Helping an older adult with personal care means you have a lot to keep track of. But even conscientious caregivers often miss potential signs and sources of trouble. Beware the following problems, which are often "hidden" from caregivers' awareness:
Hidden Pressure Sores
So-called "bedsores" aren't limited to the bedbound. Pressure sores can affect anyone who spends long periods in limited positions (such as in a wheelchair or lounge chair). Those who are overweight and have folds of skin that touch are especially vulnerable. And you don't want to wait until there's an open sore that the person is complaining about. Though it's not pleasant for either of you, make an effort to check these skin folds during bathing to watch for signs of redness or chafing. Apply cornstarch to help keep the area clean and dry, and mention open sores immediately to a doctor.
Hidden Urinary Tract Infections
The trouble with a urinary tract infection (UTI) is that your loved one may not realize something is wrong or may not be able to articulate it. Among the signs of UTI: more frequent urination or new episodes of incontinence -- or delirium, a sudden decline featuring disorientation or a decline in cognitive abilities. These behaviors aren't always linked in people's minds to UTI.
Hidden Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails -- when the corner of the toenail grows into the soft flesh around it -- can be extremely painful. You may not notice the condition, however, until your loved one begins to limp, fall down, or refuse to walk. These behaviors may not immediately be linked to something as small as a toenail by either you or the person suffering from it. Don't ignore an older adult's feet. If you're not comfortable trimming nails regularly, make appointments with a podiatrist. If you do the job yourself, trim them straight across, rather than rounding the nail, to reduce the odds of it becoming ingrown. The big toe is most often affected.