In Home Care Giving Tips starting from the beginning for spouse and family care givers by Francy Dickinson
Dear Francy: As I stand today…I can look back many years ago when I was first giving care to my elderly mother with many aging issues until she passed at 100. Then turned around and started caring for my husband, Georgie, who had Parkinson’s/ Alzheimer’s. After 15 years of in home care giving I learned a few things so I am going to share them. But I started this blog…because in the beginning…I was in a daze with no knowledge of the bumps in the road in home care. Now, I look back on it…I’m a CNA and have years of experience of daily living challenges and I know I can help you on your road. You will find a few years of index to review…I have done a lot of blogs to help you…always take a look and see if something I wrote a few years ago fits your needs. OK…so now I will begin at the beginning just for you !
CAN I REALLY GIVE CARE TO MY MOTHER? I AM NOT A NURSE!
Oh boy, this is a normal question and the answer is YES. You can take it a day at a time and if the path gets too hard you figure out how to get help or place your senior in a care facility. There are no rules…you have to work through the situation that matches, your own health and time limitations. There is no quilt over asking another family member to take over the care giving or finding a state Senior Care Worker that will find a good place for your mom in the months or years to come. Give it a try…and keep your spirits up..we all go through bad days…but the good days far out-weigh them.
WHERE TO START?
If you are going to put your senior in your own home…or keep them in their home. You start with a clean and safe place to house your senior. So that means that the lazy days of cleaning when you feel like it are gone. Now, just like in hospitals and care facilities – you have to think “CLEAN and SAFE”.
In Home care for the senior means you have to start at the front door and make a safe pathway through to the TV chair, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. All the rest of the house can be left alone…but the path that you and your senior will be taking all day and night has to be cleared away. If your senior is a bit of a hoarder…you do not throw away things…you go in and put things in boxes and place them in the back room or garage. Just know perfection is not required, but clear walk ways that are safe and will keep the senior from a fall…or allow the senior’s walker or wheelchair to get through doorways and from room to room – is required.
Look around…maybe the senior has been in a home for years…but the location of the comfortable TV chair that will be a lounger (maybe even an electric lounger) will be placed in a spot that is easy to see the TV and get up and down without any tables, chairs or throw rugs in sight. Watch your senior get up and down from this chair and move around. You can order and get great hand rails that can go on walls where the senior needs an extra boost to keep them steady. But NEVER let the senior do the TABLE TOP walk! That behavior is over…it is dangerous and the small side tables that are unsteady should be removed so the senior does not do this. Seniors must use their cane or walker in the house…no exceptions!
- Have a good table with drawers next to their TV/Comfort chair. Make it work with a good lamp and the remote. Get a remote that will work and if it is confusing…then cover the remote with painter’s tape over the buttons you do not want them to push. ON-Off-Volume-Up n Down Channels is it…make it easy!
- I get a nice size basket for the side-table and put all sorts of things in it that will keep the senior in their chair, not running around for small things. You will have a small scissors, nail files, pens, mirror, hand cream, small pad to write, lip gloss, telephone – etc. All within a basket that the senior can keep with their favorite things.
- Then down by their feet…within range, but not where they will trip on it..get a small chill chest. This is where they fill it up with chilled water, Boost, sandwich or treats…so they do not have to move to eat or drink. This makes their day a little easier. They will get up and go to the bathroom, but not worry about eating. If they are not well, or tired…they only have to reach down and get a Boost, crackers, yogurt or water.
- Add a heated throw, that is electric and will keep the senior warm, even in the summer months. Seniors in care, taking meds…get cold all the time. Add a small neck pillow so they can take a snooze ~ plus an eye shade so the lights don’t bother their nap. Now they are nice and snug in a rug!
- No money has to be spent here. Just streamline the kitchen so it’s easy to use from a walker (with a basket) or a cane. Remove things from the counter and keep only what they need. Clean the counters (senior eyes don’t see crumbs) and test that everything can be easily reached. Toaster, coffee maker, sweetener n mugs. Keep it easy!
- Change the cupboards and put a set of things they need in the lowest and easiest cupboard to reach. Put a couple of glasses, mugs, plates, snack plates and bowls all together for them within an easy reach. Or use paper plates for snacks so they can clean up with no fuss.
- Clean out the refrigerator and get rid of silly things that will never be used. Clean the shelves and only have things they really need. Yogurt, milk, mayo, and sandwich makings. Make their life easy…think about what they really use and eat now. Not what they cooked when they had family at home. Now there will be room for the pre made dinners that you bring to them…to heat in the microwave. Easy…remember its the key to care giving.
- Put up a kitchen calendar so they know what is coming up and keep it active each time you visit. Have a place for notes or large phone numbers they may need. Move the table to a comfortable spot and remove un-needed chairs. Keep the kitchen easy and helpful…not cluttered. Yes, it will change the room…but life has now changed.
HALLWAY: Walking path needs to be clear
- Walk the pathway the senior will use and repair any place that needs help. No scatter rugs…no holes in rugs…no boxes or shoes on the floor, just a clear walk way around the house.
- Keep it Clear…Get a good plastic bin that you can keep mail and important papers in each day. Then once a week you can quickly go through the pile and pull out the bills and the important papers to address with your senior.
BEDROOM: Easy bed, side table, small chair for dressing and a dresser
- Life has changed…no longer is the senior going to wear suits and ties to work or dresses to church. Yes keep one set…but remove old clothes and replace with comfortable new clothes that work around the house. Comfort, nice colors and ease is what we want for our senior. New underwear that goes on and off easy. A place for Depends and a throw away bin for used Depends. Get this room…cleared and cleaned.
- Make sure the senior can reach the phone from bed. That the bedding is warm and easy to use, not heavy and layered deep with covers. Easy in and out of the bed is what will keep the senior safe. If the bed is not working…get the family to flip for a new mattress or get a hospital bed Rx from the doctor that can help the senior in getting up and down easily. New flannel sheets and pillows to keep senior warm and comfortable.
- If the senior has to walk more than 3 feet to the bathroom…get them a commode for the night-time. That way they can just get up and go to the toilet easy and close…then during the day…they can walk to the bathroom. Think ahead..signs of helpful raised toilet seats and grab bars in the bathroom…are needed…and should not be ignored.
- No slip on slippers…those are very dangerous. Get a full fitted slipper that has a good rubber sole so the senior can slip it on and walk safely in them.
- Put small bottles of water by the bed and have them take a few crackers or a yogurt to bed with them at night. If they wake feeling weak…they can reach over and have a small treat to give them a boost. Only allow medications that can be easily taken without thought by the bed. Seniors can wake and think they have forgotten their meds and over medicate in the middle of the night. Be careful and think ahead.
Things are going to change in the bathroom.
- The tub needs to have a good bath-bench, a hand-held shower head has to be installed and the toilet needs grab bars and easy to use toilet seats.
- No scatter bath rugs now needed. You can have one hanging on the tub for bath day use only.
- A large container of Bleach Wipes to clean the surfaces and the floors when there is any problem.
- Baby wipes to clean the bottom if there is a loose stool problem and a good garbage can to hold the trash…you do not want to flush baby wipes.
- I cleared the counter and put a basket there that contained the needed things for George’s care. Depends, bottom cream, wipes box, etc. This kept the area looking clean and I just refilled the basket to keep it all convenient.
- Time for new towels. Most seniors have towels that are years and years old. Get them a couple of nice bath towels and new hand towels and wash clothes.
- I used a nice hanging shoe holder for the back of the door in the bath. I filled it with the different creams, lotions, soaps and moisturizer that I used everyday. That kept bottles away from the walk way and the counter to keep the area feeling clean. This room is going to be the hub of the senior’s care. Bath people will be coming in and problems with going to the bathroom always come – in care giving.
- KEEP IT CLEAN..as clean as you can. You also want a box of gloves for you to wear while you give the senior personal care. I would also use the bleach wipes on the floor with my shoe to quickly clean up the floor on a daily…or weekly visit.
Basic arrangement of furniture, and ease of use items are easy to do once you get your mind thinking safety and clean. This first step can be a lot of sorting and cleaning, but it pays off with NO FALLS and NO BROKEN HIPS! You can care for a senior when they are able to be transferred and mobile. If the senior is not able to move around…you will be forced to have them in a care facility.
I would often sit down with my senior and remind them that the changes were for their safety. If they want to stay “at home” they have to change a few things to keep them there. You can not care for them, if they can not move … ask them to please work with me and together — we can make the house clean and easy as well as bright and cheerful.
Not a bad start right? Nothing you can not do without a little help from a family member. Make the days that represent change easier by having someone come and sit with the senior as the cleaning takes place. Talking to the senior or playing cards and keeping their mind off of the CHANGE is the key to an easy transition to a clear and tidy surrounding. Vacuum,dusting and adding a small air filter makes the house smell fresh and clean. Airing out the room, changing lights to the new light bulbs and keeping it bright so the senior can see to move around…all these things will start your care giving on a good foundation. You can and you will do it. I trust in your own creativity and inner guidance to make it work.
I always want to remind you…that your time giving care to another…is a kind and loving thing to do. I thank you. francy
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