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Helpful tips when caring for older relatives at home

Care homes and services up and down the country have important procedures in place to regularly check they are offering the highest standard of care. But what about those caring for relatives independently? To mark Clinical Audit Awareness Week we've gathered top tips from our care homes that you can apply if/when caring for older relatives at home.

Preventing falls

"Around 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls." www.nhs.uk/conditions/falls

Care services put a lot of attention into reducing the risk of falls for their residents and customers. For those caring for loved ones at home it's worth considering the following things to help with this.

  • Getting adequate sleep is very important
    Sleep helps the brain and body recover from fatigue which is very important to help prevent falls.
  • Some footwear and clothing can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls
    Wearing correctly fitting, supportive, non-slip shoes can help reduce these risks and can improve balance and gait. Although it may be comfy to wear, loose clothing that trails along the floor can be a trip hazard or may risk catching furniture or objects. Note that loose clothing may indicate weight loss.
  • Clear the environment of clutter and trip hazards
    It is important to check the living environment and reduce the number of hazards within the home such as trailing wires, raised flooring, obstacles, etc.
  • Make sure your home is well lit
    Making sure all rooms and hallways are well lit and have easily accessible switches can reduce the risk. At night the use of lamps or night lights may be useful for better vision and guidance.
  • Take advantage of equipment
    Mobility aids can improve stability around the home. These may include a wheelie walker, walking stick, hand rails, shower seats, ramps, stair lift, etc. Where space allows, having a well-placed seat can offer a useful resting point when moving from one room to another, especially if fatigue or weakness is a concern.
  • Improve vision
    Impaired vision may result in decreased independence and an increased risk of falls as it may be more difficult to move around safely. Wearing appropriate glasses (if required) for the activity being carried out may help reduce risks.
  • Have a plan in place just in case of a fall
    If someone is at risk of falls make sure they know how to get up by themselves or can summon help if they need it. You need to know this too – you cannot help them if you hurt yourself trying to get them up! Have a look on the internet for “backward chaining” or take a look at this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ0Y9gtE8ao.

The NHS website also gives important information about what to do if someone falls and cannot get up, such as trying to get help, keeping warm and changing position as often as they can.

Health and hygiene

Maintaining a clean and safe environment is key when caring for older loved ones, whether that's in a care home setting or the family home. Based on our own infection control processes here are some key things to consider when providing care in your home.

  • Independent vs assisted housekeeping
    Cleaning can prevent the spread of germs within the home. It's important to assess whether you or your loved one are able to maintain a clean living environment independently. Are they physically able to carry out the tasks safety, including housekeeping and laundry? Do they have access to the necessary equipment such as cloths, disinfectant and do they have adequate storage space?
  • Practice good hand hygiene
    Good hand hygiene is one of the easiest ways to guard against the spread of infection, both for yourself and your loved ones. It's especially important for older adults who may have a weakened immune system. For some tips on hand washing visit the NHS website.
  • Get your Flu jabs
    Ensuring you and your loved one are vaccinated every year against seasonal flu is a very important step. Flu is highly infectious and can be transmitted before the person carrying the virus even feels unwell.
  • Get yourself set up with suitable equipment and bathroom facilities
    This can include ensuring you have grab rails, shower chairs and raised toilet seats in place, along with sufficient space cleared to move any aids around. It's also important to make sure floors are not slippery and the rooms are a comfortable temperature.

Food and nutrition

Diet is clearly important to our physical health, but it is also an expression of our individuality and can promote independence as we age. By reviewing our dining experience we've picked up some valuable tips when providing meals for those we care for, which we would encourage you to explore in a home environment.

  • Help promote choice
    We all have our preferences when it comes to the food we eat and may fancy something different depending on the day. Regularly consulting with any loved ones you are caring for on meal plans can be a good way to boost a sense of well-being, promote independence and can be the source of some great conversation too.
  • Get practical in the kitchen
    Consider the small things that you might take for granted when preparing food for yourself. Is the dining area a pleasant place to eat? Do those using it have access to suitable, clean cutlery, napkins, etc? Do they have facility to store food and ingredients to use again? Are there signs of difficulties in managing food, such as out of date or spoiled items in the fridge?
  • Help provide the correct diet for the individual
    As well as eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg, some people may have health conditions which require modified diets. Your GP and other healthcare professionals such as nutritionists will be able to help you find the best fit for your loved one.
  • Stay hydrated
    We all need on average about 8 cups of drink per day to keep us healthy. Dehydration is a common risk factor for older people. Take the opportunity to share a cup of tea when you visit to encourage them to drink and watch out for signs of dehydration such as confusion, drowsiness and headaches. If you find the person is reluctant to drink, consider alternative sources of fluid such as an ice lolly, jellies or juicy fruit like pineapple or watermelon.

Interaction and activities

The effects of loneliness for older people have been well documented in recent years. You can combat this and vastly improve the well-being of a loved one by help them explore opportunities to engage with others in meaningful ways.

  • Get active
    As the saying goes, move it or lose it. Helping keep relatives physically active can have significant effects on their physical and psychological well-being. If you're looking for a good place to start many gyms and community centres now offer seated exercise classes. These are a great way to make friends in the local community too. You can also consider fun ways to promote physical activity, such as bringing your children or pets to visit.
  • Help facilitate regular contact with friends and family
    Our treasured relationships are part of what makes us uniquely 'us'. Providing transport and technology to connect your loved ones to those they care most about can make a world of difference.

Care at St Monica Trust

The St Monica Trust offers care homes and services across Bristol and North Somerset. For further information and to speak to a member of our friendly team visit our dedicated care page today.

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