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Caregivers are an incredibly innovative bunch. We come up with all sorts of unique solutions to problems. A few members of our community shared their favorite tips and tricks to make caregiving easier.

Have one to add? Put it in the comments below.

Give them choices

Whenever possible, let your loved one choose between two options. “Do you want your bath now or in an hour?” Caregiving, in some situations, is what you are GIVING to the patient, not DOING to the patient. Choices, where possible, also provide for dignity and some level of autonomy for those who otherwise have very little. – Virginia B

Keep diaper mess to a minimum

The best thing I did for myself while caring for my husband who had to wear diaper’s for the last 6 month’s of so pertains to the diapers and clean up clothes. When I took his diaper off I had a one gallon zip lock bag and it went directly from my hand to the bag and was zipped immediately. Af for the wipes, I put them in a smaller zip lock bag the same way. None of these were ever laid down, straight from him to the bag’s and zipped. Everyone said they had never been in a house before where under the same circumstances there was at least a slight smell. I changed him as soon as he was soiled and never let him lay in anything but a clean diaper. – Barbara N

I purchased a diaper Genie it the baby section. It’s easy to move next to the bed and swallows to odors and all soiled items including the chucks. – Ronda B

Have a go bag

I keep an updated list of hubby’s meds on my phone; I’ve always got it with me so it’s never a problem if it’s needed spur of the moment. I also keep a “go bag” in my van so if we have to go to the hospital suddenly I’m ready… I’ve got it stocked with snacks, water, phone chargers, etc. – Maria E

Create the tools and systems you need

Our son is non-verbal and due to multiple disabilities he can’t operate a communication devise….we use a calendar and sticky notes to help him help US get back to ideas he had. Example: he uses eye gaze to tell us he wants to watch a movie, but it’s time to take him to his day program…. on the sticky note I write, “Robert wants to watch a movie when he gets home” and I stick it on his calendar. When he gets home he uses eye gaze towards his calendar and “reminds” me about our plan….before this simple system he would get frantic that we would forget and feel frustrated and misunderstood. This has transformed our days. – Mary T

Google. Google calendar, Google docs, Google tasks, Google reminders, Google maps. Need to keep up with someone else’s appointments or share appointments with someone else? Create a second (3rd, 4th,…20th) calendar and share. Need to manage medication lists, contact sheets, etc.? Google docs. Portable and shareable grocery and/or task list? Google Tasks. Need to remember to stop by the store, pick up prescriptions, or call someone back? Google reminders. Need directions? Google maps.

“OK Google.” Turning on this little charmer on your Android cellphone is a great time saver. “OK Google…. Create a new appointment with Dr. Doe for February 23, 2018, at 9am.” “OK Google…remind me to stop at CVS.” “OK Google…remind me to call the bank tomorrow afternoon.” “OK Google…remind me in 45 minutes to remove the casserole from the oven.” – Joseph A

Use a little distraction

Subtle feeding trick: when offering a bite, don’t ask “are you ready” or “another bite?” Say something c completely unrelated. For example, “wasn’t today beautiful day? “And as they start thinking, raise the spoon to their mouth and automatic reaction will be to Open their mouth. I’ve had great success with this Little trick. Clearly, you want to be careful that the person is a good swallower, and of course there’s no guarantee what happens to the food once it’s inside their mouth especially if you have a spitter. – Steven R

Roll with the rules of their world

As a dementia caregiver for many years, one of the biggest things I learned was to enter their reality. No matter what weird things come out of their mouths, just agree with them and roll with it. For one thing, if they feel they are being listened to and understood, they are far more likely to be agreeable with what you want them to do. And for another, it takes you on some interesting journeys. My favorite example: Sitting with my dad by our large picture window that looked out over our cul-de-sac. He was watching the ships come into the harbor, so happy. I pulled up a chair beside him and put my head on his shoulder and watched the ships come into the harbor, too. One of the happiest memories I have with him in his final days. – Kathe P

Keep people busy

I always let my wife, who has dementia help with everything possible.
Folding laundry is her favorite.  We have a closet full of linens that looks like a 3 year old done the job, as for me, I see my wife doing something to keep keep her mind working. – John W

Make everything fun

Humor. I try to make my wife laugh or at least smile. Just something silly I will do to lighten the mood. Sometimes it works sometimes not. She has such a beautiful smile. – Greg S

Humor. I kept her laughing and engaged in conversation about kids, grandkids, and other topics outside her hospital room. – Dennis B

Get help with moving people

Someone here I think suggested a satin pillowcase under the butt to help slide off the bed and onto a chair etc. works great and reduces aggravating bed sores. – Pam C

Use a pool noodle just under the fitted sheet and on top of mattress. Keeps one from rolling out of bed! – Susan W

Use hospital pads to turn or pull up & for accidents for someone bedridden. – Karen D

Accept limitations

Learning to set boundaries. I have learned that I am not super woman and have to say no sometimes. – CIndy H

Caregiving can be stressful, hectic and especially isolating. Reach out to friends and family if you’re sinking. A phone call helps so much, even if interrupted throughout. And biggest thing for me – no matter how bad a day is, there’s always tomorrow which holds a clean slate. Some mornings I literally envision God taking my hand and pressing a reset button. It helps. – Celia M

You can read all the responses here.

Written by Michelle Daly

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17 Comments

  1. I use the term disposable briefs instead of diaper when my husband is prone to accidents on suppository days. I think it helps to maintain a bit of his dignity, in what probably feels undignified to him.

    Reply
  2. Medz b4 dark !
    Don’t engage !
    Breathe 3 x, slow

    Reply
  3. I enlist the help of my sons when husband doesn’t want to listen to me.

    Reply
  4. Emotionally, never settle when it comes to advocating and expressing concerns whether people like it or not. As for practical, laminate an emergency card with general info: name, dob, emergency people/phone numbers, any allergies, as well as all meds/dosages/etc (keep in your wallet and patient). Keep the same list larger on the fridge along with any DNR instructions/health care surrogate info. Also, water, water, and more water!!!

    Reply
  5. I was my Mum’s voice.I am forever humbled and in awe of Mum’s journey.It took her three years in her nursing home and then four bittersweet days till she passed.Through out this period,we laughed,spoke from our hearts,apologised
    got angry,joked,remembered,kissed,touched and finally let her go home.Love you.I love you too ❤️❤️

    Reply
  6. Care. Plain and simple. I know that sounds easy, and anyone reading this likely knows it’s anything but. Still, when I feel like I’ve just eaten enough, I take a moment to breathe deeply and remember why I do this at all, why I go so far, try so hard, …swallow so much frustration. It’s good work, it’s the things that are done by those who realize that there are bigger things than this moments needs, namely the needs of others. Those others cannot do for themselves, maybe they could once but not now, maybe they were never given that option. Those that make their living in the service of those who simply need the help: Caregivers, Nurses, CNAs, EMTs, Firefighters… We are the good Samartians, and there is it’s own value in that. Take pride, take a few deep breaths, and go on knowing that you are a hero, even if it’s only to one person, maybe only today, but what you do is awesome, and so are you.

    Reply
    • Very well written Brandon! I agree completely in the “hero” title given to Caregivers. I am citing your post on our Caregivers’ page for our “heroes” to see!!! Thanks again.

      Reply
  7. I had two unique experiences. My mother and father both had terminal diseases, Mom had vascular Dementia and Dad had ALS. I was new to caregiving with my Mom. I was not patient with her or myself. It was a miserable experience for her and me. After she died I was consumed with guilt, however, I did use what I learned to be a better caregiver with my Dad. I was much more patient and didn’t take things to heart. When I felt I was losing it, I talked to someone.
    This is a learning process and nobody is perfect. Don’t beat yourself up. You are doing an amazing job in something you probably had no training for.

    Reply
  8. You have to keep a sense of humour. I think of some of the sickest situations my husband had me in and we still found something to laugh about.

    Reply
  9. Have zero expectations, try to go with the flow, and, in my case (for my 91 yr. old mom), have a toilet auger. Hey, she keeps clogging up the toilet. Try to keep a some sense of humor. Sometimes, you just have to laugh otherwise you go insane.

    Reply
    • I bought one right before Christmas last year lol. Mom is 91 as well. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Have a go bag ready for emergencies including things your loved one likes also such as word puzzles, slippers for you, reading glasses for both of u… Have some magazines you haven’t read yet stuck in there. Bring Motrin, Tylenol for inevitable headaches..whatever might help and bring their medications to because sometimes it takes 10 or 15 hours for them to enter their medication into the system. Just make sure you tell them you are giving your loved one the medication. Drink lots of water- have only one cup of coffee every 6 hours then switch over to tea.. Stock your car with soda, snacks and the like so you don’t have to spend a fortune at the hospital. . Find out the little tips that people don’t know from the nurses on the unit and especially other caregivers. Lots of times there are parking discounts after six two consecutive nights and this is significant amount of $$$.. Sometimes they have guest trays where you can order what you want for a small amount of money. There are”lots of little perks that they don’t readily tell you about. Absolutely find out where the social worker’s office is and drop in! and call patient advocacy and ask them if there are any caregiver services or patient services that you might not know about. For instance there might be a mass on Sundays for Catholics or Baptists or Muslims that is not put on bulletin boards. I always ask for a priest as soon as we go into the hospital and continue to ask if this is something that you believe in. They are one extra support that is often needed even if you don’t go to church.MOST OF ALL….YOU NEED 2 KNOW YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. ..GOD IS.ADVOCATE BUT FOCUS ON STAYING TIP TOP YRSELF CUZ U CANT HELP ANYONE IF YOU FALL!!!
    Ask anyone and anybody relatives friends people in the church to come sit with your loved one while you go and get some rest. Don’t be surprised if the very people you depend on don’t come to your Rescue. It will be strangers and friends you actually did not think you could depend on most of the time. But do not cave into bitterness or anger because that will rub off on your loved one and will make them more anxious and more upset. Even if you are not spiritual or even an atheist go to the chapel because it is very quiet in there and just sit and clear your mind and just listen to The Silence.

    Reply
    • Great advice. I always had his hospital bag ready to go. One of the other things I always packed was an small extension cord to plug in phone chargers.

      Reply
    • Excellent advice. I live in the bible belt and have never thought to ask for a Buddhist monk to talk to me, but I do meditate and pray in the chapel. Thank you.

      Reply
  11. some really great ideas here.

    Reply
  12. Ask the right questions at the right time!

    Reply
  13. Drink lots of water!

    As caregivers we are constantly on the go and we tend to ignore our own health while we are caring for our ill loved ones.

    I have an app on my phone that keeps track of how much water I drink every day.

    Also this is not a trick but some sound advice – know everything about the disease or disorder affecting your loved one.

    I am a self-taught expert in schizophrenia. When I talk with my mom’s psychiatrist I can talk on his level and understand what he is saying since I’ve read multiple books on schizophrenia.

    This has helped me helped my mom on a better level.

    Reply

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