How can we get Mom to elevate her feet?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's and diabetes. She keeps getting cellulitis infections in her feet. The last infection landed her in the hospital for four days for I.V. antibiotics. We are trying to manage this at home with oral antibiotics. The problem is that the doctor said to keep her feet elevated as much as possible, but it's almost impossible to keep her down; she wants to be up walking around and pacing most of the day. Even with medicines to control her anxiety, it doesn't stop her. Is it safe to strap her down in her wheelchair for a few hours off and on during the day? She does sleep a full 9-10 hours at night.

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

You have presented a problem that is very common and frustrating to caregivers of loved ones who have Alzheimer's with other illnesses. Your mother-in-law's memory loss or other behavioral changes(like pacing)understandably interfere with your attempt to treat her medical problem-cellulitis. You probably advise and encourage her to no avail.

Three thoughts come to mind. Firstly, what type of activities does your mother-in-law enjoy or partake in? Is there anyone who could engage her for an extended period of time so you can slip a hammock under her legs to elevate? Will she play dominoes or do a creative art project at her level of tolerance and ability? Does she have any favorite TV programs that she gets involved in? Even though she might only get distracted for a brief time, she would elevate her legs somewhat. Secondly, does she go out much? Is there someone who takes her in the wheelchair for extended walks, shopping, etc? Elevating the wheelchair footrests would again distract her and help with the edema. A liftchair ( is also very helpful and comfortable. As she leans back, her legs automatically rise so less words are needed. Medicare will reimburse a portion of the cost if the wheelchair is not being rented through them.

These interventions would be much safer and preferable to strapping her in her wheelchair as she could easily tip this over. It also is very restraining and could cause more agitation or anxiety.