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Towards the end of my father's illness, we had nurses coming to the house once a day. They showed us many ways to help make him more comfortable. Before they came, we had simply tried our best but often ended up frustrated with sore muscles and imperfect results. Our nurses taught us to look for signs of bedsores*, to move him more easily in and out of bed, and to bath him in bed when moving to the bathroom became more difficult. Nurses are a great source of valuable information!

This section offers suggestions from nurses about performing some basic tasks. Of course, having someone demonstrate a technique is the best way to learn it. The information below is generously provided by The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia (tel 215. 473. 0772).

*Bedsores are a big problem for people who are bedridden. They're also called pressure sores and they're basically blisters or breaks in the skin that form when the body's weight presses the blood out of a point on the skin. They most commonly appear on spots where the bones press out, such as the tail bone, hips, elbows, heels, etc. Be sure to ask the nurse about how to identify the early signs so that you can prevent them from worsening.

Ask for Demonstrations

Ask the nurse to demonstrate for you how to:

  • Position someone properly in bed
  • Help him/her sit up
  • Change a diaper
  • Perform transfers (from bed to wheelchair, from wheelchair to toilet, from wheelchair into car)

Keep a Journal

"In order to facilitate communications among caregivers, patient and family, purchase a small notebook and keep an ongoing 'caregiver journal' in the home. Here, questions or concerns can be raised and the visiting nurse can jot down answers or ask any questions he/she might have. Then all information will be in one place and nothing will be misplaced or forgotten."
           - Joanne Michener, Visiting Nurse

Positive Communications

"Always ask the patient to assist in his or her care giving. Make the patient feel comfortable, never 'useless.' Be pleasant and talk to the patient while giving care. Be upbeat � never come to the patient's room complaining about that flat tire, traffic, domestic fights, etc."
           - Gale Davis, Visiting Nurse and
             Ron Molotsky, Home Caregiver

  • Encourage independence whenever you can, even if it's assisting you in some small way.
  • Keep a clock and a calendar noting doctors appointments, nursing visits and visiting friends.
  • Be conscious about maintaining a person's dignity and sense of privacy.

Administering Liquid Medicines

"To administer liquid medicines, obtain plastic condiment cups with lids (such as for ketchup found at fast food restaurants). Place tape labels with administering time onto each container, fill with medicines, and cover with the lid. These may be prepared several days in advance and may be reused for some time. Lids prevent accidental spillage."
           - Gloria Gary, Visiting Nurse

Making a Hospital Gown

"To make homemade hospital gowns for bed bound patients, take patient's choice of nightshirt or gown and cut up the back. Then stitch raw edges to prevent fraying. Use twill tape or binding for neck and back to secure gown. Advantage: personalized garment versus institutional look. It eases on/off if patient is incontinent or requires access for skin care, wound care, etc. on back."
           - Gloria Gary, Visiting Nurse

Making a "Hospital Bed"
(Elevating the Head or Foot of the Bed)

"If the patient does not have a hospital bed, you may have become frustrated by trying to elevate his/her feet or upper body, only to find the pillows have toppled out of place. Try folding and placing a blanket or two between the mattress and box spring at the foot or head of the bed. This is useful for decreasing edema or to make breathing easier."
           - Nancy Lotz, Social Worker

Back Support

"An over-stuffed backrest with arms makes an excellent support for someone sleeping in a regular bed when using 2-3 pillows is not adequate to elevate the patient properly. Simply lift the mattress and place the backrest upside down on box spring, with the bottom of the backrest against the headboard. When the mattress is resting on top, it is slanted for comfortable elevation."
           - Senie Quarles, Visiting Nurse

Shampooing in Bed

"To shampoo a patient's hair in bed: drape bed linens with plastic (trash bags, tablecloth, or shower curtain). Cover plastic at edge of bed with a towel. Position a basin with warm water on a chair or stool next to the bed. Help patient move to where his or her head is at the edge of the bed, above the basin. Use a glass to pour water from the basin over the hair, letting water spill into the basin. Then shampoo, rinse, and towel dry."
           - Gloria Gary, Visiting Nurse

Tub Aides

"Consider installing a vertical grab-bar on the wall above the bathtub wall at tub's edge; and a horizontal bar on the wall two inches above the soap dish. Also use a tub seat with a back and adjustable legs."
           - Beverly Werner, Occupational Therapist

Patient Monitor

"A caregiver can safely monitor the patient from another part of the home with a commercially available and inexpensive baby sound monitor."
           - Felice Keretny, Occupational Therapist

Pack a Cooler

"When you need to leave a patient alone for periods of time, leave a cooler at the bedside with liquids and snacks."
           - Mimi Schaible, Visiting Nurse

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