Muscles stiffen and contract, skin breaks down and forms wounds known as, bed sores and our lungs get wetter and less able to breathe effectively. Sometimes small blood clots form in our blood vessels and can cause severe complications. Even the fluffiest, most comfy mattress in the world becomes a most uncomfortable prison if you can never escape from it.
Simple things caregivers can do to provide relief and to enhance the quality of life of your bed bound client:
- Changing the patient’s position frequently relieves pressure on backs, buttocks and hips. If possible, raising the head of the bed can assist the patient at meal times, when taking medications or with breathing. If the patient has good upper body strength, a bed “trapeze” lets the client use her/his upper arm strength to help with repositioning.
- Get at least 4 pillows, include one of those long body pillows since you can and place them between the knees, ankles, under the arms and behind the back when the patient is laid on her side.
- Always use a draw sheet and place it under the hips and buttocks of the client. NOT behind their back. You can use folded sheets but commercially sold water-proof pads are strong enough to support the client. Use these pads and not the client’s arms and legs to re-position them in bed. Clients should be turned every 2 hours to prevent bed sores, and yes, bed sores can occur in just a few hours.
- Perform daily or twice daily skin checks. Pay close attention to the skin on the back of the ears, buttocks, heels and back.
- Avoid electric blankets or heating pads. Some patients have compromised vascular status and these blankets quickly become warm enough to burn.
- Heel protectors provide essential protection to the skin of the heels, a common site of bed sores.
- Position the patient’s bottom above the middle of the bed and keep the foot of the bed slightly elevated. Positioning the bed this way helps keep the patient from scrunching down in the bed.
Giving a Complete Bed Bath:
- It is good idea to provide the bed-bound patient with a bath each day. This provides cleanliness, helps prevent skin breakdown and helps to refresh the patent in both body and spirit. A large bowl filled with warm water may be used or a no-rinse shampoo and body wash that does not require rinsing. To avoid chilling the patient, only a small area should be bathed at a time. Gently soap the skin, then rinse and dry. Begin washing at the face and work down towards the feet. Don’t forget to wash the back. Apply a lotion containing lanolin. After washing the feet, the water will need to be changed before doing the buttocks area.
- Daily washing of the genital area is especially important since bacteria tend to collect there. Wash between the patient’s legs from the front toward the back. Rinse well and dry gently with a towel. Apply a soothing, moisture retarding ointment to apply to this area if control of stool or urine is a problem.
- Good practice for body cleaning:
- If movement causes pain, wait about one hour after giving pain medication to bath them.
- Ask the patient if you are rubbing too hard or too lightly. Everyone has a different sense of touch.
- Provide privacy for the patient during the bath. If the patient is in a hospital bed, raise or lower the bed to lessen the strain on your back
- This is a good time to brush and style hair, and shave the patient. For some patients, attention to their accustomed personal habits will help lighten their spirits and maintain their dignity.