Caregiving is tough. We even have a Facebook group with that exact name. For many of us, caregiving is an unpaid, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. But that doesn’t mean that caregiving can’t be at least a little bit easier, which is why the experts at WayWiser wanted to put together this comprehensive list of caregiving hacks.
As you read through this list, don’t just think about the hacks themselves, but think about what else you might be able to do to help the loved one who you are caring for to better maintain their independence. Think about where you might be able to spend a few dollars, but save a whole lot of time. Think about all of the household items that might be able to serve a secondary purpose in your new role as a caregiver, or consider the multitude of apps out there that are helping make life easier every day.
If we use technology, creativity, and our community of caregiving ideas, we can all save a few minutes for ourselves at the end of the day while doing our best to keep our loved one feeling their best.
Caregiving Hacks To Help With Incontinence
Incontinence is one of the more common issues when caregiving for an older adult and while it should be nothing for your loved one to be embarrassed by, it can certainly be a tough circumstance to manage. Beyond letting them know that they shouldn’t be ashamed, there are a few things you can do to make your life a bit easier as their caregiver. Here are a few caregiving hacks to help you manage incontinence.
Waterproof Mattress Pads
You should definitely look into waterproof mattress pads if your loved one is suffering from incontinence. Layer a few of these this on top of their bed, in between a sheet and a blanket. This can do wonders if they are peeing their bed at night and allows you to simply remove one of the layered pads in the middle of the night, giving your loved one a dry surface to sleep on until you’re able to do the laundry the next day.
A true “hack” for this is to use puppy pads. While it may sound a bit degrading, they do the trick and are a cheap solution. You can also place puppy pads on a chair that your loved one enjoys sitting in during the day. They are a cheap and waterproof option that can save you a lot of money over the more expensive options.
Leak Proof Underwear
No adult wants to wear a diaper. Luckily, while the options are limited, there are a few alternatives, particularly for females, that can do the trick for mild incontinence. Thinx, a company mostly known for their panties that absorb periods, also has a line called Speax that is made to help with incontinent adults. They can absorb the urine without a pad and then they get thrown in the wash with the rest of the laundry. Wouldn’t your mom be happier in some cute underwear over a diaper?
Lysol makes a laundry sanitizer that is a quick, easy, and successful caregiving solution for an older adult with prevalent accidents in bed. It helps to clean and can gently reduce any odor.
If the loved one that you are caring for is able to get out of bed to use the toilet at night, but making their way all the way to the restroom is difficult or dangerous, consider using a bedside commode along with toilet training bags that are typically marketed towards kids who are potty training. Sure, they say they are for kids, but like many of these caregiving hacks, that’s just because the marketing companies don’t know how much need there is for these items with older adults.
Not for incontinence exactly, but on the same topic, installing a bidet on your loved one’s toilet could be a great caregiving hack if wiping is tough. There are a number of these devices available, including the adorably named, Tushy, or the Luxe Bidet on Amazon.
Another option would be the Friday mom, upside down peri bottle that is meant to assist with postpartum care. This is a great tool to help washing your loved one’s bottom after toileting.
If there is one thing that essentially every caregiver to an older adult is managing, it’s medication. There can often be a dozen or more pills that an individual is taking and they are all on their own schedule. Here are a few caregiving hacks to help make this a bit easier on yourself.
Put It On The Fridge
The refrigerator isn’t just for drawings from the grandchildren. It’s a central point in the household and often the place where an individual is taking their pills as they go along with meals. This one might be a bit obvious, but you should post a medication list along with their times or other important instructions right there on the fridge as a constant reminder when you or your loved one is reaching for a glass of juice or an ice cream.
If you’ve ever watched a tv show that has a scene taking place within some sort of nursing home or infirmary, you’ve seen it before – a tray of dixie cups with pills placed inside. The reason for this is because they are a near perfect medication distribution device. They are small, your loved one can drop pills right from the cup to their mouth, and also, they can be written upon.
We’d recommend writing the time of day that the pills within should be consumed right on the cup. Your loved one can take those pills at the designated time along with a drink of water and then stack up the empty cups to be reused the following day. You could even consider putting morning meds, daytime meds, and nights meds in different colored cups to make this an incredibly easy system to follow. Try these cups if you need some to get you started.
No Kids, No Child Proofing
If your loved one lives in a home where kids aren’t around, ask your pharmacist to switch out the standard child proof medicine caps for ones that don’t take a remarkable amount of dexterity to open. We’ve all struggled with the cap on a bottle of pills, even in our prime. Removing that pointless struggle could be a major help to your loved one and a very simple caregiving hack that puts you at ease.
Caregiving Tech Hacks
Technology has come a long way in just the past few years and there are an incredible number of day to day devices that can actually be used to great advantage as a caregiver. The following are a few caregiving hacks that give you a twist on how to use modern technology to make your life a bit easier.
Amazon Echo Show
The Echo Show, or other similar devices, can be game changes for an older adult who’s struggling with dexterity, moving about their home, or memory loss. Set the item up and write down a list of commands beside the device for easy reference, replacing the need for complex recall. A device like this can make phone calls, bring up recipes and images, and can be set to work with a smart television and beyond.
Have you used these yet? There are dozens of different “smart” plugs these days – like this one specifically designed for Amazon’s Echo device. You’ll need either an Amazon Echo/Alexa, Google Home, or something similar to use them as intended, but for less than $100 you can have the system set up and ready to go making pretty much any device in your home voice controlled. Your loved one can tell Alexa to turn on the lamp or you could even set up some real clever hacks like plugging a heat blanket into a smart plug or even kitchen appliances like a toaster that’s ready and triggered with a piece of bread, just waiting for the command to turn on.
Electric Can Opener
An electric can opener isn’t really a modern gadget, but one of those things that was developed a while back and you may have had in your kitchen back in the 80’s, never really knowing why. While this gadget may have seemed a bit silly when you were younger, for an older adult who is struggling with strength or dexterity, this can be a life saver in the kitchen. Here’s a link to one that looks good, but there are plenty available if you do a quick Google search.
Motion Sensor Light Bulbs
Worried about your loved one wandering around in a dark house? Don’t want them struggling down the pathway towards their front door in the evening? Motion sensors are no longer an expensive device that takes a professional to install. These motion sensor lightbulbs will screw right into any fixture and instantly turn something like a hall or bathroom light into a motion sensitive fixture. This caregiving hack can truly be a life saver and it takes just a few seconds to set up.
Light Weight Vacuum
This isn’t the most affordable product on our list of suggestions, but if you do have the extra cash, a modern, light weight vacuum cleaner like this one from Dyson could be a huge benefit to your loved one (and a real bonus for you too!). Opposed to the older vacuums that trail along a chord and take quite a bit of strength to lug around the home, these newer stick vacuums are cordless and can be operated with a single hand. If your loved one is still doing their own cleaning, this can really help them out. And, if you’re helping them with the cleaning, you certainly won’t complain with this low impact item.
Car Parking Sensor
Is your mom or dad still driving, but having a tough time judging where their car needs to sit within the garage? You can always hang a tennis ball from the rafters to align with their windshield when the car hits the right spot, or you can get tech forward with this really cool parking gadget that tells your loved one exactly when to hit the brakes and turn off the car.
Need someone to hang photos around the house or mount a television to the wall? Looking for help moving furniture around or clearing junk out of the garage? Want someone to put your new purchases from IKEA together for you? Consider using an app like Task Rabbit to find someone to lend a hand. Task Rabbit is a service where you can find people to help out with nearly any task – be it hammering a few nails into a wheelchair railing or hauling away junk in a pickup truck. It’s a great hack for any caregivers who don’t have the time, skills, or urge to get everything done themselves.
The one thing to note is that you likely want to have renters or home owners insurance if they are doing anything where a bit of risk is involved as Task Rabbit won’t cover the individual if they get hurt. Also, for the most part, these are amateurs, so if you’re looking to do major renovations, plumbing, or electrical work, you should look into official, licensed and bonded companies.
Grocery Delivery Apps
There is pretty much no need to go to the grocery store anymore other than the enjoyment of wandering the aisles and saying hello to your neighbors. If your loved one is capable of making selections, set them up with one of the local delivery apps or on one of the national platforms like Instacart or Amazon Fresh so that they can get their groceries straight from their iPad to their door. It’s also a great caregiving hack for yourself as you can essentially get your grocery shopping done in just 5 minutes and never leave your loved one out of sight while you do it.
Meal Service Subscription
Looking to make meals easy for yourself or the person that you are a caregiver for? Rather than spending your time thinking about recipes and purchasing all of the individual ingredients, consider one of the many meal service subscription options available these days. There are platforms like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron that will send you raw ingredients and recipes – this can make for great activities for you and your loved ones if they are able to help with the preparation – or alternatively, there are programs like Freshly or Sunbasket that can send you tailor made, healthy meals that you just need to pop into the microwave.
Food Hacks for Caregivers
Making sure our loved ones are eating can be tougher than expected. It’s important to be sure that we’re feeding healthy meals, full of the proper nutrients, to those in our care, but that is often easier said than done. Here are a few tips that might help you on the caregiving journey.
Sweet & Salty
Taste buds decrease throughout our lives and the blandness of food as we age can cause us to become uninterested in the food that is put in front of us. Of course, dumping salt or sugar onto a home cooked meal isn’t healthy, but there are plenty of substitutes out there that should go into your caregiving bag of tricks. Try zero-sodium salt substitutes or use local honey in place of sugar to help liven up the food on the dinner table.
Eat Your Oats
Oatmeal is filling and great for heart health. Not only that, but it can be served up in a variety of ways. Traditional, hot oatmeal can be a delight, but you should also consider an overnight oats recipe like this one as it can be made in the evening, portioned out into cups or bowls, and the addition of fruit, nuts, or honey can make it a real treat for your loved one. Whoever thought that something like oatmeal could be on the ultimate list of caregiving hacks?!
Rice. It’s So Easy.
Have you ever tried the ready-made, microwave rice? It’s a game changer! The packets take just 90 seconds to cook in the microwave and make for a filling, bland, healthy meal for someone who isn’t eating much. You can always add condensed chicken noodle soup to make it a bit more like gravy. That makes it easy to swallow, filling, and adds a bit of protein.
Get To Baking!
Odor is connected to memories in so many ways and the smell of fresh baked bread or cookies can help the person in your care foster some fond memories of their youth, simultaneously stimulating their appetite and making them feel comfortable. You don’t need to slave away in the kitchen to put warm, home made treats on the table. Pick up a pack of frozen cookie dough, a box of brownie mix, or even look into an automatic bread maker like this one that can get a fresh loaf of warm, crusty bread on the table with minimal work.
Instant Breakfast Shakes
If the person that you are caring for is giving you a tough time when it comes to eating, try a nutritional, instant breakfast shake like one of these from Carnation. It might not be the total and best substitute for a real meal, but if in need of a hack, these can do in a pinch. It can often be much simpler to get an older adult to sip on a chocolate shake than to eat their chicken and carrots.
Hydrating Freezer Pops
If the person under care isn’t eating well, drinking enough water, or is feeling a bit sick, Pedialyte Freezer Pops could be the answer you’re looking for. They are tasty, cold, and full of electrolytes.
If you follow any diet experts on social media or maybe just some celebrities who are working hard to look good on film, you may be familiar with the concept of meal prepping. It basically just means cooking a whole bunch of nutrient packed food on a day when you have extra time and then portion it out into tupperware or ziploc bags. You can throw these individual portions in the freezer and heat them up for meals throughout the coming weeks. Maybe consider alliterative lunches like Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday, or Spaghetti Saturday.
Here are a couple of hacks to help fight dehydration in your loved one. First of all, consider getting them an insulated tumbler. Particularly great for older adults is one that works with a straw, like this one on Amazon. This is a great way to keep cool (or warm) beverages right beside their bed or next to them on the couch without dealing with messy condensation or liquid that hits room temperature too quickly.
The second caregiving hack would be adding flavor to their water. Anything from cucumber, to lemon, to a bit of watermelon can add healthy flavor to their water without adding much sugar.
And finally, a real fun hack is picking up a cheap mini-fridge like this one that can sit on their bedside counter. Put snacks, juices, or whatever your loved one enjoys in this little fridge and it allows them to access whatever it is that they want or need without leaving their bedroom. It’s a great addition to your caregiving arsenal when you can’t always wisp up to their room at the ring of a bell.
Home Maintenance Hacks For Caregivers
For many caregivers, part of the job is making sure that your or your loved one’s home is being well maintained when you have a free moment. You’ll also want to be sure that things are accessible and easy for the person under care whether they are still living alone or if they could just use a bit of ease to help in their daily routine. This in itself can be a tough job, but some of these hacks might help.
Cleaning Wipes To Save The Day
There are a few things that we all added to our pantries in 2020 with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and some of those will probably become permanent fixtures. One of those items is cleaning wipes. Clorox cleaning wipes are an awesome addition to your arsenal of caregiving hacks around the house. You can keep travel packs in every room and you always have disinfectant wipes at arm’s reach. No need to find the bottle of spray that you keep misplacing, dragging a roll of paper towels around the house, or worrying about things being clean. Just keep these wipes handy and you’ll always be ready to go.
Tape Down The Rugs
Rugs have an awful way of tripping us up and if you have someone in the house who is dragging their feet, using a walker or a cane, or getting around in a wheelchair, keeping the rug stuck to the ground is going to be critical to avoid falls. Luckily, there are rug grippers that will help keep those pesky carpets in place, making your home much less of a hazard.
Forget Feng Shui
In your younger years you may have arranged your bed in a manner that was pleasing on the eyes, allowing are to properly flow through your bedroom. If you’re caring for an older adult, forget all of that. Push their bed up against the wall to reduce the possibility of falling from at least one side. Furthermore, get rid of the bed frame or purchase a toddler’s frame in order to bring the mattress lower to the ground, making it easier for your loved one to get in and out. It isn’t about things looking perfect. It’s about them being functional.
Door Knobs Can Be A Pain
Squeezing and twisting a door knob can be quite difficult for anyone with arthritis or other degenerative conditions in their hands. Look into lever style door handles, the sort that you might see in a commercial building, as these can be much easier for an older adult to use without causing stress or pain. Don’t want to install these yourself? Scroll back up and consider someone from Task Rabbit to help you out. Consider this one a double dose of caregiving hacks.
Pump It Up
Purchase some refillable pump bottles for shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, and anything else that might be rough on sore hands and wrists. Just be sure to label them!
Nobody likes cleaning the gutters and let’s be honest, if you’re a full time caregiver, you simply don’t have the time to climb on the roof and pick leaves out of the gutters every month in the Fall. Perhaps not an official caregiving hack, but we’d certainly recommend having some gutter guards installed on your, or your loved one’s home in order to take one more thing off the list of chores.
Have Someone Else Do The Scooping
If there is a dog living in your home, you know the mess they can make in the yard. This can be dirty, annoying, and a big time suck. Did you know there are actually companies out there that will come to your house and do the poop scooping themselves? Most of these business are local, so we can’t recommend a single solution, but if you head to Google and make a quick search for poop scooping services, you’re bound to find some help.
Keep It All Within Arm’s Reach
A bedside caddy, like this simple solution, can be a game changing caregiver hack for both you and your loved one. With an item like this, you can store tissues, glasses, remote controls, and all sorts of essential items right beside their bed, even closer than reaching for a night stand where there might be other things that get knocked around. This doesn’t just make life easier for the person in bed, but saves you a trip to their bedroom when they can’t reach what they are seeking.
Make Sure There Is An Extra Key
This is crucial. You never know when something might happen while you’re away and unable to return to the home. Be sure there is either a key with a neighbor or a key in a lock box so that someone else can access the home in case of an emergency. You could even pass the lockbox code off to a 911 operator in case of a true emergency allowing first responders to enter the home with ease.
Caregiving Hacks To Heighten Senses
Here are a few last caregiving hacks to keep your loved ones feeling their best at all times, whether they need to hear the television, go for a walk, or just stay warm. As our senses diminish, we need to do our best to stay at our best.
Sick of the television being turned up to maximum volume or needing to shout when having a conversation? A device like this one can be a simple tool to help your loved one without the need for hearing aids that might be difficult for them to wear. It looks like a tech forward music player, but in actuality is just amplifying the sound around them.
Baskets – They Are For More Than Bikes
Remember having a basket at the front of your Schwinn bike when you were a kid? It was the perfect device to throw books, lunch, or whatever it may have been that you were lugging around with you on any given day. Picking up a small basket from Amazon and attaching it to your loved one’s walker with a few zip ties can do just that same trick. Allow them to wander around without anything in their hands or pockets, making life just a bit easier for everyone, reducing falls, and keeping your hands free to help them along as well.
Don’t Be Thin Skinned
It happens to us all as we age – skin gets thinner and it becomes much easier to bruise, tear, or cut ourselves. Here are three caregiving hacks to help with this…
Help the person under care by purchasing arm protectors or simply dressing them in long sleeves. This will help reduce injuries, plus it keeps them warm and cozy.
Another lovely item you can get for someone who’s skin is aging is an extra soft blanket, like the ones from Minky, which are ideal for touch sensory stimulation. Great for laps, beds, sofas, or naps.
And of course, be sure to always keep a flannel shirt or light sweatshirt in your bag or in the car. Older adults can get cold rather easily, so it’s always good to have a quick fix at hand.
Magnify readers like this one are a great thing to keep around the house. Make sure you have one wherever it may be needed for reading – this might be by the bed, near the couch, or even in the car. It’s a great tool to help someone with diminished eyesight.
Make Dressing Easy
If getting dressed isn’t as easy as it once was, do what you can to bring that independence back. Slip on clothes or any adaptive clothing items can help your loved one feel at ease while freeing your time to do more with those few extra moments in the day.
Scissors… the Safe Kind
Purchase a few pairs of kid friendly scissors and keep them in a couple of rooms or even in your handbag to be sure you and your loved one can easily open packages. These sorts of scissors are sharp enough to do the job without the risk of hurting anyone, plus they tend to have soft, grippable handles.
Your Go Kit
The last item on our list of caregiving hacks is simple enough, but something that many don’t have prepared – an emergency bag or “go kit”. If and when something happens and you need to rush to the hospital, you’ll want to have a bag ready to go with you – both for you and your loved one. Be sure you have toiletries, a couple days of meds, chapstick, a change of clothes including underwear and socks, and of course, a phone charger.