By Kaye Swain
"Honey, is it time for my cold pack?" my senior mom asked. Checking the clock, I headed for the freezer to grab one of the three hot and cold gel packs we had in there. With the various health issues my sandwich generation family deals with, I always have a good supply of cold packs and ice bags in stock and they come in so handy.
Recuperating from surgery, she was following her doctor's orders to apply them to the wound regularly, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. Not only did they keep the swelling down. They also helped keep the pain at bay, meaning she was able to use less pain medication. That's always a win-win for all of us and especially for our elderly parents.
For a loved one's wrist surgery, we used both the gel cold packs under the wrist along with some "old-fashioned" ice bags on top of the wrist. Those bags may look retro but they work great! They covered the whole wrist better than the gel packs.
Some tips I've learned that can really help:
- Make sure your hot and cold gel packs are the kind that stay flexible when they are frozen. I bought some once that turned into "hard rocks" when frozen and they are not at all comfortable or useful.
- The hot and cold gel packs are especially nice because they work in the freezer OR the microwave. But it's vital to read the directions that come with them. If you don't do it just right, you can ruin your gel packs. That's the last thing you need when caring for an injured patient.
- There are some hot and cold packs with covers and velcro straps that are particularly handy for use when you or a loved one needs icing but also needs to keep moving. Also, if you are caring for aging parents with Alzheimers Disease who need to keep ice bags on a wound but keep taking them off, these may be helpful to encourage them to leave the cold pack alone.
We have several sizes and types of cold packs and ice bags and keep them stored in a plastic container in the garage when they aren't needed. They really are great "tools for the caregiver."
Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.