If you are providing care for a loved one with a chronic disease or ongoing illness, tracking symptoms, monitoring progress, and addressing developments or concerns at home is essential to avoiding unwanted trips to the hospital. While a home health care agency may in some cases be providing some supplemental support in the form of a nurse who visits weekly, regular attention to well being is largely left up to patients and their caregivers.
Short of writing down symptoms daily, is there anything else you can be doing to take better control of your loved one’s condition and enhance their overall wellness? Absolutely. Putting together a home health kit is not like putting together a first aid kit - ditch the bandages and antiseptic, and instead opt for these helpful tools and ideas:
A small, nifty pulse oximeter slips on over a finger and within seconds can give you a reading of oxygen saturation levels and pulse rate. A low oxygen saturation (less than 92%) can indicate your body is not intaking or absorbing as much oxygen as it should. A resting pulse rate below 60 beats per minute or above 100 beats per minute can indicate arrhythmia or other irregular heart-related problems.
If your loved one is short of breath, dizzy, or confused, a quick pulse oximeter reading can let you know if they need to stop and take several deep breaths to get their oxygen back up, or seek help for respiratory obstruction or heart issues. When looking for the best pulse oximeter, make sure it reads quickly and accurately, slight variations can make a huge difference.
Blood Pressure Monitor
An easy to use blood pressure monitor in the form of a digital wrist or arm cuff can generate a blood pressure reading within a minute or two (and oftentimes shares pulse rate as well). Monitoring blood pressure regularly by logging a reading every day around the same time provides a baseline for what your loved one’s normal blood pressure is as well as alerts you to concerning low or high readings.
Blood pressure may fluctuate due to infection, a change in health condition, heart trouble, activity level, and so on. If you are able to record a change in blood pressure readings and alert your loved one’s doctor or other medical provider by phone, they may be able to order home health evaluation and tests (i.e. a blood panel or mobile chest x-ray) stat to get you the help you need while saving you and your loved one the exhaustion of a trip to their office.
You likely already have a temperature reading thermometer in your own home, but adding it to your home health kit specifically is a good idea too. Thermometers can at a glance let you know if body temperature is too high or too low, indicating hypothermia or potential fever. While thermometers typically stuck to the ‘under the tongue’ varieties in most homes for decades, recent developments in over the counter thermometers include a new type which measures temperature by simply swiping a wand back and forth across the forehead. A high temperature reading in conjunction with a drop in blood pressure could be symptomatic of an infection and can help you gauge your loved one’s need for medical attention.
List of Your Diagnoses/Medicine
Anyone caring for someone with a chronic condition like MS or Parkinson’s knows that any time you see the doctor, go to the hospital, or are visited by a home health agency, they need to know the names, dosages, and frequencies of all your loved one’s medicines. Having an up to date, clearly printed list of current prescriptions and over the counter medicines (including vitamins, allergy medicines) your loved one is taking stashed away in your home health kit means it will be handy when needed and save a lot of confusion and questions if the need arises for them to be treated for something.
Additional tools like stethoscopes, blood sugar monitors, and weight scales may be recommended by your loved one’s doctor to monitor specific diseases at home like diabetes or COPD. No matter what you include, tools for managing illness and tracking symptoms give you a leg up on your loved one’s condition, helping you proactively address problems or potential changes down the line.
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