Safety is always a priority. This is a basic principle of human survival, even more so in the healthcare industry. Ensuring patient safety while providing care is of utmost importance, because when a patient sustains an injury, their health and life are further compromised.
A caregiver's primary duty is to help patients perform activities of daily living, and as such, they should always perform the following quick safety checks to keep patients out of harm's way.
1. During bedside care, check:
a. Patient position when eating in bed.
When having their meals in bed, make sure the patient is sitting upright or propped high with pillows, to prevent food particles and liquids from entering the lungs through the windpipe—a dangerous complication also known as aspiration.
b. The consistency of their food and drink, with difficulty swallowing.
Weak patients who have difficulty swallowing should only take thickened foods and drinks to prevent aspiration.
c. Any source of fire nearby, if they are using oxygen.
Ensure no one is smokes or lights a fire, such as a lighter or matches, in the same room as the patient. This risks starting a fire and explosion.
d. A bedridden patient’s position every two hours.
If the patient barely moved in bed, reposition them accordingly and support their neck, arms, and legs with pillows as needed to prevent the development of pressure sores.
e. How family members reposition a patient in bed.
The patient should not be pulled or dragged against the bed sheets, nor should they be moved by lifting them from under their arms.
f. The wheels of the bed.
Always check if the wheels of the bed are locked, because the bed might slide out of position when the patient gets out.
g. The height of the bed.
The bed should be in its lowest position when patients are left alone. When patients get out of bed, their feet should readily touch the ground. If the bed is too high, they will have to slide down and awkwardly land on their feet. A patient is very likely to get out of balance this way.
h. Their call bell, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and mobility devices such as canes and crutches, and keep them within easy reach.
Check whether the patient has the call bell nearby in case they need immediate assistance. Also, ensure everything they need to be independent and safe while moving about is readily accessible to them.
2. When transferring a patient or helping them walk, check:
a. The wheelchair wheels.
The wheels should be locked before attempting to transfer them to the wheelchair, or the patient could fall when the wheelchair slides out of position.
b. Their shoes or slippers before going for a walk.
Check whether the soles of their shoes and slippers are made of non-slip material such as rubber. Also ensure their shoelaces are securely tied.
3. Observe how the patient takes their medications.
Although some caregivers are not allowed to administer medications, they can observe if patients are taking them as recommended. For example, confused patients can forget that it’s time to take their meds and miss a dose. Sometimes, they also forget they took them already, resulting in double doses.
4. Home care
a. Look for safety hazards such as clutter, loose cords, rugs, and slippery floors.
If you note any of these, take the necessary steps to remove or correct those hazards.
b. Check the availability of grab bars wherever needed.
Check if there are grab bars installed in the toilet, bath, and other places where the patient needs to keep their balance standing up or sitting down.
c. See if the patient has adequate lighting at night.
Will the patient be able to see adequately and safely go to the toilet at night?
5. General safety practices
You can help the patient avoid contracting or spreading infectious diseases. Does the patient wash their hands after using the toilet as well as before eating? Do they know how to avoid people with active infections?
Are meals properly prepared? Are leftovers properly stored and then disposed of after three days in the refrigerator?
Finally, are they wearing seatbelts when traveling by car?
As a caregiver, make it a habit to do these quick safety checks when providing patient care. They’re an effective way to keep the patient (and you) safe. Preventing an injury is always better than providing care after the patient already had an accident!
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