One of the challenges in caring for aging parents is making sure their space does not become a depressing environment, especially if the parent is chronically ill. The most important focus remains to have them get out of bed as frequently as is healthy and possible to ensure that the body’s system does not become “lazy” and start to shut down. It is a travesty to see the someone’s mood go “dark” - or to witness muscles wasting away, kidney’s malfunctioning, or fluids begin collecting in the lungs. These are just a few of the health issues that crop up when someone emotionally falls prey to the “sickroom.”
The following tips are simple steps that can be taken, and many of which are just overlooked by family members trying to make it through the day with careers and family obligations. They will, however, change the dynamics of many people, if the effort is made to create surroundings that are more motivating – and not so much characterized by the pill bottles, medical supplies and drawn drapes. Make that space come alive!
- If the parent does not independently take medications; place those pill bottles out of view – on a shelf in a nearby closet or in a drawer set aside for that use. Even if they do take the daily doses – it is less depressing to use daily pill dispensers, which are far less unsightly - and help avoid confusion about when to take each medication.
- At such point in time when your parent finds it difficult to get in and out of bed by themselves, consider it time to secure a hospital bed. Note that medicare usually covers the cost, but it is always wise to check first.
- Clutter can really mess with a person’s mind! Ridding the room of the kind of clutter and supplies that are a daily reminder of being ill is as simple as putting supplies in a closet that is close and easy to assess. A handy basket to carry them from the closet to the room is also a good suggestion.
- There is just something really calming when the room is large enough to set it up more as a visiting room, replete with a small table to hold fresh water, television controls, telephone, and other items which make for a more comfortable day. Adding a comfy chair or two will also make the room more inviting for visitors, and encourage the person to get up out of bed and experience reading or television viewing in a more healthy, normal position.
- Do all that is possible to eliminate bedsores. This might be easily achieved with the purchase of a memory foam mattress, or taking care someone facilitates re-positioning every few hours.
- Security monitors, such as used for babies, are a very inexpensive way to encourage confidence in being alone and remove the fear of feeling like they are imposing on other family members.
- If the home is not designed with an attached bathroom, check with Medicare for coverage to purchase a portable commode – and if space allows – screen it off for privacy.
- Infuse the room with other forms of life! Plants, small waterfalls or fountains or perhaps an aquarium filled with goldfish.
- Days can become long when a person has to be isolated in one room – making it easy to become disoriented. Clocks, calendars, and magic marker boards to post memos and interactive games are just a few items that can easily remove both the feeling of isolation and being disoriented.
- The interior design items selected for a room can have a large bearing on how comfortable your parent will feel – spending vast amounts of time in their “room!” Spend a few dollars on bedding, curtains, etc. that you know will please them – relative to color and design. Note: If your parent experiences dementia, don’t select large, bold patterns which may be confusing or aggravating.