How to care for bedridden elders

Dr Anand Mishra, an Internal Medicine Specialist, Hiranandani Hospital, shares how crucial role does care plays in recovery and depression for the elderly

How to care for bedridden elders

Old age can be a difficult for many, particularly for those who are confined to the bed, owing to health problems.

For those patients, who are completely bedridden, both their mental and physical well-being is at risk, and their loved ones may find it hard to ensure that quality care is delivered, especially, if they lack experience.

It hampers the recovery of the patient to a great extent, often causing grief, discomfort and ache. Some of the typically observed complications among bedridden patients, as a result of complete lack of movement, are:

  • Bed Sores
  • Depression
  • Back pain
  • Troubled sleep
  • Progressive loss of appetite

Although an older adult cannot move from the bed, it is vital to keep them mentally and socially engaged, all the while maintaining strict physical hygiene. It impacts their recovery and response to the treatment that is administered to the patient.

Say no to bedsores

Bedsores occur when a bedridden elder lies down on their back for a long duration without any movement. It is caused due to constant pressure exerted by the patient’s body on the surface, and the friction it causes with the skin.

Changing the position from time to time and encouraging them to move a little bit every day by turning them on the bed itself will help avoid contracting bedsores. You may also apply turmeric powder, aloe vera gel or coconut oil to the areas that are exposed to the surface of the bed.

Grooming and hygiene

Personal hygiene plays a crucial role in a patient’s recovery. Good hygiene involves taking care of bladder and bowel movements and bathing or sponging the patient; Hair care, especially, for female patients, changing clothes and under-garments, helping brush their teeth, combing their hair neatly as well as cutting their nails when required, is of utmost importance.

Tackling mental and physical trauma

Depression is common amongst bedridden patients, so a caregiver should be able to communicate with the patient in verbal, written or sign language to understand the patients’ needs.

It is essential to engage with them daily and to ensure that they do not feel left out. Making them understand that certain things, desired by them, are not good for their health.

Reading books, either fictional or holy ones, playing games, conversations with near and dear ones over app-based audio-video calling, can keep them engaged. If possible, the patient should be seated in a wheelchair and be taken to the garden, sun deck or on the terrace, regularly.

Feed them right

Soft and easily digestible food with the recommended calorie count and portions as directed by a qualified nutritionist would be best.

If the patient is on tube feedings, care should be taken to make sure the feeds are given at regular intervals and in the recommended portions.

Ensure the patient sits up comfortably and support them with railings on both sides of the bed.

Slowly offer food in small quantities and wipe their mouth clean. Help them gargle and wash hands once they have eaten.