Caregiving for a bedridden loved one 7

A diagnosis of cancer is devastating, not for the person receiving the diagnosis but for their family members, friends, and other loved ones as well. It's a life-changing event that fundamentally alters the circumstances in which people suddenly find themselves.

For those taking care of family members or others with cancer, this may mean assisting them at home as they go through treatments like chemotherapy or helping with their care if they become bedridden. Whatever the case may be, here are some helpful tips about things you should consider when caring for a bedridden patient.

1. Promote Good Grooming and Hygiene

One of the best things you can do to help any bedridden patient is to make sure that their basic hygiene and grooming needs are being addressed. This includes:

In addition to staying healthy, all of these things will go a long way towards helping your loved one keep up their morale and self-esteem. The old adage that looking good helps people feel better about themselves is very true.

2. Prevent Bedsores

Bedsores (also known as pressure sores) are injuries to the skin and underlying tissues that result from sitting or lying in a single position for long periods of time. The prolonged sitting puts pressure on parts of the body such as the buttocks, legs, and thighs that can cause the skin to breakdown and break apart. The end result is that the area becomes extremely painful and uncomfortable and in the worst case scenario bedsores can become infected and result in major complications that can shorten life.

The good news, however, is that bedsores are very preventable. Consider using the following tips:

>Read more caregiving tips and stories

3. Change Bed Linens Regularly

It may seem like a simple thing, but changing the linens makes a huge difference. Bedding can get soiled from food, bed baths, dirt, skin particles, and other debris.

So for reasons of hygiene and health, some things to keep in mind when changing bed linens:

4. Ensure Good Nutrition

Everyone knows the importance of eating a healthy diet, and it’s even more critical in patients that are ill or recovering from treatment, such as surgery. Speak to the person’s doctor, nurse, or dietician to see what types of foods they recommend (in addition to the nutritional supplements they may already be taking).

Note that certain foods may interact poorly with medications – for example, vegetables high in vitamin K, such as spinach and broccoli, can counteract the effects of some blood-thinners like warfarin. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to understand what healthy foods should be avoided.

As always, be sure to follow a doctor’s instructions about anything that a bedridden patient should or shouldn’t eat.

5. Craft a Comfortable Environment

Our immediate surroundings play a huge role in our emotional well-being, so take a few moments to make sure that the individual’s environment is as comfortable as possible.

In addition to the comforts listed above, take a few minutes each day just to sit down and chat with your loved one. Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.

6. Employ Patience and Empathy

Caring for a loved one can be very difficult. Even with the best of intentions it can be easy to lose patience, not feel appreciated, or become a little overwhelmed. Here are some ideas on how to avoid or handle those feelings when they hit you:

Finding a way to remind yourself that you are there to help your loved one is a good way to start each day. Approaching the entire caregiving experience from a place of empathy and patience will help both you and your loved one in the long run.

7. Seek Help When You Need It

An important part of being a caregiver is knowing when you need to seek professional help to properly care for your loved one. If you are able, hire a nurse or another medical professional to help you with your caregiving duties. Keep an open line of communication with your loved one’s medical team too so that they can help you handle any complications as they arise.

Whether or not you are able to afford professional help, there are a number of support groups where caregivers can share ideas, tips, and stories about their own struggles. Sometimes, simply knowing that others are undergoing the same struggles can be enough to help you get through the days, weeks, and months. You can also learn from others’ experiences, which can ease the burden of feeling like you have to learn everything on your own from scratch.

Here are some caregiver support groups and resources you may want to check out:

Also, many caregivers and cancer patients share stories on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Facebook page. Come join the conversation!

Keep them Comfortable

Helping a bedridden patient – whether a family member, close friend, or someone else you know – can be physically and emotionally challenging, but it can also be a time to develop or strengthen bonds. The experience gives you an opportunity to do the single thing that any cancer sufferer will appreciate – being there for them and with them.

In the end, it’s all about making sure the person is as comfortable as possible and helping them receive the treatment they need, whether it’s recovering from a disease like cancer – and the invasive treatments required to fight it – or palliative care to help them manage as best as they can during their remaining days. Being attentive to their needs and helping to prevent or reduce pain will go a long way during this time.