety and security.
- Doing the same thing at the same time each day is very helpful for people with dementia and other cognitive issues.
- Schedules can help caregivers to care for themselves. Knowing that every Monday and Thursday afternoon you have 4 hours away (just as an example) can help you to get through those days and moments when you feel the world is closing in on you.
5. Bathing a Bedridden Senior
If the person you are caring for is bedridden, they will still need to be bathed on a regular basis. This can be done in a number of ways, depending on their level of mobility.
If they are able to sit up, you can bathe them in a chair with a built-in shower seat. If they are unable to sit up, you can bathe them in their bed with a sponge bath or wipe.
Here’s a great video showing you the proper way to give an adult a sponge bath.
Or, you can use Rinse Free Bath Sponges like these as well. I would recommend to use both methods. This will make it easier on the caregiver.
Another great product are dry shampoos. There are several varieties to choose from so you may want to try a few to see what works best for you.
6. Entertainment and Activities
Along with the usual types of tasks that need to be done daily such as bathing, toileting, eating, drinking, etc. It’s also very important to keep up with some type of “fun” activities as well.
Of course, you want to accommodate the types of activities your senior loved one enjoys as much as possible but here are some ideas that may help to keep everyone entertained.
- Adult coloring books
- Reading and/or listening to books
- Games, either solo or with others
- Television and movies and Youtube
- Listening to podcasts
7. Physical Movement Of Some Kind
Any series of exercises that you can do with your senior loved one in bed would be beneficial. This could include any movements that they can make as well as movements that your physical therapist would instruct you to do on that person.
I do recommend that you get consultation from your physician and a physical therapist before you do any form of exercises with a bedridden person. In the long run, this will help to prevent bedsores and ensure that their muscles don’t atrophy.
By following these tips, you can help make a bedridden elderly patient feel more comfortable and cared for.
How Hospice Services Can Help
One thing that you may want to consider is asking for professional help from hospice care. Hospice is a service that helps people with a terminal illness and their families. Hospice services can help with many things such as pain management, providing emotional support, and helping with day-to-day tasks.
Although it’s commonly known that hospice services are only known for the last 6 months of life, that’s actually not true. The hospice nurse who helped us care for our mother told us she has had patients on her watch for as much as 3 years!
Hospice is paid for by Medicare so little to no money comes out of your pocket for these amazing services.
Hospice services can be provided in the home or in a hospice facility. Hospice services can be a great help to families who are caring for a bedridden elderly person at home.
Hospice services can help take some of the burden off of the family and provide much-needed support. If you are considering hospice care for your bedridden elderly loved one, talk to their doctor or a hospice care provider. They can help you determine if hospice care is the right choice for your loved one and help you get started with services.
What Happens When A Person Is Bedridden?
There are multiple factors that complicate issues for someone who is bedridden and as a caregiver, it’s important to know what these are and how you can best prevent them.
Being bedridden leads to many complications such as loss of muscle strength and endurance. Contractures, osteoporosis from disuse and the degeneration of joints can occur.
Being confined to bed can add to the likelihood of developing an increased heart rate, decreased cardiac output, hypotension, and thromboembolism.
People with disabilities who are bedridden are at risk for developing pressure sores. Those who are bedridden are at risk in a house fire due to their lack of mobility.
Showering can become impossible. Bedsores develop if a person: who spends most or all of the day in bed without changing position. Being confined to bed may result in a person remaining passive and withdrawn.
The ability to transfer to a chair and the negative attitudes of caregivers is associated with continued confinement to bed and reduction of such requests. Those who are confined to bed have risks related to falls. Falling from a bed can result in injury.
A consultation with your physician will help you to know what to do in your specific situation for your senior loved one.
Also, if you have hospice coming in (and I would encourage you to at least call them) – their nurse and doctor could help you as well.
How Often Should Bedridden Patients Be Turned?
As I said earlier in this article – the recommended number of times a bedridden patient should be turned is at least every 2 hours.
Of course, this is a difficult schedule to keep up, especially during your sleep time. I do not recommend that you get up every 2 hours to reposition your elderly loved one. You cannot care for someone if you aren’t caring for yourself first.
A good tip is that if you have to give them medication during the night – then you can turn them at that time. Or, if you are getting up to use the bathroom yourself, then that would be a good time to turn them as well.
Again, if you can keep yourself and your senior loved one on a schedule of some type – that would help you greatly.
Caring For A Bed Bound Senior With Dementia
One of the most difficult challenges caregivers face is providing care for an elderly dementia patient who is bedridden. These patients are often confused, agitated, and withdrawn, and they may be unable to communicate their needs. As a result, they can be very difficult to care for.
However, there are some things you can do to make the process easier.
First, it’s important to establish a routine. Try to keep mealtimes and bathing times consistent from day to day. This will help your loved one feel more secure and less anxious.
Second, make sure the environment is safe and comfortable. Keep the room well-lit and free of clutter. Provide plenty of pillows and blankets so your loved one can adjust position comfortably.
Finally, be patient and understanding. Dementia can be a very confusing and frustrating condition, so it’s important to be patient with your loved one and try to see things from their perspective.
By following these tips, you can make the process of caring for a bedridden dementia patient a little easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should a bedridden patient be bathed?
A bedridden patient should be bathed at least once a week. However, if the person is incontinent or has a lot of skin breakdown, they may need to be bathed more often.
How do bedridden patients go to the bathroom?
There are a few different ways that bedridden patients can go to the bathroom. If they are able, they may be able to use a bedside commode. If not, they will need to be turned onto their side and have a bedpan placed underneath them. A catheter may also be used if the person is unable to urinate on their own.
What food should be given to bedridden patients?
Normally, it’s recommended that bedridden individuals be given a diet of healthy foods that are high in calories and protein. They may also need to take supplements if they are not getting enough nutrients from their food.
Your physician may refer you to a nutritionist for the proper advice on what types of foods and diet your senior loved one should follow.
You want to try to avoid foods that may cause constipation and/or diarrhea. These can be a very common issue among seniors who are bed bound.