Safety Measures for Taking Care of Patients and Elders at Home
Taking care of an elderly or handicapped patient at home could be a challenging task. They are physically weak and are more prone to common hazards. So we need to be more vigilant about safety while having a disabled or elderly patient at home.
Minimize Household Hazards:
Slip, trip and fall hazards, electrocution, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning by gas heaters are some of the most common household hazards. You should eliminate or minimize these risks by taking necessary safety measures. Keep the room clean and remove all obstacles, install a fire alarm and CO (carbon monoxide) detector, and fix any damaged electric switches, sockets and cords, etc. The bathroom is the most dangerous place for such patients where they are prone to slip, trip and fall ending up getting injured. Be careful while handling them; you may need to learn how to assist your patient with bathing and using the toilet etc. Non-skid mats or strips could be used to make the bathroom safer for physically challenged patients. You should also make your home more accessible by doing necessary modifications, e.g. making wheelchair ramps and handicapped-friendly bathrooms, etc., to facilitate them.
Improve Indoor Air Quality:
Poor indoor air quality can adversely affect your health and such patients are more vulnerable to infections and allergies. You need to make sure that the patient’s room is clean and free of potential allergens. There should be adequate ventilation and sunlight as dark and damp rooms are the perfect breeding sites for pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Some people are more sensitive to pollen allergy, so you need to consider it while choosing plants for your home garden. Chamomile, Daisies, and Sunflowers should not be anywhere near the patient.
Bed Bugs & other Dangerous Insects:
A bug-infested bed is annoying and it could be extremely dangerous for a bed-ridden patient. Don’t forget to inspect their bed and room to ensure that it’s clean and free of pesky bugs. You should also keep the room clear of other harmful and venomous creatures; flies, mosquitos, wasps and hornets, scorpions, and centipedes to name a few.
Improve Mode of Communication:
Do not leave patients unattended for a longer period. Never leave the patient alone at home if they are paralyzed or otherwise cannot walk. Mobile phone, intercom, or short-range walkie-talkie, could be used to improve communication. You should at least install a call bell that the patient could use for seeking help in distress. Make sure that they know how to properly use these gadgets.
Bed-ridden patients are highly susceptible to food poisoning as their immune system is compromised. Always give them nutritious, balanced, and fresh food. Particularly those with diabetes, hypertension and other medical condition should avoid eating sugary and high-cholesterol diets.
Yogurt, salad, and cut fruit could go bad at room temperature within a few hours. Flies and other bugs may also cause food contamination which is a perfect recipe for food poisoning. Avoid refrigerating or re-freezing the leftovers. Always wash your hands before handling food and make the patient wash their hands as well.
(A detailed Food Safety Guide has already been published in a previous edition of Monthly Subh-e-Nau).
Using Prescribed Medicines:
The patient may have multiple health conditions requiring them to take many medicines at a time. All medications have their side effects; some could prove fatal for some patients. You need to maintain your patient’s medical history. Remember to inform the physician all about your patient i.e. whether s/he is allergic to particular medicines as well as their current medications. This information could be helpful for the physician to adjust the dosage or prescribe alternative medicines. All the medicines should clearly be labeled so that the patient gets the right dosage. Ask your physician/ pharmacist when they should take the medicine as some maybe taken before the meal. You can also use some smartphone application to keep track of those medicines or simply write it in a notebook.
Being unwell, handicapped and dependent could be disheartening. Depression and anxiety are very common in bed-ridden patients. You need to keep the patient physically active, motivated, and entertained. Assist and encourage your patient to walk, if they can. They need to spend some time outdoors whenever possible. Use a wheelchair to move paralyzed patients. This not only reduces the risk of developing bedsores but also improves their mental health. TV, radio/music players, or video games may be used to keep them entertained. Don’t argue over petty things or talk harshly. They need healthy social interaction and motivation from their loved ones. Research has proved that a better mood can significantly increase the recovery rate. Even if the patient is in the terminal stage, they still deserve love and care during the last moments of their life!
Most patients are discharged from the hospital when their condition is stable and showing signs of recovery. Nevertheless, their health could regress, requiring re-hospitalization, or emergency medical attention in extreme cases. Catching infection or adverse side-effects of medication could make them seriously ill again. Therefore, you need to have an Emergency Plan ready! Closely monitor their health condition, particularly when they’re given a new kind of drug. Confusion, slurred speech, blurred vision, and hallucination are some early signs of serious trouble. Learn C.P.R. and other emergency life-saving techniques. If the patient loses consciousness, don’t give them anything to eat or drink as this could result in choking. Immediately call emergency 1122 ambulance for medical help.
Take care of yourself too!
And last but not least, safety precaution is to take care of your mental and physical health while providing care to a loved one at home. It sure is a tiring and daunting challenge that could take a toll on your health. So it is advisable to take breaks; maintain personal hygiene, eat a balanced diet, and relieve stress by doing whatever you find relaxing. And when possible, ask your family member or a friend you can trust for a helping hand. Hiring a professional caregiver may also make your life easy.