Preparing your home

There are various practical things you can sort out before the person you are caring for comes home. You may need to adapt your home depending on their needs. Financial help may be available for adaptations. Ask to speak with a social worker or occupational therapist about this.

You could start by finding out which room they would prefer and if there is anything particular they would like in it. They will probably spend a lot of time there so it’s important that they feel comfortable. If you are caring for your partner, it can be helpful for you both to talk about sleeping arrangements.

Staff at the hospice or hospital should talk to you about any equipment the person will need. This could include a mattress or bed, toilet and bathing equipment, a wheelchair and any smaller practical aids. It’s also a good idea to check if they have any special dietary requirements.

If the person has mobility problems but is still able to go out in a car, you could also look at the Blue Badge parking concessions scheme. Talk to your GP or social worker about organising this.

Preparing practical things

There are some practical things you can do to get ready before the person you care for comes home. It can help to get these sorted out before they arrive, so that you can focus on caring for them.


Home adaptations

An occupational therapist (OT) can give you advice about the safety of the house and making minor changes. For example, you may need handrails in the bathroom, or need the bed moved downstairs.

Major changes might be possible too, such as putting in a toilet or shower downstairs, or installing a stair lift. But these can take several months of planning and may not be possible before the person comes home. It also involves building work which can be disturbing. You will need to discuss whether you want to make these changes.

If you live in a council or housing association house or flat, changes like these are usually paid for by the local authority. But this depends on local policy and the funds available.

If you own your home or rent it privately, you may still be able to get some financial help. Ask the OT, social worker, or your local social services. You should make any claims for financial help before you start any building work.

We have more information about other benefits and financial help for carers.


Organising their room

One of the most important things to do is to get their room ready. They may spend a lot of time there so it’s important they are happy in it and it feels welcoming. Talk about which room they’d prefer and, if you have more than one floor, would they like to be upstairs or downstairs. If they can’t get around easily, they may want to be in the room nearest the bathroom.

Put their bed or chair in a good position, preferably with a view out of a window. If possible, position it so you’re able to get around both sides of the bed. You could put a small table next to the bed, and a chair for visitors if there’s space.

Ask them if there’s anything they’d like in the room. You could hang up their favourite pictures or photos. Or they may want a computer, TV or phone nearby. You may want to think about getting an intercom so they can talk to you when you’re somewhere else in the house.

If their room has, or is near, a gas appliance such as a gas heater, it’s a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector fitted.


Sleep arrangements

It’s important that you get plenty of sleep and rest. If you’re caring for a partner and usually share a bed, you may need to think about whether to keep doing this. Sleeping apart may allow you both to get the rest you need. But sleeping together and feeling close may be important to you too. Talk to your partner so you can both decide what is best.


Food

If the person you care for has a poor appetite or is having trouble eating, ask them what foods they enjoy and stock up on these before they come home. The hospital dietitian and ward or community nurses can give you advice and may be able to supply supplement foods and drinks.

As the carer, you may also have to change the way you think about food and eating.

We have more information to help with eating problems.


Practical aids and equipment

Before the person you care for is discharged, it’s important that the hospital or hospice staff talk to you both about any equipment you will need at home. They can arrange for an OT to visit and make an assessment of your home. Some hospitals and hospices are able to supply some equipment a day or so before discharge, so that it’s ready when they arrive home. Some equipment can also be loaned from voluntary organisations and charities, such as the British Red Cross.

Beds

Being comfortable in bed can be very important for anyone who is unwell because they may need to spend a lot of time there. The district nurse can arrange equipment for the bedroom. They may lend you a pressure-relieving mattress or a hospital bed. Once the person you’re caring for is home, you can ask them what would make them comfortable. The district nurse should be able to give you advice on the best way to do this.

Try to get lots of pillows of different shapes and sizes. A V-shaped pillow is especially comfortable and can help relieve pressure on the back. If the person has swollen arms or legs, rest them on extra pillows to keep them higher than the rest of the body.

Chairs

If the person you’re looking after is able to sit in a chair, it’s important that they are well supported and comfortable. An OT or physiotherapist can give you advice on this. The district nurse can usually arrange for the loan of a pressure-relieving cushion.

Commodes, bedpans and urinals

If the person you’re caring for finds it difficult to get to and from the toilet, they may need a commode, bedpan or urinal. The community nurses should be able to arrange this. You can also buy these from chemists or pharmacies. Some commodes look like chairs and some have wheels.

Bathing equipment

It may also be difficult for them to have a bath or shower. Using a bath chair, bath board or shower stool may help. An OT or physiotherapist will assess the person’s needs and talk to you both about what equipment would work best for your situation.

Breathing equipment

If the person you’re caring for has breathing problems, their healthcare team can arrange equipment such as a nebuliser, oxygen concentrator or cylinder.

Wheelchairs and walking aids

They may have difficulty walking and need a wheelchair, walking stick or walking frame. An OT or a member of the healthcare team should be able to arrange this.

Other equipment

There are many other smaller pieces of equipment that you might be able to get from the OT. These include two-handled mugs, an adjustable bed rest, bed raisers and grab rails.

There are shops and organisations that sell or hire out aids and equipment. Try looking under ‘Disabled’ in the Yellow Pages or by searching online. You can also ask your local pharmacist what they have available.

Some people may be able to get a Macmillan grant to help pay for equipment.

The person’s health and social care teams should be able to give you advice about how to get the equipment you need.


Blue Badge scheme

This scheme allows people with mobility problems to park closer to where they want to go. To apply for a badge, contact the local council. A healthcare professional, welfare rights adviser or social worker will be able to help with the application.

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