Short Term Care for a Senior in My Home

by francy Dickinson           

Dear Francy; My Uncle has discharged from a care center with a broken hip, he can not go home yet. I am the only family he has and I have no experience caring for anyone before. Where do I start?

Probably where I started, you feel trapped, scared and overwhelmed. But you have to take a deep breath and simply get through it all. The first thing is to talk to your family, your friends, those that are around you all the time and let them know the change is for just a few weeks or a couple of months until he heals enough to live alone again. Let them know you have no idea what the process is, but you intend to make this as smooth for all involved as possible.

Go to the care center, or call his doctor’s office and ask to talk to the nurse about home care. Have the nurse (not a doctor) tell you what care will be needed. It will probably just be making sure there is a clear path for his walker, an exercise program for him to recover well, good food, and blending into your daily home routine. Make sure you take notes.

You will need to get a list of all his medications and ask what each pill is prescribed for. That way you understand what is what and when the medications need to be taken. This is really important, even if your Uncle is sound in mind, you need to be in the know. Some meds are taken with food, others not, some meds need morning or evening and most seniors that have had a few weeks of intense care are out of the habit of doing their own meds. I always get a nice big pill box from the drug store and sort the pills for morning and night once a week. This way, there is no forgetting what has been taken. As a young person taking vitamins may be a hit or miss for you, but for your Uncle daily meds taken on time, make healing and emotions stronger.

Check with him about his clothes, maybe you will need to buy a few new workout clothes that are easy to get on and off with a bum hip. You can do this at Walmart and for under $50 he would be suited up for comfort.

Check the TV program for the “Sit and Be Fit” exercise show that is usually on each day. This is a requirement to stay in your home. Your Uncle has to progress and exercise is the only way to do so. He will also need to have a few Physical Therapy appointments so get those on the calendar and also his post nursing home doctor appointment. Just tell yourself you will do all the appointments on one day a week. That way a minimum of your time is running around.

Sleeping is hard if you do not have a special guest room, then just ask your Uncle to flip for a “high end” blow up bed that once again can be purchased at the local discount store. Get the kind of bed that is raised with two sections so he can easily get in and out of the bed. Do not get anything that he has to dip down to climb into, he will not be able to get out of it without your help. Do not give up your room or your routine, make him adjust, it will make him want to be back at his place even sooner!  Put the bed up in the dinning area, by the TV and the bathroom but not right in the main area of home.

Go over your bathroom procedures, when he uses it, what bath to use, his shower time an requirements etc. Let him know you want the toilet seat down and used towels in the laundry basket. Do it at the beginning of the stay, not when you get annoyed.

Do not worry about food, whatever you eat, he will eat. Just make sure you do eat three meals a day. If you are going off to work, feed him breakfast before you leave, leave the sandwich in the refrigerator and have a couple of bottles of water by his TV chair. Do what you can before you leave, like ask him to rise and get breakfast and his morning meds, close up his bed and get him started on the exercise video or TV show before you leave the house.

As he gets better, I always like to give people things to do. When mom was so weak she could hardly walk, I would bring in her laundry and have her fold it from her chair. It always made her feel good to “do something”. So maybe it is asking him to walk out to the post for the mail each day, make sure your dog is put out in the back yard once or twice during the day, have him take a look at a light that does not work, or a faucet that leaks and just let him do some simple chores that you need and he enjoys.

Children do come first when caring for seniors, but they also have to be taught about respect for being quiet in the home and keeping chaos down to a dull roar. No special things have to happen during his stay. Your kids do not have to have sleep overs in the living room or friends in after school. That is not a “family need” so those things go on hold until the visit is over and you can all go back to what is normal for you as a family.

You may have to have more of meals than less. If you are living alone, having rice, potatoes or side dishes with dinner are rarely done, but when you have a family or a guest a full meal is required for people to be full and feel good about their food. You can soon find out his needs in small treats, like cookies or chips and just indulge him, as you see fit.

Life does not stop when you are in hospital. So ask him if you can go and retrieve his bills and mail and get some of this financial things to bring back for his review. There is nothing wrong with asking him for money to help with his stay. A good friend just had a gal stay with her and the next month her heating bill was huge. That can happen with older people, they need warmth. Just be open and tell him you are on a budget and more food and more electricity has to be added and therefore you will need his help with a couple hundred dollars to cover it. Be kind, you do not have to make a million caring for anyone, but covering costs is only fair.

Make a date that the stay will be revised. Tell him you understand that another three weeks will do the trick if he exercises and works on getting strong again. You will then re-visit his progress again at that time, because you can not offer your home on any long term basis. But you are pleased to offer it for his recovery and it will be fun to get to know each other better and have some quality time together.

Make use of the time you do have together. Maybe you can spend a little time after dinner having him tell stories into a recorder about past family members and events. Those type of stories are always enjoyed by all in years to come and it will make him feel good remembering old times.

Time to heal and time to go back home. Always give a senior the review of what is happening in the next few days. You do not want to worry anyone with a week’s activities at a time, but letting them know that today, tomorrow and the next day – this is what is going to be happening is important for them to plan. If its time for him to go home, start with asking him what he thinks he needs in his refrigerator when he gets home? Would he like you to freeze up a few dinners for him to start with- and so on. This way he is thinking home. Tell him you will have him go over to his place a couple days before he actually moves home to do some washing and cleaning and getting things in order and then he will be ready to make the change.

Taking care of someone can be really rewarding. Any new step presents fears and I totally understand those because I had them too. But my time, living and caring for my mom is stilll something I look back on with good memories. Not to mention, I feel like I became a person that has more patience and understanding of others. Not a bad thing to happen along life’s journey. Please visit my web site and get more tips

Thank you, for your kindness in giving to your uncle. francy


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