How to care for a bedridden elderly person

Written by jennifer s. wright
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Elderly people who are restricted to bed, whether temporarily or permanently, face challenges related to nutrition, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, respiratory problems and skin breakdown. Prevention of complications is important when taking care of someone who is not able to move normally. The knowledge of simple steps, along with compassion and patience, can allow a caregiver to perform basic skills to meet a bedridden person's needs and reduce complications related to immobility.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Mattress overlay
  • Moisturiser or moisture-barrier cream
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Footboards
  • Hand rolls
  • Hospital bed

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Offer regular meals and plenty of fluids. Keep fluids in reach of the bed-bound person and encourage him to drink at least every hour. Provide small, frequent meals and, if suggested by his physician, a dietary supplement high in protein.

  2. 2

    Provide pressure-release measures. Place a mattress overlay made of foam, gel or air-filled chambers between the person and the mattress to help distribute pressure evenly. Constant pressure on bony prominences like the heels, shoulder blades, elbows and sacrum can cause skin breakdown. Change the person's position every two hours to prevent constant pressure on bony prominences.

  3. 3

    Keep the person's skin clean and dry. Apply moisturiser or a moisture-barrier cream to protect intact skin.

  4. 4

    Encourage and assist the elderly person to perform active or passive range-of-motion exercises that can maintain function and flexibility. Active range-of-motion exercises are performed by the person while passive range-of-motion exercises are performed on the person by a caregiver.

  5. 5

    Provide and promote activities for the bedridden elderly person. Invite family or friends to visit her. Encourage her to watch television or listen to a radio for entertainment.

  6. 6

    Assist the person to use the bathroom at least every two hours. Clean the person after toileting and replace soiled disposable underwear or pads as soon as possible.

  7. 7

    Use positioning devices like footboards to prevent foot drop, and hand rolls between the palm and fingers to prevent or slow the progression of hand contractures.

  8. 8

    Remind the person to perform coughing and deep-breathing exercises every two hours while awake to prevent secretions from pooling in the lungs. Have him take a deep breath and then cough three times.

  9. 9

    Assist the person with daily hygiene including a bed bath, oral care, hair care, shaving and applying make-up.

Tips and warnings

  • The National Institutes of Health recommends a daily intake of six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day.
  • Speak to the elderly person and his physician about ordering a hospital bed, which can help with positioning the person comfortably and relieve back strain for the caregiver when assisting the person in the bed.
  • A bedridden person may experience depression, anxiety or anger related to her loss of independence. Contact the person's physician for treatment if these feelings linger.

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