Money and Time Saving Strategies for Caregivers - Part III ©
By: Clare Absher RN, BSN
Part III: Ideas and Tips to Further Enhance the rest of your home is the final focus of a sequence of articles aimed at saving time and money, easing busy caregiver workloads, and providing better patient care at the same time.
Encouraging loved ones to safely walk around the home or in a facility with maximal independence is always a big concern for caregivers. Walkers benefit those needing more help with balance and walking than you can get with crutches or a cane. A pickup style standard walker with four solid prongs on the bottom (without wheels) will give you the most stability. Quad canes offer less support then walkers but still useful for small problems with balance or instability while straight canes offer less help. Rollators are a newer innovative deluxe style walker with wheels and include a seat and brake system. Compact lightweight rollators are cost-effective at less then $100 and very practical for safe ambulation assistance with a bonus seat for resting. Use a walker pouch, basket or tray to help you carry things around for added convenience. Remember to remove scatter rugs, electrical cords and any other obstacles in walking pathways that may cause falls.
Transport wheelchairs are a great invention allowing caregivers to easily move less mobile patients around the home and great for travel. They are manufactured from sturdy aluminum alloy materials with smaller wheels making them very lightweight for convenient portability. Transport chairs are designed for caregivers to actually push patients in contrast to the standard heavier wheelchairs with large rear wheels that are made for user self-operation. Transport chairs are reasonably priced starting at around $100, fold-down compactly, and accommodate short-term travel needs without the dependency of regular wheelchair use.
Geri-chairs are lesser known but deserve special attention in the home care setting and care facilities as they can be a lifesaver for caregivers and loved ones alike. Basically a geri-chair is a comfortable mobile padded recliner seat on 4 small wheels that allows caregivers to push seated patients throughout the house. Although the initial financial out-lay can be fairly steep at $400- $500, the long-term cost effectiveness is immeasurable. Enhancing patient comfort and reducing caregiver strain due to frequent and difficult patient transfers are huge benefits. Geri-chairs further assist their users by enabling them to recline for naps and provide a convenient tray for meals.
A simple inexpensive gait belt cannot be underestimated to assist a caregiver with a variety of patient transfers. Used around the patient's waist to help support them with standing and sitting, enables safer transfers and less physical strain on part of caregiver. Newer transfer pivoting discs and older more recognized transfer boards offer additional advantages to assist caregivers and promote patient safety.
The bedroom is an important area within your home where some basic equipment can greatly impact caregivers' workload and enhance a loved one's independence. Bedrails come in many different styles and shapes however your first consideration should be regarding its purpose. When intended for safety needs to avoid falling out of bed then consider employing a simple horizontal-type bedrail with straps that attach to a bed frame or a mounted bed board under mattress. When more assistance is needed with actual transfers from bed then a swing out gated model works well and also provides protection from falls. Still newer stand-up assist and super poles are growing in popularity due to versatile usage at bedside and different locations throughout the house. An overhead bed trapeze that attaches to hospital style beds or freestanding model is needed when patients require even further help with transfers in and out of bed.
Most hospital bed mattresses are known for their discomfort so at a minimum consider an inexpensive quick fix with a convoluted egg-crate foam pad on top of existing mattress. Purchase only bottom sheets designed to fit hospital mattresses to save money rather then full sets for use on home hospital beds. When more extensive pressure relief is required to prevent bedsores, an alternating pressure pad may be a better cost-effective option. A basic bedside commode is useful when mobility is limited especially at nighttime to avoid falls. New sani-bag commode liners makes clean-up a great deal easier and appreciated by all caregivers. An over-bed table is a practical accessory at bedside and throughout the home for serving meals in addition to a supplying a multi-task desk-top. A simple urinal for men comes in handy and recently newer types are available for women. Reachers, sock and stocking aids, extra long shoe horns are but a few additional daily helpers to ease caregiver workload and promote a loved one's independence at the same time.