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How to care for elderly bedridden patients

Updated April 17, 2017

Caring for an elderly, bedridden patient requires a special set of skills. While many of these skills can be taught, others are based upon inherit skills of kindness and compassion. Caring for an elderly, bedridden patient requires you to have an understanding of dignity. The patient may be at a disadvantage, but this does not negate his right to be treated humanely. You can make the best of the situation with careful attention to the details surrounding the patient's needs.

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  1. Bathe the patient daily. Allow the patient to self-bathe if she is able.

  2. Massage or rub the patient's back with lotion or powder to promote blood circulation. Proper blood circulation is key to reducing bedsores. Use this opportunity to check for bed sores.

  3. Create a dental hygiene schedule. Brush the patient's teeth after meals or have the patient brush his own teeth if he is able. Frequently clean the patient's dentures if he wears them.

  4. Maintain the patient's physical appearance. Hairbrushing, shaving, nail trimming, and common bodily grooming techniques are important whether the patient is male or female.

  5. Change the patient's position in the bed regularly, at least every two hours if this is something the patient is unable to do alone. Guide patients' movements if they are able to somewhat move themselves. Use a draw sheet and a helper to change positions of patients who cannot sufficiently move themselves. You should avoid lifting a patient alone because this could cause injury to yourself or the patient.

  6. Change bed linens and fluff pillows at least once a day to improve comfort and decrease the chances of bedsores or blood clots.

  7. Communicate and provide emotional comfort to the patient. This will help to ease feelings of sadness or loneliness. Comforting activities may be small things such as reading, watching TV or listening to music.

  8. Prepare the patient's meals according to her physical abilities. You may need to cut food in smaller sizes or find sources of supplemental nutrition.

  9. Provide the patient with small amounts of food at a time. Larger portions may cool off too quickly; and you do not want to frequently reheat the same meal.

  10. Report any changes in physical condition, changes in mental condition and additional observations.

  11. Tip

    Hire a professional caregiver if you are providing at-home care for a loved one whose needs are becoming too much for you. While basic competence in the patient's needs may help you in a crunch, it is best to consult a hospice, assisted living centre, hospital or nursing home and ask for a referral of specially trained staff to provide at-home care.

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About the Author

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown began writing in 2005 for “The Albrightian,” the student newspaper of Albright College. The same year, she began working as a writing tutor and editor for the school's writing center. Brown holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Delaware.

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