When people become unwell, they often need to rely on someone else to help with their personal needs.
Learning to manage physical care for a loved one can be challenging, as everyone’s needs and preferences are highly individual and may differ depending on culture, gender, age and the stage of their illness.
Your Hospice care team is here to support you so you can feel confident in providing personal care for someone who is either bedbound or can no longer manage on their own.
Tips for managing personal care
Below you’ll find detailed advice and tips to help you manage everything from preventing pressure injuries, keeping eyes clean and clear, to a step-by-step guide to changing bed linen while your loved one is still in the bed.
Our aim is to keep the skin dry and intact. The skin of the person you're caring for may be dry, itchy, extra sensitive and fragile, or it may be clammy and damp due to excess sweating. In either case, extra care is needed.
The skin is affected by everything that goes onto or into the body, including creams and medications, food and drink, and therapeutic treatments. It will also be influenced by what’s happening within the body, such as weight loss, incontinence and disease progression, as well as factors like age and pre-existing skin conditions (e.g. psoriasis or dermatitis).
The following measures will help protect skin health
Pressure injuries can happen when mobility is limited, and we stay in one position for a long time. They usually start as reddened areas, often on bony areas and the bottom.
The best time to assess the skin is when you’re providing personal care, bathing, showering or a bed-wash.
Your Hospice care team can give you advice on keeping pressure injuries from developing or getting worse. For more on common pressure injuries and prevention options, click here.
If the person you're caring for can’t get out of bed for a bath or a shower, you can give them a wash in bed.
It’s important to keep them clean, not only for hygiene and skin health, but for their psychological health. We all feel better when we're clean, smelling good and wearing our favourite comfortable clothing.
Bed Bathing Process
The more time your loved one spends in bed, the more important it will be to change the sheets regularly. There may come a time when you need to do this while they’re still in the bed, because they don’t have the strength to get out.
Changing Linen with a person in the bed - Step by Step Process
To watch a video of the process on YouTube click here.
Good oral health is essential for speaking, chewing and swallowing, and any deterioration can have a big impact on quality of life.
If the person you're caring for can brush their teeth, encourage them to continue doing this. If you need to brush their teeth for them, an electric toothbrush will make it easier.
If it’s no longer possible or appropriate to use a toothbrush, clean the mouth and teeth with mouth swabs or sponges. Contact your Hospice care team if you need further support.
How to clean someone’s teeth
Illness can cause the eyes to produce too much secretion and become sticky, or too little and become very dry.
Follow the steps below to keep your person’s eyes clean and comfortable. Contact your Hospice care team for further support or if their eyes become very dry.
Keeping eyes clean
Catheters are commonly used during palliative care and, as your loved one becomes more unwell, you may need to attend to their catheter.
If this happens, you will be given instructions by your District Nurse. If you need further support don't hesitate to ask.
Call Your District Nurse immediately if:
Catheter care tips
Note: You may see some blood or urine around where the catheter enters your body, especially when walking or having a bowel movement. This is normal, as long as urine is draining into the drainage bag. If this isn't happening, call your District Nurse.
Emptying a Catheter Bag
For further information about catheter care refer to your District Nurse.
Medication is available in various forms and there are three main ways it is commonly given. You may hear your Hospice care team and other health professionals use the following phrases and names when describing these methods of delivery.
Medications can be given either
Your Hospice care team will train you on how to give medications if necessary. Please contact them if you have any questions.
Facing the unknown
Experience has shown us that fear of the unknown is often greater than fear of the known. That is why we offer this information - to help you become aware of, anticipate and prepare for symptoms and situations you may have to deal with.
Techniques for moving and handling people
This guide by ACC covers a number of techniques commonly used in moving and handling people. Most of the techniques have photo sequences illustrating the specific moves.
The Health Navigator NZ website provides a great overview of catheter use and care.