For my new readers and caregivers who have recently started following Creating Daily Joys, here are my top 25 favorite tips for caregivers. These tips will point you to some of my most popular posts for more information and even more tips.
I’ve been the primary caregiver for both my parents for the past four years. During this time, I’ve chronicled our journey by sharing what’s worked for us. Some things I found plenty of resources on out there, other areas very little. I’ve learned a lot by trial and error.
Sometimes it’s the simplest idea, or the slightest change in how we do something, that can make our lives so much easier. Please let me know in the comments below if you have tried any of these and what has helped you the most. As always, feel free to share any of your favorite tips in the comments as well!
1. Emergency Plan and Checklists
Having an emergency plan in place with family and neighbors is important. The emergency preparedness checklists I made help me stay organized and as ready as possible for emergencies. I use this list in May to check on supplies and see what I need to stock up on to prepare for hurricane season and general emergencies. By doing this, I was already mostly prepared when Hurricane Matthew hit us recently. Stay as prepared as you can. Caregivers have no time to scramble all over town looking for supplies when emergencies hit and shelves are empty!
2. Daily Notebook
Having a daily notebook in a convenient place where relief caregivers and I can add to it is helpful for all of us. I currently use a spiral bound notebook to keep track of my daily notes. What you track will depend on the person’s diagnoses and symptoms. You may want to track sleeping pattens, diet or weight. Blood pressure issues, short-term medications and side effects are good to track also. Keep reminders of appointments or other events coming up, any current illnesses and significant lab results in the daily notebook. This gives you a designated notebook to refer back to if you need to call the doctor or check back on the last time something occurred.
If you want a separate daily form for relief caregivers to fill out while caring for your loved one, here’s one you can print.
3. Buy or order supplies in bulk to save time, money and energy – including toilet tissue, face tissues, disposable underwear, powdered thickener, all kinds of wipes – bath and face wipes, baby wipes, bleach wipes; detergent, trash bags, shampoo caps and no rinse shampoo, vitamins and supplements. All these can be ordered online from the cheapest sites and lighten your weekly grocery load and time running errands by having them delivered to the home once a month or as needed. Keep at least a few weeks worth of food, water and supplies on hand in case of emergencies.
Calendars & Organizing Forms
Getting organized and staying organized is an ongoing challenge, especially when you as the caregiver are tired and not at your best. In this post, you’ll find forms for calendar planning – a daily and weekly schedule, master to-do list. These are especially helpful for those just beginning as caregivers. Getting organized breaks everything down into doable steps and helps you not feel so overwhelmed.
4. Outings Checklists
I keep an outings checklist posted on the door to double-check and make sure I’ve packed up everything needed before heading out. I developed this after forgetting one thing or another a few times, and it’s helped a lot.
5. Relief Caregivers Instructions
When the main caregiver goes out of town or takes a few days off, the relief caregivers need detailed instructions to carry on as if nothing, or no-one, is missing. This relief caregivers checklist form helps a lot. I keep more detailed care instructions by the phone for all new caregivers to read. I update these every time I go out of town and ask my relief caregivers to read it over again for any changes since the last time, as things are always changing as the elderly continue to age in place.
Medical Care Tips
6. Get a decent Blood pressure machine – here’s a blood pressure tracking form to use when you need to keep track for a while due to an imbalance or new medication. You can store it with the blood pressure cuff or keep it in your daily notebook.
7. Oximeter – these are very affordable and helpful in checking oxygen levels.
8. Temporal artery scanner thermometer – these thermometers are more expensive than most, but they are accurate and easy to use without disturbing your loved one too much. Just run it across the forehead, or behind the ear. This makes it easy to check while they’re sleeping too.
9. Medication Chart – I use this chart every week to fill the pill container for the week. I also keep a copy in the doctor notebook (#10, next tip). The nurse always wants to go over any changes in medication. I pretty much have it memorized now, but it’s good to take with you. I also give a copy of this to any EMTs that come to the house, to take to the hospital. ER nurses have told me they love this and it makes their charting go so much quicker and gives them more time with their patients.
10. The Doctor Notebook – this tip came from my sister-in-law, and it has saved me time and again. I take it with me to every doctor appointment and refer back to it for instructions or results or to track certain health issues, to keep doctors informed of what’s going on, and answer nurses’ questions. Keep a copy of the medication list in this notebook.
11. Hospital Patient Board List – this is especially helpful for those who can’t talk or those with Alzheimer’s or dementia who can’t remember the correct answers to some of the medical or even general questions asked, and for those who won’t remember to ask for certain help when they need it. I came up with this for my mom because I couldn’t be at the hospital 24 hours a day, as I was also taking care of my dad. The hospital nurses and nurse assistants told me this was so helpful to them. They knew right away how to help my mother, as they check the patient board when coming on each new shift. They would note the things my mother needed help with and it helped them to be proactive in their care instead of reactive. Find the Patient Board Form here.
Physical Care Tips
12. Keep physical therapy notes in pictures after physical therapy has ended. My mother would continue to work on sitting exercises by following the pictures when she couldn’t remember what to do. The pictures or drawings are helpful reminders on how to stay active, especially for those with dementia.
13. Use four gallon trash bags inside the bedside commode. This size bag fits perfectly and makes cleanup easy – empty the bucket into the toilet, throw away the bag and wipe out the bucket with a clorox wipe. Let it air dry and put in a new bag.
14. Keep a stock of a variety of wipes for cleaning and personal care – great tips on hygiene here.
15. Shampoo caps are the easiest and best way to wash hair for those who can’t get in the shower anymore or get to the beauty parlor. (See Resources below.)
16. Pool noodle lifesaver – see this post on bathroom safety!
17. Protect frail skin from developing bed sores from prolonged sitting, and protect your furnishings from accidents. Save money and make your own foam egg crate cushions for placing on recliners, dining room chairs and transport chairs. Buy a twin size egg crate mattress, cut to fit the chairs needing extra cushioning. Sew up a soft towel or other sturdy material on three sides to make an envelope and slide the cushion into it. If you don’t sew, simply wrap a towel neatly over it. I also protect the cushion by cutting up a waterproof pad and slipping that inside. Wash the covers as needed. You can get quite a few cushions cut out of a twin size egg crate mattress for less than twenty dollars.
18. Providing enough light to see is crucial to preventing falls. What do you do if you lose electricity? Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S. and so there are times when loss of electricity is inevitable. You never want the elderly to be without accessible light. Hang bright LED flashlights on the walker to light the pathway below. Use a small camping headlamp to light the way directly ahead of you. This allows the person to keep both hands on the walker for balance. Headlamps are also great for reading in the dark if you lose power. Walmart sells bright LED headlamps, clip-on lights and flashlights for a $1. I even keep one hanging from the toilet paper holder so you always know where to find an emergency light in the bathroom! My dad had no trouble seeing and getting around with these powerful little lights when we lost power during Hurricane Matthew.
19. Set up a portable sink for brushing teeth. Use a folding TV tray or table at their favorite chair to brush teeth when it’s too hard and too unsafe to stand in the bathroom. Set up a hospital basin or plastic washpan with an inch of water in it, a washcloth, cup of water, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, dental floss. Putting water in the basin first makes it easier to rinse it out after they brush their teeth. Rinse out the basin good, wipe with a clorox wipe and store the items in the basin with a clean washcloth and cup, ready for the next use.
20. Mini-blenders and immersion blenders are great for thickening liquids.
21. Invest in a blender of some sort for chopping, blending, making smoothies. It gets harder to chew and swallow as people age. Make it easier for them to enjoy their food and digest it too.
22. Menu tracking – Find a way to keep track of your menus and what each person eats. It’s also helpful to make notes on your menu list of what they liked, disliked, what disagreed with them. This will help you know what to make again and what foods to avoid that do not agree with them or are too hard to chew or swallow anymore. I keep a separate notebook for menu planning and notes, and I keep those favorite recipes that work tucked in this notebook so everything is in one place. And then I use the menu list for the week to make my grocery list. For more meal planning tips, see this post.
23. Keep that 4 gallon trash bag roll stored in the drawer. If there’s an easier way to do something, I try to find it. I love saving my back, especially in the mornings when I am feeling a bit stiff. I put a roll of those 4 gallon trash bags in a bathroom drawer, right where I need them, and keep the end of the roll hanging just out of the drawer so I can grab one and tear it off. I prop the wastebasket or commode bucket on a chair by the counter and I can quickly change trash bags without a lot of early bending and straining my back.
24. Put disposable waterproof pads or washable waterproof pads under the bedside commode to protect the carpet or flooring. Toss or wash as needed.
25. Use waterproof crib size pads on top of the sheets and cover with twin size sheet folded in half across the bed and tucked in the side. This will protect the mattress, and can easily be changed during the night or the next morning without having to change the whole bed. The twin size sheet can also be used by two people to help move the person back up to their pillow if they are not able to do so by themselves.
There you have it – 25 tips to help improve the lives of those your care for, while making your life easier and smoother as a caregiver!
For more caregiving tips, see my complete list of caregiving posts here. There is also a link at the top menu on any page, making it easy to find anytime you need it or from anywhere on the website!
These portable tables are perfect to use for the elderly sitting in their own comfortable chairs. Unlike regular TV trays, they scoot under the chair or couch, are adjustable by height. The tabletop can slant for tablet or laptop use, or be level for an eating or work tray. I found one at Walgreens on sale one day but they also have them on Amazon.
Portable Folding Table (Slides under Furniture) (link no longer available but you can find similar items on Amazon)
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