Susan Britton is a home care attendant who shares tips she's learned from the palliative care RNs that care for people at home.
Caring for the elderly in your home can be stressful. The best piece of advice is to be prepared for anything that can happen—and anything can happen. In this article, I'll share some helpful tips that I've learned from working as a home care attendant with in-home nurses, including tips on making the bed, taking care of bedsores, and maintaining good personal hygiene.
Basic Tools Every Caregiver Should Have
The first thing you should have is a thermometer for taking temperature—something that should be done every day. You can find one at most drug stores or dollar stores.
Normal body temperature for adults is around 98.6 °F (37 ºC). It may fluctuate slightly, but large changes (more than one degree change) could indicate an infection. A temperature at or above 101 °F (38.3 ºC) is a warning to call 911 or rush them to the hospital. The thermometer in the picture above (bottom of the table) lights a different color for different temperatures with red as a temperature of 101 °F.
You should also invest in a device like the OxyWatch shown above (middle of the table) that measures pulse rate as well as how much oxygen your loved one is getting. Again, these measures should be checked every day.
If the oxygen saturation level goes below 90, that is another warning sign to call a doctor or home nurse for advice on what to do. Sometimes, it is as easy as getting your loved one to take deep breaths to get their oxygen up over 90.
The average resting heart rate for adults is anywhere from 60–100 bpm, but this vary's from person to person, so a better reference point is your loved one's usual resting heart rate. If your loved ones heart rate is usually 60 bpm, and you notice a spike to 90, then something might be wrong.
The OxyWatch can be found at most drug stores for around $40. It's well worth the money to know whether your loved one's vitals are normal.
3. Blood Pressure Monitor
Every caregiver should own a blood pressure monitor. We have all used these, I am sure. On average, normal blood pressure is 120/80, but this can vary depending on the person and pre-existing conditions. For an average, healthy person, 130/90 may indicate high blood pressure while 80/50 may indicate low blood pressure.
If you have a low blood pressure, call your home nurse, and they may tell you to give your loved one a glass of Gatorade with a pinch of salt to bring their blood pressure up. This was the advice I got from my home nurse, but you should check with your home nurse or doctor for advice because every case is different.
4. Record Book
Finally, the best thing a caregiver can do is keep a log of the various measures (i.e., temperature, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, blood pressure, etc.). In addition, keep records of bowel movements (frequency and other observations) and the medications your loved ones are taking. Other things to keep records of are their weight, height, and age.
These logs will greatly help the paramedic, nurse, and doctor monitor your loved one's health. They will thank you for having everything organized in one place instead of wasting valuable time trying to find it all.
Hygiene Products for the Bed
Tips for Making the Bed (and Keeping It Clean)
Accidents happen—and more frequently in older populations. Here are a couple tips to keep the mess to a minimum to keep your loved one comfortable and protect the mattress.
Get a Plastic Mattress Cover
Cover the mattress with a plastic, zippered mattress cover. This cover can be wiped clean with disinfecting wipes or washed on low heat in the washing machine to remove germs.
Use Bed Mats for Added Protection
I used bed mats on top of the bottom sheet to keep moisture away from your loved one in case the adult protection (diaper) leaks. If your loved one is having a bad day and won't roll back and forth on the bed for the diaper changes, you can pull the mattress cover up between their legs to absorb the body wastes. This only works if your loved one stays on their back, but it's a good solution for nighttime changes—at least until they are well enough for the changes again. This also reduces your back pain since you won't have to bend over your loved one, fighting to remove a diaper on a weak person.
The bed mats I found to work the best are a product called GoodNites bedwetting products for child bedwetters. They work great because they have a square of tape on each corner to attach them to the bed, keeping them in place instead of balling up in the night and not doing their job. The only flaw is that your loved one can get their hair or pajamas caught on the sticky tape and get stuck until they call you—and yes, this did happen to us.
Tips for Dealing With Bedsores
If you notice bedsores on your loved one, don't panic. Just keep them clean with alcohol wipes and simply put a patch over them to keep them from direct contact with the diaper.
The two I've used are Lidoderm and Duoderm, though I prefer Duoderm, which I got from the home nurse. The Duoderm patches seemed to heal the sores faster than the Lidoderm patches.
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Do not peel off the backs of these patches and stick the whole patch on their sore. They will peel off in no time and make the bedsores even worse.
You can cut these patches into quarters and use them this way. Just make sure the patches are big enough to cover bedsore. This is what I would do, and I found it stayed on much better. They can be left on for two days.
Do not be afraid to tell your home nurse your problems and ask them to get products to help .
Must-Have Personal Hygiene Products
Tips for Maintaining Personal Hygiene
- Buy lots of rubber gloves. Some people are allergic to latex, so buy non-latex gloves that are powder-free. Wear rubber gloves each time you're changing diapers or bed mats to avoid infecting your loved one or getting infected yourself.
- Also get lots of adult wipes. Whoever invented adult wipes are a Godsend. They are great for all kinds of messes and easier on tender skin than paper towels. Most adult wipes also have aloe or other skin-soothing ingredients in them. Barrier wipes are the best to use at diaper changes to prevent bedsores and skin breakdown.
- I can't say enough about alcohol wipes. You can use these to clean bedsores, disinfect your tools, and clean your own hands and anything else that needs to be rid of germs. They're a must-have for home health care.
- Use Hydrophor ointment. Put this on their butt at every change as it helps keep a layer of moisture on their skin to prevent chaffing, which can lead to bedsores.
- Adult diapers are a necessity, but it's very important to know what kind to use. The panty pull up you see in the photos above holds a lot more liquid and keeps it away from the skin. It also helps keep the bed dry. The blue adult diaper is easier to change at night, thanks to the side tabs. However, it does leak, and sometimes, the tabs get ripped off or attach themselves to your loved ones skin, which will hurt when you rip the tabs off.
Dealing With Constipation
Difficulty having bowel movements can become a painful experience for your loved one. I gave my loved one two Senokot-S—one in the morning and one at night—to prevent constipation in a gentle, natural way. If this doesn't work in three days, I give them 2 ml of milk of magnesia twice a day.
You can purchase Senokot-S at any drug store for around $22 if your loved one has this issue, it is definitely worth the price.
Note that most of the products I've discussed here will be given to you when your loved one is in hospital. You are allowed to take everything home from the room when you leave, so take it all. You paid for it, and caring for a sick loved one can be very costly. Whatever you can't get from the hospital can be found at your local drug store, or you can get your home care nurse to get them for you.
I hope these home health care tips helped you become a more confident caregiver. Thank you for reading. If you have some health care tips of your own, feel free to add them in the comments.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 17, 2016:
Thank you @Allanlie for sharing your views, but my friend wanted to be in her home and it was my pleasure to care for her there. We had lots of quality time sitting together for hours and she knew I was beside her. That is what her wishes were, to be home and not to die alone without me and her son at her side. She passed on peacefully and I am proud of my accomplishment for my friend.
Allanlie on May 17, 2016:
Thanks for this Article. I would like to share my views about Senior Health. We can give a happiness to them by caring. Many Caring Center provide senior health care facilities like Medical, Beauty, and Other. You can take help for senior heath by a Adult/Senior Health care center like: http://www.pathoflifeassistedliving.com
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 20, 2015:
Thanks a lot @Amanda for the tips. I appreciate your input. My friend had a cushion that came with her wheelchair but it is always good to know a reputable name for a wheelchair cushion.
Amanda on August 20, 2015:
Great advice here! I would say you need a cushion in the chair, especially if you have a loved one or patient that will sit all day and could be at risk for bed sores. I know most patients need to get up and walk around, but for those patients that cannot, i would recommend an air cushion. My favorite is the EHOB chair cushion!
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 18, 2014:
Thank you @orandementiacare. My friend passed on last May but I was there for her every need and she appreciated that. I wanted to share what I learned to help someone else when their time came.
orandementiacare on February 16, 2014:
Hey even i have experienced this and you have provided valuable and easy Tips for Senior Care.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 04, 2013:
Thank you oran-homecare. This is a great compliment coming from you.
oran-homecare on October 04, 2013:
You have provide good tips on Senior Home Health Care this will be very helpful.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 24, 2013:
Thank you AnnaCia so much for your comment.
AnnaCia on June 24, 2013:
Voted up, voted up. Nice job. Taking care of our elderly while respecting their dignity.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 13, 2013:
Bless you Glimmer Twin Fan. I hope it goes well and try not to make a job of it and it will go better. laugh at your mistakes because they don't matter. Laugh every day even if things aren't funny. Take care and thanks for reading. I am so glad I could help you.
Claudia Mitchell on May 10, 2013:
This is extremely useful. I am helping an elderly parent who is having problems right now. We have a lot of these things in my parents house right now and are adding more items each day.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 26, 2013:
@ sarifearnbd Thank you for your votes, comments and more. I really appreciate it.
@ ChitrangadaSharan Thank you. Your comment has touched me deeply.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 25, 2013:
This is so very thoughtful---providing health care tips for the elderly. You are a noble soul, suzzycue.
I have experienced this, that is taking care of the elderly and I can say, the list is great. You have included almost everything.
Thanks for this engaging and thoughtful hub!
Shariful Islam from Bangladesh on April 25, 2013:
Very nicely written hub. Some great tips forhome health care. voted up and more!
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 25, 2013:
Thank you so much Shiningirisheyes. That is the reason I wrote this so others don't have to stumble around like I did. It is important to spot things right away with thermometers ect. Thanks again for the compliment.
Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on April 25, 2013:
Suzzy - I commend you for writing an important hub. Having been a primary care provider for two of my loved ones, I only wish someone had clued me in on these tips and suggestions. I send prayers and blessings to you. I have been down this road and it takes a special human being to handle the loving care.
Blessings to you Suzzy.
Susan Britton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 25, 2013:
Thank you Faith Reaper. I have learned a lot from helping my friend. I appreciate your time and have a great day.
Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 24, 2013:
This is awesome. You have covered this subject thoroughly here and have provided excellent advice.
Voted up +++ and sharing
God bless, Faith Reaper