People living with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease can become bedridden or chair-bound, drastically changing the nature of their needs and care. Inevitably, they’ll require more caregiver support for daily activities — from feeding and dressing to personal hygiene tasks like bathing, toileting, and oral health care.
Caregivers are also tasked with administering medication and checking for pressure sores. You must ensure your loved one is getting stationary movement to maintain muscle strength, range of motion, and blood flow. Each day becomes a challenge to keep them comfortable and mentally stimulated as they adjust to a stationary lifestyle. You’ll also face adjustments as you adapt to the level of care you’re now tasked with providing.
Caregiving for a bedridden loved one also requires more hands-on care and emotional and mental energy than any earlier stage of your loved one’s dementia; as they lose mobility and independence, you may feel the pressure
of being needed for every little task at any given moment of the day.
But there are things that you can do to make these new care duties more approachable for you as a caregiver, allowing you to provide the best care that’s most supportive of your loved one’s new lifestyle.
Yelena Sokolsky, CEO and director of patient services at Galaxy Home Care, says that providing proper care and attention can help bedridden seniors — especially those with dementia — maintain their hygiene and improve their quality of life.
“Being patient and compassionate in assisting them with these tasks is important, as they may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable,” she says. “A little kindness can go a long way in making them feel clean and refreshed, which can also positively impact their physical and mental well-being.”
Sokolsky answers some of the most important questions about caring for a loved one who is bedridden, offering advice for common challenges and practical daily caregiving tips:
Q: What personal hygiene and grooming tips should caregivers follow to help keep a bedridden loved one clean and comfortable?
A: “One effective method is to use a sponge bath or moist towel to clean their body while in bed and use a mild and non-irritating soap to prevent skin irritation. In addition, a shower chair can be used to help them bathe. It is also important to moisturize their skin with lotion and body powder to keep it hydrated and healthy. Regularly trimming their fingernails and toenails will prevent scratches, and combing their hair will keep it neat and tidy. To maintain oral hygiene, caretakers should support patients as they floss and clean their teeth twice a day.
“Furthermore, changing their bed linens every 2-3 days is essential to prevent the accumulation of sweat, dead skin cells, and food crumbs. Another important aspect of caring for bedridden elderly individuals is changing their diapers — this is a vital part of their hygiene routine. It is recommended to have medical gloves, a pack of clean and highly absorbent adult diapers, pre-moistened wipes, a diaper rash cream, and a waterproof mattress protector on hand for this task.”
Q: How can caregivers alleviate loneliness and provide a bedridden loved one with much-needed companionship and engaging activities?
A: “For bedridden seniors, loneliness is a significant challenge that can negatively impact their mental and emotional health. Therefore, showing them they are valued and cared for is crucial. Spending time with them by talking or reading to them can be an excellent way to engage in meaningful conversations and keep their minds active. Playing board games or engaging in coloring activities together can also help to alleviate boredom and loneliness while relieving stress and promoting relaxation. Additionally, listening to the radio or podcasts together can be a great way to keep them entertained and engaged.
“By providing company and engaging in activities they enjoy, we can help bedridden seniors feel less isolated and enhance their overall well-being. It is important to remember that every individual has unique preferences and interests, so it’s crucial to ask what they enjoy and tailor activities to their liking.”
Q: How can caregivers help make the home environment comfortable and enjoyable for a bedridden loved one? What might their home setup look like?
A: “A home setup may include a specialized bed or mattress designed for pressure redistribution to prevent bedsores and increase comfort. Soft and regularly-changed bedding promotes comfort and prevents skin irritation. Having easily accessible assistive devices such as bedpans, urinals, and commode chairs ensures convenience and maintains dignity for patients.
“Ensuring the room temperature [is] to the individual’s preference helps promote comfort and prevent overheating or chilling. Positioning the bed near a window with a pleasant view can enhance the person’s mood and provide a sense of connection with the outside world. Personalizing the space with items like family photos, artwork, or favorite objects creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Additionally, caregivers should incorporate games, activities, and entertainment options to keep the individual engaged and mentally stimulated.”
Q: Bedridden people are at higher risk of bedsores — why is that? How can bedsores be avoided and treated?
A: “Bedridden individuals are at a higher risk of developing bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, due to prolonged pressure on specific body areas. Factors such as reduced mobility, poor circulation, and friction contribute to their development.
“Bedsores can be avoided by regularly repositioning the person often to minimize pressure on vulnerable areas. Keeping the skin clean and dry through regular cleaning and moisturizing prevents dryness and irritation. Supportive aids like cushions, pillows, or foam pads help distribute pressure and reduce friction. Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration through a balanced diet paired with adequate fluid intake supports skin health and healing.”
If bedsores do occur, Sokolsky suggests the following treatment:
- Cleaning the wound gently with mild soap and water or a saline solution
- Applying appropriate dressings and creams as advised by healthcare professionals to promote healing
- Relieving pressure on the affected area through proper positioning
- Seeking medical attention for severe or infected bedsores, which may require antibiotics or debridement
Q: Why is it important to maintain a schedule to help with daily activities and needs like personal hygiene, medications, and meals? What tips do you have for creating and maintaining schedules?
A: “Maintaining a schedule can be challenging, especially for those who are bedridden and suffering from dementia or elderly individuals who require home care. However, it is crucial for their well-being, as it can aid in personal hygiene, medication management, meals, and more.
“Establishing a consistent routine promotes cleanliness, timely medication intake, proper nutrition, and reduces anxiety. We recommend creating and maintaining schedules by setting specific times, using visual cues, involving the individual, being flexible, and ensuring communication among caregivers to ensure that their needs are met.”
Q: Physical health is still important — how can caregivers ensure their loved one gets enough exercise even while bedridden?
A: “For patients who have Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, physical health remains important. Caregivers can ensure their loved ones get enough exercise even while bedridden by incorporating simple range-of-motion exercises into their schedule. These exercises involve gently moving the individual’s limbs through a full range of motion, preventing stiffness and maintaining joint flexibility. Caregivers can perform passive range-of-motion exercises by assisting with limb movements and incorporating stretching exercises to maintain muscle flexibility.”