Giving Care To A Loved One With AIDS

Proper rest and exercise, a feeling of independence, and a positive environment can all help your loved one with AIDS feel better and live longer.

People living with AIDS should take care of themselves as much as they can for as long as they can. They need to be and feel as independent as possible. To the best of their capabilities, they need to control their own schedules, make their own decisions, and do what they want.

In addition to regular visits to the doctor, many people with AIDS stay healthy by eating properly, sleeping regularly, doing physical exercises, and/or praying or meditating. If your loved one finds something that helps makes him or her feel better, encourage him or her to keep it up. An exercise program can help maintain weight and muscle tone and can make your loved one feel better.

Well-balanced, good-tasting meals help people feel good, give them energy, and help their bodies fight illness. People with HIV are better off if they don’t drink alcoholic beverages, smoke, or use illegal drugs. Keeping up-to-date on new treatments—and understanding what to expect from current treatments—is also important.

There are also some simple things you can do to help your loved one feel comfortable at home:

  • Respect his or her independence and privacy.
  • Give him or her as much control as possible. Saying “Can I help you with that?” lets your loved one keep control.
  • Ask what you can do to make him or her comfortable. Many people feel shy about asking for help, especially help with things like using the toilet, bathing, shaving, eating, and dressing.
  • Keep the home clean, bright, and cheerful.
  • Let your loved one stay in a room that is near a bathroom.
  • Arrange tissues, towels, a trash basket, extra blankets, and other things your loved one might need, so that these things can be reached from the bed or chair.
  • If the person you care for has to spend most of the time in bed, be sure to help him or her change position often. A person with AIDS should get out of bed as often as possible. A nurse can show you how to help someone move from a bed to a chair without hurting either one of you. Bed movement helps prevent stiff joints, bedsores, and some kinds of pneumonia. Your loved one may also need your help to turn over or to adjust pillows or blankets. A medical “trapeze” over the bed can help your loved one shift position independently if he or she is strong enough. If the person you care for is so weak that he or she can’t turn over, have a nurse show you how to use a sheet to help roll him or her from side to side. Usually a person in bed needs to change position at least every 4 hours.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from Caring for Someone with AIDS at Home: A Guide, ACTIS Publication No. D817, United States Department of Health and Human Services, AIDS Clinical Trial Information Service.

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