Basic Elderly Home Care Checklist
First of all, the very first thing is that if you have any questions, please check with your doctor(s), nurse(s), caregiver(s), and family members.
These are all opinions from experience. It may help, especially if you already are searching for some basic introductory things that may help. I just recently lost my dad who was over 80 years old, and I hope any information may be of help. I am finding much information after the fact. Please feel free to forward or provide this as a starting point that may help.
Not all healthcare providers provide you an orientation package when you suddenly have to take care of someone at home.
Remember that the recommendations from the primary care physician and primary healthcare provider are priority above anything written here.
The person receiving the care may need specific requirements for specific conditions, so not all situations can be accounted for here. This is just solely meant as a basic checklist and may not be complete. Feel free to refer to this checklist at any time to review things that could be adjusted or improved.
There are plenty of lists and guidelines out there provided by legitimate and accepted sources, but the problem is that they are mainly out there specifically as a search result for one type or specific problem. It is not collected into one useful guide at the outset, and thus, due to the lack of information, the person who is being cared for may suffer unnecessarily from the lack of information provided to the caregiver, especially if the caregiver is new or a novice to it. In my case, I was a family member suddenly having the responsibility of caring for a person, my dad.
The procedures were straightforward, especially when taught by the nurses and therapists in the Home Help program provided by the healthcare provider. However, they do not cover everything to be careful of. They only treated the problem that was diagnosed. They did not address any general concerns to caregiving. Thus, this information may be useful for elderly in a general sense even if no problems have been encountered. Thus, going over and tackling these concerns may be helpful as a preventive measure.
If there is a possible heart or cardiovascular condition, make sure that the person does not strain too much ever. Even listening devices that require a voice command may be a risk. I am not sure if this was a risk factor, but this is out there just in case. Thus, be aware of the vocal output from the person, and adjust equipment or positioning as necessary to ensure a safe environment for communication. I don't think there's a guide on how to set up a safe environment for communication for elderly patients.
A listening device may work during typical good health, but in an emergency, it may not be enough. If the person cannot breathe, then it is useless. Some kind of sound or alarm generator or manually operated contact device may be best. Even a smart watch loses battery power and may be a hassle. Perhaps keeping a phone next to the person within easy reach is good too.
Similarly, ensure that there is a lower or minimal risk of loud or sudden noises. Or if it is expected such as with scheduled construction or if there is a lot of foot traffic, then provide the option to move locations or provide the right PPE equipment such as ear mittens. I even turned off the ring tone for some older phones that were connected to land lines to be considered since there may be scam calls too often, especially when the person is asleep. So receiving calls may startle the person. This may cause strain.
Not everyone is a nurse, but know or review expected blood pressure and heart rate numbers. Basics: "Normal" is considered 120/80 mmHg. "Stage 2 High blood pressure" is over 140/90 mmHg. Anything over 180 means you should contact emergency services, the doctor, or nurse right away.
Here is a link to a helpful article from Harvard (Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School).
Get training. Ask the nurses and therapists. Go to government channels and get trained for Medical Home Caregiving. Here is a link to a helpful resource from the USA Government for Caregiver Support and resources.
Most importantly, ask doctor(s), nurse(s), caregiver(s), family, or friends if there are any questions. You are not alone. You do not have to make or catch everything, even if you have missed something in the past. Going forward, try to establish a team.
Emergency contacts: Just like in the hospital, write down a list of contacts, contact information, and priority concerns on a highly visible placard in easy view of the person being cared for.
Depending on the person's wishes, you may call the emergency number to request help. You may not be the most expert at evaluating the situation or the person's condition. You can always delegate and ask for help.
Regarding anything such as treatments, procedures, tests, possible visits to the hospital, and any plans, Ask. Ask. Ask for it in some form of writing such as a handout. Then discuss it. Ask questions about it. Perhaps your concerns are not addressed immediately or in writing, so ask. For example, is it a one day procedure? Can you go home right afterwards?
Even with mild symptoms that are flu-like, it may be helpful to contact a doctor, nurse, caregiver, family, or friend to get an evaluation or tests done. They may seem like nothing much, and the person in question may think nothing of it. But you may just save the person's life. It may develop later or overnight, especially when the person may have underlying conditions such as heart problems or immune system deficiencies. The person may complain or be very mad or angry, but this evaluation may save that person's life. This person may think that the symptoms may go away, that they can fight it off, but perhaps not. This is the grey area. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to tell. I would just Contact and get an evaluation instead of not.
If you are a caregiver, you may forego parties and social events. I felt bad doing so for 2 years, but viruses spiked again for the 3rd year in a row in 2022-2023. I couldn't resist the temptation not to go out and socialize - without a mask even for an hour at dinner. I justified attending because it was with family I haven't seen in 2 years, and everyone including the person receiving the care was vaccinated against COVID-19. However, I did not account for the prevalence of the other viruses. I knew of them from the news, and I didn't consider it enough. This could have been a major factor where an infection might have been picked up and passed without me knowing even though I had worn PPE ever since the social event (as in full mask around the person receiving the care) and washed my hands and even stayed elsewhere for a day. But it is possible still. So, to avoid such a risk, you may opt to forego parties and social events even when the rest of your world, your family, your friends are partying it up. This may save lives.
This depends on your own policies, health concerns, allergens, and what you adhere to.
But for the patient's sake, I highly recommend considering the following:
Staying up to the date on vaccinations. Even if you cannot get it free, it may be much safer to spend the money to just get them - for the seasonal flu, for COVID including newer boosters that target new variants (something I did not know about when they were advertising boosters), and anything else that may be of concern (RSV) for the people you may be taking care of.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Recently, PPE policies have been improved by leaps and bounds, and these improvements have become incorporated as standards. Gloves are available in latex or nitrile. Masks are available from surgical masks to cotton or N95 masks.
Continual Health Education
Summer or Hot Weather:
Make sure the person is hydrated accordingly. There are certain conditions where there may be too much water. There is, of course, too little water intake.
Make sure the person has enough ventilation and is not overheating.
Things change rapidly, even if the observed condition does not for the person. If there is any question, I would check with the doctor or nurses.
Winter or Cold Weather:
The temperature may drop suddenly. You may be fine, but the person may not be. Even when not monitored, the person may be at risk of the cold temperature throughout a certain lengthy time period such as the night time.
Providing more blankets that are available, not completely covering, but to the side may be helpful in case the person may want to grab some more blankets or covering.
Heating may need to be done overnight as well as the day time. A safe heater location may be helpful throughout the night. Central heating may be useful so that there is no heater module that may be a fire risk. This also depends on your budget and affordability. We had been turning off the central heater as long as I can remember at home just to save money as it has been a habit. However, this could have been a factor, and perhaps it would have helped just enough to have kept the heater on, if we had realized it was suddenly getting cold.
This also brings to light the location of the person. Perhaps this person is bed-ridden. In a large room, it may be colder than if the person was in a smaller room. This may also need to be considered. Thus, keeping the heater on, if it is safe and affordable to do so, may be helpful.
To reiterate, Contact the doctor(s), nurse(s), caregiver(s), family, or friends if there is ANY question.
I should have dropped what I was doing a lot earlier, but how can anyone tell when is best. I could have sit down personally and do exercises regularly with him. But it was difficult. I tried and tried for years before. But I should have continued and tried. I did. And I tried. But after coming back from work more recently, I noticed that he wasn't moving around much other than to the bathroom and bed. Even then, I made sure he did his exercises.
If you cannot drop what you are doing like a job, then consider hiring someone or getting help from a family member or friend. I could have left my job and then found another one, but at the time, he was stable. But I didn't catch the signs of the lack of physical activity, and then, that's when problems really exploded exponentially. In other words, there are timepoints where you can catch things and try and improve health or get help. But it may require reorganization of your schedule or career. In retrospect, it would have been all worth it. But I couldn't have known because he was stable. And my attention was on the job. My point is that I should have brought more attention back to trying to return him to exercising regularly. To be clear, the person being cared for should have taken top priority even though that person says they're fine.
This is intended as informational and is in my opinion. This is for a non-profit cause. There are no conflicts of interest. This is not definitive, please verify and check all information on your own, and more information may be added or modified in the future. I am not an authority or expert on any of these matters.
If you would like to provide feedback, comments, suggestions, and more resources, feel free to fill out and submit the on-line form under Contact.
Love you, Dad. Love you, Mom. And may this information help anyone with loved ones in your care as well.
The first draft was written on 12/21/2022.
Revision dates: 12/22/2022, 01/02/2023