4 Daily care of the patient
The basic activities of daily life are eating, dressing, bathing, going to
the toilet, sleeping and resting, walking and communicating with
others. Often when people are sick, they cannot do all these things
alone and they need your help. When people are very ill, you may
have to do nearly everything for them. In many hospitals, the family
may give most of this care, with the guidance and supervision of the
This chapter describes some of the procedures the nurse or family
members use to help patients with the activities of daily living and to
assure their comfort.
Helping the patient to walk and get exercise is described in the
chapter on caring for the patient with limited mobility. Helping the
patient to eat well is in the chapter on meeting patients' nutritional
needs. Helping the patient with elimination (going to the toilet) is in
the chapter on caring for the patient who has problems with
elimination. Communication is covered in the chapter on
communicating with patients and their families.
It is important to help the patient to stay clean and to take care of the
skin, mouth, hair, eyes, ears, and nails. When a person is ill, it is
hard to think about bathing or brushing the teeth or cleaning the
nails; breathing or coping with pain seem a lot more important.
Therefore, the nurse needs to look at whether the patients can clean
themselves and help them when necessary. It is important to ask
patients what they usually do and how they prefer to be helped.
Nursing care of the sick
Different cultures and different religions may have different hygiene
practices. Hygiene is very personal and individuals have different
ideas about what they want to do. When possible, the nurse should
help patients to meet their own personal needs rather than carrying
out a standard routine.
Healthy skin is important. It protects the tissues from injury by
preventing germs (microorganisms) from ente