Given the demands of caregiving and the possibility of urgent situations that make running errands impossible, family caregivers can benefit from keeping a cadre of supplies on hand for themselves and their carees. There are a lot of potential home care situations to be ready for, and you never want to be caught off guard. Having the right caregiving supplies will keep you prepared and can save a sudden panic if you don’t have an urgent item and can’t make it to the store right away.
To help others with what to store in their caregiving supply closet, I have created a list of items I used when I cared for my dad, who had cancer, and for my husband, who had ALS. I've also included item suggestions from family caregivers who cared for individuals with a wide variety of needs. Peruse this list and see what relates to your experience – and what may currently be missing from your shelves. Depending on the item and frequency of use, you may want to have at least one- or two-month supplies on hand.
Keep the following documents in a clearly marked envelope in your supply closet:
- A written or typed list of meds, including dosages, times to administer and special instructions.
- Important contact names and numbers (including physicians and the pharmacy) as well as important documents such as the health care proxy, living will or special directives.
This information is essential on multiple levels. If gives you something to look at if you ever have a memory lapse, and it will also be there if someone else suddenly has to step in and provide care.
- Small dry erase boards for lists and notes to and from the family caregiver, the hired caregiver and other family members.
- Post-it notes to indicate dosages, preferences and reminders. Also good for sweet nothings!
- Paper towels
- First aid kit
- Non-stick bandages to avoid a bandage sticking to aging skin, which becomes paper-thin and fragile.
- Gauze in various sizes and shapes. You can wrap the gauze around non-stick bandage and add tape over the gauze to ensure the bandage covers the wound.
- Paper tape, which is gentler on sensitive skin.
- Surgical tape
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hand sanitizer
- An over-the-counter pain reliever (check with your caree's doctor before dispensing)
- Over-the-counter cold and flu medicine (check with your caree's doctor before dispensing)
- Exam gloves
- Baskets and trays to transport several things at once.
- Duct tape to help make things accessible, such as adding foam around eating utensils to make them easier to hold. You can also use the tape to fix or adapt things quickly.
- Small blankets, throws, towels and foam cushions for comfort as well as propping up your caree and changing his or her position. What works one day might not work the next, so it’s important to have options.
- Gait belt and/or yoga strap for help lifting your caree
- Bed pads which are waterproof and/or soft, depending on needs
- Plastic or inflatable bins for water
- Bottled water and distilled water as well as sterile saline solution.
- Low sodium soup stock, which can be an easy meal or used to thin out food. I always had several cans.
- Ginger ale and crackers in case of an upset stomach.
- Nutritional supplements.
- Thickener, if needed for help consuming liquids.
- Food processor or blender to quickly process foods if eating solids is difficult.
- Bibs. For a fun alternative, I found an apron with Batman’s body that always made us laugh.
- Utensils for people with disabilities. In our experience, having duct tape and even some paper towels enabled me to economically pad utensils and make them easier to hold.
- Water bottles. Experiment with different bottle weights as well as straws and openings.
- Rinse-free bath soap and shampoo
- Disposable wipes/washcloths for adults
- Witch hazel, which is very soothing after cleaning
- Alcohol and alcohol wipes
- Hairdresser’s cape which is helpful when shaving or washing and cutting hair, but sometimes even for putting on the floor to avoid a mess.
- Biotene® spray and mouthwash for dry mouth
- Disposable chucks. Some prefer washable cloth chucks, but we found disposable ones easier to deal with. Be sure to get strong ones and layer them until you’re sure they are strong, which may take some experimenting. Once you find ones you like, be sure to have enough to last at least two months.
- Adult diapers, even if your caree is continent. Adult diapers can be helpful during short-term situations such as the flu.
- Eye wipes
- Bed pans and urinal
- Saline spray
- Creams and lotions including those that are anti-itch, barrier, anti-fungal and arnica
- Anti-itch and anti-fungal powders
- Mouth swabs
- Self-adhesive bandages
Adaptive Daily Life Equipment Accessories and Parts
While equipment needs will vary by disease, I suggest having extra parts and accessories on hand. For example, you can have a ready supply of extra tubing, masks, cannulas and bandages in case things run out or break, but also to troubleshoot if a machine is not working properly.
A lanyard for keys and other items, adaptive zipper pulls, a long shoe horn and Velcro fasteners all helped give independence. Even an easy-to-use television remote is useful.
On a Special Shelf
Store patience, love and a sense of humor on a special shelf. Also keep items that amuse, distract and comfort. Coloring books, crossword puzzles, books, photographs, music CDs and movies should all be within easy reach.
About the author
Abby Kass was the caregiver for her father, who had cancer, and for her husband, who had ALS. She reflects on those experiences in her blog, www.PixieDustForCaregivers.com. She is currently enrolled in CareGiving.com’s Certified Caregiving Consultant program.