As carers we can find ourselves up against some situations, we never could have anticipated. Whether it’s getting bodily fluids out of the sofa or ways to keep someone safe in their home at night - we’ve all had to come up with creative solutions to get by.
Carers in the Mobilise community have been sharing their common carer problems and their innovative solutions. Hopefully, there is something helpful for you in the list below.
Or perhaps you have other ideas, we would love you to share them with us - you’ll be helping even more carers! Simply email us at email@example.com
What’s your current carer challenge?
The person I care for tries to take their seatbelt off in the car: reveal hack
The person I care for is too weak to lift the saucepans: reveal hack
The person I care for can’t get in / out of bed: reveal hack
The person I care for wets the bed: reveal hack
The person I care for raids the fridge and food cupboards: reveal hack
The person I care for turns the oven on: reveal hack
Finding accessible places to go: reveal hack
The person I care for keeps turning on the taps or shower: reveal hack
I need to cut the toenails of the person I care for: reveal hack
The person I care for leaves their bedroom at night: reveal hack
The person I care for sometimes poops in the bath: reveal hack
Managing all the people that need to get into the house to provide support: reveal hack
Making the TV easier for the person I care for: reveal hack
Challenge: The person I care for tries to take their seatbelt off in the car
Carer hack #1
As recommended by carers:
A seat belt cover guard makes clicking that buckle open much trickier!
Buckle cover for a child’s five point harness, keeping busy fingers away from the buckle.
Houdini strap for a child’s five point harness - helpful in stopping those flexible children from getting their arms out of their shoulder straps!
Houdini harness or a Crelling harness for those children (and adults) who have great flexibility and just love to climb out of the seatbelt! These harnesses work really well, according to carers in our community. They can be made even more secure with the addition of the houdini harness (as above) - for those of us caring for children and adults who are very determined…
The Houdini harness can be pricey, but there are some charities that may be able to help with funding, such as New Life or Family Fund for children. For adults, start with a conversation with social care.
Top tip - use the back seats and put the child lock on.
Challenge: The person I care for is too weak to lift the saucepans
Carer hack #2
Cook things like pasta or veg in a basket (like a chip fryer), then they only need to lift out the basket, rather than the whole pan of water. (Use a jug to fill the pan up at the start).
Lift pasta or veg out of a pan, using tongs or a slotted spoon.
Use a pasta tube, which weighs less than a big pan.
For more dinner time tips, easy recipes and prepared meal services, check out meal planning for busy carers.
Challenge: The person I care for can’t get in / out of bed
Carer hack #3
Carers have been sharing some of the kit that they have either bought, hired or had funded through social care. Here are some of their recommendations.
A locomotor rota stand can help to move the person we care for between bed and wheelchair or between different seats. It includes support under the bottom, as they move between seats. Here’s a video of the locomotor rota stand in action.
Slippery sheets or pyjamas can make turning easier too. A combination of both are not recommended as they might slip out of bed altogether! Also helpful for pulling someone back up the bed to help them get comfy.
A bed handle can help some people to support themselves turning over and getting in and out of bed.
"2 simple pieces of kit provided by our OT service were life changing. A bed handle and a slidy sheet meant my husband no longer needed to wake me up 5 times a night to turn over in bed."
Hospital bed - many carers swear a hospital bed is a game changer. An Occupational therapist can help us to access one if we meet the criteria, or it might be part of a hospital discharge assessment. That said, there are some big practical and emotional considerations, including:
If we’re caring for our spouse, then the move to a hospital bed signals the end of our shared bed. This can be a big emotional moment.
The hospitalisation of our home - again, this can be very emotional
Space! These beds are large. We might not be able to fit them in the bedroom. In many cases, they end up downstairs.
Some of these hacks are pretty pricey, so it can be helpful to discuss these needs with your GP, social worker or Occupational Therapist, who can support us to access funding routes and to choose the right piece of kit - which if we’re self funding, will help us avoid spending money on things that don’t help.
Challenge: The person I care for wets the bed
Carer hack #4
This is a really common challenge, so firstly know that you’re not alone! Carers share their top hacks below:
Kylie pads get a special mention by carers in our community, for being affordable, reusable and ‘not moving around’. They also come in both single and double size. Brolly sheets also work in a similar way, simply sitting on top of the bedding. These can also be found on Mumsnet.
Full size mattress protectors can be a good investment too. They’re washable and cover more of the bed. Plus they’re available for both single and double beds.
Carers also recommend getting in touch with your local continence service - your GP should know how to refer.
For more tips of ‘waterproofing’ bedding and sofas, plus tips on cleaning and managing the whole experience with some humour, read our Carers’ guide to cleaning up bodily fluids.
Challenge: The person I care for raids the fridge and food cupboards
Carer hack #5
From midnight raids to emptying the contents onto the floor, many carers have fridge raiders ;-)
Fridge door alarms that sound when the fridge door is opened.
“I keep one cupboard with ‘safe’ stuff that my daughter can safely empty or eat. It allows her some autonomy while minimising the risk (and mess!).”
Some of us may have different challenges, such as the person we care for refusing to eat or take their tablets. Take a look at our guide, which includes top tips on how we can safely encourage the person we care for to eat.
Challenge: The person I care for turns the oven on
Carer hack #6
This can be dangerous, and is a challenge faced by many carers. Here are some of the ways carers are managing.
Popping a lock on the kitchen door is a quick win (although annoying for other people in the house).
Gas ovens - Cadent offers a free gas safety valve fitting to pipes near a gas oven or hob, for people living with dementia. As a carer, we’re given a key to control the gas flow (on or off).
Lots of the child safety locks for ovens work well for adults too.
Induction hobs can only be turned on if a pan is on top of them.
When it comes to kitchen appliances, carers in the Mobilise community have also shared positive experiences of using air fryers, which are safer, allowing us to set timers that automatically switch off.
Challenge: Finding accessible places to go!
Carer hack #7
Carers have shared this fab feature on Google Maps, where we can search for accessible places. This link takes you to a video explaining how to use Google Accessible Places.
Challenge: The person I care for keeps turning on the taps or shower
Carer hack #8
This can be a pain, a mess or even dangerous, and is something many carers have shared as a challenge. Hacks vary from the sophisticated to the “what can I use from the garden shed!” - so hopefully something for everyone!
Good old bungee cords are cheap and can be a simple and effective way to keep taps in the off position.
Some carers recommended a Thermostatic Mixer Valve, which can control the maximum temperature of the hot water, reducing the risk of scalding. An Occupational therapist may be able to advise, and of course a plumber!
Challenge: Help - I need to cut the toenails of the person I care for
Carer hack #9
Personal care challenges can be some of the trickiest. We’re not all cut out for grooming duties and our ‘clients’ may not be the most cooperative. Here are some toe nail clipping tips for our community:
“A long soak in warm water and then nail clippers, rather than scissors. I find clippers safer and stronger - they do the hard work for you!”
According to Quality Compliance Systems, If the person we look after is in a care home, then the home has a duty to look after nails as part of their care plan, if the family is unable.
“Most care homes have a visiting chiropodist, so make sure you get on the list!”
Baby nail trimmers are recommended for being gentle.
There are special clippers for ingrown toenails.
“Ask the GP for an NHS referral to a chiropodist or podiatrist - that can visit at home if needed.”
Challenge: The person I care for leaves their bedroom at night
Carer hack #10
This can be really worrying and impact on our own ability to get some much-needed rest. Carers share the things that are working for them.
Safe space beds. These are like a big tent or soft play enclosure built around a bed, creating a sensory space that keeps the person we care for safely inside. Some occupational therapists will provide funding for these, others won’t. Otherwise charities like New Life may be able to help for children.
“We’ve put a bell on the bedroom door, so we’re woken if Dad gets up in the night”
Tall stair gates (or pet gates) are keeping some people safe at night. This really depends on how tall the person we care for is, or how good they are at climbing.
“The occupational therapist is arranging for us to have a tall stable door made and installed. It means our son can’t escape at night, but the top part of the door can be opened to check on him.”
Floor mat alarms or bedside pressure mats can be placed next to the bed. These sound an alarm when they’re trod on.
Door alarm sensors which alert us if a door is opened. Some can even be hooked up to Alexa these days.
Challenge: The person I care for sometimes poops in the bath
Carer hack #11
This is the kind of stuff we don’t often talk about - but it does happen - and it’s more common than we perhaps realise. It can help to know we’re not alone. Top tips from carers managing this, include:
Keeping a poop diary. If the person we care for tends to go at a certain time of day, we can reduce the risk, by supporting bathing at a different time of day.
“I keep a sieve by the bath! Quick way to rescue any floaters ;o)”
Have lots of towels ready and cleaning products. Just in case we need to quickly drain the bath, remove the person we care for, clean it and start again!
“Anticipating the problem and accepting that it might happen, and then having everything ready ‘just in case’ - means I feel better prepared mentally and practically, if things do go wrong”
Challenge: Managing all the people that need to get into the house to provide support
Carer hack #12
As the amount of people involved in support grows, it can get logistically challenging - especially if the person being cared for is unable to answer the door themselves. In times gone by keys have been left under flower pots. However this isn’t particularly safe. The good news is that carers are singing the praises of key safes.
A key safe is a little box that is screwed to the outside of the house, in a discreet place. The keys are placed inside and the box is accessed via a code - in the same way a regular safe would be accessed.
This means anyone giving support, from friends and family to paid carers, can be given the code and access the key - without the need for lots of duplicate keys being cut.
It’s recommended that the code is changed frequently. Some carers mentioned that social care installed a key safe for them at a cost. While many other carers say it’s cheaper to buy your own and install it yourself.
Challenge: Making TV easier for the person I care for
Carer hack #13
Using a remote control can be challenging if the person we care for gets confused or forgets easily. It could also be difficult to press the right buttons if the person we care for has poor eyesight.
If the person we care for easily forgets what numbers the channels are on, we can stick a large paper (or whiteboard) on the wall next to the TV and put the chosen channels numbers on here for them.
If the person we care for struggles with poor vision, there are a few things we can try:
Some remotes have bigger buttons with just the on/off, volume, and channel for us to press '+' or '-'. To assist with this, we can also reduce the number of channels by hiding some.
Some remote controls come with a big button with voice control (such as Virgin Media) whilst other smart TV respond to voice activation.
Some carers shared that they used tippex around the buttons that were needed so it's easier to see when it's darker.
What’s your recent challenge?
If you have a challenge and want help solving it, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll update our guide to help more carers!
What’s your carer hack?
Please note, that none of the products linked to in this blog are endorsed by Mobilise. We share links to help you start your own research.