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When you have a loved one under Hospice care, there are many ways to make them comfortable and give comfort to ease the dying process. Read on for equipment to keep on hand and ways to add home hospice mobility and safety care for chronically ill or dying patients in your home.
In my last two posts, Home Hospice Caregiver’s Toolkit, and Home Hospice Comfort Care Toolkit, I went into the background of how I came to be a caregiver for my brother and the essential items that are in my day to day ‘toolkits’ to care for him with more ease. Having the basics on hand helps. In the early days of caregiving for both a sister and this brother, I would run the house like a chicken with my head cut off. Funny, at times, but not efficient.
Hospice and end of life caregiving
Participating in a hospice program means that critical care is only a phone call away. Just having a team that you can call 24/7 takes much of the worry away and leaves room for palliative care on your part. End of life care can be an opportunity to connect more deeply with the person under your consideration. If your loved one is out of pain and can communicate, talk with them, listen to them and enjoy your time left together.
There are many types of comfort that you can bring to their lives, physical and emotional comfort among them. Love is a basic human need, and a comforting, caring touch conveys love better than any other way in this season.
Safety is critical at this time. End of life drugs to ease suffering can affect cognition and balance. Simple tasks become difficult when a patient is struggling with balance or breathing. There are great helper items on the market.
Here are some things that we either borrowed, purchased, or received from the hospice program for the duration of our need.
Home Care Mobility and Safety Items
We’re lucky that our hospice provider arranges for items that increase my brother’s independence and daily safety and comfort needs. I’m assuming that most hospice care providers will also arrange for necessary equipment. Some of them can be expensive to rent or buy on your own. In another post, I’m going to explore alternative ways to source these products.
Even if your loved one is still mobile, I recommend having a walker at least handy just in case there are days where their balance isn’t sure. A simple cage walker makes all the difference in the world. Some models come with seats so that if you are out and about, your patient will always have a place to sit. At this point in your loved one’s life, a cane may not be the best choice due to balance issues; a walker may be the safest.
When a walker is no longer an option, wheelchairs provide a certain amount of mobility even within the home.
Hospice services will provide these upon request. Hospital beds are excellent for managing position changes and for ensuring that a patient will not fall out of bed. If your loved one is pre-hospice, it’s possible to rent them. My brother has a Tempur-Pedic adjustable bed, and that’s working just fine for now.
When my sister was dying, the hospital bed was a key piece in her care management. She had episodes of disorientation and the bed helped us to manage these episodes more easily. She might have fallen out of a standard bed and ripped out tubing. With the hospital bed rails up, she felt more secure and contained, and the disorientation spells were shorter in duration.
Toilet Seat Riser
Hospice service will usually also provide a booster or riser seat for the toilet, and they are always available for rent or purchase. I was able to borrow one from a friend who had back surgery and had needed a riser. Riser seats can have handles and are perfect for people who have a hard time pushing themselves up off the toilet. Though they come without handles, I highly recommend a model that has the handles AND locks onto the toilet seat.
Standalone Bedside Commode
If the trip to the bathroom is too far, a standalone commode placed by the bedside can be a big help. My sister had one before she became completely bedridden.
Having a bathtub stool, also called a shower seat or shower bench, made all the difference to my brother’s ability to stay independent with his hygiene. His bathroom doesn’t have a walk-in shower, and it allows him to rest while he’s lathering up and when he is having some balance issues. Grab bars attached by suction to the shower walls are a necessity, and a handheld shower attachment is nice to have, he can take his entire shower while sitting. Hospice had these items available to us. Also handy are shower head extensions with a hand-held head so you can bring the spray down to the level of the bench.
The VA was overseeing my brother’s palliative medical needs before hospice care stepped in. He was receiving his oxygen and oxygen-related supplies through a VA contractor. The hospice program had a different oxygen service, so we switched over to theirs, and it’s superior to the VAs.
Oxygen concentrators, cylinders with a cart, masks, tubing and a humidifier attachment for the concentrator were all provided. My brother has a 50-foot hose to the concentrator and is mobile, so he has relative freedom of movement within our home.
Having an oxygen concentrator and cylinders in the house come with numerous safety measures to observe. The most important one is no smoking or open flames around the oxygen because it’s very combustible. Oxygen concentrators have to have 12 inches of clearance around them and must be kept free of any soft goods such as bedding or towels. When traveling with an oxygen bottle in the car, one window must be cracked 2 to 3 inches. Your hospice or oxygen provider is happy to go over the safety rules with you and will do safety audits from time to time.
Medical Alert Systems
We’ve ALL seen the commercial where an elderly woman is on the floor with her alert button saying “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. Some of us have even snickered at that commercial. Until you’ve lived with the situation, yeah, the over-dramatization is a little funny. I’m sorry to say I laughed; I still do because the med alert commercials are trying to sell the fear of falling. However, when you have someone under your care who does fall … that same overly dramatized commercial doesn’t seem too hilarious anymore.
I came home from work one day to find that my brother had fallen three times; once on a wood floor, once on a carpeted floor, and the third time down a small flight of stairs. No, not funny anymore. He luckily did no more than bruise a hip and an elbow, but it was the impetus for me to reduce my hours at work and be way more vigilant than I had been.
We currently do not have a medical alert system since there is someone in attendance most of the time.
Should we need a medical alert system,, the two that were recommended by our hospice program are LifeStation and Alert Response. Most systems seem to charge somewhere between $20 – $30 per month. Some can provide small wearable devices with GPS, which is a God-send for dementia and Alzheimer’s patient caregivers.
Since I can’t recommend a system personally, I found two good sources of information so you can make your own decision more easily. How to Choose a Medical Alert System from Consumer Reports and How to Choose a Medical Alert System from AARP. Both articles are extremely well thought out and easy to read.
Mobility and safety helpers are keys to success.
Chronic illnesses and prolonged end-stage diseases are difficult under the best of circumstances. With basic equipment, the process can be safer and less stressful for you and your loved one during this season.