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How To Care For A Bedridden Elderly Person At Home

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Taking care of an elderly loved one can be difficult, but it can certainly come with it’s own set of complications if the older adult is bedridden.

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.

How Do You Care For Someone Who Is Bedridden?

Our tips on how to care for a bedridden elderly person include the following:

  • Pay special attention to the integrity of their skin.
  • Keep the sheets and blankets clean.
  • Proper bedding to make your senior loved one as comfortable as possible.
  • Keeping to a schedule which helps with toileting.
  • Providing enough entertainment and activities with some purpose
  • If necessary, help them to reposition their body multiple times a day.

Let’s go into some details on each of these individual issues.

6 Tips On How To Best Take Care Of An Elderly Bedridden Loved One

1. Avoiding Bedsores (aka Pressure Ulcers)

Many (if not all) elderly individuals have thinner skin – it seems to just be a natural part of growing older. As a result – it’s very easy to get skin bruises, cuts and scrapes which can possibly get infected. So, there’s always that to watch out for.

But if that elderly person is bedridden, the problems from thinner skin are compounded. It simply increases the chances of getting bedsores.

There are multiple 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.

You can also find Bed Rails and other medical equipment at Med Mart!

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…

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!

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.
  • Bedside tables – my 98 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.