When a parent becomes bedridden, it can hit you hard. Whether you’re providing care or just finding someone to help with it, it can take an emotional toll on you. If you’re providing care, you need to know the basics, but you’ll also need to know when to ask for help from outside sources, such as friends, family members, and professional organizations. Whether you’re just supervising or doing the caring yourself, you also need to make sure that you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally.
EditProviding Care and Preventing Problems
- Help with basic hygiene. A bedridden person may or may not be able to keep with their own hygiene tasks. If they can’t, you or another caregiver will need to help them. Even if they can, you might need to provide them with reminders and the tools to take care of their hygiene. Bathing, dental care, nail care, hair care, and changing clothes are all tasks your parent may need help with. 
- For bathing, you may be able to help your parent into a shower chair (using a wheelchair), where they can mostly bathe themselves with some supervision. On the other hand, they may need a sponge bath.
- If your parent is completely bedridden, you’ll need to bring items to them. For instance, you can bring a toothbrush, a cup with clean water, and a spitting cup over to the bed. Let the person brush their teeth or ask them to open their mouth so you can brush their teeth.
- Make sure you are helping them trim their nails regularly. They will likely need help with their toenails, even if they don’t need help with their fingernails. You’ll also need to help the person shave. An electric razor works best for this process, particularly if you’ve never shaved anyone else.
- Watch for bed sores. Being bedridden comes with certain health risks that you need to help watch out for if you’re providing care for your parent. For instance, bed sores are a common problem. They generally appear where the person’s body touches the mattress, such as the bottom of the feet, the shoulders, the buttocks, and the back of the head.
- To combat pressure sores, try to change your parent’s position every 2 hours, and encourage them to move their body in the bed as much as possible. You can also find special mattresses and cushions that can help relieve pressure points.
- Pay attention to the sheets. They should be cotton or silk, and you should smooth them out before putting your parent on them, as wrinkled sheets can increase the chance of bed sores.
- Make sure your parent’s skin is moisturized regularly. Also, avoid using scented soaps and talcum powder, as those can dry out the skin. Dry skin makes your parent more susceptible to bed sores. It can also help to make sure your parent is drinking at least 2 liters of fluid a day.
- On people with darker skin, you may see blue or purple patches, while the patches will be red or white on lighter-skinned people. Cracks, wrinkles, swelling, shiny areas, blisters, and dry areas are also indicators of bed sores. Talk to a nurse if you start noticing these signs.
- Look for signs of chest problems. When laying in bed regularly, liquids can build up in the lungs, leading to congestion and even pneumonia. The best way to combat this problem is to make sure your parent is rotated to a new position regularly, preferably every 2 hours.
- Provide emotional support. The emotional side of a illness can be just as destructive as the physical side. When your parent becomes bedridden, they can’t do the things they used to or visit with the people they enjoyed seeing regularly.
- Encourage people to come over and visit with your parent, so they have regular interaction.
- Also, try to encourage your parent to still participate in activities they enjoy as much as possible. For instance, if your parent enjoys making art, get them a small set of art supplies they can use in bed with a table.
- It’s also important to provide a safe place where your parent can talk about what’s going on. They need a sounding board as much as you do. You can be this person some of the time, but make sure that your parent feels comfortable talking with other people as well. If you are their only source of support, then this can put a lot of pressure on you when you already have so much going on.
- Ask about a social worker. Often, a person who is bedridden will qualify for having a social worker assist with their needs. A social worker can benefit you, too, as they can help you find the care you need for your parent, as well as other resources.
- Most hospitals have social services on site, though you can also visit a Medicare/Medicaid office in your local community, or visit the offices of an insurance company that that your parent goes through.
- Request help from friends and family. When your parent is sick, you may feel like you’re alone in the situation. However, more often than not, friends and family would like to help you, but they don’t know how. Take the time to meet with friends and family members one at time to ask for help.
- It is important to be assertive when asking for help from friends and family. Try saying, “I’m creating a weekly schedule for Mom’s care. Please let me know which two days you would like this week.”
- Offer a specific task if they don’t seem to know how to help.
- If you have children, then you might also consider asking a friend or family member to watch them for you one evening per week while you care for your parent. Be sure to let your children know why you need someone to watch them during these times.
- Let the professionals help. If your parent has become bedridden, it’s likely you’ll need some help from professional caregivers. If you’re caring for the person at home, you can get help from people who come to the house. If the person will need long-term care, you may need to consider placing them in a facility that can provide care. If your parent has a terminal illness, hospice care may provide some relief.
- Both in-home care and care facilities can be expensive. Insurance and medicare may cover some in-home care (which sometimes includes in-home care at senior facilities).
- Have a talk with your parent about getting some help. They may not like the idea much, as some people are reluctant to have outside help. If you need help persuading them, try asking someone who’s been in a similar situation to help. It might also be hard for your parent to hear this from you. You might consider asking someone who has a different relationship with your parent to talk with them instead, such as a close friend, a cousin, or a spiritual leader.
- You can hire whatever level of care you need. For instance, some non-medical care can help with basics like bathroom assistance and meals. However, if your parent needs medical care, you will need to hire nurses or nursing aids to help, though that kind of care is generally prescribed by a doctor.
EditTaking Care of Yourself
- Acknowledge your emotions. When your parent is bedridden, you likely will have a surplus of emotions, which is perfectly normal. You may find you feel anger or resentment. You might feel guilty that you can’t spend more time with them or that they’re bedridden and you’re not. You also may feel anxiety about the situation. Grief is also common, as you’ve lost who your parent was.
- Let yourself feel those emotions. Acknowledge them, and give yourself permission to feel them. Also, make sure you find someone to talk to. Anyone with a sympathetic ear will do. Writing down your feelings is also a good way to get them out and understand them better. Try keeping a journal as well.
- You can also talk with others who are facing the same issue. You can join a local support group or find one online. In fact, if your parent is on hospice, many hospice organizations have grief support groups available for people in your situation. Just knowing you’re not alone can help.
- Professional counseling can also be beneficial. If your parent is bedridden, particularly if they have a terminal illness, it can be difficult to come to terms with that, especially if you have a complicated relationship with your parent. A professional can help you work through those feelings and come to terms with what’s happening.
- Ask questions. When it comes to a parent’s failing health, you may find that having specific answers can somehow make the diagnosis more manageable. When you have questions about your parent’s health, ask the doctors and nurses. If you don’t understand their answer, ask them to explain it in layperson’s terms. You deserve to know what’s going on (with your parent’s consent, of course).
- Taking notes or having another person there to help you remember everything during conversations with doctors and nurses can also be helpful. Emotions may be high, which might make it hard for you to remember everything.
- Take care of your spiritual needs. Take time to do things you normally do for your spiritual self, such as praying or meditating. These activities can have a calming effect in a stressful situation. Of course, not everyone considers themselves a spiritual person, and that may be the case with you. Nonetheless, it can still help to take a few minutes each day to just be or sit in silence.
- Enjoy what you can. When you’re taking care of a parent, it can be difficult to find time for yourself to do things you enjoy. However, it’s very important to take time each day to relax if you can. It can be something seemingly insignificant, like drawing a little picture or watching the birds outside. Whatever it is, take some time each day to do something you enjoy.
- Similarly, it’s important to maintain the relationships in your life. Try to get away to spend time with people you care about, so you can just be you for a while. At the very least, set aside some time each day to return calls, respond to text messages, or check in with your other loved ones.
- Also, take time to escape. That is, sometimes, escaping into the fantasy world of a book, movie, or television show can give you the mental break you need. You can even enjoy these with your parent. Listening to your favorite music can also help you take a break. Be sure to schedule this time in. Don’t wait until you feel like you need a break.
- Determine your limitations. When you’re providing care, you need to make sure you know what your limits are. Determine how much time you can actually give, as well as how much physical care you can give. Be firm with those limits, and get help as needed.
- For example, it is important to maintain your relationship with your spouse/partner and children (if you have them). This might mean that certain times of the day will be set aside for spending time with your family, such as dinner time.
- Maintain your health. When you’re caring for someone, it can be easy to neglect your physical health, but it’s important to make that a priority, too. Make sure you’re eating enough and that you’re eating healthy meals with lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Try to get some exercise in when you can, as it will lower your stress level and keep you healthy.
- In addition, make getting enough sleep a priority. Even if you can get enough sleep all at at once, try to work in 7 to 9 hours a day to make sure you’ll be able to function.
- Finally, make sure you are keeping up your regular doctor’s appointments and dental care, so that you stay healthy.