Many of us today will end up being either the full time or part time caregiver for a loved one who needs special care. To help care for the patient you will probably have to convert a bedroom (or another room) into a sickroom. Here are some tips for how you can organize the sickroom to help keep it clutter free, easier for multiple caregivers to use efficiently, and facilitate the house bound patient’s independence.
Sickroom Organization Tip #1: Remove any unnecessary furniture
When sitting up the sickroom, think carefully about each piece of furniture and what its purpose is. The less items in the room that the patient can trip over the better. You certainly don’t want any area rugs that might slip or slide on a wooden floor.
Sickroom Organization Tip #2: Arrange the furniture with support in mind
Your patient probably has difficulty walking and may fall without support. Consider organizing the furniture in such a way that the patient can walk from place to place with support if necessary. If the patient spends most of his time in bed or in a favorite armchair, put a walker or cane close by for easy access.
Sickroom Organization Tip #3: Provide a cordless phone
Though they are becoming less common, some people still have the traditional land line phone with the cord. This can be a tripping hazard. Make sure to replace this with a cordless model or provide your patient with a cell phone within easy reach, say on a nightstand by the bed. If your patient will be spending any time alone in the house, even temporarily, it is important he has a way to call for help if necessary.
Sickroom Organization Tip #4: Plug in a night-light
If your patient might need to get up at night for any reason it is important that he has at least minimal light in order to see.
Sickroom Organization Tip #5: Make sure you have good lighting
Every area of the sickroom should have good lighting, either overhead or with a lamp, that is easy to turn on and off. This is not only for the patient (inadequate light can cause depression and increase the likelihood of a fall), but also for the caregiver and others that are responsible for keeping the room clean and clutter free.
Sickroom Organization Tip #6: Organize the dresser with the caregiver in mind
As the caregiver you probably have several kinds of items you need regular access to. Consider using the top two drawers of the patient’s dresser for these kind of items: nightgowns, underwear, incontinence pads, fresh bedding.
Sickroom Organization Tip #7: Get a bed with side rails
If you can afford to get a new bed for your patient, consider getting one with side rails. Side rails can help prevent falls, but they are also useful in keeping the bed looking neat and tidy. Blankets and sheets are less likely to pull apart with the side rails in place making it easier to remake the bed later.
Sickroom Organization Tip #8: Provide a cooler or small refrigerator nearby
If the patient is bedridden, it will be difficult for him to walk to the kitchen to get a cold drink or snack. To help with this problem and to increase the patient’s independence consider providing a cooler or even a small college dorm style refrigerator for the sickroom. You can fill this with cold beverages and snack food and put it close to the bed on a table, chair, or nightstand.
Sickroom Organization Tip #9: Keep bath items in the basin
If as the caregiver you are going to be giving your patient bed or sponge baths, you don’t need to worry about making some special storage area to store all your bathing supplies (soap, sponges, towels, shampoo, etc.). All these can be stored right in the large basin you use for baths. When not in use, the basin can be tucked away in a closet or nightstand.
Sickroom Organization Tip #10: Store essentials either in a handy sack or on a tray
Your patient will have several essential items that both the patient and caregivers will need to have easy access to. These can include things like medications, inhalers, and the phone. How you choose to store and organize these essentials is up to you. Some caregivers like to use a sack or tote that can be hung from a chair or on a walker or from a hook by the bed. Other caregivers prefer to use a tray because the items are out in the open and readily identified. This also makes it easier to know when certain items may be running low and need to be restocked. The key is to keep all essential items together and easily found, rather than scattered all around the room.
Lori Baird (editor). Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff