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Supporting Bedridden Seniors: 7 Best Practices and Tips

Being a caregiver for a bedridden family member can be challenging, but these 7 tips provide practical advice on how to manage their needs and maintain their quality of life.

A senior asian man lying on a bed while a nurse doing a check-up

As our loved ones age, it’s common for them to experience health issues that may limit their mobility and ability to perform daily tasks independently. In some cases, seniors may become bedridden and require significant assistance from caregivers to maintain their quality of life. This can be a challenging and emotional time for both seniors and their families, but there are resources and support available to help manage these situations.

It’s important to recognise the challenges that seniors face as they age and the impact it has on their daily lives. By understanding their needs and providing adequate care, we can ensure that they continue to live with dignity and respect.

What is “Bedridden”?

A bedridden person is someone who needs to stay in bed for an indefinite amount of time. This can be caused by a permanent disability that prevents them from being independent or doing things that they used to, thus requiring long-term care. It may be due to a severe stroke, a brain or spinal injury, or advanced forms of cancer.

Being bedridden means having insufficient physical activity, besides requiring loved ones or close friends to serve as informal caregivers to help them with daily activities. Remaining in bed for long periods can eventually cause growing discomfort, and possibly lead to other health complications that will only make the recovery process all the more difficult.

Complications of Being Bedridden

If you are caring for someone bedridden, take note of some of the many complications that could arise:

  • Bedsores (caused by increased pressure on the skin that affects blood circulation)
  • Constipation (due to slower stool movement in the intestines)
  • Weak bones and muscles
  • Stiff joints
  • Back pain
  • Sleeping issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Depression

The consequences of these complications can further impair your loved one’s recovery if left untreated. They can disrupt your loved one’s comfort and well-being, and could even be a catalyst to further medical troubles. It is thus vital to keep your loved one as comfortable and as active for as much as possible, adjusted to their own medical needs.

The process of caring for bedridden loved ones will be quite demanding because of their dependence on you. With the following tips, we hope it will be a much more manageable caregiving experience for you.

Tip #1: Be Equipped

It always pays to know more about your loved one’s condition. This becomes important once they are discharged, and caregiving now falls to you and your family members. Find as much information that will help you through the caregiving process, such as this list of tips. Speak to the doctors on do’s and don’ts, and be sure to consult them if anything new and unfamiliar arises. Every little bit that you know about your loved one’s condition can be a confidence booster for you.

This will also apply to how you use this knowledge to your loved one’s benefit. You may find yourself surprised when you can help bedridden seniors with something that can benefit their recovery thanks to all this extra know-how at your disposal.

A caregiver's hand holding an elderly's hand, who is holding on to a stress ball.
Equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge can give you the confidence boost on your role as a caregiver.

Tip #2: Prevent Bedsores

Even when bedridden, some movement will still be needed. Bedsores are of particular concern, given that they will occur if too much pressure is applied to the same area for long periods. This can cut off the blood supply to that area, causing the skin to die and an ulcer (bedsore) to form.

It is therefore critical to focus on getting the bedridden seniors moving within their range of motion. Simple stretches and even adjusting your loved one’s position on the bed can help with keeping the blood flow smooth and prevent the onset of bedsores.

One thing to note is the method of safely turning your loved one around. Ideally, you should turn your loved ones around every two hours or so, and make sure not to drag them. Dragging could cause damage to the skin, which can also be a catalyst for bed sores. If possible, have them sit down in a chair from time to time instead of lying down for long periods.

There are some ways to help you with moving your loved ones safely and without causing undue harm to them.

Tip #3: Maintain Physical Activity

If your loved one regains some mobility, do not rush them into strenuous physical activity immediately. Slowly build up their muscle strength and flexibility with short exercises. Keep a close eye on them so that they do not fall or trip. As their strength and confidence return, you can slowly build up the intensity to match their gains. Having a routine will make this a regular activity, encouraging better mobility in the long run.

Be sure to stay close to them as they exercise, just in case. Once their mobility begins to improve, help them focus on regaining their independence, and only offer help if it is necessary. You can start with simple hand or leg exercises that can be done from the bed, and work your way from there.

An elderly woman doing yoga in the park.
It is advisable for the bedridden seniors to engage in simple exercises with the help of their caregivers to build muscle strength and flexibility.

Tip #4: Emphasise Comfort

Your loved one’s comfort should not be neglected. If possible, get a pressure-relieving mattress for them that will help reduce the pressure that could cause long-term skin breakdown or damage. Making sure they are positioned while resting is also ideal; you will need to ensure that they are in a comfortable position that does not put too much pressure on their body or limbs. You can use pillows to elevate their limbs a little higher than the rest of their body, to prevent swelling of the limbs.

Be sure to ask your loved one from time to time if they feel comfortable. Change linens if they irritate your loved one’s skin, or make them feel uncomfortable. Make adjustments where necessary, but take care not to interrupt their rest by doing it too often.

Tip #5: Keep Them Clean and Hygienic

It is very important to maintain your loved one’s hygiene. Depending on your loved one’s condition, the level of help they will need will differ. If they can move a little with some assistance, try to have them take a warm shower or bath. Otherwise, a bed bath is good enough as well. Emphasize their independence to do these things unless they really need help.

Bathing helps to refresh and relax them, and can even provide some mild exercise in the process, ensuring their blood circulation is normal. Be sure to pay attention to cleaning their body thoroughly, and to make a note of any irregularities that you may notice. If you find baths do help improve your loved one’s mood, that is a good sign.

Make sure to also prioritize other aspects of hygiene, including dental care, and keeping their hair and fingernails or toenails short. Provide them with clean clothes, bedsheets and pillows. If your loved one has difficulty going to the bathroom, or cannot control their bowel movement, be sure to change their bedsheets immediately. Some care providers suggest changing the sheets every two to three days.

A person trying to eat a bowl of porridge with minced meat and chopped vegetables.
Ensure the bedridden seniors enjoy nutrient-dense meals that are easy to swallow.

Tip #6: Monitor Their Nutrition

It should go without saying that a balanced, healthy diet can be beneficial to your loved one’s recovery. Your doctor will make recommendations of what they should eat or avoid based on their condition; use this as a basis. Make a point to get them nutrient-rich foods that are easy to swallow, to prevent choking or other unwanted incidences.

Your loved one’s appetite may fluctuate depending on their condition. If they prefer small snack portions throughout the day, or if they can have regular mealtimes, have a schedule set to accommodate their eating habits. Make adjustments if their appetite improves or changes, and be sure to notify doctors if you feel something may be amiss.

With the right nutrition plan, your loved ones will be able to regain their strength, maintain a healthy weight, and ensure their body is functioning at optimal levels. You should also ensure that they are properly hydrated every day, as water is important for the majority of bodily functions.

Try to keep sugary drinks, junk food, sweets, confectionery and other types of snacks to a minimum.

Tip #7: Seek External Care

If you find it difficult to juggle your caregiving commitments with work or other responsibilities, you can always consider respite care or other external care options to help you out. Respite care provides you with short-term care support for your loved one, while you take care of things on your end without needing to worry about your loved one’s condition. These can be of big help if you are struggling to provide care for your loved one while busy with work or other things on your plate.

Nursing homes are another alternative you can consider, where your loved one will be given round-the-clock care by trained care providers. They will monitor your loved one’s health, help them with therapy and other treatments to help them recover, and even be a helpful hand in fun group activities with other care recipients.

This article is an adaptation of 15 Tips On How To Care For Bedridden Seniors from Homage.my.

Are you looking for someone to care for your loved ones?

Homage is a personal healthcare solution that connects caregivers, nurses and therapists with seniors that need on-demand holistic home care in their own homes, allowing them to recover and age with grace, control and dignity.

Article contribution by Homage

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