Understanding The Homebound Patient and 5 Things You Can Do To Help

The homebound patient faces challenges beyond that of the typical patient. Not only are they sick, but they are sick enough that they can’t leave their house, and if they can, it puts a ton of burden on them to do so.

This may seem at first glance self-explanatory, however, really think about it for a second. The homebound patient (THP) doesn’t leave their house to do the following:

Societal Requirements

  • Go to work


  • Go to dinner/lunch
  • Go to the movies
  • Go to recitals/school functions/baseball games
  • Go to sporting events

Personal Care

  • Go to doctor/dentist/therapist
  • Go to a salon/get haircut/pedicure

Random Stuff

  • Go to Starbucks
  • Go for a walk
  • Have pets (could be too difficult to care for)
  • Participate in previous activities (run/bike/swim/sports/theater/church)
  • Take out the trash
  • Do laundry
  • Go grocery shopping

What this means for the homebound patient is a significant loss in life satisfaction and even the ability to truly take care of oneself. All these things above that are taken for granted by the healthy can be extremely impactful on the disabled/sick. Just one of these items could be discouraging to anyone. For THP, these situations compound each other. Days merge into weeks of not seeing anyone. Even small interactions are few and far between. Simply saying hello to someone in CVS or at the mall is gone. I know what you are thinking, how great would it be to NOT have to engage with people. Sure, but again, it’s the total inability to engage at all that is detrimental to the homebound patient.

Let me highlight one common suggestion — to get a pet. However, for a lot of homebound patients, taking care of a pet is out of the question. Taking a dog for a walk maybe too taxing. Lifting and scooping kitty litter maybe outside their range of motion or lifting ability. Perhaps driving to the vet is not an option. This can be defeating for the homebound patient — realizing that not only are they incapable of engaging periodically with human beings, but acquiring a companion for the home is not an option either. This can make things very bleak for THP.

I do not bring attention to these issues to depress, but to educate and to emphasize what even a small effort by healthy individuals can mean for THP. Lives get busy, things are constantly on the go … but not for the homebound. It could mean the world to a homebound patient if people spent even a few minutes to engage or to help.

General Things You Can Do To Help

First off, take a look at the list. Is there anything on there that pops out at you? Something you have witnessed or heard is difficult for THP. Could you offer to do the grocery shopping from time to time? Perhaps this individual really likes cake or a specific coffee that is hard for them to get. What a treat it would be for you to pick it up periodically for them. Many grocery deliveries do not offer choices from the deli. Maybe a rotisserie chicken or a favorite sandwich. That is always a nice option.

Perhaps trash or laundry is hard for the individual. You could always call and say, I’d love to come over for a visit. How about I bring some wine, we can pop in your laundry and catch up while it runs? Often times homebound patients don’t want to ask for help. When you offer, you might be surprised at how grateful they will be.

Maybe this homebound patient is able to have a dog. However, they are incapable of bringing the dog to the beach or for hikes. It might mean the world to them if you called and said that you were going to take your own dog for a hike, and would they like it if you swung by and picked up their dog and took them as well? That dog might be their best friend and they might be grateful their best friend got to do something they normally wouldn’t be able to do.

Five Things You Can Do

1. Call or text

THP knows that you are busy and can’t always stop by. However, a phone call or a text is always super welcome. On your way home from work? Use your hands-free device and call THP. Chat about your day. THP might not be able to participate in all of the activities that you do, but they still want to know what your day was like. Your boss yelled at you? Why? Tell me more! THP can engage just as well as someone who is healthy. Just because they are sick or disabled doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good listener.

Did you just finish watching the Green Bay Packers game? Shoot off a text. Did you see that play! It doesn’t have to be a long conversation. It will make THP feel normal, because they are! You can easily bring some normalcy back into their lives with quick, easy texts.

That’s one of the things THP misses the most — just the everyday normal exchanges.

2. Start an online book club with them

Going out is hard or impossible for THP. Often times, much of their activities will be things they can do within their own home, like reading/listening to an audiobook. Suggest to your homebound family member or friend that you create your very own book club. You can all read the same book and then discuss it over an internet video or chat group. THP will feel apart of something and will be able to talk about something other than their illness, disease, or injury. It will give THP something to look forward to and break up the mundaneness of their lives.

3. Cooking Party

We all want to do this. We dream of going to the grocery store and buying the items we will need for the week and preparing our meals in advance. Why not do this with THP? Chances are it might be difficult for THP to prepare meals for themselves due to physical restrictions. For the healthy individual, it might just be a matter of time. Why not combine the two? Pick out a recipe that can be completed in the time restrictions for THP and cook together? You can make large portions that both you and they can then freeze. This is time well spent all the way around. It also takes the pressure off of THP to feel like you are sacrificing your own time when you come over to help them or to spend time with them. Now they can feel like it was for your benefit as well.

4. Cocktail Hour

If making dinners seems like too much, what about something fun, like trying out new cocktail recipes? It is not as labor intensive as making a meal and can be really, really fun. Maybe something that you wouldn’t normally make for yourself, like a Pisco Sour? All you have to do is pick up lemon juice, egg white, Pisco, and simple syrup. You can both giggle away while shaking your shaker full of ingredients wondering how in the world an egg white will make your drink better. Trust me, it will.

5. Offer To Drive

This one  can be difficult, but well worth it. One of the reasons THP can’t leave their home is their inability to drive themselves. You could offer to pick them up and take them for a quick coffee, or an appetizer — whatever is within THP time restrictions. Perhaps THP has a special car, no problem! Drive on over and just hop in their car instead. Easy-peasy.

Things To Keep In Mind

THP spends a lot of time trying to occupy their time within their own home. This means they probably watch a lot of television or play video games. So as much as it may seem like a good idea to suggest watching Game of Thrones together, this may not appeal to THP because it is something they can do by themselves. What they crave is interaction and conversation. They crave new experiences. You can be the champion of that.

One Final Thought

In this globally connected world, we often think of charity work or good deeds as having to occur online, physically in some far away land, or monetarily in the form of a donation. People post on Facebook about their support against abuses in the world. This is all wonderful and I champion it all. However, don’t forget to think locally — to look around your own neighborhood, your own immediate family, or your own grandparents to find someone whose life could be improved by these simple steps.

I bet there is a lot you can do to help someone out who is closer than you think.

Until next time.


Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at madelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

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