10 Tips and Gadgets for Senior Care Givers

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Ideas and gadgets to help you with your senior care giving by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; So both mother and I are losing our marbles. She simply cannot find anything these days. Yes, I know I have taken her in for a memory check and it’s her immediate memory that is getting nutty. I just need to figure out how to help her with the finding keys, remote control, her wallet, her glasses…wow, driving me wild…can you help?

We all need gadgets to help us in life. Dementia, even younger senior memory burps drive everyone crazy…so how nice to have a few things that can help us out.

WHERE IS THE REMOTE? WHERE ARE MY KEYS?
Tile for finding phones, keys and remote

Tile for finding phones, keys and remote

Two different products are in line for gold stars. These are designed to find things you tend to mis-place, like the remote, the cell phone, your keys, a cane, anything that you can put down and then forget. They are called the Tile and Magic Finders. They work the same but the price is different Magic Finders I found online and in-store at Bed Bath and Beyond is a little less expensive. I do not know if they are easier or better than Tiles? This is how they work. You stick them on things that walk away from you. They have little locators on them that work through apps on your smart phone. So make sure your senior has the smart phone, availability. Bluetooth means they have to have Wi-Fi in the home. But how sweet is that? For all of us!

TipsRULE// if you get a senior a smart phone…take time to teach them how to use it. Keep the apps down to just a few so they do not get confused. Have them do the step by step in front of you a couple of times…so they can use it…not be afraid of it. Then…call and text them often so they remember how to use it…keep it close to them so seniors are not afraid of it. If you empower them to the use of smart phones you will be able to free yourself to time consuming “constant return home visits”.  (PS??Jitterbug makes great senior smart phones w big screens)

MOTHER HAS GONE MISSING…two tips here!
Door Bell Alert

Door Bell Alert

When George walked outside and got stuck a block away…I got 3 open-doorbells that attached to the front, back and garage doors. I found my system at the hardware store, they are inexpensive and easy to install. Every time my outside entry doors open up, they have a loud ring. This may drive you crazy at first, but at least you know when a child or elder is walking out of the house and you can run and give it a check. My Georgie is now gone, but I left it on my door…it makes me feel safer to hear a bell if someone opens the door. This works on a AA battery and is easy to put up on the door. No Wi-Fi is required.

 

Bluetooth Guardian 650-80 Alert

Bluetooth Guardian 650-80 Alert

The next is a locator that works through your cell phone.But these are expensive. I looked all over for one for George, in my price range, they were just too much for me. Now I found a new one for under $30 dollars…so use it for Kids or Grandmas too! Remember these are 250 foot range locators that are connected to an app with Bluetooth locator features for your own cell phone. I would have loved this when I took George shopping, he would often walk away from me…then I would panic and spend my time trying to find him all over the store. It was scary stuff.

WHAT TIME IS IT?
ALEXA, REMIND ME TO CALL MY GRAND-DAUGHTER ON HER BIRTHDAY!
Amazon Echo Alexa Voice System

Amazon Echo Alexa Voice System

What’s up, Alexa? I got an Amazon Echo for Christmas from my dear friend. I was thrilled, I love the idea of “mini helpers” and Alexa has proven her worth over and over again. What it is…it’s a mini robot, in a small box, that sits on your counter. You need to have a Wi-Fi connection for this device too…but it’s so great and would help seniors living alone….so much!

You put the Echo or Tap on your counter and you can take them from room to room if you like. I keep mine in the bedroom. I use a plug-in Echo…but they have 3 week battery ones called Taps or Dots that are more portable if you like. Anyway, Amazon has designed them as a first step to robot help, in your home. You keep it plugged into the wall and projecting Wi-Fi. Then you talk to it in a normal voice tone.

Just say something like this:  Alexa, what time is it? Alexa play big band music.  Alexa how do you spell, hitch?  Alexa add dish washing soap to my shopping list. Alexa what is on my shopping list? Alexa what is the local forecast for next week? Alexa turn on my light.  Alexa turn off my TV. Alexa how many steps have I taken today? Alexa please read my Amazon Kindle book, out loud, to me. Alexa set alarm for my pills at 2PM today. Alexa who is at the front door? Alexa play the news today. Alexa turn down the heat. Alexa have a pizza delivered to the house. It will respond to all voices when addressed with Alexa…or the Tap, adds a tap to the box to turn it on. It has a wonderful speaker inside that sounds terrific. The surround sound works well for all of us, even if the elder has a hearing reduction you just turn it up and they are in business.

Can you see how helpful this would be for a senior that learns how to use this simple, little box that sits on the counter and tells all of us how our life is organized and connected? I love it and Alexa is growing and learning new tasks every day. The extra plug-ins that go on the wall outlets to connect the lights or TV, or whatever you need to turn on and off during your day. They are just a voice command away. No more trying to worry about turning things on and off as you move through your day. Really great for seniors that have movement problems.

Alexa connects to your Fitbit, your Ring doorbell and Wi-Fi home furnace heat monitor and your garage door and many other special product designs. Why not start to use robotic and remote services to help with your day? The Amazon Echo is a one-time purchase there are no monthly fees. You just plug it in and start to talk to it and it talks back. Just to listen to a book you want to read when your eyes are tired…listen to your favorite radio talk show or listen to your own style of music. Come on. This is fun and your senior will love it when you “teach them” how to use it. Do not buy it, if you think they will figure out how to use it…it will take a lesson and patience on your part… to set it up and get them using it.  (George Jetson, would love it! I sure do.)

HELP
No monthly fee 911 Pendant

No monthly fee 911 Pendant

OK so I have talked about this one before but I think it’s important! It’s a 911 auto-dial. I know that there are loads of medical alerts buttons that have great services. But some folks cannot afford the monthly billing. This is a one-time purchase and it simply needs a set-up once to get it plugged into your own local 911 systems. Once this is done, your senior can wear it around their neck or on their trousers all the time- anywhere. It works like a cell phone, FREE…because 911 calls are free! No monthly bills, just a feeling of safety where ever they go. I want one for my daily walks!

I found this with a good price online at HSN I am going to order one for me, too!

MY FEET HURT!
Try inserts at local pharmacy

Try inserts at local pharmacy

I understand that if you are young, it’s hard to imagine that your feet could be painful with every step. But as one ages, foot padding gets thinner and the feet can really hurt! Or they can swell –  or they can have very painful nerve problems. So start today. Get a good insert for your senior. You can find them in the pharmacy section. They are for the heel and instep and they keep the foot in alignment and that means they relieve the pain. Try a couple different ones in the senior’s shoes.I have them in all of my shoes…when I buy a new pair, I buy a new pair of inserts. I also update mine every six months so my feet are comfy!

TipsRemember that slippers that seniors wear around the house, should not be mule style. You want a senior to walk around the house in comfortable shoes that will not cause them to slip, trip or lose their balance and to be able to walk out to their garden or porch without changing shoes. Falls are the wicked “end to freedom” for seniors, living on their own. Keep them safe with safe “easy on” shoes and add insoles that will help them feel pain free when they walk. Get them a good shoe horn that has a long handle so they do not have to bend over to use it. That way your senior will keep walking and get more exercise.

SAFE EXERCISE
exercise bar

Exercise Bar that is easy to use

NO, you never are too old to move and stretch. Never, my mother was doing her stretches at the age of 100 years.  You have to keep bodies moving in order for the heart and the body to be strong. So what do you do with a senior that does not want to exercise?

You DO NOT get them a bunch of fancy machines that they will never use. You get them the rubber banding that will stretch out for them and a trip to the Physical Therapy specialist will put your senior in the know. You can also find the same type of thing with a hand band system that comes with how to videos. This can be kept by their special TV chair for the senior and you can call them each day and get them to reach over and get their bands and start to stretch and move with them as you chat on the phone. You in your chair, using your own bands and they in their chair, using their bands. This is how you make sure they work on their body and in the meantime…you get a good stretch out with them, too! Here is the video connection.

MedCenter Talking Pill Alert

MedCenter Talking Pill Alert

MedCenter is a “talking” alarm system to remind your senior to take your pills up to four times a day. For seniors with memory problems this really adds a special layer of safety.
Did you know that doctors that feel a patient will not take a medication on time…will not even give the senior a prescription for that medication?
It is serious stuff to take medications on time and with or without food and do it without any help when their memory is not clear. Or if they are not feeling well and sleeping a great deal. Give your senior a chance at solid medication levels by using something like this for their daily pills. I would suggest you set it up and replenish the pills each week. That way you can keep an eye on how your senior is taking their pills and keep the re-order of medication on time each month. You can find this at your Walmart and other local pharmacy chains. Approx $30-$40

 

merrilee at johnnys

Lunch w my sister Merrilee at Johnny’s Dock in Tacoma, WA

Hope that was informational for you…I really enjoy using all of these products and I think they are so helpful. Trying to work around busy schedules and still keep our seniors in their own homes or safe with-in our home, is so important. Good luck…and thank you for caring for your elders. What your love and support means…it’s the world to your senior!
Blessings, francy

The Fear of Loss and Pain of Grief

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Facing the loss of your loved one and living through the pain of grief when they are gone…by francy Dickinson

699-happy-new-yearDear Francy:
Most of you know I lost my dear Georgie last year, in November. My holidays were blurry that first month…and so this year is my first holiday without my Georgie and the sadness and feeling of loneliness has been hard for me.

I enjoy hearing from all of you and I have been returning emails and helping anyone in need of a good talk through…but I have not been posting. I am in hopes that I will be able to concentrate and get posting again on a good speed in the new year. Its one of my first of the year goals.

Its my birthday…and New Years Eve and New Years Day used to be a happy time for me. I felt the whole world celebrated my birthday…so I always looked forward to it. In good times…George would always take me out dancing. Parties in cities close and far away. We were in the travel business…so traveling to a wonderful city for New Years was part of the excitement of the holidays. I am so aware of those memories when life was good and times were special with my guy. But what I want to share with you…is the fear and pain that took over when George started suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

This idea that you give care until someone passes is really not true. The truth is, mental health issues mean that a person changes in personality and in their memory on a daily basis. So way before any end of life issues pop up…you are starting to lose the person you love. Each day their brain changes and in bits and pieces they leave and never return. So in essence you lose your loved one every day. It’s a very hard thing to live with and hard to understand. But you have to be aware its the truth. Doctors, nurses they do not tell you these things…they do not give care like you do. They treat and diagnose — you do the care giving so you feel and see the changes. It could be a forgotten name, or a forgotten word and you watch them try to find another word to use in the conversation. It could be an emotional outburst or a series of days when nothing is said at all…quiet! It could be a strange walking gait, or a repeated action over and over again.

The doctors don’t see it, your family doesn’t see it…YOU see it and FEEL it and it scares the beegeebies out of you! What can you do…how do you make it better? Can you exercise it out…can you calm them down…can you change how you have conversations with them. Can you take the car keys away, can you put alarms on the doors to hear when they just walk out…can you put up signs to help them remember things? Your mind starts to race and you feel. ALONE.

I can not take that feeling away from you. But I can tell you…that you must keep your mind on the goal. That goal is to give your loved one the best “end of life” that you can. It may be a year or ten years ahead…but just take a step at a time and try hard to get support. Write to me, join a support group…ask a few good friends to meet at your place each month so you can express your fears and upsets. YOU need to be strong…because the ride is not pretty and it’s not short.

You also need to have as much help as you can. Trying to be quiet about the struggle will only hurt you and your loved one. Telling family and friends and asking a few of them to be your mind and heart is what is needed. Do you have a friend that is good on the Internet…well ask them to look up the details of problems you are finding and working through. There are wonderful tips out there, but they have to be found so ask that friend to be your eyes on the world.

Do you have a friend that will drive you around? Ask them to take you to the hospital, doctor appointments and therapy treatments. That way you can control your loved one, keep them calm and the driving can be safely done by your friend. You have to ask, you have to say…I NEED HELP. If you don’t you are hurting yourself and your loved one.

The brain of a dementia patient is not going to magically heal…so you simply have to be verbal to people about the situation. I told everyone in the neighborhood. “If you see George walking in front of your house without me next to him. Go out and get him to come in for coffee and call me…please!” Who are you going to impress by being quiet? Let your village know that you have a situation that needs their help…and you will get it back. People want to help…they just don’t know what to do.

I know my loss of George, after his death, has been hard on me. I adored the guy and we were bestest friends and I feel empty. I have to heal and begin to bring new things into my life to feel whole again. I know that…but for me…its been a slow heal. What do I do?

I talk to family and friends about my sadness…I look at pictures of him, I have a little area in my bedroom that has an enlarged picture and candles that I burn each night. It calms me and I feel close to George when I do that…even though he is not there…I feel him there and it comforts me. You need to do the same thing….but in your own way. Find little routines that make you feel safe and start to fill up time in your life. Plan your days, have future events on the calendar and bit by bit…be a part of life around you.

I still pull away from big events. Sometimes in a big family gathering I feel more lonely than in a small one. So I say no…if I feel the event is too much for me. But I force myself to say YES…to events that are smaller with people I know well and love. I am trying to develop a new me and still give myself the honor of the old me that was a part of my duo relationship with George.

Just remember…do not do this alone. Do not think a nurse or doctor has emotional and physical answers to the day by day tasks of your care giving. Do not get upset of friends or family leave you all alone…and rejoice in the friends new and old that will stand by you when you ask for their help. Know that money is not going to grow on trees and you have to stick to a budget because it can be a long, long ride. Know that answers to help you are there…ask me or others that have gone through care giving to help…and be a trooper…ask again and again. Life is meant to live with others not on your own….ask!

I know you can do it…and I honor the fact you are standing there day after day giving someone who is unable to care for their own life…care. You are a good person. No one will give you a thanks…nor will you get a reward for your care. In the mind of your loved one they think they are still…just fine. Nothing has changed…you know better…you know life is now upside-down…yet they think their life is in control. Be brave…force yourself to be honest and talk about the dementia as if it was the flu…let out your voice and keep the honesty of the situation everyday. Hurting feelings is not the point, honesty is the point.

You saw the path to the end of their life was laid out…you stepped up and took their hand and walked next to them.Your loved one is not alone. That makes you a very special and loving person and I am proud to know you. I know you will be honest with them, your friends and yourself and not stand alone. I want you to remember the world does not know you have a problem or you need help…without your voice shouting it out. Be brave and shout and keep shouting till you have a group around you to help you in your journey. No one will say it…but you are loved. Your loved one does love you…even if they can not put that into words…so just hold the honestly of knowing they love you and you are doing the best job you can…each and every day.

Blessings on your New Year…Keep your own health and body strong…life is still there for you after care giving. francy

Honoring Passing of Seniors with Love

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Ideas of how to honor elders when they pass. By francy Dickinson

George Saunders' memorial

George Saunders’ memorial the summer after his passing…when his kids were in town and the weather was bright and the day perfect for scattering his remains.

Dear Francy; My dear Great Aunt has just passed…mother wants a big funeral..I want a quiet family memorial. What can I do?

The times are changing and more and more families are having quiet and special memorial gatherings for their elders. When people have been unwell for a long time…and are of advanced age memorial gatherings seem to fit the bill in today’s world. Although funerals are still a wonderful way to honor those that pass…we have found that it works best when a person has passed in their prime with lots of friends,neighbors, children, siblings or even their parents alive to attend.

In contrast an elder that has lived long and has been unwell for quite some time…maybe aged out of their large group of friends and maybe have no friends left alive has different needs for their memorial. For those that have outlived most of their own family and those around them that would honor them…a smaller memorial has a new appeal. There is a larger and larger amount of seniors that are now choosing cremation and their remains have to be honored. Some of them want to be buried by their spouse or family members…some have no one left to be buried next to…so they choose to have their ashes spread in a place that has a meaning to them.

A perfect example of this was when my own father died and my mother had a very large formal funeral and burial for him. He was 62 in a time of his life that he was still working with loads of friends, business associates, family and a healthy wife. He was in the furniture business so mother paid for an expensive, carved wooden coffin and had the full services of minister, open casket, singing, and service. I remember it all well…it was a very hard thing for me to get through really…with the sting of his death so new and the pageantry of the formal funeral so close behind his passing.

No extra charge for a simple grave side memorial  for family members.

No extra charge for a simple grave side memorial for family members.

So, it was with great shock that 40 years later… when my mother was asked about her personal wishes for her own funeral she refused the idea. “I don’t want a funeral. If you want to say some prayers over me when they bury me…that will be plenty for me.” WHY? I was shocked…the memory of my dad’s burial so clear in my mind.

Mother told me, at the ripe old age of 100 years, she was without all of her dear friends. She only had one brother left, who was in a nursing home and her children were older with grand children of their own. She just wanted a quiet, inexpensive burial…nothing fancy. She would share the double size head stone with dad and she would be just fine. I was very pleased…so when she died we met together at her grave and said our goodbyes. Then the next summer….we all got together in the her favorite park on the Puget Sound and had a wonderful picnic in her name and threw flowers in the water with all her grand, great grand and children together. She would have been so happy to see us together having good times.

Passing is hard for those that are left behind…so I ask that you talk to your senior about their own idea of what they want for memorials. Some people plant trees or bushes, some buy bricks on a memory wall at their local charity, some have legacy money that goes on to honor them in an organization that they enjoyed. So, when my Georgie passed what to do?

I had given him non stop 24 hour care for months and I was seriously exhausted and close to illness myself. I knew George did not want a funeral and the day I picked up his ashes I went into tears and had to wait in that parking lot for 45 minutes till I could get myself under control to drive home. The darkness of November was overwhelming. George’s children were all busy people, three of them and grand children lived out-of-state.
So I made a decision to prolong his memorial to the next summer. Lately, many of my fellow caregiver spouses have done the same. Prolonging the memorials for their loved ones and holding the memorials in places and times that reflect the personality and family members’ needs – and the person that has passed.

A sweet gnome church was placed as a greeting for guests at the memorial.

A sweet gnome church was placed as a greeting for guests at the memorial.

My dear friend, lives on the water and had worked hours on getting her home ready for the memorial for her husband. Cleaning, painting, and working in the garden to brighten and clean it all up from the neglect the winter of sadness and illness had been left undone.Working through her own grief by keeping busy and putting her life in good order.  Now, she has the place all in order, clean, up dated and ready for her friends to be invited to an event that can be filled with love, warm friendship, honoring and enjoyment of her dear, passed spouse. During the clean up she even came across a sweet little church her hubby had made by hand. She re-painted it and placed it on a tree for the guests to enjoy when they entered the garden and lovely home. The sadness of the immediate passing had been worked through and the gathering a few months later allowed everyone to think over their memories and express their feelings with each other. Choosing a place and time for the memorial that fits the family and the person that has passed  makes the event very special. A Celebration of Life for the loved one that has passed.

Even younger members of the family can participate in the memorial. Maybe a guitar and song from a grandson…a small dance from a young grand-daughter, or a reading of a poem or story from daughters and sons. For us it was my Georgie’s children singing “Oklahoma” a song that the family all sang together on road trips. Or a collection of the elder’s hobbies or a board full of pictures that show the movement of young to the older pictures of the elder for all to view that special life journey.

IMG_20150727_191152Handing out something for each attendee to enjoy is always special. One gal had her husband’s picture put on YoYo’s and had a contest…that cracked me up. I like making book marks on your computer and topping them with a small ribbon…with a special Quote from the honoree on the back. Or asking your Grand daughter/son to do a small brochure fact sheet w pictures, birth and death places and dates to share with everyone.

The rules of these memorials are yours to make. Balloons to release, flowers to throw into the sea, cookies wrapped up with a note on each to take home. There are wonderful photo charms, craft projects with the name of the elder on a poured stepping stone for the garden. Small Christmas tree ornaments with a picture of remembrance for the tree at the holidays…or tee shirts with Grandpa and all the grandkids’ picture on the front😉 Your creative side can find something sweet to share with all.

Making the memorial as complicated or simple is up to you…but doing it with the knowledge that even long after the death…the emotions are still strong and making the gathering a memory…not a chore. Being together with family and friends…each sharing their memories of the loved one is powerful stuff. Inviting a person to represent their faith or appointing a family member to be the spiritual point person is also important. Some times the simple moments of togetherness…is what is remembered and appreciated. The event does not have to be big or expensive…it can be small and sweet. Just know that there are choices to be made…and an immediate, expensive funeral, burial, and large event is one way to memorialize the elder…and a relaxed time frame that may be even months or a year after the death is another. A simple gathering of a few friends to wish the elder blessings on their way…is another. No rules…no right or wrong…just in love – you give your care giving and your bon voyage to a dear life partner or friend.

I thank you all for giving care to your loved seniors…this process of saying “Good bye”  can be a choice of your own. Remember…there are no rules…you do what makes you and your family feel is right for you! That is how your elder would want their leave…to be done with love and ease.

Luminaries to follow the path...each representing the love that is felt for the elder that is memorialized.

Luminaries to follow the path…each representing the love that is felt for the elder that is being memorialized.

Advanced Alzheimer’s/Dementia Help for Care Givers

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Tips for families caring for advanced Alzheimer’s seniors. by francy Dickinson

When your senior is confused…Tips to help with care giving.

Dear Francy: Mother does not remember me any longer. I can hardly go into her room without crying. That makes her confused and she cries…I want her close to me, I want to care for her…but my heart is broken. 

Living life “in the now” is a very hard thing to do, so here are some tips to help you through this awful time in both of your lives. First, would you do me a favor and just trust me that your mother has not really forgotten you…she remembers in her inner mind and heart that you represent love and caring for her. So you just have to try hard to work with that thought.

Ideas for caring for Elders with Dementia:

  1. If you took a nap and woke up to a world around you that was not familiar to you, can you imagine the fear you would have? That is what is happening to your senior when they wake…or go a few minutes without input…they get caught in a world of no memory. They become frightened, angry, upset, totally overwhelmed with fear–their mind running 24/7 with nerves. You must keep your senior connected to your neurologist. Even if the appointments are only every few months…you want to check in with the memory clinic for help. They may take the senior off the heavy brain drugs because they are no longer working. Usually, the drugs are given in a combination to treat the patient for as long as they get a response. Once off those meds the mind of the senior regresses fast. But we are talking about treating the signs of the regression…the fear, the anger, the upset, the nerves. So you need to keep a running note of your care giving days so the doctor can see where they can prescribe different meds to calm and give the senior an underlining feeling of peace in their mind.
  2. You must accept the “living in the now” concept because this is how the senior is living their day. They wake up to confusion – to a life that is out-of-place and they try to cope. Your job is to help them. No longer address them as mom, dad or auntie…call them by their given name. Remember the farther they regress they may recall a family nickname that they were called as a child. “Sissy, Sonny, Toots, Cutie, Sweetie, Kittens” Families often give young children nicknames and the senior may find comfort in that name once again. Always smile when you talk to them…remember they will react as a child does to a face…if you are angry or upset…they will reflect your emotions…that is what a child or dementia patient does. So force yourself to stay “in the now” and “act” calm and happy…that way your elder will be calm and happy.
  3. Take breaks…overwhelmed with sorrow means you need a break. Ask your neighbor to come over a couple of times a week for two hours and sit with your senior…you can take a walk, go for a ride or do the grocery shopping. Ask a cousin or family member that is older and retired to come and give you a couple of hours a week. Ask your children and grand children to come and visit for a couple of hours each week. Yes, you have to arrange the time…no one looks forward to this task..but they will respond with love “if you ask”. So write down a few names of people who will help you just for a short visit. Then call two or three each week to fill your week with breaks here and there.
  4. Deep breath. You will find when you are upset you hold your breath.I do not know why this happens, but we tend to tense up and hold on to our breathing. So, begin a program of taking in a breath with your nose and holding it a moment and then very slowly let it go. Like a balloon deflating…It will release the tension and the stress on your body as you force yourself to breath. I do it in a series of three as many times as I can during the day…just this simple trick will allow your body to relax.
  5. Smile…remember the rule of smiling through tears. Smiles allow others to read your face as calm and in-charge. When you are in-charge the senior in care will feel relaxed and know you have their back. It may sound silly…but it is so true that I implore you to smile.
  6. Set a repeated pace to the day. It is a proven fact that when children are raised with a structured daily routine they are found to be more emotionally stable. So if your senior is constantly trying to remember who, what and where they are…this underlying feeling of a routine…keeps their inner mind relaxed. Plan the day around you, not your senior. Up at a certain time, eat, do exercise, then rest. Quiet time, TV or radio time and then a nap. Up again to cleaning up time, teeth, face, more walking or exercise in the chair. A puzzle on a table to work,a game of cards, a craft project and then a rest for the afternoon…usually a nap in their chair. At 4PM there is always tea and cookies to keep the blood sugar high for the evening and keep the senior from a “Sundowner crash”. Then TV news to keep their mind thinking and you talking about your day. Rest time…dinner time. Then talk time…right after dinner while you are cleaning up the kitchen you have the senior sit quietly and you talk to them about the day. Who called, whose birthday is coming up…what time of year it is and tell them of your own day. Just use a sing-song voice tone and matter of fact talk through things of the day. The senior may or may not respond. If they do respond – listen to them and go with their mind. If they talk of years past, or a fear, or hover on something fearful. Take note of that and do not go to that part of their brain with your conversation again. Maybe a kidnapping or violent event on the news got them thinking they would be hurt…you just change that around and take note not to mention that again.
  7. Find an in-home nurse practitioner to come and check-in on your senior. There is no reason to constantly worry the senior over the big trip to the doctor. Just keep medications that are palliative or for the seniors comfort. The rest of it can all just drift away and their body can adjust to the natural way of their journey.
  8. TV game shows are very good for dementia. They have excitement in the people –clapping, laughing and the senior will respond with pleasure. Radio shows are very good for seniors. Many elders were raised on radio…they like their own childhood music styles and NPR or local radio stations that feature music of their era are great to have playing in the background to “Ground” the senior’s very busy mind.
  9. Just because they no longer talk…does not mean they no longer think. They have just lost the part of the brain that allows them to speak. So you have to talk to them as though they are speaking. You have to look at them and learn their cues to tell you their needs. Or if you are in the black over their needs…you just say to yourself…”what would I want to be doing right now?” You do as much as you can and then release your own worry. You are doing what your heart is telling you to do…that is all that is needed.
  10. Remember, smile…speak in a strong tone…so the senior can hear your voice. Face the senior and talk so they can see and read your face and don’t be afraid of making mistakes…we all do that every day. Just do your best to care for your senior with love. Then tell yourself…what do I need today? Keeping yourself well fed, exercised and calm is the key to your own health and that will reflect onto your senior in positive ways.

Thank you so for giving your love to your family…you are doing a job that no one else will do. You are loving and caring for your loved one. I so appreciate your time, love and the years that you are gifting to that senior. Taking their hand and helping them down the path of their last days is a very hard thing to do…you are doing fine. I trust your judgement.
Blessings, francy

You Have Been Diagnosed Now What? Dementia Notes

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How to handle the time when you first get a diagnosis of dementia or another life changing situation..by francy Dickinson

senior walkingDear Francy: My dad just got a diagnosis of dementia and my mom has just found out she has cancer. I know they are both depressed and upset…what should I do now?

First its the shock. No matter what your age or how long you have felt out of sorts…when a doctor looks at you and tells you, your body is not functioning — it is a big change to your life. There will be depression, sadness and worry…there is no getting over that…but how you deal with it all, is the key.

Mental processes have to follow through with it all and talking it out to a few friends, family or a faith adviser is really the best start. Then its time to roll up your sleeves and find out what all this means.

Here is your list:

  1. Actively talk about the diagnosis and let the senior feel the pain, worry and fear. They have to accept and process through it. After that time has passed and they can get out their feelings progress onward. Its always OK to be sad, its just as important to try to end the conversation with an up tone.
  2. To heal, or to live on with tough medical news the mind needs to know what that diagnosis means. No matter if the age is 6 or 86 the person needs to understand the name of the diagnosis and be able to visualize what it is. So, you need to go online and read about it…find out the main points and bring those points down to understandable language. The idea that you can “save” a person from the stress of knowing a serious life condition is long gone…now we face truth and work through it.
  3. Talk about the options that are now on the table. If the doctor has not done this…you can make another appointment for a consultation or go to the net and find the answers yourself. To know the different procedures, medications, surgeries, or other options is something that makes the problem into a “situation to solve” instead of a “dread to face”.
  4. Get a second diagnosis from a professional in the line of specialty- for the problem. A family doctor can tell you there are dementia problems…but a neurologist will tell you more specific details and explain the process of treatment. The family doctor can say you have cancer but a specialist in that type of cancer can give you ideas for treatment and prognosis. This way…you have a firm understanding of what is really wrong. When this is done the mind will be calmer…knowing is very important.
  5. Record doctor appointments on your cell or with a little recorder. Many times we are tired or nervous and we forget what the doctor has said. Tell the doctor you want to share the information with your family and get it down on tape. This way you do not forget or over emotionalize the consultations. Some times the mind will zero in on one word and the rest of the conversation is lost. This recording keeps you clear of mind.
  6. Always ask what this new condition will do to the other things that the senior already is dealing with in their life. If they have a heart problem and now dementia…does that mean medication changes, treatment changes etc. If they are a smoker, drinker, or even on heavy medications, does that mean a different type of treatment for the problems? If they now have cancer does that mean that their special “diabetes diet and drugs” can continue or is there a conflict with the chemical interactions? The specialist will know these things…and you will find support groups online that will share their journey with you so you can make changes. When you understand all these details…your own mind will be calmer.
  7. Understand that the body has to fight the invaders of what ever diagnosis that has been given. So a sincere re-think of diet and supplements has to be made right away. Keep in mind you have to boost the body’s ability to fight the new problem. So new supplements and new ways of eating and exercising will simply boost the ability to fight the invading problems. This step is not in place of medication…it is in addition to medication that will help the body absorb and heal faster. As everyone ages…we all need a boost of help with quicker healing. To ignore this step is many times to hasten the end of life issues.
  8. Talk and talk again. There are lots of things to talk about. There are business things…home, care, money, investments, insurance, and care giving. It will all be needed in the future. So talking about it right now…gets it out in the open and you can seek help from local services of needed. Do not delay in this important part. A person who is extremely ill or under mental/emotional stress does not make choices well. So do it now.
  9. Talking about end of life issues is always hard to do. To make sure a Health Care Directive is agreed on and understood by the family – will mean you can set that hard part aside and deal with the healing and everyday issues. Find out if the person, wants to extend their life, relax and let things take their course, be tube feed, resuscitated, or in the end – cremated. Once again…this is what you do as soon as you can so the ideas are set, papers signed and then it is put aside and you don’t dwell on it.
  10. Is there something an older person wanted to do before they are really unwell? A bucket list type of thing? Maybe they always wanted to visit a family member or see a special place, or return to their home town. Ask the elder what they had hoped to do and make sure you can try to make arrangements for this to happen or something like it. A brother can come to your town…instead of a big trip to his town…or a place can be seen via the web cams instead of a big car trip. But allowing the senior to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of their life, is very important.
  11. Make sure the family knows about the medical conditions. If a child has not spoken to the parent in years…this is the time to write them a letter to let them know the situation. This way they can make a decision to come and visit and let the hurt and years of upset – lay to rest before the senior is no longer with them. You may not care for the family member…but the senior loves each child and each family member and its not for us to judge.
  12. Take pictures of the senior and make video or audios of the senior and their childhood stories and family knowledge. It helps the senior sort through their life choices and leaves you with a remembrance that is very dear. This is a ritual that will really help the senior in their life journey.
  13. Put together what you will know as the dream team of health care. A good specialty doctor that you can talk to, a nurse practitioner that will help with the everyday things, your senior and you and any other person that will give care. Then make a pact that you will all work together to keep the energy and emotional levels up and support each other through the journey.
  14. If end of life issues are being spoken about…call Hospice…do not wait. Too many families wait and do not get all the benefits that Hospice gives. They will come to you and make an evaluation…if they feel it is not time for them…they will put you on hold and check in with you every month. If it is time, they will assist you in ways that really allow you to be with your family member, not only be the 24 hour care giver.
  15. Hurtful family history should be put aside. Thinking about how to make the senior as strong as possible in their mind, heart, and body is the key. Remove guilt and anger. Try very hard to just be in a settled and joy filled mind set each time you visit the senior. Things that happened years ago…are now gone…today has time for joy.
  16. Medic-alert systems are a must if the senior is starting on a downward journey and living alone. These systems will allow you and the senior to be assured that someone will come to their aid in an emergency.
  17. Since both of your parents may need health care…here is advice on how to deal with partners in care together. Click Here for information if your parents can not care for each other.

I hope this list will be of help…I know that all the things on it have happened to me over and over again…and when you tick them off the list…your mind and heart feel free. I thank you for caring for your senior and I wish you well on the journey…francy

In Home Care Giving Beginning Tips – #1

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In Home Care Giving Tips starting from the beginning for spouse and family care givers  by Francy Dickinson

One day you are young and in a blink of the eye- you are a senior with health issues...Let's work to make the care giving path easier.

One day you are young and in a blink of the eye- you are a senior with health issues…Let’s work to make the care giving path easier.

Dear Francy: As I stand today…I can look back many years ago when I was first giving care to my elderly mother with many aging issues until she passed at 100. Then turned around and started caring for my husband, Georgie, who had Parkinson’s/ Alzheimer’s. After 15 years of in home care giving I learned a few things so I am going to share them. But I started this blog…because in the beginning…I was in a daze with no knowledge of the bumps in the road in home care. Now, I look back on it…I’m a CNA and have years of experience of daily living challenges and I know I can help you on your road. You will find a few years of index to review…I have done a lot of blogs to help you…always take a look and see if something I wrote a few years ago fits your needs. OK…so now I will begin at the beginning just for you !

CAN I REALLY GIVE CARE TO MY MOTHER? I AM NOT A NURSE!

Oh boy, this is a normal question and the answer is YES. You can take it a day at a time and if the path gets too hard you figure out how to get help or place your senior in a care facility. There are no rules…you have to work through the situation that matches, your own health and time limitations. There is no quilt over asking another family member to take over the care giving or finding a state Senior Care Worker that will find a good place for your mom in the months or years to come. Give it a try…and keep your spirits up..we all go through bad days…but the good days far out-weigh them.

WHERE TO START?

If you are going to put your senior in your own home…or keep them in their home. You start with a clean and safe place to house your senior. So that means that the lazy days of cleaning when you feel like it are gone. Now, just like in hospitals and care facilities – you have to think “CLEAN and SAFE”.

In Home care for the senior means you have to start at the front door and make a safe pathway through to the TV chair, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. All the rest of the house can be left alone…but the path that you and your senior will be taking all day and night has to be cleared away. If your senior is a bit of a hoarder…you do not throw away things…you go in and put things in boxes and place them in the back room or garage. Just know perfection is not required, but clear walk ways that are safe and will keep the senior from a fall…or allow the senior’s walker or wheelchair to get through doorways and from room to room – is required.

George carefully stepping down into our living room

George carefully stepping down into our living room

Look around…maybe the senior has been in a home for years…but the location of the comfortable TV chair that will be a lounger (maybe even an electric lounger) will be placed in a spot that is easy to see the TV and get up and down without any tables, chairs or throw rugs in sight. Watch your senior get up and down from this chair and move around. You can order and get great hand rails that can go on walls where the senior needs an extra boost to keep them steady. But NEVER let the senior do the TABLE TOP walk! That behavior is over…it is dangerous and the small side tables that are unsteady should be removed so the senior does not do this. Seniors must use their cane or walker in the house…no exceptions!

TV CHAIR-SIDE:

  • Have a good table with drawers next to their TV/Comfort chair. Make it work with a good lamp and the remote. Get a remote that will work and if it is confusing…then cover the remote with painter’s tape over the buttons you do not want them to push. ON-Off-Volume-Up n Down Channels is it…make it easy!
  • I get a nice size basket for the side-table and put all sorts of things in it that will keep the senior in their chair, not running around for small things. You will have a small scissors, nail files, pens, mirror, hand cream, small pad to write, lip gloss, telephone – etc. All within a basket that the senior can keep with their favorite things.
  • Then down by their feet…within range, but not where they will trip on it..get a small chill chest. This is where they fill it up with chilled water, Boost, sandwich or treats…so they do not have to move to eat or drink. This makes their day a little easier. They will get up and go to the bathroom, but not worry about eating. If they are not well, or tired…they only have to reach down and get a Boost, crackers, yogurt or water.
  • Add a heated throw, that is electric and will keep the senior warm, even in the summer months. Seniors in care, taking meds…get cold all the time. Add a small neck pillow so they can take a snooze ~ plus an eye shade so the lights don’t bother their nap. Now they are nice and snug in a rug!

KITCHEN UPDATE:

  • No money has to be spent here. Just streamline the kitchen so it’s easy to use from a walker (with a basket) or a cane. Remove things from the counter and keep only what they need. Clean the counters (senior eyes don’t see crumbs) and test that everything can be easily reached. Toaster, coffee maker, sweetener n mugs. Keep it easy!
  • Change the cupboards and put a set of things they need in the lowest and easiest cupboard to reach. Put a couple of glasses, mugs, plates, snack plates and bowls all together for them within an easy reach. Or use paper plates for snacks so they can clean up with no fuss.
  • Clean out the refrigerator and get rid of silly things that will never be used. Clean the shelves and only have things they really need. Yogurt, milk, mayo, and sandwich makings. Make their life easy…think about what they really use and eat now. Not what they cooked when they had family at home. Now there will be room for the pre made dinners that you bring to them…to heat in the microwave. Easy…remember its the key to care giving.
  • Put up a kitchen calendar so they know what is coming up and keep it active each time you visit. Have a place for notes or large phone numbers they may need. Move the table to a comfortable spot and remove un-needed chairs. Keep the kitchen easy and helpful…not cluttered. Yes, it will change the room…but life has now changed.

HALLWAY: Walking path needs to be clear

  • Walk the pathway the senior will use and repair any place that needs help. No scatter rugs…no holes in rugs…no boxes or shoes on the floor, just a clear walk way around the house.
  • Keep it Clear…Get a good plastic bin that you can keep mail and important papers in each day. Then once a week you can quickly go through the pile and pull out the bills and the important papers to address with your senior.

BEDROOM: Easy bed, side table, small chair for dressing and a dresser

  • Life has changed…no longer is the senior going to wear suits and ties to work or dresses to church. Yes keep one set…but remove old clothes and replace with comfortable new clothes that work around the house. Comfort, nice colors and ease is what we want for our senior. New underwear that goes on and off easy. A place for Depends and a throw away bin for used Depends. Get this room…cleared and cleaned.
  • Make sure the senior can reach the phone from bed. That the bedding is warm and easy to use, not heavy and layered deep with covers. Easy in and out of the bed is what will keep the senior safe. If the bed is not working…get the family to flip for a new mattress or get a hospital bed Rx from the doctor that can help the senior in getting up and down easily. New flannel sheets and pillows to keep senior warm and comfortable.
  • If the senior has to walk more than 3 feet to the bathroom…get them a commode for the night-time. That way they can just get up and go to the toilet easy and close…then during the day…they can walk to the bathroom. Think ahead..signs of helpful raised toilet seats and grab bars in the bathroom…are needed…and should not be ignored.
  • No slip on slippers…those are very dangerous. Get a full fitted slipper that has a good rubber sole so the senior can slip it on and walk safely in them.
  • Put small bottles of water by the bed and have them take a few crackers or a yogurt to bed with them at night. If they wake feeling weak…they can reach over and have a small treat to give them a boost. Only allow medications that can be easily taken without thought by the bed. Seniors can wake and think they have forgotten their meds and over medicate in the middle of the night. Be careful and think ahead.

BATHROOM:

George in his wheelchair we got a cart that would fit through our doorways

George in his wheelchair we got a cart that would fit through our doorways

Things are going to change in the bathroom.

  • The tub needs to have a good bath-bench, a hand-held shower head has to be installed and the toilet needs grab bars and easy to use toilet seats.
  • No scatter bath rugs now needed. You can have one hanging on the tub for bath day use only.
  • A large container of Bleach Wipes to clean the surfaces and the floors when there is any problem.
  • Baby wipes to clean the bottom if there is a loose stool problem and a good garbage can to hold the trash…you do not want to flush baby wipes.
  • I cleared the counter and put a basket there that contained the needed things for George’s care. Depends, bottom cream, wipes box, etc. This kept the area looking clean and I just refilled the basket to keep it all convenient.
  • Time for new towels. Most seniors have towels that are years and years old. Get them a couple of nice bath towels and new hand towels and wash clothes.
  • I used a nice hanging shoe holder for the back of the door in the bath. I filled it with the different creams, lotions, soaps and moisturizer that I used everyday. That kept bottles away from the walk way and the counter to keep the area  feeling clean. This room is going to be the hub of the senior’s care. Bath people will be coming in and problems with going to the bathroom always come – in care giving.
  • KEEP IT CLEAN..as clean as you can. You also want a box of gloves for you to wear while you give the senior personal care. I would also use the bleach wipes on the floor with my shoe to quickly clean up the floor on a daily…or weekly visit.

Basic arrangement of furniture, and ease of use items are easy to do once you get your mind thinking safety and clean. This first step can be a lot of sorting and cleaning, but it pays off with NO FALLS and NO BROKEN HIPS! You can care for a senior when they are able to be transferred and mobile. If the senior is not able to move around…you will be forced to have them in a care facility.

I would often sit down with my senior and remind them that the changes were for their safety. If they want to stay “at home” they have to change a few things to keep them there. You can not care for them, if they can not move … ask them to please work with me and together — we can make the house clean and easy as well as bright and cheerful. 

Not a bad start right? Nothing you can not do without a little help from a family member. Make the days that represent change easier by having someone come and sit with the senior as the cleaning takes place. Talking to the senior or playing cards and keeping their mind off of the CHANGE is the key to an easy transition to a clear and tidy surrounding. Vacuum,dusting and adding a small air filter makes the house smell fresh and clean. Airing out the room, changing lights to the new light bulbs and keeping it bright so the senior can see to move around…all these things will start your care giving on a good foundation. You can and you will do it. I trust in your own creativity and inner guidance to make it work.

I always want to remind you…that your time giving care to another…is a kind and loving thing to do. I thank you. francy

Please sign up for my blog and get the full series of “how to be an in home care giver” and spread the news to other caregiver / spouses…thanks!

Death, How To Cope When You Are The Caregiver

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Death and Dying issues to help caregivers by Francy Dickinson

Geo n francy oilMy Georgie has been gone for three months and I am adjusting to life again. I wanted to continue to share things with you. As you know, I began this blog to help myself and other spouse/caregivers with the issues that come up in daily care giving. I still want to be a voice in the wilderness for those that are giving their love, time, effort and attention to a loved one. Helping someone on their life’s journey is a very special and loving job…I hope you will find my words help you along the way. 

If you have been reading my blog over the years ~ you will remember I have always asked everyone to use hospice services when your senior is nearing death. You never have to be worried about it. The Hospice Services comes into your home and does an assessment of the senior and they share their ideas of how to help you. Their services are paid by a Medicare type of services…it then becomes a special Hospice Service expense and the medications and services are then no longer billed to you. So, financially, mentally and physically Hospice is the way to face the end of life issues with your loved one. It will help you overcome the worry and they will help you step by step…question after question.

That said; Georgie and I did not know he was at the point to call on Hospice. The doctors did not know what was wrong with George. He had a lot of tests and the diagnosis was not known. We had made another appointment for the next Tuesday to see the main doctor and talk to him about placing George in a care facility to review his health issues. In the mean time…we were home alone together. I was trying to understand how to use the oxygen, medications, catheter and take care of his physical needs. I was going on five days without real sleep and the situation was not good and we both knew it.  He was weakening by the minute and it was becoming very hard for me to do transfers and be strong enough to help him. We were ready for his “in hospital” care. I told George that after his stay at the care center I would be asking Hospice to come and help us and he understood that…but his end came before we could move through our plans.

Early on Saturday morning…George was taking his Albuterol breathing session. At the end of the session I went to remove the breathing mask and found he had passed. His eyes closed and he had stopped breathing. It was quiet and fast and I was heartbroken.

What I am going to talk about today is the process that followed. But once again, IF I had had the services of Hospice..all the following steps would have been taken care of for me. I would have been able to sit and be calmed by loving professionals and they would have taken over the different steps that come with a death while in their care. This is why I want you to NOT follow my lead…to avoid the sadness I had to walk through have the Hospice professionals by your side…caring for you and your loved one.

What to do when your spouse, or senior, passes and you are all alone:

  1. When George passed I went into shock. Lucky for me, I had my family and friends on my cell phone and I kept the phone close to me. I knew I was very tired and I had been afraid of my falling and needing help. So I was able to pull out my phone and call family and selected friends and our dear minister – to come and help me.
  2. Everyone arrived within minutes and each of them comforted me in their own way. They were not totally in the know…of what to do…but they worked together to decide on the immediate steps to take. I was in such shock, shaking and crying and just out of it…so they were gentle, loving and moved me through the process.
  3. We all knew we did not have to report the death the minute it happened. I had looked at the clock and knew he passed at 7:10AM but that was not really needed. I was just so struck with sorrow, I had no real knowledge of what was happening around me. That is why Hospice would have been so helpful…but my own support group did their best.
  4. Our minister asked everyone to come and circle around George and say a prayer and when we did that…each of us were then able to feel we had settled the tension and brought the love into a protective circle.
  5. If you have a faith that requires immediate burial, I suggest that you start today to make plans for the end of life. You will need to know the process and have numbers to call. In my situation, I knew that George wanted to be cremated, but we had no time frame to worry about. So we just took our time and did not call 911 until all the family members that wanted to view him, did so and at that time we made our call.
  6. Our local paramedics arrived and asked if they could inspect the body alone.So we cleared out of the room and they looked over things taking note that everything looked like a “natural death”. They wrote down the death and they made calls to the medical examiner and logged it in to the official book as a death with time and place written down. Then they alerted the police.
  7. A while later, the police arrived and they questioned all of us and asked questions about George’s health care and asked me to review the last couple of days. It was very hard for me to do this interview. I was still in shock and my mind was not able to connect properly with their questions. If I had had Hospice…that step would not have happened. Hospice is a legal service and the medical examiner takes their word for it. The police were very kind, but they had a job to do and they did it. Once again, they needed us to clear out and let them be with the body. When they were done…we were released to remove the body.
  8. We did not hurry…once again, we gathered together to say another prayer and wish George a loving passing. Then we called the mortuary services and they arrived to remove the body. I did not have to do anything personally. They simply enclosed the body and took it away. They were very kind and my family was very loving.
  9. My sister felt I needed to be taken home with her. I was still in shock and she wanted me to try to sleep and process the death away from the house.
  10. When I left my home, my friend and daughter-in-law cleared out the bedroom. They disposed of the sheets, pillows and medical things in the bedroom and master bathroom. They tried their best to clean the area so I could return to the house and not be upset. They did a loving job, that I am sure was very difficult for them.
  11. I returned to the house in two days. At that time, we had to go to the mortuary to review the details and pay for the services. They applied for the social security and veteran’s death benefit for me. So the basic paperwork was done.
  12. Now, this is where I will caution you. From that day forward, everyone I knew tried to help me. They gave me advice on social security, insurance, returning medical supplies, my own health, my mental health and so on. It was a constant barrage of information and suggestions to follow their opinions. This was the hardest time for me. I did not want to be rude…I listened and tried to understand what they were saying. But really, it became total overload.
  13. I will ask you to simply, sit and be quiet. Write down things and numbers and make your notes very complete…this is no time for shorthand. Then just take it easy. There is no time frame of getting services and help, insurance, social security and such done. Just do it on your own time.
  14. As usual…others try to take over and care for you. But you have to do it all on your own. It is best of you ask someone to drive you here or there. When we are upset the world does not need us behind the wheel of a car. But just write down a list of to do’s and slowly work through them.
  15. George and I had already talked through end of life issues. I knew he wanted no memorial and wanted a cremation. So, that made it easy for me. What does your loved one want? This is the time to talk and get it out in the open.
  16. The doctor had us fill out the no resuscitate papers and post them up on the kitchen door so the EMS could see them.  We talked about the issues of care at the end of life. So we were in place when his death happened. But what about you?  Do you have your end of life issues down on paper? Please do it for you and for your loved ones. Don’t make more work and worry for the loved ones left behind.

Lessons learned. I am still working on paperwork and details of my husbands death. I am still trying to learn to sleep and eat properly again after so many months of 24/7 care giving. It’s a hard road and I am walking it slowly, alone, but not afraid. I have support of friends, family and my small dogs. I am still working on my feelings of loss and I am still raw with my emotions. But I am taking care of myself now.

I gave care to my mother and my husband until their deaths. Now, its time for me to care for myself. Its hard to do…but I am trying day by day to form ideas of what my future is going to be. I so miss my Georgie’s smile and I can not imagine how I will live my whole life forward without him. But day by day…I learn and do.

I hope this helps you to prepare and take the fear out of a passing in your home. I cleared the house with love and blessed George on his way. I am sleeping soundly in our bedroom. I got new bedding, I brightened up the bathroom and I cleaned and cleared away the sadness of care giving in my surroundings. I now find my bedroom a place of comfort for me and I enjoy spending time there.

I will say…having my family and friends as well as my community of loving friends on Facebook, Twitter and through the group that follows my blog was totally positive and loving for me. I also had a #WritersThatChat group that continues to support me through the long grief process. I am a lucky girl to have had such a dear, as George, with me for over 30+ years. As I walk down my own path of life…I do not do it alone…I am surrounded with love.

Blessings on all that you do for your own loved one. francy

PS/ I find a little reminder of George is so healing for me. I blew up a picture of him and have it in my bedroom with a candle to light. I can have a good chat with him each day…kiss his picture and feel his love any time I am in need. Grief takes its own path…some move through it fast and strong…others have more up and down days. There are no rules for missing someone that you loved…but being ready for the hard time of passing helps.

George Alton Saunders Passed November 1, 2014

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George A Saunders Travel Industry Expert Passed November 1, 2014

George A Saunders
Travel Industry Expert
Passed November 1, 2014

I know a lot of you have followed me for years — I have been my husband’s care giver for over 12 years. It is in sadness I am announcing the passing of my Georgie. He was a terrific guy and I will continue on with my care giving hints and ideas…when I have gone through the quiet and reflective time over his passing. francy

End of Life Issues from francy

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Young George

Young George

My Dear Georgie is going through his end of life journey…I ask that you send us healing light and love. Day by day, I am facing the challenges that all of us face when we say goodbye to our loved ones.

George not only has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s he now has a mass in his lungs and they are talking about Mesothelioma. Its a tough way to pass. So, I will be quiet for a while. When I come back…I will repair myself with loads of helpful tips about our journey and the care giving involved. I will have you fluid me with your questions and your worries…but for now…its time for me to be with my Georgie.

 

But remember…NO FEAR….NO PAIN…that is my motto for passing.

So, I am making all the decisions on his care in that fashion. George has said many 1980 Geo n Francytimes he is not afraid of death…and I know that he will step through it with honor and sweetness as he did his life. Everyone knows him to be a “gentleman” and he will remain that through to his next life.

But I ask you to think of us and send us your kindness and light of love and prayers…we can use them. Once again…remember how important caregivers are…spouses that care…family that care, old friends that tap their hats in your directions, neighbors that bring you food and pals that make you laugh in the middle of crisis. We all need each other in this world…it is a universal village and to send love to each other is a good thing.

imageI am fluffing George’s pillows, taking him to the bathroom, giving him special treats to get him to calm down. I’m adjusting his oxygen, giving him treatments that help his breathing and using calming words, soothing massages, hands on healing…little jokes, sweet kisses, quiet hugs, bringing the dogs to his lap…tears, laughs, holding hands. Listening to his lungs as they struggle to take in oxygen…and worrying that each breath is his last. Its just what you do…its natural and if you let it just be..and let it just flow…the passage is smooth. But my heart is simply crushed.

I am so wishing that we could dance around the living room one more time…before he goes.  Blessings…francy

 

Dad Does Not Remember Me… Dementia Care

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Dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s family care tips by francy Dickinson

George in wheelchair

George watching the Seahawks game in his wheelchair

Dear Francy: I visited my dad last week and he did not remember my name or who I was — I was heartbroken. I don’t think I can make myself go and visit him any more…its so hurtful that he could just forget me. S.

I totally understand the mixed feelings you have inside…it is so hard on everyone involved with the care and love of a senior with dementia or brain disorders.

I want to share something my mother told me when I was care giving for her. She was 100 years old and she had this talk with me after one of her small strokes. She had a series of these strokes and they were always scary but she would rest and perk back up. She wanted to tell me how she felt. “When someone has a newborn baby…the parents and the whole family look for the small changes and growth in the child. When the baby smiles, starts to follow your finger with their eyes, turns over, crawls and walks..the family rejoices in each small step. I am doing that backwards. Each time I have one of the strokes I take a step back. My hands may get weaker, my eyes weaker, I can concentrate shorter periods of time, I walk slower. It’s just small baby retractions…instead of improvements. I am getting worse day by day. Just like babies get better day by day. It is very frightening to me…but I can not change what is happening.” I will always remember her explanation of aging and decline.

Losing abilities and knowing they will not come back is not only frightening for the elder with dementia…but it’s heartbreaking for the close spouse and family members.

To me, its like a small part of the person has left. Leaving means grieving. So in a way, you are starting to grieve the loss of your family member. They may be alive and you maybe sitting next to them…but the part of them that was special and intimate to you has changed…never to return. I have spent many a day grieving and crying over losing parts of my husband, George. One day he is getting up to go and make a cup of tea and the next he is unable to get out of his chair alone, let alone make tea. At first you think, well he will be stronger tomorrow…but tomorrow never comes.

What I have done is allow myself to grieve…to be down and dirty with sadness. I remove myself from my senior and do my tears and anger in another room away from their presence. I often take a walk and clear my mind…and then I return.

When I do return…something has happened. Both of us have changed. I know that George has taken another step backwards and he sees me with a smile on my face and a “begin again” attitude. Because that is what I do. I reset my mind and we begin the day again, with me taking the senior’s small or large change into my care giving routine. I remove my feelings of sadness and I deal with what is in front of me. A person that I love, that is in need of care and I have to give them love in return. Maybe the care is now on a higher level, but the senior is in need of even more of my love and attention.

I know that everyone has a button…yours was your name and your relationship with your dad. I get that…and you should talk about this loss and interact with family and friends over it. You may want to go to your minister, or an older person that has always given you good advice and discuss the loss of your dad’s awareness of you. Call and pay for a professional therapy session, let a professional give you tips on how to work through the bit, by bit…loss of your dad. You may want to start a journal and write down how you feel…and how it has changed how you feel about your own life. Work it out. Because your dad is still here in the world. He is still in need of your love and if the table was turned…he would be sitting there next to you, as you traversed the lonely journey of dementia.

What you do not want to do…is to use your pain and your dad as an excuse to go back to patterns that are unhealthy for your own life. You do not need to use your dad to start to drink, take drugs or harm yourself in any other way. This is not about you…this is about your dad…and your feelings of grief. Its your job work those feeling now, so you can have a healthy emotional life as you go beyond the loss of your dad. Do not ignore the sadness, don’t just shrug your shoulders and think it will not effect your life. You need to be in good health and solid mind to support your mother or other close relatives…so be aware that grief is a personal experience. Everyone goes through the sadness, so sharing it with those that have experienced their own grief and worked through the loss is the way you can stay strong for yourself and your family.

When you have worked on the ideas of who you are without your father’s acknowledgement..then return to his side. Treat him as you would anyone. You start by introducing yourself…”Hi Dad, it’s Stacey– your first and best ever daughter!” And then you sit and slowly talk about your life. Yes, maybe its a wasted visit, because the information will come and go from his mind. But I don’t believe that it’s wasted…I believe and have seen that elders that are visited often, are more responsive and calm during their days. They process their daily life chores in a different way than those that are left on their own and forgotten in the facilities or in their own homes.

I am a deep believer that family and friends are there for life. That means even when someone is unwell…or taking a journey through an incurable cancer, brain or dementia condition…they are there and they are in need of support, love and prayers. You have to work through those inner feelings of rejection and loss…and come out on the other side with the basic love you have always felt for your dad. That love has to now take a new change and express itself with selfless gifting of love and time to your elder…so they can have someone by their side in their journey. No one should be alone at the end of their life..no one…and you will see that you will find the strength to be there with him. You just need to step back and accept the pain, work through your feelings and return to your dad as his cheerleader of life. Together you will support each other in love and even if your visits are quiet…with you reading, sitting next to him….he will feel your love.

Bringing your life and your view of the outside world to your father is the gift you can give. Yes, you will be upset after the visit…but you will go through your own long life ahead with a knowing that you gifted your love to your dad…even on the hardest days of his life. You were there.

I honor your gift of love. Blessings, francy

Would you be kind enough to sign up for the blog on the right of your screen. I am giving George more and more of my time…so this way…you will get my blog sent to you when I have a few minutes to share. Please do send this along to a friend that is going through issues that are similar ~ I would be very grateful.

You Need To Know Tips: Parkinson’s n Alzheimer’s Care Tips

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YOU NEED TO KNOW TIPS by francy Dickinson

Georgie w his daughter visiting from California

Georgie w his daughter visiting from California

Dear Francy; Dad just told me his bottom itched…now I am telling you no one could love the guy more than me…but I do not want to be caring for his itchy bottom…Bill, in Sacramento

I get you Bill…it’s like having kids. Someone, someone has to change that diaper…and if the room is empty all but you….YOU ARE THE GUY!

George’s care is getting more and more difficult and his doctor appointments are so frustrating using the Veteran’s. I spend most of my free time, ordering Rx and making appointments. But I have a whole boat load of YOU NEED TO KNOW TIPS— so take notes…you really do need to know this stuff:

YOU NEED TO KNOW TIPS:

  1. Elders have a strong and weak side. Not the side they write or eat with…but the side that is stronger or dominant. As the elder walks which foot is moving better? I have a way to tell…you have the elder hold their arms straight out in the front of them shoulder height. Then as they keep the arms straight they move the arms up and down about 10 inches…like a flutter. You will see when you watch them, one arm is working well and the other is out of balance or rhythm. Now you know which side is in control. What to do with that info? Start to address the weak side. Give the senior pills or their newspaper to the weak side. Sit and talk to them on the weak side. You are trying to get the brain to accept and use the weak side as much as you can. During the exercise time…make sure the weak side is first and does it slower but well. Keep that brain working on each side…so small strokes, or decline in brain functions is being dealt with on a daily basis. If the brain goes a day without talking to muscles…it will lose the ability…keep them moving. 
  2. Keep your senior eating well. If you senior is not eating meat…learn to cut it for them ahead of time. This way they will take the meat and chew it…but you have to look at the plate and think…how you can make it easy to eat and attractive to view. The senior’s mind needs that message…easy, pretty = good food.
  3. Always hungry? Or Senior forgetting they have eaten. I have gotten a lot of small things to eat. Like fish crackers, animal frosted cookies and baby carrots. This way when the senior forgets they just ate dinner or lunch…and they come back to you for more food…you just have a little something to give them in a very small bowl. I have small white bowls for sauces, that I use to fill with a few little bites for them to enjoy…just like you would a toddler.
  4. Even if the senior is using their cane, they need their walker. You need to quietly remind them over and over again…you do not want them to fall. A cane can help them inside the bathroom…but a walker gets them to and back from the bathroom. You can get a cane that stands up..but make sure the base legs are not going to trip the senior. The walker should be really steady, not pretty, steady!
  5. Long before I needed a wheelchair or commode, I got them. I took George into the PT and asked them to Rx the medical needs. With Veterans I got them without any deposit, with insurance you will pay a co pay. But you need them…because the need always comes at night or on a weekend and you are stuck. Do not be stuck…be ready. Be aware that the wheelchair has to fit into your car…and the commode is not light, its weighty. You can keep them in the garage but do it! I always ask my families to ask a member to help them with things like that. Call someone that said, “if there is something you need call me.” This is the time, for the brother, sister, aunt or uncle to pay for the wheelchair or other medical equipment.
  6. UTI’s are not funny…seniors get them often. They will take the senior down fast and quick. So I have to remind you. Ladies do not wipe their bottoms from the back to the front. That puts the feces into the urethra area and infection happens. Watch the dementia senior and remind them to properly wipe their bottom. Men need to clean their penis area. Often running-water issues arise with dementia…so get extra wash cloths and have the senior use one for their face, one for the under arms, and one for their private parts. Do this each morning and life will be easier.
  7. Bath every week, once or twice…and if you can afford it…please hire a bath person. They are so professional and they are in and out of the house in no time. The senior responds well to them and instead of fuss and muss…it is over and done.
  8. These are a life saver gummies ;)

    These are a life saver – gummies😉

    Pills are hard for seniors to take. “Always” review Rx with main doctor and ask if they are all necessary. Then add the magic. Get a bottle of Fiber Choice “Fruity bites” They are little gummy candy and the seniors love them. I use three of them each morning in the pill container. So George sees the gummies and eats them first and then takes his pills. Instead of arguing over pills you have a happy senior. Plus! The fiber in the pills helps the senior process food easier.

  9. Know the difference from using a daily stool softener and adding a daily fiber addition to the senior’s menu. Have Imodium on hand, Parkinson’s really has a challenge with diarrhea and you want the senior to get the Imodium right away so they do not have a challenge all day or all night.Do not struggle with constipation w seniors, a little green tea before bed will clear it up and the stool softener will keep it all in good shape.
  10. George does not eat like he used to eat…I would say he eats ½ to 1/3 of what he used to eat. So I make sure I give him full plates…I just bought smaller plates to use instead of our everyday large plates. I give him a full dinner, just a smaller amount. I make sure it is well delivered…so it looks like a restaurant plate. That keeps their eye interested and they tend to eat more. If you plop a white bread sandwich on a plate…they often push it away. So give them half a sandwich, a ¼ sliced apple and five or six chips or crackers…that will get them into the food.
  11. Importance of fruit. The l’dopa in the brain bounces up and down like a sugar high or low. A person needs the l’dopa….so you have to keep food at an even level. A 4’o clock Sundowner’s low means you need to perk up the senior. You can do this with apple slices and peanut butter dip, or a small cup of melon with an animal cracker…small treats to rise the sugar and rise the l’dopa. Add a cuppa tea or decaf coffee and they will be happy till dinner.
  12. Kids are not fun for a senior with health or brain challenges. Yes, they love their grandkids…but remember the visiting 20 minute rule. Just tell your kids that they can come and see Grandpa…but only if they are well…and stay 20 minutes. Even that time frame will send a senior to nap for a day after. So be wise, speak up..no feelings hurt…tell it as it is…no kids for longer than 20 minutes.
  13. Sleep is OK…do not get all out of shape over napping or a day in bed. Yes the elder in care needs to exercise…and they need to be challenged with good TV, walks, or sitting outside, calls made for them to talk to old friends and a calendar of events for them to check off each day. But, if they need to rest…their brain needs to rest. They have so little energy, that often the brain needs to be quiet and rest to restore it. If George has visitors, goes to the doctor, goes out to lunch with me…I know tomorrow is going to be a “rest day”. I plan for that in the bigger picture of our week.
  14. Dressing and hygiene…they are really, really important. NO George does not wear a suit any longer, or pants with belts. But George does wear comfy pull on pants that are soft and easy to get up and down. Yes, he has plenty of pants to change into since accidents do happen. Yes he is cold all the time. But I do make sure he has nice layered tops to keep him warm and still look good. No he does not wear sports shoes any longer. Yes he does wear an expensive pair of slippers from Land’s End so he is supported but they are easy on and off. No he has little hair, but yes, I have a nice collection of different hats for him to wear around the house and keep warm. No George does not go out but Yes, I put a moisturizer with SPF on his face every day (Oil of Olay). Facial skin looks horrid as you age…you need to keep up with a good facial moisturizer so the senior sees themselves in the mirror…not a scary old person. Yes, shaving, and deodorant is used every day by men and women, no matter what their age. Yes, older ladies are still ladies they need their hair done and men need a good face shave and haircut. This is what keeps the brain feeling good for the senior when they get up and brush their teeth. They see a person that is clean and looks good. Yes, it means running around for you , the care giver, but this is what is needed to keep the senior in quality-loving care.
  15. Teeth? Yes you need to check their teeth and get them attended too. George and I both use a sonic tooth brush and floss…and we whiten our teeth twice a year with a tooth whitener from Walgreens. It makes our teeth brighter and we look younger the minute the first day of treatment is over. Be smart – keep your senior looking sharp within the parameters of their health. It’s really important!
  16. Toes need to be done…so you have an array of choices. Medicare pays for toe clipping every 90 days at a podiatrist…a bit too long for me. Senior centers have nurses that come and check feet and do the toe clipping each month. A better solution. The best…a nice pedicure at a nail shop. They soak, message, clip and moisturize the feet…I get George a large latte and he sits there in heaven. So I suggest the $20 be used. It’s also a perfect thing to ask one of the adult children, of the senior, to do with the parent. Take them out for a pedicure and then lunch. A great way for the senior to check in with the kids and keep their feet healthy each month. Remember any issues with diabetes need to have their feet checked each month…they do not heal well and the circulation issues makes this a MUST DO.

OK that is it for now…if you work on those…I will get you more…

As George goes farther and farther into his Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s the challenges just seem to be daily. But, as I always say…you just have to suck it up and be creative. Talk about it with family and friends. Send me an email and I will help and over all…take time to breathe…

Thank you for caring for your senior…they need you…and you are giving love to them…how cool is that? Blessings francy

PS: Would you click the sign up button so when I do update my blog you are sent the info. I am doing less blogging because I have so much care giving duties…but I am always here for you. Please pass this on to a friend that is caring for a senior in their lives…thanks! F.

Attn: Tips for Parkinson’s Care

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Parkinson’s Care Tips from francy Dickinson

George's 83rd Birthday 2014

George’s 83rd Birthday 2014

Dear Francy; My father-in-law took six years to get a diagnosis for Parkinson’s in the 1950’s…no one knew the signs. Let’s help each other learn the signs and prepare for a long life of health — with Parkinson’s. Not a sad ending to life by ignoring the important steps to take early on in your diagnosis.We can and do have control over how the condition works for us. Unlike his dad, my husband is able to continue a full life…filled with love and family. But we work hard to make his life have quality. from francy

TIPS TO KEEP YOU STRONGER LONGER:

  1. Work with the best. You have insurance and so use it…do not use your family doctor for Parkinson’s. The brain/body problems need an expert that treats loads of Parkinson’s patients. So, go to a Memory Clinic…or neurologist, if you feel your body is not responding well, you have a tremor, hard time walking well, you are losing your balance, 2 or more falls in 30 days, or your memory is worrying you.  They will get you into medications on the front of science and into a program to keep you stronger…longer.
  2. Blonde way to think of Parkinson’s…the brain and the muscles start to have problems interacting. The communication gets erratic or slow and then worsens. If you understand the process of Parkinson’s then the treatment and care become clear. Here is a great site to understand the Truth: Parkinson’s Explained. Better to know and understand what is happening to you or your loved one…instead of being surprised or worried.
  3. Keep Safe with Exercise! From the get go…you have to move. Everyday…you have to re-introduce your brain to your muscles. Like the movie “50 First Dates”. You can not let a day go by that you do not have your brain search and find every one of your muscles. You need to go and enroll in a senior exercise class as soon as possible. It will make a huge difference and tell the leader of the class of your condition so they know how to help you. On top of that…You need five movement exercises you can do each day from now on…all the way to the end of your life. Visit a Physical Therapy person and get a simple routine…you will do this routine forever..on a daily basis. Parkinson’s will change your movement, it will pull your body into a bent over and forward position that causes falls. Medications and your exercises can help you with those changes…so make sure you keep close to the doctor check-ins. But you need to just commit to a routine, that is very simple…every single day. If you have time to go and exercise more GREAT..but if not. These exercises need to be done at home, on your own. Do not think I am joking…you need to do this routine to keep walking, talking and living a full life and staying safe. Be active…I am doing a series of videos and will post…so you can see the easy exercises that help your brain keep a relationship with your muscles.
  4. Nutrition is showing as a very important part of changing the brain to the better to fight the side effects of Parkinson’s. Like any other idea…you need to read up on it. What you will find is that some food helps the medications and some work against it. You will also notice that adding supplements is a key to helping your body process the food. B-12 pills that melt in your mouth in the afternoon…and small snacks can really make an impact on how your body works. Click here for special Parkinson’s Food information:
  5. Talk…one of the side effects of Parkinson’s is being quieter. So as a family member…be sure to interact with your senior and get them to talk. To use that part of their brain…to keep them interested and into the world around them. Having them go out and about and see and do new things…that opens up new brain pathways and this is what we want to elongate the quality of life for anyone with Parkinson’s or any other brain disorder. Singing, dancing, being silly…talking about family history and doing easy chores – all keep the brain in motion.
  6. Forgetful? Yes, another side effect of Parkinson’s is losing brain function in the memory area. So, it means that its important to understand it’s not a worry…its just a natural progress of the condition…nothing to worry over. Just keep moving…keep talking, keep interaction going and do not hide. Hiding in bed, staying in your house…feeling safe in your bedroom or living room…will not change or help…the senior needs to keep their brain moving and interacting. If you see signs of memory loss…or safety issues worrying the senior take them into the neurologist and they will add medications that can help to change the brain functioning. You also need to rest…sleeping and hitting a deep sleep will help your brain to rebuild at night. Sleeping in small spurts does not allow the brain that healing time…talk to the doctor if you have issues with sleeping so it can be addressed.
    Do not give up…medications take a special geeky mind to mix into a cocktail that each senior formulates depending on their side effects. That is why you need to commit to your health care team at the Memory Clinic. So, instead of worry…write it down. Be prepared to report changes you feel in yourself or others notice about you…and share it with your doctor. You will find the doctor is thrilled to be working with someone that is active in their own care.
    NOTE: If you are forgetting, take note that phone apps and services to remind you to take your medications are available…use them! Taking your pills each day is how your brain works…not taking the pills…shocks the brain and it does not work…be smart on this!
  7. Get the worst over with right away. As early as you get the diagnosis, get the end of life issues handled so you can let them be and live on. Talking about all the bad stuff…getting it out and being sad over it…is a natural way of life…doing it right away…is a wise investment in your mental health. It will be years before your life is over….but don’t wait the journey is hard and long–one day you wake up and know that you are too unwell to make sound decisions. Deal with your Living Will situation and get a family/friend/spouse appointed and informed as a part of your medical team…so they can understand what your ideas of treatment are and will follow them as you move forward on your journey. Get it all out…talk about end of life issues and what you want and need for that to happen. Make changes to your finances, or place of living — soon. That way as you fade in abilities…those decisions you have made are signed, sealed and working. Change has been made not in the future and worrying you as your symptoms get harder to manage.
    –> I have often said that I have no idea how a senior, alone can get through the tasks of health care in today’s world. You need a buddy…find a kind and caring person that will not take advantage of you in your down times…and get them working on your behalf. Do not, try to do this on your own…involve someone to be your health team member and they will walk with you step by step and make the journey easier. 
    Download your own state’s Living Will Here
  8. Joy…there is nothing like laughing…nothing like being happy about silly, simple things. Spend time with your younger family members…laugh at puppy and kitten videos, watch old TV that used to make you laugh. Keep your mind in JOY…there will be plenty of time for sadness and worry…so “work” on keeping your own mind or your senior’s mind – in a place of calm…and joy. Sunshine, fresh air– its time to be calmed…learning to meditate (or deep prayer) can also help keep the senior calm when their body is changing and their mind is working slower.
    Ask the senior if they would like faith support. No matter what the care giver believes or the senior believes…if its time to call a faith person like a Rabbi or Minister to come and visit the senior…then make that call. I did, I contacted an old Minister that we had attended his church years before…he was kind enough to come by and talk with George. He puts us on his calendar and comes by with hugs and love every couple of months. George really appreciates the time to chat with a friend and make a spiritual connection. Give the senior the ability to have those experiences no matter what their personal choice of faith is…or even if they have no faith. I also try to leave George alone for a while when the minister is visiting, in case he wants to share something private with our friend…life needs talking out…so does end of life transition.
    Here is a great site if you have no faith connection, just friendly voices to chat with about your worries, no money is exchanged.  
  9. Join a support group in your area or on the Internet. Talk to others and get your mind around your condition and its gradual progression…and work to keep on top of it. I have kept my Georgie, who has both Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s going for many, many years now. I keep him involved with family, friends and the world around him. Even on his exhausted days, that he does very little, he eats well, he moves and does his exercises, he drinks his smoothies and takes his supplements. I make sure each week has something to give my senior so they can concentrate on life…not let days fade into months and emptiness.
  10. Keeping living forward. Read about new ideas on Parkinson’s. Get some of the newsletters to keep you involved with the latest ideas from caregivers and professionals that will enhance the life for your self or your senior. There is no …its too late! There is only try this…then try that. There are cocktail mixes of medications that can make positive changes. There are ideas that each family comes up with to help the senior cope and stay involved sharing and talking make this journey easier for everyone. The trip down the path of Parkinson’s is not short…its long and you can make it richer if you keep thinking forward.

I hope these ideas give you a place to begin and grow. Get on the net and read…talk to others that are dealing with the same situations and just feel it in your heart that your life is worth the extra care you need to give to yourself now. Remember…no matter what they write…YOU are special and your body and mind are different than anyone else’s…so your twists and turns down the journey of Parkinson’s is yours alone. I hope you will chose the path of calm and quality of life. There is so much to live for and your life with…all of us that know you – is too rich to throw away. So, keep working, keep moving, keep eating, keep thinking, keep loving…for your family/friends…but also for yourself.

Please sign up for my blog…click the JOIN button and you will receive my blogs when I have time to do them. My care for my own Georgie is getting long and more intense so I do not blog all the time…but I am still answering your questions and appreciating your input for my own care giving…Yes I am working on my Care Giving Book…I am trying hard to get it all done this summer…thank you for all the requests…Blessings, francy

Coming Fall 2014

Coming Fall 2014

Where to Go When You Need a Hospital for Dad?

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How to choose hospitals that fit the needs of your senior in care. by francy Dickinson

HospitalDear Francy; We just got through with a horrible experience at our local hospital. We live in a bedroom community and my dad had been having trouble with pain in his stomach area. He had trouble going to the bathroom and his back hurt. So, we finally took him to the ER at our larger local hospital. We have two hospitals in the area; one is smaller and other is a big trauma hospital with a big ER. We went to the larger hospital thinking they would have a better ER to treat him. When we arrived the ER was packed and we had to wait and wait.  Then when he was in the ER room…there was no room for him! So he was on a gurney in the outer area while a police officer was patrolling the ER. There had been gang trouble and they were trying to keep two rival gang members separated while they treated them. Poor dad, was confused, in pain and totally unable to process why the police were there. It was a nightmare. Why do they let seniors take back seats to these horrible gang people?

I can understand your distress and I assure you they did not take the gang members over your dad. They do Triage and the gang members were in more high risk condition, than your dad so they went first. The problem was that the hospital itself is a haven for high stress when it is a trauma center. So, lets talk about hospitals and get the idea of how to choose them in your mind. Next time when an emergency comes up…you will be prepared and be able to guide the ambulance driver to the right place for your special care.

Triage Means:
noun(in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or  casualties. verb to assign degrees of urgency to (wounded or ill patients)

I will assume your dad had prostate or blocked bowel, correct? Those are conditions that older men have and they are very painful. Elders often do not talk about their private bathroom problems with their care givers or family…until the situation gets painful. I understand that and I’m sorry you all had to go through that sad emergency experience. But lets roll back the clock and see how it could have gone differently.

Both elder men and women need to have a verbal check each day. Care giving is part immediate and part prevention. So everyday( I usually do it while I am picking up their breakfast tray) talk to them. “Dad how was breakfast, I see you did not eat very much of your cereal. How is your stomach feeling?” Dad says; “Oh, fine, I was just not very hungry.” You say; “Oh, well lets talk about it. Are you feeling OK..when did you last go to the bathroom?”

Then you go down the list; are you in pain…if so 1-10 how does the pain feel? When did you have your last bowel movement, or – you are going to the bathroom more often..why is that?” It may not be a hit parade topic for a father-daughter subject…but it pays off. You do this day after day and then he will get used to it. The conversation and your voice tone stay quiet and you sound calm…so your senior feels the conversation is normal. Pretty soon, you learn to take note of changes and you can make a quick doctor or nurse practitioner appointment. When you do that, remember to write down the symptoms your senior has been showing or talking about. As you arrive to the appointment, hand the paper over to the office person checking you in and ask them to attach it to the file for the doctor’s review. It will make the appointment go faster and easier for everyone.

As one older, very experienced in-home nurse said to me…”Francy, stay out of the ER as much as you can. It will usually mean more trouble than it is worth for an elder senior.” So, I try hard to catch problems before they get out of hand…but falls and extreme illness do happen and we all have to face them and learn to use the hospital system and keep as informed as we can.

Now, what I found after years of hospital visits is how to choose a hospital in advance to a problem. The smaller hospitals are perfect for ER visits when you have non heart related issues. So, if the senior falls, or has bowel or urinary problems, even stomach pains…that is something a small hospital does best. ERs are always busy…but less stressful in smaller hospitals because the “trauma'” issues are brought to bigger specially designed Trauma Centers…so car accidents, gun violence or heart problems that require loads of equipment and team efforts to solve a problem are their specialty. This huge effort for big care issues is much different then the smaller hospital ERs. Not that smaller hospitals do not carry heart issue equipment, but its nothing like the big Trauma Centers.

Heart issues are always brought to the larger hospital centers that have special heart teams on staff, at all times. So, you know if you have a senior with any heart, stroke or related issues with blood thinning medications…you have a clear path to that large Trauma Hospital. When you get all of this in your mind ahead of time…when the emergency hits…you are prepared.

Share your choices with anyone that will be caring for your senior …so this is all figured out and runs smooth. Every emergency is stressful…so to know the direction to go for help is really a step toward faster care.

Now if your senior is having small elective surgery…you want to once again take on that smaller hospital. But here is where that changes. If your senior is in a questionable situation…or diagnosed with something complicated…you want to find a “teaching or specialty hospital”. Yes, this could mean a drive to a larger city…but the specialty hospitals are simply a godsend when you have a complicated diagnosis from a doctor. When you face a long-term battle like cancer…having a full service cancer center to go to is a super smart way to treat the issue.

So the example would be this. Your senior goes to the smaller local hospital ER and is treated for a blocked prostate. They come back and say that the prostate is showing cancer, what to do?

There are a lot of decisions to be made in case of a complicated diagnosis. Prostate has many different treatment options. My young niece was just diagnosed with leukemia. That was a two-week ride of trying to figure out what kind of leukemia she had, so they could treat it well. If she was in a small town, with a small hospital – I would have asked them to transfer her to a children’s hospital in a larger city. That specialty hospital is trained in children issues, has specialists that deal with leukemia on a daily basis..not every once in a while. She was lucky because she had a children’s hospital close. She is safe and getting a complicated treatment schedule that the “Hospitalists” are well-trained for and she is getting stronger.

Something to know: Hospitality are now the treating physicians in the hospitals. You   will be using a general Hospital, not your own regular doctor  when your senior goes into the hospital. This is what I found for meaning: A Hospitality is a doctor who basically does nothing except take care of in-hospital patients. They do not have private    practices, they strictly do hospital work.

A senior with the prostate blockage and possible cancer would be best at a large hospital with a specialty of cancer or a teaching hospital. That way all the newer treatments are available for the senior and they can give you a full understanding of your choices in treatments. What I have found is that town doctors may be specialists, but in emergencies they stick to what they have done for years. They stay close to treatments and drugs that are comfortable within their experience. I do not want a complicated situation to be handled in an out of date or common way. I want a complicated issue to be handled with a group of specialists that are on the cutting edge and will use different services to make you and the senior informed of the options of care. I also like the idea that a “group” of doctors will be reviewing the situation and debating treatment for your senior patient.

If you are reading this and say…WOW, my dad is older and does not want to have fancy extended care. He wants to pass naturally and easily.

 That is called Palliative Care. Here is what I found on the meaning: With palliative  care, there is a focus on relieving pain and other troubling  symptoms and meeting your emotional, spiritual, and practical needs. In short, this new medical specialty aims  to improve your senior's quality of life -- however you define that for yourself.

What I feel is that the word Palliative Care is an important word for you and your elder/senior in care need to talk about. That is why everyone needs a Living Will/Medical Care Directive. As you make out this form, you will go through the different options of care giving with the senior. You will then know how to make a decision in the middle of a medical emergency. Do they want to be on long-term care? Do they want to have CPR…there are many different questions on the form and the senior will be able to design their own life care. If those decisions mean that they do not want to extend their lives you need to talk to a doctor and get a special paper that says “NO MEDICAL LIFE SAVING SERVICES”. This paper will be signed by the doctor and the senior. So when you call for help and the EMT team arrives they know the rule and the paper is posted and they then do not have to do “any or all to save a life”. This is important to have when your senior is in the last journey of their life. Lots of families do not understand this rule and do not take that extra step. When the EMT or ER people respond to the senior’s needs they can not…just let the senior go…they are legally bound to treat the senior. But if you have the paper that the doctor and senior have signed (its different – in different states) you can show it and the medical team can relax and make the passing comfortable.

Inform yourself on the forms to keep your senior from extreme life saving treatments. Its a form here is what I have found on it: What are “Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (MOLST)?
The MOLST form is a standardized document containing valid medical orders about life-sustaining treatment. It stays with the patient and is honored by health professionals across all health care settings.

My mother had the MOLST paper posted…but when she started to bleed from her mouth..I still took her into the hospital and they found she had an ulcer from her medications. They did a small procedure to stop the bleeding and changed her meds. I did not think we should have let her life go, under the situation. It was a small mend and she lived on another two years. You see I knew how to make that decision because we had talked about her care when we did her care directive and I got my name on the paper as her Power of Attorney for Medical issues. I know it sounds complicated…but I assure you…during the care process for a senior these issues will come up. Life is not always “passing away in your sleep”. It can get very complicated. So with my mother…she did not want any fancy testing or complicated or major procedures to extend her life. I knew that and my choices for her care were easier for me because of our talking over her wishes.

To download your state’s health care directive forms FREE click here. 

I have put the hospital phone numbers of my city on my cell phone. I have also thought about when I drive or when I call 911 for help. When my husband George had pneumonia I called a friend to come and help me drive him to the hospital. When he had symptoms of a heart attack I called 911 for immediate help. If you take a few minutes to think over the idea of when to call for help or when to do take action on your own…you will find that you are prepared in your mind…when and if an emergency pops up.

I also have just done a review of how to make sure that you are prepared for the ER hospital trip and possible stay. Here is a link to that blog so you can pack and have your Emergency Kit all ready to go.

George on a rare out and about with me ;)

George on a rare out and about with me😉

I want to take time to thank you for the care giving you are doing for your senior. I know what a struggle it is to be a care giver and I appreciate all you are doing. Would you do me a favor and click on the “sign up” button on the right side of your screen. I am so busy with care giving for my Georgie (with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) that my blogs are random…this way you will get an email with my new blog info. Blessings, francy

PS Thank you to all of you that are constantly supporting me during my care giving for George. He is getting much weaker with his Parkinson’s issues. So the care giving is more complicated and extended. But we did get out for dinner on Good Friday…to celebrate Easter. We met George’s son and his wife at a local restaurant and had a nice dinner. I picked a place that I could park and walk in on one level. George just wheeled up to the table and I did the running around the buffet to fill his plate. He had such a good time, but it took about three days for him to recover from the extended activity from the out and about. I think of our journey as “creative problem solving’ on a daily basis. I want George’s life to be as joy filled as possible. So, we make most quiet days into little celebrations of current events. He is happy and the care giving needed, is still within my range. Thanks again, francy

What Do You Do When Your Mom Stops Loving You?

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How to handle the anger and pain of emotional discourse between parents and caregivers. by francy Dickinson

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Dear Francy; This is a review of many folks that write to me…that have had very painful experiences with their parents. It could be their mom or dad…or grandmother. Someone that raised the caregiver and had a solid relationship and then it was broken. The pain is not a small issue…it is felt long and deep.

I suppose it starts with me. My mother and I were very close. I was the ‘late in life’ baby that arrived after mother had raised three other daughters. She was older and going into mid-life issues and I really gave her a run for her money. But over the years, I was her escort, I took her to doctor visits, cared for her and her home…included her in vacations with my husband and really felt I was her friend. When she started having small strokes and could no longer live alone, she moved in with us and lived on the lower floor of our home. Her care was long and hard for me. She was with us for five years…and it was in the last few months of her life she began to talk through her personal history…and the more she talked…day by day…the more she decided I had been the pivot point of her life. She told me she could have gone back to work and made a better life for herself if I had not been born. One day, she spent the whole day telling me how she just never really liked me and it was so hard for her to be in my house. I understood that a woman of almost 100 years was working through things. But when your own parent tells you…they really just never cared for you, as a person…it hurts. I am a fully grown woman and I understand the pain of someone facing death with health issues. I understand the dementia that slowly changes the way an older person sees the world….but it still hurt. I also know that mother loved me…she was a caring person. But loving and liking a person are two different things. I am still working with those words she spoke. In little ways I think…that I did all I could to make her life rich and happy in the end. But I know that inside of me, I was just not the right type of person for her. I was outgoing…she was shy. I was independent and she was a person that needed her family around her. I was not afraid of life…she was cautious. But we never had an argument, or bad words, we would laugh and enjoy our friendship all through my adult life. So, those words…those feelings…they are still with me. Mother died at 100 years after living with us for her last five. She has now been gone since 2006 and yet…I am still mulling over her words.

What do you do…when someone that has been a life-long parent or parent figure decides that you are not the person they need or want in their life? Well its very hard. So I am going to use three examples of family caregivers that have sent me emails about their situations that brought them to a place of feeling deep sadness.

Mary was in her late forties with a great job. She had been divorced for three years and her son had just graduated from college when her father died. She had always been close to her parents and so she really stepped up and traveled to her mother’s side. Those trips to help her mother increased and within a year…Mary sold her small home, left her job, friends and son and moved two states away to be close to her mother. Mary found a small apartment, she got a lesser job and she began the three-year care giving of her mother. Her mother was suffering with kidney problems and they became very serious. Mary tried to keep her mom busy with things that brought her joy. They would shop, go to activities, do a bit of travel and gardening together. Mary would constantly think of how to help her mom over the pain of her health issues. Mary quit her job and moved in with her mother in the last year of her life. Mary was her mother’s sole caregiver. She tried to make each day include something happy to talk about and give her mom food she enjoyed and was constantly arranging friends and family to come and visit. As an only child, Mary was really shocked that on the death of her mother…everything that her mother owned, family pieces, property, money and personal items…were all left to the Humane Society. (Who promptly arrived on the door step two days after the funeral to ask Mary to be out of the house within 48 hours.) Mary has moved back to be by her friends and son, who is now married. She started her own business and is busy, busy, busy. But, she still harbors the pain of her mother rejecting her after her death. Never telling her that she was not going to receive things that belonged to her dad and her family history items. She has no idea why her mother made those decisions…but the pain of them haunt Mary. Mary and I have talked about it many times…she has gone on with her life, she is happy and comfortable…but she is wounded.

Roger lost his mother when he was 10 and his dad did his best raising he and his brother. His dad was a professional man and spent very little time around the boys…but hired care givers. As Roger went through life, graduating from college, marriage and success with wonderful children of his own and a great business career…his dad often told him how proud of him he was so Roger always felt loved. It was when his dad had aged and lived alone a long time.. that things started to crack. His dad told Roger that his brother had been helping him more than Roger and he was disappointed in him. He would call and tell him that the brother was there when he fell or went into the hospital. Roger was really upset. He called his dad every other day. He lived about an hour’s drive away and would come if his dad needed him. But his dad never told Roger of his health issues or of any need…even when Roger asked and came over to check on him. Suddenly…it was like his dad was using Roger and his brother as bouncing balls. His brother always coming out ahead. This tension went on for five years…constant worry over his dad and his dad’s care…upsets between he and his brother…upset with what his dad wanted and needed. Then when his dad had his final heart attack and Roger raced to the hospital…his dad had put his name down as “blocked from visits”. When his dad died…he was even asked not to come to the memorial. Roger, a man with a family, grand children, money and friendly disposition…is suddenly out of favor. His own father rejecting him from his life and death. Roger has talked to me about this for many years…those actions of his dad…have caused Roger so much heart ache and feelings of failure.

Anne was the 8th child and the beloved baby of her family. They were all close and caring people and often gathered together in their parents large home for holidays. Family gatherings were filled with jokes, laughs and love. Stories of the family history, grandchildren running around and simple joy of being together. So when her mother died…it was not only hard to be without her…but the family gatherings stopped. No one really stepped up to take them over…the family slipped apart. Soon her dad was alone in a large house and none of the other siblings, but Anne, were coming to visit or give him care. No matter how often Anne would talk to the family members…they were busy and had their own lives. So she and her dad just forged ahead. At first Anne tried to keep the house and garden up like her mother did. But Anne had her own family and she simply could not do two homes. As the house became overwhelming…her dad started to get quiet and sad. Finally, his health was not good enough for him to be alone…so Anne and her husband had him come and live with them. Her dad sold his house and remodeled a garage at Anne’s place so he could have a place of his own, but be close. Then Anne began the high pressure care giving of someone with health issues and the running back and forth to deliver food and care from her house to the back garden cottage. Anne had three boys who had spent their life adoring their grandfather but now he wanted quiet and was always complaining about them. Her husband would go over and watch TV with her dad and then the complaining began that he did not have privacy. A lifetime of a quiet, loving dad had started to turn into a man who was mad and his own anger was directed at Anne. The rest of his kids rarely came to visit…no matter how much Anne tried to get them to come…so the dad felt it was Anne keeping them away. The situation was not just hard, but hurtful and three days before her dad passed…he had called a retirement center and told him he was being abused and needed to move in with them. Anne was too busy to think about the sadness when her dad passed…but now that her own kids are grown and out of the house she has more time. Anne cut ties to her siblings…she just could not deal with the thoughts that people she loved were not there for her when she needed them. She has worked through the anger over what her dad had done…at the end of his life…but the reporting abuse has left her feeling such pain. She still does not understand why her dad would say things so hurtful about her.

So, that is the review of issues between parents and their children…who have grown into adults and gave their love back to their parents. What to do? How to heal? I have talked this over with so many family members that I know that just saying it meant nothing…the hurtful words, actions or times…are just forgotten. But the hurt does not go away. You can tell yourself that an older person has fear of dying issues…but hurtful words and deeds take their toll.

What most of us have decided is that talking about our pain helps…even if we have to repeat the story a few times with a few different people…it helps hearing it in your mind and through your ears. Making a personal pledge that we will not do anything like this to our own family caregivers when the time has come is also helpful. But the most we can do…is to simply put the experience down as a sad life story…and try to move on through our lives.

Care giving is a gift…and just like any other gift…it can be accepted with grace and a thank you…or it can be taken and put aside and not appreciated. When you take a step back you see the bigger picture..but you can not step back far enough not to wonder why…the one person you loved and tried to help…took advantage of you. Just know you are not alone…and your own moral compass gave you the ability to help and love your family member at a time in their life when they needed to have someone to help them. That knowledge means you tried your best…and nothing more needs to be said. Even thou your mind and heart will never forget the slight from someone so loved by you.

I want to once again, thank you for all you have done and or are doing for your senior in care. They need you, even if the journey is not pleasant…they need your love. Blessings, francy

Seniors Can Have Their Steak and Eat It, TOO!

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How to keep seniors eating the food they enjoy even if they have eating, swallowing, chewing or strength issues with recipes for shut-ins.  by francy Dickinson

My Georgie at the Cafe

My Georgie at the Cafe

Dear Francy; My George had cabin fever and kept asking to go out with me. That is not possible when I am running around…so I planned a simple meal at a local cafe for Sunday Brunch. It takes 2 hrs. to prepare George for leaving the house. Then the wheelchair, car, drive and unload the wheelchair and get him safely inside to a table. Then he often does not know how to make a choice with a multi-dish menu. So, I suggested the PrimeRib and did not even give him the menu. He agreed. When it arrived…he began to dig in…and I was shocked to see he was unable to cut his meat. Wow, his abilites with the combo of Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s are really going away. I cut his meat…and then he was happy and made his way through the meal with horseradish, au jus and stuffed baked potato…YUMM. But a little bit of me was sad that he had made such a big change in his eating abilities.  

HOW TO KEEP OUR SENIORS EATING WELL…
WHEN THEY HAVE TEETH, SWALLOWING OR STRENGTH ISSUES

When mother was living with us (from 95 yrs -100 yrs old) she came with really bad teeth. I don’t know why she had let her teeth go so badly. But they were just a mess…so we had them pulled and got her dentures. During the process of healing and before the dentures…she would tell me how she was so looking forward to having a “real steak or pork chops”. I understood…she was raised and then later cooked through the meat and potato time of home cooking…so she longed for her old flavors. The day that she got her dentures…I had a pork chop with Rice a Roni and asparagus for her dinner and she was a very happy camper. Life changes are hard for all of us…going up a size in your clothes or going down in your abilities to eat food you have always enjoyed.

I understand that many folks are eating more chicken, turkey and fish along with a vegetarian diet…but most seniors still enjoy their beef. So here are a few tips to help you through the process of feeding your senior beef. Even if you are not eating it along with them…make sure that they get a good beef dinner every other week. That will keep them happy and give them the protein they need.

If you are lucky and can afford fancy cuts of meat…I bless you. I am not. I have to shop for beef and find it within my budget. I do have a couple of tips. One is to buy lesser cuts and then prepare them so they have tenderness and flavor. I also look for un-advertised “manager or in-store” specials. Those specials will have a sign on them for a fast sell..the meat is getting to the end of it’s “sell by” date and so even good cuts can be cut in price. Sometimes it will be less then half the original price. I find these cuts usually are on the shelf in the morning hours before noon…and so I try to hit the stores early so I can take advantage of being first in line. Then there are steaks that are large and the cuts may even be thin…but if it is a good price…I buy them. Usually a good price means a good family size package, but I never worry about that…I am a freezer girl.

Deny Tenderizer

Deny Tenderizer

I just bought a kitchen tool that is simply the bee’s knees of tenderizing. It has many steel needles that you use to prick the steak and it cuts through the meat and leaves it tender. Then you sprinkle your favorite steak spice mix over the top and it sinks down into the meat. You let the meat sit in the fridge for a couple of hours and then put it out to come to room temperature and it will grill up so easy. It makes the meat easy to cut, easy to chew and easy to cook in an even pattern. I often cook more than we will eat…then I slice the left overs to put on top of a salad the next day…YUMM

Mother was the Queen of Budgets and she had a trick with less than stellar meat. She would marinate it for 3 to 5 days in a freezer ziplock bag. The meat would come out so tender and tasty you would never know it was not a top/prime cut. So here is the recipe…I know you will enjoy it. Please give it a try.

TOOT’S STEAK 3 – 5 Day MARINADE RECIPE

Heavy ZipLock type bag for 3-5 day Marinade

Heavy ZipLock type bag for 3-5 day Marinade

1/3 cup olive oil poured right into the gallon size Ziplock bag.
1/8 cup soy sauce (low sodium is what I use)   *  1/8 cup wine (left over red or white…or wine vinegar–or rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley  *  1 Tbsp minced garlic (I buy a jar of it pre-minced in the veggie department to have handy)  *  1 Tbsp dry minced onion  * cracked pepper -Do not add salt, use that when the marinade is finished and you are ready to cook the meat.
Mix it all in the bag and place the meat in and take out the air and zip close the bag carefully so your meat tray does not get wet. I always mark the day that I want to use it..usually on the third day…so I don’t get busy and forget the process. Then I put it in the bottom of the fridge in the meat drawer and every day, I turn it over to really keep all the meat covered with the sauce. (Yes, I do use the Deny tenderizer blades but that is a new step, mother never had one…and the marinade always turned out fabulous!)

Now if the senior has trouble cutting their food. You can put the meat in the freezer for about 15 minutes before you put it in the marinade. Then take it out and easily cut the meat into strips…marinate it like that. When you are ready to prepare the meat you can then cut it further or it will be soft enough for the senior to cut on their own.

RECIPE for preparing the meat once it is marinaded.

Fast Stir Fry Recipe

Stir Fry the meat strips (or cut into smaller bite size)  with a great mix of veggies from your own veggie drawer or buy a frozen Stir Fry Veggie Mix…they even have a fresh Stir Fry Mix all made up for you in the fresh veggie isle. You will use a bit of sesame seeds in olive oil and heat it..then quickly fry the meat strips on both sides keeping the mixture moving in the pan and then add in the veggies. Toss the veggies around so they mingle with the meat. When the veggies are getting a little soft…you use a couple of Tbsp of the marinade as the juice for the stir fry and cover the pan…lower the heat for a couple of minutes and you will have a great dinner in under 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Old Fashioned Meat and Potatoes Fry Recipe

Once again you can use strips or smaller bite size cuts of the 3-5 day marinade meat. First heat up the pan with veg/corn oil and get it hot. Slice a medium sweet onion and separate the rings and put into the hot oil…keep on top of this…you want your onion to slowly caramelize and it will smell so good while you stir it around the pan. Then when the onion has taken on that wonderful caramel color add in your meat and stir it all till the meat is browned. Do not over cook it…because the marinade meat cooks fast. Then add in sliced fresh mushrooms and cook till they are tender. You will want to add a small pat of butter and 1 tsp of the minced garlic while you are stirring the mushrooms.

Swanson's Beef Flavor Boost Packets

Swanson’s Beef Flavor Boost Packets

In another small pan or in the microwave…make up a pre-packaged brown gravy mix…or mushroom gravy mix. I like to use my favorite Swanson’s Beef Boost Seasoning Packets with a little water in a pan and stir in Wonder Flour and it will thicken up in no time. YUMM…love a quick nice gravy.
Now pour the gravy into the meat and mushroom pan and stir it around and serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice. Old fashioned meal, with a quick and easy twist. Hello…tell me when you make this, I really do want to be there for dinner😉

Blessings on all you do for your senior. Because of you, your senior has the love and care that will keep them safe and comforted on their journey. Please click on the “sign-up” button so you get my updated blogs. Because Georgie is getting more advanced in his need for care…I have less time to spend on blogs. But I am always here for you if you have issues or questions on care giving….Thank you for sharing the site with your friends and family…I really appreciate it. francy

Are You Ready to Take Your Senior to ER?

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How to be ready for emergencies so you and your senior can get to the hospital and be comfortable while you deal with the Emergency Room or extended stay. by francy Dickinson

GrabnGo ER Kit 4 You!

Grab n Go Ready ER Kit – Just 4 You!

Dear Francy; I live in a small community and my dad lives with us. He had issues last week, his heart was in a race and he was fainting…on the floor…I was in a panic. I called the doctor, because dad was on a lot of heart meds and they said take him to hospital. A neighbor helped me get him in the car and off we went for a 28 minute drive to the hospital. Once there…they took over…but I just lost my head. I had none of his information with me, we start in ER and then were there for two more days while his drugs were adjusted and watched.  I was exhausted, worried and still dressed for work. It was an all around horrible situation. I remembered you talking about being prepared…I failed on that end…would you review the ideas for stress and emergency room trips. Thanks..Cindy, New Mexico

Thank you Cindy…don’t feel bad…I’ve been there too. You sit in that hospital and are uncomfortable…and can not just race home to change or get your things….so what I suggest is that if you are caring for a senior….YOU NEED A BAG FOR THE ER!

I have heard the stories for years…a spouse, family member or dear friend goes into a serious backward spiral and you know that you have to call 911 or take them to the hospital yourself. You are caught up in the moment of panic, worry and actual action of caring for the senior. Out the door you fly…to drive behind the ambulance or drive to the emergency care place yourself. The last thing on your mind is comfort..your mind is racing and your heart is in a high state of worry. But once at the hospital…everyone starts to ask you questions…social security numbers, health card information, does the senior have allergies, what are the medications that they are taking…you stand there in stunned silence…just wanting to be in the ER with your spouse or parent…and there you are – stuck with answering questions that you are not prepared to answer. After that nasty 15-20 minutes…you try to find your senior and they have started treatments. They are telling you things and you wish you could write them down…new ideas for treatment, interactions of medications and you are just trying to breath and tell your senior that they are OK…just hang in there. Then the ER puts the senior in a side area and they have to wait…wait for tests, wait for doctors to arrive, wait for ER or CAT scans…and the minutes stretch into hours and hours…then they say they will put the senior in a room for a couple of days…they want to keep them on close watch. Close watch? That means you don’t leave your senior’s side.

You are tired…your phone is on the last few minutes of energy…you have no phone numbers with you to use the hospital room line. You need to drink some water, have a snack but its the middle of the night and the cafeteria is not open yet and no change for the snack machines. You have now been at the hospital for 4-6 hours and you are looking at an over-night stay…sitting in a chair in the room. Nasty….and all of us…have gone through all of this and there is no reason to do that to ourselves….we do enough just loving and caring for our seniors. We need to be prepared for these fast, unscheduled emergencies….so we all need to put a kit together for our own use.

“ER Grab n Go Bag” 

If you have not experienced this yet, please believe me…it happens…your senior can fall or become unwell in an instant…and you will be faced with all this drama…and wind up feeling like a fool that you did not plan ahead to make the trip so much easier for your self. REMEMBER: the hospital is going to give full care to the senior in the emergency…YOU are the one that is not going to be cared for…you are simply in their way…so you stay quiet and try to stay close to your senior so you can give them calm and love. BE PREPARED!

ER Info Kit for your Senior

ER Info Kit for your Senior

START WITH ER INFO KIT FOR YOUR SENIOR

I keep an ER info Kit for George in my handbag…and one in the kitchen. I have given one to my sister and his kids know where I keep another copy. I have all the info that the ER entry office person is going to ask me. There is a good copy of all his cards, front and back. There is a review of what he is allergic to and his personal needs for check-in. There is a very detailed medical prescription and doctor listing and there is Power Of Attorney or a letter signed…that allows you to give and get medical information. I also tuck in the driving instructions so if I get too nervous or stressed…I can still get to the hospital. This is a must…and you have to take time to type it up and make copies…and then you are set to go. I update my medication listing…and you will find a whole blog on the details on April 21, 2010 called “If your senior goes to ER, are you ready” Please put that in the search bar on the top of the page and read over that blog…it has all the details for the paperwork to get you in the out of the check-in process of hospital or doctor visits. I can not tell you how many health care professionals tell me how they love my kit…you will too.

Just remember this information is all of the personal ID on the senior and it has to be kept private and safe…so keep it protected...I use a plastic envelope and I also have a whole booklet that I use for his medical information. If you do put together the “Grab n Go Ready Kit” you will also have a spiral notebook n pen to take notes. Trust me…I have given care to my mum and my husband for over 10 years now…you need these items when you go to the doctor and the hospital. I know you may think they have all the patient’s information in their computer system…but you are wrong…info is rarely updated and they often lose the patient in the computer files. Be ready to give them any thing they need to help the senior get well in the middle of a crisis. Do not count on your mind…even ss# can be forgotten or mis-stated when you see someone you love in peril! (NOTE: What I remember is wasting time at the check-in window when I wanted so badly to be with my frightened 95 yr old mother in the ER room…to keep her calm. I did all of this so I would never have to repeat that.) The next time we were at the ER…the check in lady…just took my paperwork and told me she would enter it all and bring it to me in the ER…it was perfect. I have been thanked by nurses, doctors and admin-people for having the information so well-organized and it only took the time for me to enter it into the computer the first time. I update the info every six months or on medication changes. Easy -peasy for no stress check-in’s.

 NOW LETS TALK YOU…HOW ARE YOU GOING TO COPE WITH HOURS IN THE ER– IF NOT DAYS IN THE HOSPITAL? JUST LIKE SCOUTS….”BE PREPARED”

hospital sleeping chair

Well this is the chair you get to live in for a couple of days. As you can see it is not pretty, but it does recline and you can stay in the senior’s room…by their side and be part of their healing team. Even a First lady, does not get anything better than a sleeping chair in most hospitals. But trust me…its a lonely place if you don’t have anything with you.

So, out comes your ER GRAB n GO READY BAG…and you have a few things to make yourself feel comforted and rest as you help your senior do the same.

  1. Comfort and Warmth; I put an old pair of sweats and a warm top in the bag…with cozy warm slipper socks…that way my clothes are presentable to the public…but totally comfortable for me to sit and sleep. I also have a throw…or you could put in a hoodie so at night you can be extra warm…the hospital rooms are always cold to me. They often give you a blanket…but its never enough for me. As you see the chair it does have a lift so your feet will be up and the back will tilt. I have a pillow collar that I can tuck under my head or put on my lower back to ease the comfort level. You can get blow up neck pillows in the travel department. They are honestly the best gift to yourself in this situation. (I would rather use my things instead of hospital things…its a germ thing with me…my things make me feel safe, not worried about catching something)
  2. A small water bottle is in my bag…you can refill it in the hall with the drinking fountains. This is just a must…I don’t want to be buying soda all day…and swell up…the hospital can have dry air…so stay hydrated. I also have a couple of snack bars…to get me through. Usually the emergency is through the night and when I am able to take a few minutes to eat…the cafeteria is not open and you are faced with only snack machines. So, I have my snack bars and I tuck a few dollars in an envelope and keep in my bag. Often times, I am out of cash in my purse so this makes it easy to get anything I want out of the machines…and then I can also go to the cafeteria for a sandwich or soup during the day. I also tuck in a few tea bags and sweeteners…you can always get hot water from the nurse’s station…and it tastes so good to relax and calm yourself with tea. You can also ask them if there is a snack fridge for family….the VA has a nice area for us to go and get hot coffee, yogurt, or pudding etc – any time, when we are with our loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask…it maybe there for you, just steps away from the room.
  3.  Keep clean…wash your hands until you drop when you are in the hospital…and I have a small hand cleaner in my bag with Kleenex if I get snuffy. Plus…you will never find me wo/ my Advil. I have a bad back and I tend to get pressure headaches…so my little package of Advil that I got at the Dollar Store is heaven-sent when I’m in need. If I was taking medications…I would have a couple of ziplock baggies with a couple of days of those in my Ready Bag too. Nothing worse than going without your bladder or blood pressure med for a day or two…add in the stress and your body will really complain.
  4. Bored? Remember…people that are unwell…sleep. The hospital will give them drugs to keep them calm…but what about you? I bring a book to read. I use a Kindle but you don’t want to depend on remembering that….as you run out the door. A good old fashion paperback book and a pair of readers can be tucked in and ready for you to dive into and remove your stress in a good story. An older Mp3 player is also a great tuck in…yes, TV’s are in the rooms…but often they are on a channel that you don’t like or you can not hear them…so I make sure I have my own things to keep me calm. If you are a knitter…just tuck in an old project you have never finished…in a zip lock bag and its there for you. Think what it is that you enjoy…and make that happen in your Ready Kit.
  5. Calling the family? You need to have a re-charger in your bag…buy one that will recharge all your devises and if you tuck in your reader or tablet as you run out the door…you will be able to keep them going with your charger. Your mobile phone is your lifeline to the family…but many times the hospitals…block the cell phone signals. What then? You have to walk all the way to the front of the building and make your calls…not an easy thing to do. I had that happen to me and it was exhausting. So, write down a few of the key family phone numbers to keep posted. You can always ask them to send the information out to others. This way you can use the in-room telephone for local calling. I have my number in the front of my spiral notebook and I’m ready to go.
  6. Pets left behind…what about the mail? After a long stay in the ER and then you find out you maybe in the hospital for a day or two longer….have a neighbor or friend that has a key to your home and will take care of your pets. They can also pick up the mail and put it in the kitchen for you and just keep the lights out and everything in order while you are gone. I always put a key ring with my name on it…so the neighbor can keep it and knows who it belongs to — it could be a couple of years before the call could come for them to help….once you have this info in place…you can relax and know that all is well without you leaving your loved one to run home.
  7. A Ziplock baggie with little things that mean something to you…to keep you calm. Maybe you need cough drops…or lip balm. A new toothbrush and small toothpaste. Hand cream and face cream…Glasses and a glass cleaning cloth. Maybe you are a person that needs a few peanuts to keep you going or hand wipes to feel clean. If you are in need…you can tuck in a few Poise/Depend pads. Think comfort. NO the bag does not have to be a huge case…its just a big tote…but keep it full of things that bring you comfort…so when you are stressed and worried…you can keep yourself calm.
  8. If you forget your tote…then you call a friend to retrieve it from your hall closet and everything is in the tote..instead of the friend wandering around your home for a “few things”.

I suppose you read this and think…Oh, I will get on this pretty soon….please do not do that. Go right now and just put a few things in a bag and tuck it in the hall closet. You can make it fancy or expanded later..but get the ER senior’s information kit, in order and a few things in your own Ready Kit–RIGHT NOW. Its like giving yourself a gift…and you will rejoice in it if and when the day comes that an emergency hits your home…and you can just open a door grab your Ready Kit and walk out the door caring for your senior in need.

I always want to thank you for caring for your senior. Would you do me a favor and “sign up” up for the blog. That way it will come to you via the email and you will not miss any of the tips…and if you know someone that is a care giver…please share my blog with them…thank you.

As a spouse of a Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s senior…I find the care giving can be so overwhelming and it represents such love. The gift of care is the dearest thing you can give to a person that has become unwell, unsteady or confused.

My Georgie has been declining a great deal lately. Falls and safety issues are a daily challenge for me to handle now. I am not blogging as much as I would like…but know I’m here for you to send me a message if you have a question or need help.

I am pleased to say I have a dear friend that helps me with my care giving….and I want to thank you for just “being there” for me in this journey I am taking with George….Friends are the best. I hope you feel I am on your friend list and you will feel free to ask questions that you may have at any time….Blessings…francy

Me with my friend Cheryl who is always helping me with George and supporting me as a loving friend...Thank you Cheryl!

Me with my friend Cheryl who is always helping me with George and supporting me as a loving friend…Thank you Cheryl!

10 Tips for Seniors “in-Care” to Kick-start 2014

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Ideas to keep a senior looking forward to the new year…to throw off the current depression over the holidays by francy Dickinson
George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

Dear Francy; Uncle Chuck is really lagging behind since the holidays. He is tired, quiet, and his eating has fallen off. How can I get him revved up? The winter is long and cold…very little around to excite him and I don’t want him to jump down into a depression?

This is a big deal for a lot of seniors…even if they are not shut in’s…they start to dread the winter months and have very little to look forward to, in their daily life. Here is how I am helping George through the down feelings he was displaying from the holidays, into an up attitude for the winter.

10 TIPS TO PULL SENIORS UP INTO 2014

  1. Update your wall calendar...let them see January, Feb and March. I know you have a calendar on your cell phone. But a senior needs to see the calendar in the hall or kitchen so they can feel the day and month changes. That way they keep an eye on the forward movement of time. Mark the football playoff’s and the Super Bowl, then the start of the Olympics. Talk these events up. If there are family birthdays…put those down on the calendar and add a picture of the family member so the senior can be reminded of which grand child is celebrating their birthday. Make the week busy on the calendar with appointments and highlights..it really keeps them looking ahead. Talk about it..everything in life needs a bit of PR:
    “We have lots to do this week, doctor appointments, a birthday, the football playoffs and I see that Sherlock Holmes is returning with new episodes this month.” (Add in the senior’s personal interests and take just a few moments of time on the web to look up something that is current and relates to the senior’s hobby or interests.)
  2. Weekly outings. Before George’s Parkinson’s took his legs and muscles away that caused me to add more time with him to help him walk….we would schedule things to do each week or at least twice a month. What is up in your area? You can find local events that are free or almost free…on your own town’s website. We have a playhouse that has a Thursday night once a month, that is on “love offering” to view the play. We have older movies in a local movie house that are reasonable and make a fun out and about. We have George’s friends from high school that come to visit and I get out the old photo albums, we have family that will come and enjoy the football game with George. Special dinners on Friday nights that are served in the dinning room instead of on a tray and early morning hot chocolate while you watch the sun rise. You can make the outings short or long…but make them fit the senior’s health, energy and interests. It takes time to be involved with the senior on this level…but the return of mini-excitements is well worth your efforts.
  3. Just add a few changes to the routine. So, George started to show signs of skin problems (with all his sitting in a chair routine) I had to change his routine and get him to move his weight from one cheek to another – every 40 minutes. So, instead of just getting him to stand and moving the pillow. I have added a little jig. When he stands he walks fast in place with me holding him and walking too. We do all of this together. He does this little jig for just a couple of minutes. Then we stand and take a deep breath and do an arm stretch that takes the arm and his upper body around as far as it can go and back. I hold on to his other hand to steady him. Then I let go and get him to balance and we laugh and do (we must, we must, we must develop our bust –you remember those) then in the end (still holding his hands) we bend our knees together and stuck out our bottoms and then stand up and pull those bottom muscles in as tight as we can hold them. This simple, few minutes throughout the day…has gotten him to have a steadier walk and better transfer muscles. Who knew? I did…I figured it out, because I got quiet and thought about what would help him. YES…it means I stop what I am doing every 40 minutes and spend a few moments with him…but the connection is good for both of us😉 Don’t wait for doctors to tell you what to do..just get creative and see the changes for the good
  4. Is your senior cold? I was lucky enough to buy an electric blanket (throw size) for George this year. I bought it for Christmas gift, but gave it to him when we had our nasty cold weather here in the northwest, in early December. Boy, has the heat around his lap been a hit. I don’t have to turn up the house heat and I don’t have to dress him in 12 layers of clothes. He also got a nice travel pillow set with a small soft cushion and neck cushion and those came just in time to help George with the change of weight throughout the day. He is able to cozy into his electric Lazyboy chair and really get warm and rested. If your senior is using an older chair…or multiple throws to give them warmth…add a new layer of electric warmth…its been a big hit!
  5. Does your senior spend their day staring at a TV set? Well its time to change the chair…give them another view…put the TV in front of the window…so they do see the TV…but they can also enjoy the view out the window. Or move the chair to the largest window in the room and adjust the rest of the furniture. This keeps the senior involved with a fresh view. I also talk to George about what I will be doing in the spring…add a bird house to watch or a bird feeding station right outside his window. Add a fountain or a privacy fence so the senior can really enjoy the view of the trees, plants and right now “snow” right outside his window…instead of just having a darkened room with a TV blaring. Make their daily view new and interesting.
  6. OH, TV blaring...there are two things to let you know. First…we added something called a TVEars to the television a long time ago. It is a headphone system that allows the senior to hear the TV in both ears and gives you a break from the loud speakers. Then there is a new TV, that is easier to see and enjoy. Its time…for a flat screen for Grandpa. That is a fun way to have the kids and extended family put money together so the TV expense can be shared. It will be enjoyed…for hours everyday!
    Then the shock when a good friend got us a surround sound system. Instead of having the TV sound blaring so loud that the whole house is shaking…it moves the sound into higher and lower ranges and George can have one of the speakers right by his chair and I can turn the volume way down. He can still hear the voices and understand the story lines. I also have the “caption” turned on the TV…but the surround sound has really made a huge difference in the quality of TV for both George and I. (Thank you ‘Uncle Bob’)
  7. Time to change the daily menu...or just change the look of the everyday food? How about going to a small snack every 2 hours instead of the heavy meals three times a day. When George started to eat less…I started to think of ways to change the food. You can do this three days a week and then use the rest of the week for the usual Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I think you will find it’s easier for you to prepare small snacks and the seniors love it. I also have added a thermos of hot tea or ice water…so I do not have to run into the living room every five minutes. George is forced to think about refilling his own cup and giving him a task is a good thing.
  8. Problem solver. Both men and women want to feel needed. So sharing a problem with them and asking them to just listen or share their input is a good thing. Some times the senior shares information that is worth its weight in gold. Sitting, talking and listening for a few minutes each day…means the senior feels worthwhile and needed. You do not have to share heavy-duty stress issues…just the perplexing life situations that have to have attention.
  9. Keep the senior clean and wearing clothes that are new — not from their 1990’s closet. Often seniors feel they don’t need to update, they rarely go out and see anyone so who cares? They care!! Its time to get the senior some new daily shoes with gel in-soles and support. Shoes or sturdy slippers that look fashion forward and clothes that are made of cozy materials and are easy to wear…but newer and have color and fashion. This idea of getting both men and women to have their hair done, enjoying a treat of a pedi-cure at a local nail shop and/or wearing clothes that make them feel fresh and new…can raise the emotional outlook of 2014 up a few notches.
  10. Thinking. George does not need a daily paper…so my friend Cheryl has gotten him a subscription to TIME. That way he can read about the news in a full story form and understand it much better…than TV 24/7 day-to-day reporting of a current events. I often get him a Sunday paper and then bring him the small local papers when I go out shopping. George does not remember the information that he reads, his Alzheimer’s has taken his immediate memory…but he feels calm and safe with old routines. The TIME and Sunday paper are there for him to read and ‘think’ over and talk about, when ever he needs them…so he is not just watching TV. You and I may get our news from the net…but seniors feel safe with reading the headlines.

I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing and you can add a few new things for your senior this month. 2014…it has a good sound to it and even though many seniors (in care) feel like their life is almost over….its really is just another new year…they may have many, many more…so its best to keep their chins-up and push them into the new year with a smile instead of quiet silence….
Thank you for taking time to care for your senior…keeping them at home, happy in a care facility or safe at home with you…all of those things means you have to give them your time and love…added to your normal life routine, it can make for a crazy/busy life…but you care enough to push through and still have a smile. That shows what a great person you are…thank you. Blessings, francy

Tea Cup Candle made by my niece, Shelley Hatch..fun way to remember Grandma's china ;)

Tea Cup Candle made by my niece, Shelley Hatch..fun way to remember Grandma’s china and easy to do with candle wax, scent, and wick…EASY  ;)

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Re-Charge Ideas for Family and Care Givers in 2014

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How to keep caregiver’s energy, emotions and health strong and re-charged in 2014 by Francy Dickinson

Care Givers have to be charged up and ready to go…
in order for their seniors to receive good care in the new year.

George and my niece Pam- at the table for Christmas dinner

George and my niece Pam- at the table for Christmas dinner

Dear Francy; I thought when the holidays were over I would be able to re-group and feel more involved and ready to give my mother another year of care. Its just the opposite, I thought this care giving would be a few months to a year at the most. Now, its three years and she is so filled with anger and upset…that I can hardly be nice…let alone excited about sharing my home with her for another year of my own life. I know that sounds horrible…I guess I am just getting to be bitter and I thought I was a nicer person. Do you have ideas to help me boost up my energy? 

ACCEPT WHAT CAN NOT BE CHANGED AND MAKE THIS YEAR ABOUT YOU!

I can not walk away from my husband even though his Parkinson’s/Alzheimer’s is going full force. Its not just ‘my duty’ as his wife…it’s my own choice to do the care giving…so as I arrange for George’s doctor appointments in the early part of the new year, I am also thinking how to help myself. I need to re-charge and get my mind and body in order so this year can be healthy for me and the days filled with happy activities for us both. Instead of living day by day in boredom or stress.

10 Things to Begin the New Year of Care Giving:

  1. The care giver’s personal health. Review how you are feeling. Are you able to obtain insurance? I know you get so into caring for your senior…but how are you doing with your own health? The new health care plan will be good for you to research. The rush is off, the state or government’s online sight is up and running…go take a look. You may be in the low income range and get a great deal with a good health insurance program and you can relax and have any outstanding worries checked. You will have a life on your own after your senior passes…so you need to check out your blood pressure, your weight, your energy level, any ache or pain and your food intake…and get an idea of how to keep YOU healthy.
  2. Weight gain is a universal problem for care givers. So, its time to really make a plan of action. Get a journal and write down the true facts. How much do you weight? Has your weight gone up more than 10 pounds in the last year? It’s time to tell yourself that a 20 minute early morning walk…or afternoon walk (while your senior is napping) needs to be added. Maybe you don’t want to do that in the cold or rain…so if that is so…than walk or run around the house for 1,000 steps or about 10 minutes each day. This action will get your body in shape and you will be ready to take that 20 minute walk when the weather changes in the early spring. — Tell yourself that you will eat every two hours. That means you will chose something to eat..not nibble all day, as you prepare your senior’s food and pills. — Chose a range of small snacks and meals that will keep your energy level up and keep you feeling full. Remove the easy things like sugar, candy, donuts…and add loads of water and green tea. — Small changes are the most powerful. Journal your ideas and keep that journal active so you stay on your plan.
  3. Add something new to your day, just for you. Get more books from the library or add a Kindle to your life and read. Your senior has lots of little rest times and nap times…if you plan to get your work done early and then take an hour or two in the afternoon to enjoy a new book. — Read up on a new hobby…many people are starting needle arts, men and women. Nothing like learning knitting, crochet or needlepoint and have an easy project at your side. Something that you can pick up and put down without worry. — Are you a guy that loves to work with wood or do small repairs around the house, but find the garage or workshop out back is too far to venture when you have to be close to your senior in care? One idea is to get a baby monitor and you can hear the change or the senior calling for you…or bring your work into the kitchen. Many seniors no longer eat in the kitchen when they are unwell…they eat off trays…so taking out the kitchen table and putting up a bench to work on projects is a fun way to begin a new activity and feel close to your senior. There are no rules to your life, making changes so you can enjoy personal time…is a key to success in your re-charge.
  4. Mentally, you are getting down with the extended care giving? Its time to join a support group. Today it is so easy. In person support groups for care givers are found at senior centers, libraries and coffee shops. You can find them in the local paper or ask at the library. You can also join an online support group that will help you with care giving or (like I did) with my writing. I have a group of wonderful woman that are busy with life and still want to write, many of them have published their work and we encourage each other to stay active in our writing. Even if our lives are so busy we can hardy breath…the weekly meeting is online in a chat room and we have grown to be dear friends. This support each of the members has given me has developed into a friendship that now goes far beyond support on our writing. There are Skype meetings and websites that have support groups. Yes, you have to find a group that hits your own needs or interests…or maybe your faith group has a senior meet once a week. Find something that hits your own buttons and do this just for you. The meetings are an hour and if you get one close to home your travel time is small. Your emotional health is just as important as your senior’s. I know you do things to keep your senior busy and looking forward..so now turn it around and look at your own needs and find a group to enjoy. Support or shared interests…groups are there close to you and also can find find ‘MeetUp’ on the net, with a listing of group meetings in your area.
  5. Calm…the stress of care giving is so high that most care givers have no idea what kind of strain it is on our bodies. Everyday is a surprise at our house, George is quiet and then has a fall…or an onslaught of diarrhea..everything is then thrown up in the air. So how can you get yourself back to calm – in the middle of chaos? You learn to breath. Its a simple way to train your mind to calm. You take three deep breaths…in with your nose and out with your mouth. When you do this the oxygen goes to your brain and you feel instantly calmed. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the results of being calm, get stronger. — You turn on mellow music, and turn off the TV for a while. Maybe 15 minutes of calming music in the house will calm everyone down. You have a good green tea handy (not coffee to make you jumpy) and drink it when the stress is overwhelming, it helps you feel calmed and gives you a sense of caring for your own needs. — You go back to stretching or walking, even if you do it in the kitchen…that will also calm your mind and reduce your stress, hurt feelings, worry and anger.
  6. Privacy. As George is getting more and more in need of full care…I am getting more and more in need of privacy. So, I have put a comfortable chair in the kitchen and a table with my reading, computer and such, next to it. I use this as my own little area…to sit and be quiet…to make a phone call or do some chat online and I find it really helpful. I may be giving George most of my time…but when he is settled down watching TV…I can go into the kitchen and watch my own TV channel or keep busy with writing, reading or on the computer. It has really made a big difference in my personal feelings. I needed help removing the feel of being “trapped” in the house.
  7. Cleaning. It is really easy to be in a home for days on end and not really do any real clean-up. There is so much to do with care giving that the energy to clean seems overwhelming. But I assure you that cleaning the house and organizing things gives you a natural ‘high’. Just as you feel good when you step out of the shower –nice and clean…so you feel good when you work on one room a week and get your home clean and clear of clutter. Older people that live in homes for 10,20,or more years get used to their surroundings. That means that they just turn off their brain to the living areas of the house. You have to fight this.
    >>I am thinking this way…when George passes, I will be on my own…I will be upset and sad…so why not start the process of cleaning and clearing up years of “things” now?
    I first started with the garage. It had been a few years since George was able to be in the garage…it had always been ‘his space’. So I really did not know where things were, or what a lot of the tools and such – were even used for. I slowly, (I mean a couple hours each week when I was taking out the garbage) sort and put a couple of plastic bags full of things that we no longer needed or used into the garbage can. I gave things to the Goodwill, I threw out things. I asked neighbors what tools were for and marked them or sorted them for George’s son to take home. I am proud to say…the garage is now clean and clear. NO…not perfect…but I know what things are…and George’s old stuff is really now gone. He had saved 15 books on car repair for various cars we had over the years. I do not fix cars…so those where thrown away. The fishing and camping things were given away, the boxes were cut down and slowly added to the recycle each week. Now, I feel like the garage is mine and I know where things are when I need them. One step, one room at a time…but keep moving through the house. A small paint project, new throw pillows…life can feel fresh and clean with small changes.
  8. Retreat. I tend to just be quiet and stay close to home now. I used to be a very social person and my Georgie and I would go out to meetings, to visit our family and friend, to work, to dance, to eat, to do sports and to go to church. Now we are “at home”. So, I am making more of an effort to call and invite family or friends to come and visit. I bake cookies or a pie (or buy them😉 and put on the coffee and we enjoy a good visit. George likes the visits and I keep them short and within reason so he does not get too tired. But I get the reward of friendship and family. Yes, it means I have to clean the house and get out of my sweats. Yes, it means I have to take time to invite and prepare a small treat for my guests. But the return for my efforts is laughing and connection with family and community.
  9. Personal appearance. How easy it is to just cave in and wear easy and older clothing around the house. So last year, I went out and bought a few new things to wear and I try to dress up a bit every day. I used to dress in suits in my working days…so its nice to put on a bit of jewelry and make sure my hair is done and nails are done. If you find that you have let your self just melt into the daily grind…its never too late to change. I have a good sonic tooth brush, I have a wonderful fancy face scrubber and I make sure I am cleaned and have my moisturizer and lipstick on each morning. I wear clothes that are comfortable, but colorful and I add vests to keep warm…but I also add a scarf to feel colorful. I don’t care if you are man or woman…you know what you can do to look better and feel clean and proud. If you keep yourself groomed…you will keep your senior groomed and that adds a great deal to your inner sense of self and emotional health.
  10. Spiritual time. I certainly do not care what your spiritual leanings are because there are thousands of folks reading my blog…so there are thousands of different thoughts and beliefs. But I want you to start to take a time each day…to just go to your Private area…and get quiet. Relax your mind and go to the space inside your mind…that will bring you peace. If you like to read a book or daily word…if you like to just write down positive statements or listen to music or step even farther and connect to a faith leader online. Go to youtube.com and listen to someone on a subject that allows you to feel closer to your inner you. If you have gotten far away from the practice of prayer or meditation…don’t worry…it will come back to you. When it becomes a daily habit for you…you will find your mind, body and emotions will start to be stronger and more relaxed. I reached out to a former pastor and he is now stopping by monthly or when he is in the area…it has made George feel good and look forward to the visit, too. Do good things for you…and you will be able to do good things for the senior that you care for each day.

I hope this gives you ideas of how without money or a lot of personal time…you can still make changes that uplift your mind and spirit. I thank you for giving another year of care to your senior and I honor the love and the part of your own life…you are gifting to another. francy

PS…would you please go to the right and sign up for my blog? Thank you..it will be sent to you when I write it and you can enjoy it automatically. I am not writing as much as I used to because George’s care is getting more time consuming…but I am still here if you need me. Just send me an email…francy

Here is to your health and happiness in 2014

Christmas Gift Ideas for Elders in Care

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Ideas to help families with gifts for seniors in care by francy Dickinson

Missy Kirbee n Dad

Our Missy and Kirbee with Georgie
Ready for Santa😉

HO HO HO…Here are some ideas to help you with the seniors in your life:

  1. No matter what their doctor says…every senior is ready for sweets. If you want to bring them special candy or cookies…go for it. Just make the candy easy to eat…teeth often are not sturdy in elders…but they adore the sugar rush!
  2. Books…Men love those wonderful WWII books and women like desk calendars with daily words of love…a subscription to a magazine that reflects their hobby or interests is always enjoyed.
  3. Music…a simple MP3 Player loaded with audio books, and music from the era that they relate to…like the 1940’s big band music…or early 1960’s rock…gift it to them and then show them how to use it and recharge it — totally fun.
  4. Picture video screens…that have family photos loaded…things that the elder can enjoy and remember from their own youth…and pictures of family members that are current too. If there is a problem with memory…do a little editing on the photos before you load them and put a caption on the bottom of the photos
  5. A tablet and the time from you to teach them how to use it…even elders love to play games and send messages over the Internet…you need to remember that easy, means being there to take them step by step. Then have them repeat it all from the boot up on their own. This would be a terrific addition to any one’s Christmas.
  6. Clothes are easy really….all seniors get cold….so adding in a fun sweat shirt from a team, or local band…a warm vest that is colorful…or if you get slippers…make them easy to walk in…no slip and sliding for seniors.
  7. Both men and women like moisturizers that smell good on dry skin…or flameless candles for their side table –Oh, and many fragrances come in cream forms that are easy to use, too.
  8. Something fun; motorized cars or helicopters to fly…men never stop enjoying new toys
  9. New game to play or new deck of cards…maybe a really lovely jigsaw puzzle
  10. Bring a movie over to watch with the seniors…or a video of the family at Thanksgiving so they can see how quick the kids grow
  11. Remember to spend time…just 20 minutes of visiting is not long…so get to it, if you want to share something special. How about looking up an old home address on Google earth …memories are the best
  12. Mailing a special something is always fun for the senior…Shari’s Berries, David’s Cookies, the Internet is filled with specialty foods that might reflect the senior’s culture or heritage food of their childhood
  13. Use your smart phone to Skype a family member that is far away so the senior really sees and hears the family member and can enjoy the experience
  14. Dinner brought in, their favorite hamburger…or take them out…a quiet drive around town to enjoy the holiday lights, or go and get a hot dog or ice cream…something that will be a treat for the senior.
  15. If the senior is in a care facility…its smart to bring a big basket of cookies or treats for the staff that cares for your senior everyday…as a thank you.

Its amazing how easy it is to please those that have had their holidays pulled down to being in their own home …or in a care facility. Its a lonely time of year, when a senior is stuck with no family around them. So taking the time to go and visit them is so important. I always make sure I take a special treat for the elder’s room mate too…and a thank you for the staff…or the neighbor that gets the senior’s mail. Everyone appreciates a remembrance at holiday time…and a small box of candy or a bag of cookies is a treat for everyone. Thank you for all you do to give love to your seniors…Blessings on your holiday…francy

10 Tips to Help Senior Bladder Problems

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Ideas to help you with caring for a senior with bladder problems… by francy Dickinson

poise padDear Francy; I wanted to share my own challenges today. Ten years ago, my mother was in her late 90’s and got a UTI or Urinary Track Infection, that was so bad she was in hospital for 10 days and 20 days in a recovery center. She was too weak to go back to her own home so, she moved in with me and I began my “hands-on care giving”. The day she was to move in…I went to the big box store for bladder control products. It was a nervous day and I was stressed…when I finally found the right isle…I was shocked to see the whole isle was filled with bladder products and I did not know which one was required. My stress level was so high that I stood there crying in the bladder control isle! I want to save you from that kind of worry and stress…here are some tips you want to know when you, or one of your family members needs to use bladder support products.

TIPS TO HELP YOU WITH CARE GIVING FOR ANYONE WITH BLADDER CONTROL ISSUES:

  1.  Bladder control products are not the same as menstruation products. You must be careful with this…using a pad for your period because you ‘leak’…can produce a nasty infection called UTI…do not do it. Go and get small bladder control pads. They are made so the urine is wicked away from your skin and you will be able to have protection wo the worry.
  2. swing trashYou never put bladder products in the toilet. It will back up your system and cost way too much money to fix the pipes. So go and get a tall kitchen trash can with a lid that swings. Then you buy tall kitchen plastic bags and get a Lysol type of spray to use inside the trash can (I get the spray at the dollar store😉 Take out the used bag, spray Lysol inside the can, then line the can with plastic trash bag, put on the lid and its ready for more odor free service. I clean mine twice a week and its easy to do. This is how you get rid of your used bladder products and you keep the can within reach of the toilet. It keeps the smell down and is easy to take the trash out (much like you would do with diaper waste)
    I also have a can of disposable wipes to clean the surfaces of the toilet, the handles, the switches, the trash can…any place the senior is going to touch…I run over it to keep it clean. I keep this can under the sink…seniors can get confused and you do not want them to use these cleaning wipes with bleach on their own skin. This constant cleaning movement in the bathroom is  how we keep infections down and out of the house…clean to the max. If the senior has an emergency and leave urine or feces on the floor …then clean the bathroom again…to make sure its really germ free…and take out the stinky garbage bag and start again clean and ready to go.
  3. Wiping your bottom when you have had urinary/bowel problems is important…use 1 ply toilet paper…so it does not clog the system. The senior will forget and use way too much toilet paper–this will help. Put a baby-wipe container by the toilet and if the senior has bowel problems – they can wipe up and clean up with those and put them directly into the trash can that is there for them. The baby wipes are easy to use…BUT DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE TOILET. Put them into the trash can we have already placed by the toilet.
  4. Depends is the type of bladder control we know well. But there are other companies that make them. Buy the ones that will fit and will not be too expensive. This monthly cost is a perfect thing to give to a sibling that always says (what can I do?) they can pay for the expense of the monthly bladder control problems…Yeah.
  5. DependsNow there are different styles of the products, pull ups or closing pant like products. But what is not understood is that you also need to get the guards. The guards are the smaller pads…that go inside the Depend type underpants. That way you do not have to take off clothes to change the wet pants…you just put the guard/pad in and out and throw it away. It makes it easier to change during the day with two layers of protection!
  6. Medicare and insurance often support urinary support products. But to do this you need a doctor’s prescription. Keep this in mind. In that case you will set up an account with a medical vendor and they will send you the bladder control products in the mail. My Georgie has Veteran’s medical and I just call in the prescriptions number and it is delivered to my door. So easy to do and so much less money than personally purchasing it. As senior age and go through their health journey…they need more and more of these products. So plan ahead to use a medical service that delivers or mails.
  7. BiotinFamily doctors are great…but when you have bladder issues. No matter what your age, you need to go and see a specialist called, a Urologist. They have fancy equipment that will check your bladder and they will be able to help you with medication. Many times a simple medication that helps with the ‘urge’ to go to the bathroom…makes a huge change in someone’s life. (by the way…if you do use these medications..the side effect is dry mouth…Biotene has a great line of products to spray in your mouth, use as mouthwash or chews to take the dry mouth away.
  8. Both men with prostate problems and many woman who have had bladder issues since they gave birth many years before…they find answers with procedures that urologist suggest. Just remember when you do a procedure…you want to ask the doctor, what their stats for the procedure is? In other words you would say to the doctor: “Out of the last 10 people who you personally have done this procedure on…how many had little to no recovery problems? If they did have problems what were they? ” Never be afraid to be informed when you, or your senior, are going to do something with the body. Maybe the procedure is too much for an elder that has other difficult problems…or maybe it’s so simple that everyone should do them to improve the quality of their life.
  9. desitinRemember when you changed a baby’s diapers…do you remember you used baby powder and a rash cream? Well those are still on the shelf even today. To powder the seniors bottom to allow the ease of pulling up the Depends….or to use Desitin or other zinc products to protect delicate ‘private parts’ area skin from being burned with urine. You can buy these products at the dollar store too🙂
  10. Talking about bladder and bowel issues with a senior…is hard to do. But, it’s like dealing with a child’s diaper issues…you have to deal with it and talk about it. Make your senior’s bathroom easy to use. If they are going to have these issues, they will be changing their bladder products…running in to make it to the toilet – etc. So put up handles on the wall by the toilet. Put the tall trash can close at hand. Keep a basket for the new Depends and the guards/pads close with scissors so the senior can use them with ease.
    Never forget to praise the elder for using the products well…their personal issues will be easier when you let them know you appreciate their ‘trying’ to keep clean and healthy. Keep your energy calm if they are in the middle of an “accident” and after it is over and the senior is back in their chair…you clean up the bathroom and then clean up yourself. The senior should be re-assured that they did not do anything wrong…and I always give them a sweet treat and some hot tea…to keep the senior calm and let them settle down. ( Imodium…should always be giving with a heavy hit of the runs…so keep it at hand.)

Hope these tips help you in your process of care giving. I know as mother’s journey got harder I added a commode by her bed for use at night. Now, I have just done the same thing for my George. He is using it at night when he is tired, a little dizzy from his evening medications and unsteady with his Parkinson’s. I keep trying to figure out how to help him over those very personal problems…that we all have everyday. Blessings on all you do for your senior. francy

–> Would you do me a favor and sign in to receive my blog via email? George needs so much care that I do not do the blog as often as I used to…so please sign in ….you will see it asks for your email and my blog will arrive in your inbox…right after I have finished the writing. Hope this finds all of you well….I will be doing a Holiday Gift Listing soon…so keep an eye open for it.

Get Elders Ready for Holidays

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How to keep elders, that are not able to get around…happy and calm during holidays. by francy Dickinson

My sister Merrilee in her Kitchen at Thanksgiving

My sister Merrilee in her Kitchen at Thanksgiving

Dear Francy; My dad and his brother are both in their early 80’s and not able to be out and about. They help each other, but live alone…I am worried about this coming holiday. They are really going downhill. I don’t think they will be able to join us for dinner. Ideas on what to do to bring them cheer?

Thanks for the note…I totally understand. My Georgie is having too many problems to leave the house and join our family for our usual holiday dinner. So, I have developed ideas to help family members to spread the cheer in little ways.

IDEAS FOR FAMILY – TO KEEP THEIR SENIORS FEELING LOVED
AND INVOLVED, AT HOLIDAY TIME:

  1. First, get a calendar on the wall so the senior can see the different holidays. Veterans Day…Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or your own faith/or family holidays – all need to be put down so they can see what is coming.
  2. Call the senior and ask them what their favorite dish for Thanksgiving is…so you can make it for them. They may not be at the table…but they can feel a part of the day.
  3. Make a simple phone call from the family just before dinner…kids, grandkids, great grandkids…get them all on the phone…Telling the senior who they are and wishing them love.
  4. Prep a place for the seniors in your life…after dinner appoint a younger family member that drives to deliver the plate with pie! Tell them to arrive…get the food on a tray…stay 15 minutes and then return. Let the senior know they are coming…and it will be a fun break for the teens to get out of the house and do a good dead for Gramps or Grandma – Uncle or Auntie😉
  5. Take a few pictures so when you go and visit the senior in the next few days after thanksgiving…they can see the family and hear about the dinner.
  6. Bake an extra pie. I always like to take a plate of dinner…but then leave a small pie for the senior to enjoy in the next few days. A good piece of pumpkin pie is like a lunch for most seniors…so why not give them a yummy treat.
  7. I always have a list of good ‘seniors in care’ gifts. So keep an eye open and I will be posting that before Christmas.
  8. If your senior is in a care facility…still go over with a piece of pie…or a left over of the senior’s…favorite dish from the dinner. All facilities try hard to entertain their guests at holiday…but certain family traditions can make their holiday. Seniors tend to remember the past, better than the present…so candy, cookies or holiday breads that your family always eats…are a real treat. Maybe search out a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner photo from long ago…what fun to remember!
  9. Out of town? You can do a little online food shopping. You can pay for fully cooked turkey dinner via local grocery chains like Safeway…but the in home caregiver would have to go and pick it up at the store…ready to heat. There are also so many goodies…like Sherries berries…my favorite…chocolate dipped strawberries that a dear friend of ours often sends to us. We are always so happy to get them and share them with those that stop by to visit😉
  10. Taking the little grandkids over to visit…and have them practice a holiday song…to sing when they get there….or have them do child craft and drawings…to decorate Grandpa’s living area…so fun.
  11. Holidays are a time of year, not just a day. So, if you have Thanksgiving at your place…great…then the next day — take over the left overs and your immediate family. Eat the left overs at Grandma’s house so she gets the feeling of the family.
  12. Arriving on a day that is cold and rainy…with Thanksgiving decorations in your hand to put on the senior’s door…and in their living room area…that makes the whole month a special thought of love.
  13. Renting an old movie and going over to Auntie’s and sitting with them with popcorn and a movie that you have watched many times before…gives the feeling of family and history of love.
  14. Sending cards…is great…but include pictures of kids, pumpkins, dogs, what your car looks like, what your kitchen looks like in the middle of cookie baking…let the senior see into your life…so they can become a part of your holiday cheer.
  15. Take over a pumpkin pie early…and just sit for a half hour and talk with the senior…click on your record button on the phone and talk about old times. You will have recorded memories and the sound of the senior’s voice for all time. You can send the voice file and save it on your computer forever😉
  16. If the senior is into using a laptop for games…pay for Ancestry.com and get them started…they can keep on working on their family history and stories…and then when they are gone…you have the family knowledge forever.
  17. A family holiday gift of a newer TV…is really a wonderful way to give your love. TV becomes a senior’s only touch to the outside world. To give them a newer TV that is easy to use and smaller than one that you would buy for your living room…is just right. It would be a family gift of $20-$50 dollars each and it would get 24 hr enjoyment…bring it over early so the senior can enjoy the many holiday shows on a clear – hi def…TV..
  18. Calling the senior during the month and telling them what you are doing. You can use it as a tool to keep your calendar in tact and they can enjoy just hearing your whirlwind life style and understand why you are not visiting them everyday😉
  19. Don’t forget to take their ‘anipal’ a treat or new toy…or bring your dog over to visit. As with children, seniors often find holding a dog or cat will calm them and give them a feeling of place. Be sure to bath the dog before you visit and if you bring a cat…use a baby wipe to wipe them down to limit the dander.

I want to bless you for caring about your seniors. As George advances in his Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s this holiday is going to be quieter than ever. It makes it hard on me to give up my time with my own family. But having a small celebration with Georgie will be special too. I don’t know how many holidays we have left together…at least ones that he will understand. So, in my mind…I am making it as special as I can. francy

Walk, don’t Fall! How to Buy Medical Equipment

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How to buy medical equipment for seniors at home by francy Dickinson

Say NO to using surfaces as Table Top walking...

Say NO to using surfaces as Table Top walking…

Dear Francy: Mother will not use her cane…she falls…I know because she has bruises – but her pride is over the moon and she will not use them. She is also having night problems with her bladder…I have to change the bed each time I visit…but no mention of it from her. How can I get over this pride issue and keep her safe and clean and feeling good about herself?

TALK ! There comes a time when seniors have to sit down and listen to their children. It is a hard thing for both fathers and mothers to do- but the transition from being their ‘little girl’ to their care giver simply has to happen. I get it. I have talked about medical equipment and how to acquire it and when to use it before…but just when I think everyone knows…I get four emails in a row about problems with seniors and a need for help. So, I am going to review the different things you need to use as a senior progresses in their life’s journey.

Use a gel cushion in the car and on your favorite TV chair…save that bottom and your back…it feels great!

Start with a gel cushion: When you age, your bottom and your feet start to change and you need to use a little gel cushioning. I am in my early sixties and I have both gel in soles in my shoes and a get cushion on my bottom when I rest…I am a happy girl…get one and enjoy pain free life again!

Age and how a senior feels and their personal challenges are always different. That is why its good to know what is out there for you to help anyone that has ups and downs in their health. Heart problems can come and go and so can arthritis–so if you have some of these helpful tools on hand. You can use them when needed.

Toilet Support Rails r easy to install

Toilet Support Rails are easy to install

This unit simply screws on to any toilet under the seat..then you screw the seat on top of it…it gives you adjustable handles. This has helped George so much…but guess what? After my car accident I had great pain in my foot..and this helped me too! I will not be taking it off when George leaves the house…it is now something I count on myself😉

To carry this idea out…we need to talk about a commode. These are like portable toilets. When a man is up 2-3-4-5 times a night with prostate issues…or when Parkinson’s has you extremely unsteady…a portable toilet, called a commode, is the ticket to ease of use and relaxed worries of accidents and falls. This commode has a bucket you fill with a bit of water and I hit it with a small amount of Pinesol type product. Then you keep it by the bed…so it is just a few feet away. I put a plastic sheet (black bag) down under it and have toilet paper ready. It is used at night..then during the day you take out the bucket and dump it in the toilet and put the unit over the toilet in the bathroom so the senior can use it with it’s handles for sturdy up and downs. REMEMBER:You always have to ask your doctor for the different products to help you. The doctor will write a prescription for the item and the medical rental house will get your product ready and it will then be able to be all or partially covered by Medicare/Supplement. If you are lucky, like we are, and have Veteran’s…they will give you a review and provide the equipment. If you do not have coverage and need medical products…then it’s time to check out local charities and ask them for help. They often are giving things after someone passes. They clean it up and get it ready for you to use without a big investment. Be creative…do not be embarrassed to ask for help from friends and local charities…they are working hard to provide things for your use…use them.

–> NOTE:Women need to use pad or pants that are designed for urinary problems. Not pads for menstruation. This is very important because the wrong pad for the wrong situation can lead to nasty UrinaryTrackInfections. UTI’s are one the main health risks of both men and women when they begin to lose their strength. UTI’s can take a senior down and change their future living alone abilities… in no time. We can not stress enough to “talk” to your senior about their bathroom issues. Then talk to the doctor. Stool problems can lead to real problems; and the use of stool softeners and/or Imodium products to harden stools can reduce those terrible battles in the bathroom.Medications has nasty side effects for all of us…but especially seniors find them embarrassing and often to do not mention the problems.  Men have to relax and let a pad or “Depend”  under short type product reduce their need to hurry to the bathroom everywhere they go. Doctors can and will give you a prescription for urinary pills that will reduce the ‘urge’ feeling that requires so many bathroom visits. This ‘hurry up’ is the cause of many seniors falling in the middle of the night. A good mattress cover is required. Most seniors need to update their bedding after years of use anyway. So, get a new mattress cover that will protect the mattress and give a little cushion to the older bed. Add two new sets of easy to wash sheets and pillow cases so they can be easily washed and changed. Most seniors like the feel of flannel sheets almost all year round…so keep that in mind when you are buying the new bedding. Update the pillows so the senior has two new pillows for head. Use the older pillows and put one for between their legs to cushion the legs and one to tuck under their upper arm to put them into a womb-curling posture as they sleep. This wrapping them in comfort will allow them to sleep soundly. Adding a night-pad or Depends type of pant…will let them know they are OK, if they have an accident. Then adding in the commode or toilet handles will be a winning ticket for seniors with night time worries and accidents.

—-> Tip//how a lady wipes her bottom after a bowel movement — is going to stop a lot of UTI infections. I had mother re-learn this process…she also used a femine wipe..or child’s diaper cleaning wipe and put it into the special (with swinging lid) trash bin…not down the toilet. These products will clog your sewer system! So teach them to have a trash bin close to the toilet to use for the wipes and a place to put their Depends type products. Then you line the trash bin with a light plastic liner and empty it twice a week to keep the smell out of the bathroom. I use a disinfectant spray inside the trash bin and then re-line it with another tall plastic bin bag. (I get mine at the dollar store) This makes this whole process easy for the senior and the care giver to use and keep really clean. I also have a container of cleaner-wipes (w bleach) under the sink and I use them to wipe off the toilet area and the sink and other handles and light switches- each time I clean the bathroom. This keeps down the germs and the odor. Seniors often lose their sense of smell so you have to help them keeping clean.

I have never been so proud that I could not use a cane with my back. I have had a bad back long before I became a senior. The pain was too much to worry about pride. Even as a younger woman, I had a cane hanging in the closet. It helped me through the three days of pain until the back would relax and let me go back to my regular walking.

Cane and Handle helps George w balance

Cane and Handle helps George w balance.

Just as you prep your house for little children or dogs…its time to do it for seniors that will be aging into health challenges. The senior may only need a few of these items as they move downhill in their health. But actually, at the first signs of stability problems, its time to make changes. Stair lifts are such a lovely thing for those that can afford them. They allow the senior to stay in their two story home, so much longer. And electric chairs are great too. But they are for seniors that have all their thought processes working. Since my George suffers with his Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s he is unable to remember how to use the electric chair or cart.

This new small wheelchair is proving to be a hit with us

This new small wheelchair is proving to be a hit with us

George started using his walker quite a while ago. But it only worked as a walker. It did have a seat for him to use when he got tired…but now he has days that he is too weak to walk at all. So, what to do? We asked for a Physical Therapy appointment and the PT gave us a very small, light weight, wheel chair with small wheels. It now is used as a walker for George when he is feeling strong. The chair is light and easy for me to fold and put into my smaller car. (not everyone uses an SUV) and it works well when George walks. I am going to look around for a larger bag that can hang off the back of the chair so he can grab a few things to take from room to room. I also have to figure out how he can have his cane on the back of it too…so maybe a velcro connection there??

Walking w his legs instead of me pushing is Great!

Walking w his legs instead of me pushing is Great!

The new wheelchair also allows him to sit and walk with his own legs. The older walker was not designed for this move. Now, George is able to move around on his own with his own leg power, without me pushing him all the time. NICE – he is able to walk it out to the front porch where we have a container garden and he helps me water the tomatoes and catches some sun rays each morning.

Now what do you do when you wake up and your spouse is not able to even get out of bed to begin their day? You learn how to use a ‘gait belt’ – the Physical Therapist will show you how to use this. Its an easy tool…you put it around the mid section of the senior and then you can help guide him up and walk with him supporting his legs from the middle of his body.

Example of Bed Rail

Example of Bed Rail

Or you can add a support bar for the side of your bed and the senior can use it to get up on their own. It will depend on if the senior has strong arms and is able to use them.

That is why I keep George exercising three times a week. I have a routine I put him through to keep those legs strong enough for him to make transitions and get up and down from chairs and bed. As he goes up and down in his abilities…we stay with exercise. I use the elastic exercise bands to give him some pressure to stretch and keep his arms strong. Look for them at the sports department or ask the PT the next time you go.

Thank you for all you are doing for your senior…you have no idea how kind and dear it is for you to give your time and love to another and let them age with grace. I have been giving George more and more of my time each day as his Parkinson’s is taking over…poor guy is losing his abilities so fast. So, what I try to do is take each day as a new day. If a day is bad…we work through it. But the next day we start a new…so if his strength is better he does more. If you start to put the senior into a pattern of you doing more and more for them and never checking if they can do some of those things on their own…its just a downhill slide for both of you.

Enjoy the fall…no more hot hot days…things will cool down. George has already asked for Pumpkin pie or pumpkin cream in his coffee…so he gets what time of year it is. I also make sure I change the decor and the calendar in the house. Seniors have no daily change of pace…so pointing out the seasonal changes makes their days into days…not endless time with no change. Quality of care, depends on you as a care giver…so make fall a good time for you…and it will translate onto the senior you are caring for.

Blessings…francy
Oh, would you please sign up for my blog listing. With the care giving getting more and more I try to do the blog, but often miss my weekly update. When you sign up for the blog it will notify you of the new post and you can keep on top of the info. Also…please, please share this blog. You have no idea how lonely care giving can be…and if I can help a few people along my own path of caregiving it helps me feel my own life has meaning…Thank you!

Alzheimer’s Spouse/Care Giver Depression…how can you change it?

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How to cope with the change of relationships in the midst of dementia/Alzheimer’s and keep the spouse / care giver going.  I also added a recipe for Zucchini Turkey Soup that will help you take those steps on your own.  by francy Dickinson

concert in the parkDear Francy: I am doing my own thoughts today. I had a change of routine…that I knew was coming but it upset me all the same. How are you coping with losing your spouse, bit by bit…even though they are still in front of you? The old relationship is fading away and as the care giver…I have to learn to adjust, not go into a depression. I hope this helps you look at change…and not be afraid of the next chapter in your life. Don’t hold on and go down with the ship…raise up and try to embrace the change and make it healthy for both of you. 

I actually went out last night. We have a free concert in the park series that we have attended for many years. There are two jazz artists that are really good and so I try to at least hit those nights. The featured artist this year was Michael Powers. Last year George got so he could not sit long and had to go to the bathroom. But the toilets are located a block away from the concert. We could hardly get there in time and he then could not walk all the way back!

So, I knew that it would be our last time to the concert together. We have been going to these concerts for 20 years…its a summertime tradition that represented joy and togetherness and happy times…how could it end? I have hovered over it on and off all through this last year. Each time I thought about it, it seemed to represent the loss I was feeling almost on a daily basis. No more sharing things together. George here in the house, but a million miles away from our old life of best friends sharing everything together. The transition is so hard to make. I want to hold on so badly to the old…but everyday a new assault of change would arrive at my door. 

pioneer parkThat one event of a weekly outing at the concert in the summer months…it  had bothered so much. The concert is in a fabulous park on a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound…looking out to the water, the islands, the Olympic mountains and Narrows Bridge. There’s a very long train that rumbles through each night too…and the musicians just make fun of the noise. The bandstand is built like an old fashioned bandstand and as you look at it- it almost disappears and you only see the view behind it. Oh boy,  you feel like you are caught up in a time warp. You just get so into the moment, the music, the view.  

As the sun sets the view just gets better…the boats start to pull up close to hear the music and the night is always so magical. The little town of Steilacoom has a farmers/art market on the nights of the concert.  You go early to set up your chairs on the deep green lawn. Grabbing a place in front of the bandstand but back far enough that the sound is soothing, not too loud. Then you walk through the market –munching on fruits, baked goodies and buying flowers from backyard gardens and soap made from bee farmers or goat farmers. You nod at familiar faces and remark at all the wonderful dogs that are all dressed for a nite out, too.  You walk, talk and eat…like a mini fair. OH, it is so enchanting. George and I always loved it…plus, he always got his frozen, chocolate dipped banana😉
 
I gave up the thought of taking him this year. But Cheryl circled one date with our favorite jazz guy (Michel Powers). I thought about it alot. As the time came closer I finally asked a neighbor and long time friend of he would ‘sit’ with George. He was all in…and so I invited his wife to come with Cheryl and I… it was a date.
The day was hot, and I spent it making soup for dinner for the guys. I just could not think of anything exciting to make for them…so I tried a soup idea I had read about a couple of years ago. I am knee deep in zucchini from my little container garden. Thus a Zucchini Turkey soup. It was totally a wonderful soup and the guys loved it. I had a frozen pie that I baked …the dinner was ready so I could escape. 
 
I thought about all the work I had to do to get out the door for three hours…but it was worth it. George enjoyed the guy talk and I enjoyed the market, concert and girls night out. Sometimes you just have to give up on the old…and know that the new can be enjoyable too. 
No there was no George to hold my hand during the concert. Nor was he there to make me dance with him when they played a tune he liked. But being surrounded by my friends at the concert, I was able to take a step out alone. My future is going to have a lot of steps out alone…so I have to remind myself not to be afraid of life. To live it as an expression of what I enjoy…not what “we enjoyed” — this is the hard part of Alzheimer’s. Its the day after day of losing bits and pieces of someone you love so dearly. I know, I live it. But I have a long life to live…and this has to be my journey next to George…not my end.
I send all of you that are caring for loved ones that are on their own journey…a blessing…francy
 
Here is the soup…honestly..it was delightful. I had a bowl when I got home. 
 
SUMMER ZUCCHINI n TURKEY SOUP 
 
Chop your medium Zucchini in bite size pieces and fry them in olive oil. You want them cooked and light brown and it will take about five minutes. Then drain them on a paper towel and hold them to add at the end of the soup.
Get your rice cooker going with a good brown or wild rice–you need about 2 cups when it is cooked — you can add a cube of chicken broth to the rice water and then let it cook through – Hold this, it will be added at the end of the soup. 
Now here is the soup itself, that I used a French pot to cook it on top of the stove so it did not stick. 
 
Use two cups of turkey or chicken leftovers cut in bite sizes. I used smoked turkey leftovers I had frozen for future sandwich meat. This is a perfect way to use up your left over roasted chicken meat (from the store). Chop into bit sizes and hold to add to the soup. 
 
1TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
4 celery stalks (w greens) chopped small
4 cups of the vegetable broth (you can use chicken too)
1 can of cream of celery (or chicken)
4 drops of pepper sauce
1/2 tsp of sage…thyme and rosemary
1/2 tsp House Seasoning (with salt, pepper and garlic powder mixed)
 
OK, cook the onion till it’s starting to turn color then add in the green pepper and celery — once they have gotten soft then add in the herbs, spices and pour in the broth n can of creamed soup + the 4 drops of pepper sauce. Bring it to boil, then add in the meat, rice and zucchini — reduce the heat down and let it cook through, the rice will absorb a lot of the stock. Just before you serve you can sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of chopped green onions and add a dollop of sour cream on top and then serve with roll. 
 
Hope you enjoy it…francy
 
 

Summer Garden Squash Lasagna for Seniors

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Seniors love their gardens.Here is how to use your early zucchini and summer squash
for a delightful Italian meal for your senior. by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mom is so sad that she no longer has her garden…she talks about it all the time. I just wish I could gift her a day in the dirt…any ideas for a gal stuck in a wheelchair?

George enjoying his tomatoes on the front porch

George enjoying his tomatoes on the front porch

Yes….get her out the door on your front or back porch and put some veggies in a container. Even if it’s just some herbs…she will feel a part of it again if you hand her the hose and let her water each morning or evening. Here is a fun recipe from our garden…George loves to sit on the porch and watch his garden grow and so when we cut our first squash today — we had to bring it in and make it into a meal!

What I love about cooking these days is I cook for four or six…then I freeze a couple of the left overs as meal size portions. When I have a day that is stress filled and I’m tired. I am able to go and get one of the home-made dinners and George can enjoy the moment all over again. I served this meal with a French roll. I find buying a couple of French rolls is so much easier than trying to finish off a big loaf of French bread. I know both you and your senior will enjoy this meal…its fun to use your own (or local) summer squash and this is a hit with George.

Summer Squash & Zucchini Lasagna

Our first summer squash and zucchini from our container garden

Our first summer squash and zucchini from our container garden

1 med summer squash and 1 med zucchini( chopped)
1/4 pound hamburger (room temp)
1/2 medium sweet onion (chopped)
1 tsp of house seasoning
1tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp fennel
1 can chopped Italian- stewed tomatoes
1  small can or 1 cup of tomato sauce

Turn the oven on to 350 and get a 9 x13 pan greased and sitting aside.

Layering the veggies with cheese

Layering the veggies with cheese

Start the hamburger browning on medium, on the stove. Break it apart so it is in small pieces as it cooks. Add the seasoning combo of salt, pepper and garlic..then when it’s brown…mix in the small chopped onion pieces and the fennel. Let it all brown together. (drain off the excess oil) Add in the squash pieces – that are cut in inch cube size – and the can of stewed tomatoes. Stir for two minutes to bring the flavor of the mix together than take off the burner and let set while you make the cheese layer.
Cheese Layer: 1 Small carton of small curd cottage cheese – 1 beaten egg – a few fresh  leaves of basil cut with scissors into small strips- a large sprig of parsley from your container, cut with scissors. 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix all of this together and add pepper and salt.
Layer 1/2 the veggie and meat mixture in the greased pan. Top that with the cheese layer dotted all over the first layer and then spread out. Layer the rest of the veggie and meat mixture and top it with the 1 cup of tomato sauce (or canned spaghetti sauce) and sprinkle that with the Italian Seasoning.
Top it with shredded mozzarella cheese and if you have some shredded fresh Parmesan you can mix that in with the other cheese. Sit the pan in a baking pan to prevent dripping (the squash really adds moisture to this dish, so you do not want to have it dripping in the oven as it bakes.) Bake for 45 minutes on 350 –watching the cheese so it browns but does not burn. Take it out and let it set for about 5-10 minutes so it will cool and set so it is easier to serve.
Italian casseroleI take the French roll – butter it and sprinkle with garlic, Parmesan cheese and Johnny’s Seasoning…and wrap in foil…put in the last 10 minutes so it can be warm and toasty…YUMM.

I usually serve George at his chair in the living room. I have a good tray that I use and I always line it with a towel or napkin and make it look as nice as I can. Eating when you are a senior..is a hard chore…many times seniors lose their ability to taste…so this is a great Italian seasoning meal that is tasty and fun for the senior to eat. Since it’s made of veggies I do not make a side salad..and because its quite rich…I let George eat…rest and then have his coffee with a couple of cookies later. I always put his pills, on the tray…so he can see them and remember to take them after the meal.

I like to give George a nice tray to encourage him to eat the meal

I like to give George a nice tray to encourage him to eat the meal

Italian is a fun way to mix up dinners for seniors that get so tired of everyday meals. Plus the use of the veggies that they helped raise…with their daily watering…and love…makes the dinner even better.

I understand that as the senior advances in his medical complications…eating spicy foods can be hard on the stomach. I did not use many spices in this and you could always leave out the garlic completely. Just work around it and then remember the dinner is fresh and the left overs are perfect frozen dinners for next week.

I always want to thank you for your loving gift of time and attention to your senior. Care giving is a very lonely way of life. So when you and your senior can share a little chore of watering a small container garden…and then enjoy the taste — it gives your daily life a boost…Blessings, francy

Help, Dad Fell Twice this Week

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Tips to help elders/seniors from falling – by francy Dickinson

George was an avid golfer, skier, ran and played tennis. Is there memory in those muscles still?

My dear Georgie was an avid golfer and skier. He ran, cycled and played tennis. Is there memory in those muscles still? Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is robbing him of his mobility, how I am fighting to keep him moving.

 Dear Francy: Dad fell twice this week alone. He has a bruise on his upper thigh and his ribs are sore. I took him in to the doctor to check it out after the second fall, but this is so frightening. His Parkinson’s is just turning his legs into jelly. What can we do to keep him safe? 

I am right there with you. My Georgie is falling all the time and I worry so about a broken hip. How do you keep someone that is aging and losing their strength from taking tumbles? Well there are things you can do to lessen the problem. So, lets go through the list together and see what pertains to us and if we can use the ideas to keep our guys standing and walking safely.

  1. Start with clearing space. No matter where you live…look over the pattern that the senior is using to go to the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom and back to their favorite chair. Is there obstructions? Remove throw rugs, extra furniture and any clutter. Keep the area clean and clear…so the cane, walker or wheelchair is easy to use. If you have to re-arrange furniture so the senior is safer…do it. Life does not have to be pretty…it just has to work for the senior.
  2. Take note of the time of day that the senior takes their falls. If it’s at night they may need a better path to the bathroom or a portable commode. These commodes are easy to use and you tell the senior it’s just for night-time. Set it up right by the bed so there is only a couple of steps and then put in a good night light so the commode can be seen and used. When I had mom, I would use the commode by the bed at night and then take out the bucket, clean it and move the commode part over the toilet during the day. This provided handles for the senior to use when getting up and down off the toilet.
  3. “Table top walking” is a favorite with women. They do not want to break down and use that cane. So they move through their home by grabbing onto a chair back, a table top and counter. This is so dangerous and you simply have to draw a line and refuse to allow the senior to keep this habit. Get them a cane or a walker. The rule is a cane is for pain. Used for recovery from an operation, a break, or a arthritis type of continual pain. The walker is for steady and support-always get a walker with a seat, so the senior can rest if they feel weak. The wheelchair comes when the falls are simply so often that you can not depend on the senior to be safe alone. Physical Therapy should be ordered and they will review your senior and help them make the choice of what is right for them. If it is a walker or wheelchair, you will have to go through the living area and prepare space for the senior to move. Doors may have to be taken off hinges, kitchen areas cleared and a basket to carry food and drinks has to be added to the walker or wheelchair for convenience.
  4. Exercise. Physical Therapy can be the key to success to getting any senior walking stronger again. After stroke care, Parkinson’s, severe arthritis – it all has a lot of recovery to keep the body in movement and the PT will give special exercises to help the senior regain strength. I found it surprising that doing the exercises even three times a week made a big change for George.
  5. Recovery. Mom was a girl that had a series of tiny strokes. She was in her nineties
    Mother on the go in her wheelchair at 98 with our dear Kathy who helped me with care giving

    Mother on the go in her wheelchair at 98 with our dear Kathy who helped me with care giving

    and each TIA took away her muscle abilities. I told her in order for her to remain with me, in my home…she simply had to be mobile. I could not lift or transfer her all day with my bad back. So she was such a trooper. Each time she lost her balance and could not walk…she would pull her self up and use her walker inch by inch. With me following her with the wheelchair in case her legs gave out. She recovered over and over again. I know; first hand…that muscles do have memory and you can recover it with patience and continued practice. But there is always a line in the sand when wheelchairs have to be used and transfer help from a care giver is the only way a weak body is able to keep safe.

  6. Eating to stay fit. Protein is really important to re-build your muscles. Add a protein drink to the senior’s morning exercise routine. It will help give them a boost. Go over their food and make sure they have plenty of small ziplocks filled with treats. Carrots, celery, peanut butter on crackers, a cookie, fruit slices etc. Keep them handy so the senior can munch and crunch every few hours. If they are living alone, you will call them for a short reminder for pills and snacks – four times a day…this will keep their energy up. Often seniors forget to eat and drink..they lose their energy and that reflects in their ability to safely walk. My trick is that they keep a cooler by their TV chair and it is filled each morning with drinks, food, treats and the senior then does not have to go anywhere for their daily food. This is perfect when a senior is checked in the morning and evening by a care giver or family member.
  7. Rules: setting rules is no joke. You set rules for children when they are growing…so you need to set rules for seniors. They may break them…but they need to know they are there. George is not allowed to walk without his cane or walker. I spend my day finding a cane in one room and bringing it back to him and keeping the walker close. But his dementia does not help him remember. So, its my job to keep his tools of support around him close, so he uses them. George can not overload his hands…I now transport anything he needs in a basket so he walks with hands free and balance in check.
  8. Medications can be a big problem with falls. Talk to the doctor about his falls and tell him they are worrying you. Ask if he can review the prescription list and see if any of the medications could make the senior dizzy, tired or forgetful. So when you are giving the senior their morning pills – you can adjust their routine to allow them to rest for a while after they take their meds. Make sure the senior is sleeping in their bed at night and resting their brain and body. Many elders sleep in their chairs and nap all day. This confuses the body and does not help the senior stay strong.
  9. Talk to your senior. Just sit down and tell them your concerns. “Dad, I want you to live with us. But if you fall and break your hip – you will have to have more care in a facility. This is why we are all trying to keep you safe. I know that the walker is not fun, I know you don’t like to be bothered with me hovering. But I am doing this to keep you safe and at home (or with us).” When seniors hear your concern, when they understand your fuss is in love – they take note of their own care. Life gets easier. I often ask George; “What do you think we can do to fix this?” And through his dementia he usually has a come back. Some times its funny…sometimes its way to hopeful…but he feels involved in the conversation. A senior’s personal honor has to be kept in place for them to work with you on solving problems.
  10. NO SHAME _ NO BLAME I work very hard to deal with emergencies, not yell about them. Even though I get mad and exasperated when my Georgie does something silly and causes a big issue of a fall. I take the moment new. I use a calming voice. i tell him to relax and just stay still till he can catch his breath. I inspect his body and make sure he is in one piece. I ask him about pain level. (1-10) I keep him still untill he can recover his mind and review his own body. When I feel it is safe I assist him in getting up again, using a straight chair. I bring the chair to the site of the fall. I get George turned around and on his hands and knees. Then he puts his hands on the straight chair’s seat and I assist him to slowly stand. If he is dead weight and not thinking straight – I do not try to move him alone. I call for help. I have a neighbor that comes over and if he did not respond to my call – I would call 911 and ask for assistance with a fall. The EMS (fire fighters) come and get him up and into a chair or bed. They check him out and would then help me transfer him to ER in my car or by ambulance if it was needed. I force myself to stay calm and thinking.
  11. After a fall: I have George drink water while he sits calmly in his chair. I turn off the TV and put on music to help him relax. I bring him something that has sugar, like a cookie and make him tea. I sit with him and we talk about something totally unrelated. That allows his mind to rest back into place. The shock of a fall is hard for anyone. Letting the senior absorb the shock and relax again…then rest for a while before they go to the bathroom (or back to their day activity) is best. I always cover George with a light throw when he is in his chair…keeping him warm, rested, fed and calmed with music and talk…brings life back to him. I save my fears and upset for another room…away from him. Often the fall worries me – more than George. So I try to calm myself down with a little tea and maybe a walk around the yard or a chat with a friend on the phone. It’s OK to cry out frustrations, but its not OK to do it in front of the senior. They will feel nothing but guilt over your upset.
  12. Pain. If the fall causes bruising or pain. Its best to make a call to the doctor’s office and ask to talk to the nurse. Tell her what you have done and what the senior complaints have been. They will tell you what to look for that would require the senior to come into the office. The rule I live by…is the ER and doctor’s office are there for real emergencies and I take that seriously. Just like a new mother…it takes experience to tell when a baby is in need of rest and love or a trip to the doctor. So it goes for seniors in care.

Just the fact that you care about your dad and his falls..tells me that you are a kind person there to help your dad through his elder challenges.

George is now waiting for his PT appointment to get a wheelchair. I am concerned what that will mean to our household routine. Will he not want to even try to walk or exercise when he gets in that chair? Will his dementia and Parkinson’s really start to take a dive when he is no longer moving on his own? I worry about change…

I know what it takes to give care on a full time basis. Its lonely. I thank you for your love and kindness to your father. I hope these ideas have helped. Blessings, francy

What if someone said you were going to die soon…then what?

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How to handle the journey to the end of life by francy Dickinson

My little Annie and her never ending love.

My little Annie and her never ending love.

Dear Francy; I am 47, I live alone and work in a doctor’s office. I have an adult son that is now in France with his own family and his dad. I am alone, no one in my family is left but me and a distant cousin. I have not been well for quite some time so I have very few friends and no one that checks on me or is a close confidant. When the doctor told me – my time was close…I just came home and sat down on my patio and wanted it to end right there and then. I was given your name by a friend, she said you ‘knew about things’. I wish I knew about things…I was wondering what you think I should be doing? I just don’t have the energy to think lately…and yet, I want the end of my life to be joyful. Do you have any ideas for me?

Yes! First, a Friend told me one day…that you should think of death as the beginning of a new life. Think how happy everyone is here…when a new baby is born into our family or community…we all give showers and gifts and stand in line to hold the child with great hope. What if your death here…is like a new child’s birth on the other side? What if when you enter that realm or dimension…you are the star…you are the one everyone is waiting for? Your family that has passed on, dear old friends…anipals that have passed – all standing in line for hugs. What if you are the center of attention? Just a thought to throw around in your mind.

I sent you a personal note and asked if I could share some information on the blog and you granted me that right. So, I will talk about the idea of death that bursts forth when anyone is faced with it. The recent tragic news about people dying in terrible fires and storms, children being shot in their schools and cars dropping off of bridges without any notice. You can be faced with end of life situations at any age…but for you and many, its health issues that take over the body and cause an end to life. You are still young, but a person’s age does not matter, death is death.

I was faced with 4th stage cancer in my twenties. So I know the pain and trials of thinking about death. I know the feeling that just making it through a day to day situation seems overwhelming. But the truth, as I know it…is that life enfolds and I lived on. I lived through the procedures, the pain, the confusion, the trauma and thirty years later — I am still here. So timing of our death can be very tricky and I would not get caught up in dates, times or places of your own demise…it may be tomorrow…or it may be a very long way, away.

Since you are alone, you have the privacy to be emotional when you need to be. You don’t have to be brave or polite for your family or older parents…you can just be who you are and that is a gift. That means that you have the ability to sit on your patio and enjoy the air, the noise of life and the sunshine….its a good place to be. I happen to be a great believer in trees. My family has a history of staring at the beauty of trees, as they made the last part of their life’s journey. It gave them all a feeling of calm, peace and they often talked about things they saw in the trees after hours of staring at the limbs swaying and leaves shimmering. Being with nature when you are tense and worried…is always a great calming effect. You get into the feelings of the day…the noise of the morning, afternoon and evening…and the quiet of the night. Some times…you just need to connect to that and I think its a good thing.

I know your son seems like a lifetime away. But one day he, his children or grandchildren will want to know about you. Its time to prepare for that. When you are fresh in the morning…start to pack a box for your son. Put everything in protective sleeves or ziplock bags and add notes to them. Example: Your wedding ring…tuck in a note about when you got it and how much you loved to wear it. I did this with my sister when she was passing with cancer…those little gifts and notes to family and a few friends…were held like gold when they received them.

Go to Ancestry.com and do a simple search and get your immediate family members in place. Then scan in a few pictures and things..so when someone does research on your family…they will find your smiling face and a small outline of your life. They will read a few things about your own father and mother and maybe you knew your grand parents. That is like a gift to your great, great grandchildren…please give it to them.

Call Hospice. They will come and talk to you and talk you through what has to be done to keep you safe and well and at home, if you choose to be at home… through your end days. They are trained for all sorts of situations…so you will be surprised at how much they will do for you. They will clean your home, help you with a pet, find a home for your gold fish…they do what you need to make a life transition without worry. Its a wonderful group and is free to all of us.

Ask someone you know, to be your health care directorship. Maybe it will be a friend at work, or the doctor you work with or anyone that you enjoy talking to and understands your true voice. When you fill out the paperwork, you will see it will ask you what you want to do about your decisions…like would you want to be on prolonged life support? Think on it and then answer. Do you want to be buried or cremated? These questions are not there to upset you…they are there for you to make the decisions before you get so ill that someone else makes those decisions for you.

Let people know you are on a limited time frame. My husband has long talked about an incident that happened in his life. He was married with children and his father was suffering with Parkinson’s. His dad went into the hospital and his mother called and gave him an upbeat talk about it and told him not to worry to come and visit the next day. My husband was going to do just that and he had in mind what he was going to bring to his dad and some special treats he was going to include in his gift.  Then early that morning a call came that his dad had passed. My husband was so upset that he never forgot about the missed chance to see his dad…and he has always been stuck on why his mother did that to him?
Give your son a call and let him know the situation. If he wants to come and see you…let him. If he is fine with it and just wants to chat and send you love over the phone…then you can deal with that too. But do not take away the choice of your son to express his feelings for you before you are no longer there. Gift him, the choice. Being brave and not wanting to rock a boat, is really being selfish and taking the power away from your loved ones – to give to you.

Ask what or how the end will come. A lot of people do not want to know this..but Hospice will explain to you what is ahead. When I have worked with them…I have found that this information takes the worry and fright out of what is happening to you when your body is weak and you are no longer able to understand or do for yourself.

Do what pleases you. If you like hamburgers eat them…if you like chocolate eat it, if you like to drink martinis ~ this is your moment. No diet is going to change your health when you are in the final stages of health decline. Be good to yourself…do as you please…if you want to take off your bra…or wear your hair on top of your head. Do it!

Do not spend energy on things that have no meaning. I try to explain to anyone in your place…that your body only has so much energy…so how you use it each day is very important. Think of your body as a laptop on a plane trip. You have an hour or two of battery time, before it has to be recharged…so what are you going to do with that laptop?

Say NO…if you are asked to do something that you do not want to do…you now say, NO.

Do not push away people. You know I have gone through a strange life of care giving. Not because I wanted to…I am not a nurse type person, but because I was in the right spot at the right time to help a few of my family members, friends and others. I could have said NO. I could have gotten someone else to do the care giving..but somehow I was put there to learn and to do. Its just how life unfolds. But from caring for my dad in his last days…he shared some stories and ideas with me, that I would never have known. Being with my sister in her last days gave me a clear appreciation for her helping my mother to raise me. When I took mom into our home, in her last days…showed me that I was strong and could keep my mind working even in crisis. All of those actions and care giving…now allowed me to be here for my dear Georgie, as I am now caring for him during his Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s journey. It has not been a bad thing, or a sad thing, but a journey and a gift that they gave to me. I always was a very self-centered person that only worried about my own life…I have now been shown how important it is to do for others and to give them your love when they really need it. I have learned that my sense of humor has as much power as my care giving…because nasty health issues are not fun…and if you can not laugh in the midst of chaos…there is a big problem in your world. The care giving was not a burden, but an awakening for me as a person. The care giving turned out to be how I was meant to give back and I am pleased that my family members gave me the chance to learn that…I am not mad about being ‘put out’ over the work. I am honored. So do not think that you are asking to much when you ask care givers to help you…they are there to be next to you during this time. Maybe something you say or do, will enrich their lives in a way that never would have happened without you.

If it is true that giving is blessed…then you have to remember than someone has to be the receiver in that process. So you have given all through your life…now, its time to be the receiver and let others be blessed on their kindness and giving to you.

Last…there is nothing to be afraid of — if the end of life has nothing. I mean if those that believe in an after life of some kind…are wrong…so what? Nothing is nothing, you don’t have to worry over nothing. But if we are right about the end of life being a beginning of another experience…then being prepared and thinking of what you would want in that new experience is worth your energy. Pushing through the fear…and knowing that you will be swept up into love…is so important.

There is no being with someone when you die. We are all going to be alone. Even if we have a big family around us…the experience is ours alone. All you have done will stand for its own value. Today, think and do what feels right. You said you like to do watercolor…so paint! Do not care what it looks like, if it’s shaky or the colors are not perfect…just open up and paint. Feel the inner you coming out and allow it to talk to you. Maybe it will be sad and dark…or maybe it will be beautiful and light colors, or maybe it will be joyous and just shine. .Allow that inside of you…to spill out. There are no more rules…you are on your own ride.

Know that you and your life had meaning as all lives do. I think of my sweet little wire haired fox terrier, Annie. She passed years ago. She gave me so much joy and love and I still think of her as being by my side. She is dead, she is gone…and yet I feel her close. I remember how she expressed her love to me and it still makes me feel special. She was with me only nine years, such a short time on earth and yet…she gave me a lasting feeling of love and being a good dog mom. Since I have not had any children of my own…those feelings of motherhood were expressed with her and she – in return, left her love behind.

You are loved…and I am honored to have met you and that you have shared your feelings with me. Blessings, francy

When You Say ‘Enough’ To Giving In Home Care

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How to make the decision to end the ‘in your home care’ of an elder. by francy Dickinson

Toots w Kathy, Merrilee n Francy at mother's downstairs area

Toots w Kathy, Merrilee n Francy at mother’s downstairs area in our home

Dear Francy: I don’t know what to do…I am in trouble and too tired to make a decision. My husband has MS and he is still functioning on his own. He is in a wheelchair but he has a good life at home, as a writer. We have three children ages 10-15 years and they are in the swirl of life. I have been a part-time cook at the local cafe. My husband’s aunt is all alone in the world and very dear to us. We have a mother-in-law outbuilding in our backyard and we have fixed it up and moved the Auntie in, to be close to us. She is a quiet and kind person that was doing for herself but she needed a lot of our help. It all seemed great for the first three months she was here. Then she got the flu and complications and she became more frail. Now, I have to care for her…running back and forth over the path to what the kids call “the cottage”. I am getting so tired and the house is beginning to feel the pressures. I don’t know what to do. Our Aunt has done nothing to upset us…she is just getting older and needs more care. Do you think this is just a bump? Or is this going to spiral down and take more of my time?

I can not tell you that, I am not a professional medical person. I am just a person that has years of giving in home care to my family and elders. So, what I will do is write down a list of things to help care givers with ‘in home care’ situations and you can pick and choose what might help you. Just remember there is no guilt when you try to give help and love to another…life changes and things often have to change. You are really in a situation that many others are…you are sandwiched in between job and family vs the care of a senior. Just the kindness of your heart, to make room for your beloved Aunt, is very dear to me. Thank you.

IDEAS OF HOW TO DECIDE, WHEN TO GIVE ELDER CARE IN YOUR HOME:

  1. YOU  have to save yourself first! My dear friend Cheryl, was a flight attendant for 25 years and they were taught to be the first to grab the oxygen when it dropped down! So they could stay clear headed and help others. Its a lesson for all of us to remember when we face situations that require so much of us as care givers.
  2. START SMALL. If you just take time to sit with your spouse and go over the needs list for your aunt and decide who will do what. Do not forget your children, they are all old enough to do little things and be in charge of this or that. Maybe they will take over more of the “in your house or yard chores” so you can go and take care of your Auntie. Be honest…this time can be an amazing learning lesson for your children and you. Giving up some of your own wants and doing for others…is what characters are built on. But this organization meeting will show you how much time you are spending. I don’t want to be out of place saying this…but a business meeting is like a “Come to Jesus”. You finally see what is in front of you.
  3. ASKING FOR HELP: If your Auntie has money then you have to be honest with her and get her to allow you to hire help. It could be a cleaning lady for both places that allows you to forget the little things a bit. The one help I insist on is a bath lady. I have said this a million times. They are worth their weight in gold and they should be the first on a sparse budget. They will take that pressure away and get the bath and hair all clean in a ‘faster than light’ action. Plus, they are another friendly face for the senior.  NO MONEY? Then you simply have to go down to the social services and get your Aunt signed up. They will do a review of her income and your care giving and they will provide help to make it easier for you. They will pay for her medications, they will provide food stamps for her food, they will pay – you – for care you are giving. (they do not pay for a spouse but they will pay for a family member or friend) Yes, in return they will make demands. You have to keep a clean area for the senior and do a few hours of nursing classes to teach you how to give healthy and wise care. But it was a life saver for me when mother’s care went into overdrive and I was not able to work any longer.
  4. BE HONEST: If you pretend life is fine, you are signing your own health decline order. This is not easy stuff…you simply have to say…I NEED REST. You can ask other family members to come one day a week, so you can ease your strain or simply sleep. You can ask your employer if you could just work two days instead of four days. Your income from the state should cover this change. You will find an increase in your expenses. Seniors require expensive food, protein drinks, Depends, extra electric bills with the increased clothes washing and heat bills. (seniors need heat all year round) Talk, the more you talk and ask for help…the more your family and community services will hear you and add you to their listing.
  5. COMMUNITY SERVICES AND FAITH BASED HELP: Even if you do not belong to a faith group, your local church, temple, etc is there for you. You are a part of their extended community and they will reach out to you. You may find that they have a list of retirees that are willing to come and just visit or sit with your senior so you can leave the house and shop. Or the senior can get a good laugh with a person of their own generation. You may find they have a food bank to help with extra items, they also have visiting lay-ministry people that will come and just talk with the senior. Do not get uppity about community help. Those services are made up of others that have gone through what you are going through and decided to put a group together to help others. Take advantage of their ideas and service time available.
  6. RELEASE ANGER: I have a list of families that are angry with their relatives because they did not help with giving care to their elder. If you can ask family to help you…to come and visit when you need to be at school for the kids…or to buy your elder a pair of slippers or new housecoat…then do it. But if they don’t…let it go. Just do not spend your already low energy on anyone that is not willing to reach out and give you a hug and help in your time of high stress. Those folks are not worth it. Let it be…
  7. GET A POWER OF ATTORNEY AND HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: I am afraid I often say this, so if you read my blog…its a repeat. But there is nothing, and I mean nothing more frustrating — than to give care to an elder on a daily basis and then have some punk realitive walk in the door and tell you that another anxiety medication is not really needed for your elder. Like they know! No one knows more than the “in home care giver” so you need to insist that you can make the decisions on the behalf of the elder. Then it will be your moral duty to make them in the best way you can, for the elder. Trust me, each time I talk about this…people think…OH my sister is better with forms and she will do it. NOT 
  8. GATHER A HEALTH TEAM: Add your senior’s family doctor, get a specialist to at least see the elder once and review things. Get a nurse to talk to or just get a nurse practitioner to be your main care giver reference. Now lets talk real. Doctors diagnose they do not treat you. A nurse or care giver treats. So you need to learn how to ask the doctor questions and understand the chemistry of the elder’s health problems. The better your questions are, the easier the care giving will be. Then you need to know what will happen at home…and what that means you will be doing about the care. If you go through a bump, ask the doctor for in home nurse care, he can order that and the nurse will show you how to treat the elder. Bring in a nurse contact or help line to help you decide how to care for the elder at home and a pharmacist to explain the medications needed. The doctor will give you drugs and what is called an Rx for things like physical therapy, wheelchairs, in home help of an occupational therapist, message, therapy sessions, supplements etc. This is important; anything your senior needs should be written as a prescription so the insurance and medicare will accept it and help pay for it. Always ask the doctor to prescribe something and to give you generic medications so you are not going down a big hole when free services and medications are available to you.
    YES> THIS MEANS YOU NEED TO BE ORGANIZED. So don’t be a baby…the more you write down, the more questions you ask, the more you get clarified…the easier the care giving will be.
    Remember; talk to a nurse about home care tips…read my blog and learn home care tips. Use the Internet for extra advise and read it all…then make your own decisions. Talk about supplements that will help the elder and special ways to use food and exercise to increase the abilities of any senior in any stage of decline. Understand bowel movement difficulty, side effects of medications, dizziness, avoiding falls, eating difficulties, hydration challenges. All these things will come up so you need to write them down and have doctor or nurse show you how to treat the problems at home. It is not scary if you understand and are prepared.
  9. NO< NO< NO: I just do not want to clean a bottom, or smell blood, give a shot, or lift the elder up out of a chair. OK…see, that is being honest with who you are. It does not make you a bad person. You need to draw a line in the sand and when you come to that line the elder is going to be placed in a care facility. Everyone has a line, yours maybe closer than mine…but that does not make me a better person. I have a disposition to give care. I never knew I did…I was never a girl that said I wanted to be Nurse Francy. Now I know, that I can turn off my mind and just give the care without getting sick or too involved in the immediate yucky situation. Some can, some cannot. Know yourself and draw your line. I have a line. I drew it with my mother and now it is firmly in place with my husband and his decline with Alzheimer’s. They have to walk or at least be transferable. I have a very bad back and I simply can not lift a huge person and walk around without a great deal of pain. What is your line in the sand? 
  10. HAVE A PLAN: Is there respite services you can use or senior day care services? Ask and find out how the local community is prepared to help you with rest. There needs to be a plan, where would you take your elder if they need to leave you? Some where close so you can visit and keep an eye on their care.  Have the place in your mind. Go and visit, tell them what you are doing and ask if they take medicare patients, if they have a long waiting list, if you could be on a secondary list of placement in case of emergency, etc. Once this is done, you will then be able to relax and know a quick transfer to a facility will not end up in you moving the senior again because the facility was not up to your standards of care. Call Hospice and ask them when you are to use their services…ask them how to judge the situation and they will walk you through a review of how to use them. So, if the senior is sinking down and wants to die at home…you can get help. Hospice also has facilities for end of life care…so find out the best way to use their services, now. Lastly, know what would happen if your elder passed in their sleep. Who do you call, is there money for a funeral, do they want a funeral. Do they want to be buried or cremated? Get it done early in the time you take the elder into your house. So as care accelerates you do not have to add another layer of upset to your own life. Get all this over and done. Then you can turn your attention to today…and making it a day of joy for you and your senior.

You may think no one cares about you being tired, upset and stressed over senior care. You may think that no one has ever been where you are today…but you are wrong. Generations have faced the same problems and found solutions that worked for them. One step at a time…give it time. A senior may have a big dip…and then in a week or two they will regroup, re energize and come back up in strength and life will go on again. Give it  all time. You take time to get over the flu…a senior takes more time. But encourage them to get well….keep them moving, drinking, eating and laughing. Let them know you want them to live…to the end of their life. Not just make it through to end. Keep your heart in the race and it will work out. Care giving is just a short part of your life time. The gift of your giving your heart…will come back to you in so many rich ways…year after year.

Blessings on all that you do for your family and your dear elder. francy

NOTE: Will you sign up to receive notice of my blogs please? You will find the button on the right side of the screen towards the top. I do not write as often now that my Georgie is in need of more and more of my own time. But I am here to do all I can to help. So send me an email if you need help. f.

10 Tips for Great Doctor Appointments 4 Your Senior

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Info on how to prepare for doctor appointments for you or your senior. by francy Dickinson

George on his weekly out and about.

George on his weekly out and about.

Dear Francy: Mother was complaining for two weeks on how she was having bowel problems and a soreness in her rib cage…I made the doctor appointment. We go…then she says nothing! He asks her how she is and she says; “FINE”  I am so frustrated and mad that I wasted a day off work for an empty doctor appointment. HELP!

Hello!  Are you sure you are not living my life? I have been there and done that so many times that I sat down and went over all the steps that would give me quality time with busy doctors. We all can get scattered and forget, or not really ‘think’ about our body and what to ask the doctor. So here is a listing to help you never again feel cheated at a doctor’s office.

George is going to his memory clinic on Friday. We have had three appointments that have had to be cancelled, due to all sorts of things, so this time…we need to really go and hit the nail on the head. I am taking time to do all of these steps this week with George. I know this will help you. It has made my time at doctor’s offices go smooth and easy.I have even had doctors “thank me” for being so informative.

10 TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE THAT DOCTOR APPOINTMENT INFORMATIVE:

  1. Quiet yourself and think about you/or your senior’s body. What has changed since the last time you were at the doctor’s office? Even if the doctor you are seeing is a foot specialist…write down your whole body changes. Doctors diagnose with detailed information. They are best when they know the most. Give them a list: slightly dizzy when I get up to go to the bathroom at night – gained 10 pounds and feel like candy is my best friend – allergy headaches that really bother me – my mouth is dry all the time, lately – my nails are breaking a lot – my hair is getting thinner. Go ahead. Sit and think about this, talk it over with your senior or spouse and write it down. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to share the information…this list could save a life.
  2. Write a letter to the doctor about your care giving elder. Just let the doctor know. I have written my letter for my husband’s friday memory clinic appointment. I have taken time to be quiet with myself and just write down his changes with his Alzheimer’s. I have had to insist on him getting out of bed, he only feels safe there. I have forced him to walk 10 min. in the hall – twice a day. His shuffling is so bad that I am very worried over him not walking at all and I would lose the ability to care for him. I even did a short video to show him on our tablet. I am not sleeping (see I talk about me too) I find my temper is getting short over the silly things he does. Now you go ahead do your letter and let it all flow out. Let the doctor know the things your senior has told you during the last couple of months. Write it down and give it to the check-in desk and ask the doctor to read it before he comes into the appointment. The doctor will be so grateful.
  3. Keep a list of things you hear on the radio, from friends or read online about the special medical problems you or your senior may have at this time. Maybe you heard a tip on supplements to help diabetes, or a special test on a new drug, or a place to go and join an experimental test. Write it down, so you can remember to ask the opinion of your own doctor before you proceed. Use his opinion to help you make your “own informed decision”  about treatment.
  4. Walk in the doctor’s office with an updated list of your medications. Keep this list on the computer or ask the doctor to print if off for you. You need to know each name of the medication, the amount, the time to take it, if it is taken with or without food, and what the medication is doing in your body. If you don’t know those things take a trip to the pharmacy and talk to them. You need to take pills that make sense to you and understand the reason you take them. That way you will be taking them on time, in a a daily manner. Many medications simply stop working if you take them 2 -5 times a week. So you may “pay” for a medication and then not take them properly or not understand that one medication may assist another. This is serious stuff. If you do not take your medications…then open your mouth and tell your doctor. He is assuming that you are taking it. So each time you walk in the door, he is trying to diagnosis you and if you do not have his prescriptions in your body chemistry…he is unknowingly making a mistake.
    This is important. KNOW YOUR MEDICATIONS AND TAKE THEM PROPERLY. If you forget to take them…find a way to remind yourself. There are cell phone apps that will do just that, or ask your care giver or family to call you…but take your medications!
  5. Be informed. I often go to the doctor with my sister because she tends to blank out when she is faced with the doctor’s answers to her questions or diagnosis.  I go and take notes. But now, we all have cell phones with recording buttons. When the doctor is starting to tell you what is wrong with you or how to treat it…have your record button ready…let the doctor know you are taping and push the button. Then you can play the information back for yourself or your family to review.
  6. Dress for success. OK you are going to the doctor, wear something that is easy to remove and put back on. Wear shoes that are not the heaviest you own because you will be weighted-in. Take off your coat before you get weighed and take note of your weight at the doctor’s office so you can go home and adjust your own scale. Also write down your blood pressure, if it is high you can then take it a few times at home to make sure that it does not stay in a high range. Blood pressure is best taken at lunch time…relaxed and repeated so the doctor can see the time frame of the numbers. Same with weight…weigh in the morning, twice a week and write it down in a notebook. When you go to the doctor you can show him your progress up or down over a time period so he can look for glues.
  7. Seasonal issues. Keep a green marker for your calendar journal to mark seasonal problems. Maybe you gain weight around the holidays…write it down. Maybe you have spring or fall allergies, write it down. So the next year…you can look at it and know that it is repeated and needs to be talked about with your doctor. Allergy medications have changed a lot in the last few years. Ask for help, runny noses may not be life threats, but they do keep you from going on walks for your health. Medications change and update…always ‘ask’ the doctor about new medications and if you can drop some that you are taking. All medications are changed just one at a time…so the doctor and you actually know what the reactions are for that one drug. Then you can make another change…so be patient. Maybe your weight has gone down and your diabetes pills or water pills are no longer needed. Do not marry your medications…think of them as fluid and up-datable. There is always a doctor that will give out medications just to keep you quiet…so make sure you “ask” why you are getting a medication and then do a little homework online to make sure it is something that you need and you are prepared for the side effects if they show.
  8. Can you relate to your doctor? If you are going to a doctor that does not talk to you, or you do not understand. Tell him, or change doctors. Your own, or your senior’s health is what life is about. You need to understand..that exercise is needed to help your knee or maybe you need to stay off of it…or cold not hot must be used. If you do not understand then you are not healing and it could effect the way you walk for the rest of your life. Its a big deal! Do not be afraid to make a change of a doctor, or to speak up!
  9. Use a calendar on the wall to remind you of all medical appointments. I like to cluster them. I have George do his appointments in the spring and the fall. So, in one month we see all his specialist doctors. Then the rest of the time…we only go to the doctor if he is unwell and needs extra help. This way I am not trying to take him around to appointments every month…or twice a week. My mother got too weak for doctor appointments…so I found a local doctor that would come and visit her at home. Working with a nurse practitioner is also a wonderful way to check-in quick with questions and not have to wait for appointments with a busy doctor.
    REMEMBER: ER visits are to be avoided. You can catch germs, get overly tired and they are expensive.  Make appointments and keep them. That way the flow of your life will be calmer.
  10. If you have come to a point in your life, or your senior’s life — that fighting a physical or extreme dementia condition- is simply too overwhelming. Then you need to tell your doctor that too. The doctor will discuss palliative care. That is where you are treated to keep you pain free and comfortable. You will be assigned a Hospice Care Team that will come to you and allow you to relax and adjust to the end of life journey. There is no reason to drag elders around to doctor appointments if they have issues that are beyond a medical cure. No matter what your income..Hospice is there for you. You or your senior deserves to have a wonderful team of caring nurses and helpers come to you…to keep your needs met and the pain or worry level down. It is always hard to make that decision, but once made the Hospice team really knows how to take over and keep the elder in-care…comforted and given good palliative care.
    NOTE: Medicare and insurance bill either your regular doctor or Hospice. So you do have to make an appointment and have a good truthful decision with your doctor for this change of care situation. You need to also remember to ask for a disability sticker for your car and understand the doctor needs to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ agreement. I always try to remind you to get a Health Care Directive Form, signed and agreed on right away while the senior understands the issues.

I hope this will all be of help to you. Since I have kept my medication listing and added in the allergies that George has and his needs if he is put into the hospital on that same page….the doctor visits have been great. I express myself before the appointment and then the information is turned into the nurse at the check-in desk to attach to the file. The doctor then walks in the door, knowing what is going on and directs his attention and knowledge to help me and George make changes for the good in our daily lives. Some times there is no change, some times there is a medication change — other times there is just advice in how to make changes in our daily life to keep George as strong as he can be. Maybe we go to the Physical Therapist to help him get strong, maybe we have a respite to give me a break. All of the information that I share with the doctor, helps him make sound decisions that are based on our reality of life. I once told the doctor that a medication he prescribed was to hard for me to give four times a day. George has no memory and I can do morning and evening meds…but to add a few more during the day…means I have to remember things for me and for him. It was too much. The doctor said that was fine, he would change the medication to one that had a time release. You see how being honest helps everyone?

REVIEW:
*  Take time to review the body functions of yourself or your senior
*  Write down the information or changes
*  Be prepared with a list of medications that is complied from all the different doctors that prescribe to you
*  Be honest with yourself and the doctor

Thank you again for giving your time and love to your senior. Its a lonely world out there for care-givers. I appreciate you taking your time to share with me. I am here for you. Send me your questions and I will do my best to help. OH, I would really appreciate you signing up for this blog post…it will email it to you. I am doing less blogging because George’s Alzheimer’s is getting in advance stages and he needs more care. So the ups and down of my writing is easier for you if you just recieve the update in your email. Please add your email to the side bar and you will hear from me each time I write a posting….Thank you…and Blessings, francy

The Secret; Care Givers are the ‘Silent’ Boss

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How care givers can handle the frustrations that dementia and other senior health problems can manifest! Staying sane, while you give them care. by Francy Dickinson

Anger and upset from seniors in care…how to help calm this and give their days peace and enjoyment

Dear Francy; It’s the nasty looks, the angry words and the refusal to even move when I ask him to! This has driven me to the edge. How do I keep going; when I have only been caring for dad a month and I’m out of my mind? 

Well, my idea is to remember; who is the senior in care? And who is the care giver? The care giver is the boss…but the hard part? You have to do it silently.

I want you to think of your senior as a young child. Now this is not to demean a senior adult. They are full-grown and with or without dementia they have lived a life that is to be honored. NO, do not demean them. You simply think of them as emotionally equal to a young person of 3-6 years. When there is a problem to handle…you ask yourself what would I do if I was caring for a younger person?

EXAMPLE:

Your dad is still trying to wear cargo pants during the day and his favorite shirt all week-long. He has trouble getting to the bathroom on time and then dealing with taking down his pants is adding to the constant accidents. Even if he does a morning clean up…his clothing is starting to smell.  (Does that sound familiar  Have you ever seen a 5-year-old that will not get out of his Spiderman pajamas and cape?) So, what you do is lay out two outfits for the next day and take his clothes and clean them. In the morning he has two tops and two pants (hopefully comfortable around the house sweats) to choose from. The other clothes are in the wash. He may be upset…but you have given him two choices and he has the feeling of freedom. Now that means that you have to sort through his clothes and get rid of a lot of things he no longer can safely or sanely wear. But once you get the routine down, the senior feels the honor of choice — even when the choices have been designed for the senior’s better good.

EXAMPLE

Your senior, is a sugar girl. But she has (diabetes, bad teeth, over-weight, or sugar highs at night) so you have to control the intake of sugar. Find a glass candy dish with a lid. Then find a few things that will hit her sweet tooth. Maybe a couple of cookies, a couple of sugar-free gummys, a mint, raisins, etc. Put two or three each in the dish each day. I would place it on her TV side table around 3PM. Let her chose and she gets to eat it fast or slow through the evening. You let her know…”This is your sweet dish for the day, remember this has to last”

Make sure you remove all signs of the sweets in her kitchen area…or your kitchen area. Keep them put away in a large plastic storage bin. So you have to hand out, but just like a young child…you only give them out in small quantities  (Do you remember small baggies of goldfish or Cheerios for your toddler? This is the same idea…a treat, but not over-doing it)

PS/ Diabetic sweet products use sweeteners that can give the senior ‘the runs’ – it is very important that they only eat a small amount of the “candy style– sugar substitute” in those snacks. Keep an eye on this so you can learn to judge the amount your senior can handle.

What I am talking about is to think ahead to the day. What time does the senior have to eat or sleep to have a day that is calm? Have you been in the grocery store around 11’ish and heard a few children crying and carrying on? Why?…they are getting tired…they are getting hungry. The mother’s has miscalculated the time issue…they think a quick trip to the store and then take them to lunch. Wrong…the kids are on the edge of no return at that time. Children and seniors need to stay on a daily routine to give them a sense of security and well-being.

If you want to take a senior out. Make sure you have a cheese stick in your purse and water bottle ready for them to take a pill or just drink. Make sure you stop for food and insist they get home in time to nap. DO NOT MAKE MULTI-STOPS. Go to a doctor appointment and to lunch–then home. Another day, you go out and go for a walk around a store and then get ice cream. Another day you take them to a movie and make sure you feed them lunch and they go to the bathroom before they go into the theatre. “Thinking ahead” that is the job of the care-giver.

Your senior needs just the basics. They need a good bed that is comfortable and easy to get in and out of for night time bathroom runs. They need a good day comfort chair by the TV with a side-table. The side-table needs one or two drawers to keep their things in to keep them from a lot of ups and downs. Example: tuck in a nail file  small scissor, pens, notebook, hand cream…those are just ideas to keep the need to constantly be asking you “to bring” them things..is reduced.

Plan, to give the senior their space…but you MUST check on them every 12-20 minutes. All mothers have this time frame in their minds; when they’re raising young children. You know that quiet can be good…or can mean the child is getting into trouble. So a check-in every few minutes means you are staying in contact with your senior’s needs, changing moods, and bathroom trips.

This means that you need to learn to plan your actions around the house to that time frame. It may seem overwhelming, but it works. You will get used to it. Then once you are on the same program as your senior…you know to take in their afternoon coffee or tea–or, to ask them to fold the clothes in the morning when they have energy. To keep the house quiet after lunch so they can nap. Not to mention; you can invite them to walk to the mailbox with you — to get their exercise in before 4PM when their energy naturally dips.

Most arguments and bad behavior is a sign of the senior wanting to be the BOSS. The senior is feeling that they are loosing personal power and they want to get it back. You are the person around for them to push buttons and try to be the boss. So when you change your thought pattern around…it allows them to ‘think’ they are making the decisions. The resistance goes down and the upsets depart. YOU, are the boss…and you have to keep the movement of the day and choices of the senior ‘pre-planned’. You do not find grade school teachers just walking into their classroom with 30 children – without a daily lesson plan. So think of your care-giving as a time to be prepared. The daily rituals will fall into place and you can then repeat the weekly plans with small changes. Both you and your senior will feel calmer.

After lunch each day…when the house is quiet and your senior is napping. Sit down and make a plan of action for your day and week. Then you can construct it to give the senior time to rest, play, eat and be calm. You can make time for yourself with visits to relatives  senior centers and invite others to your place to give you a ‘time-out’. You can do it…it does take energy…it takes pre-planning–but you can do it. Once you have the rhythm down…it truly can be quieter in the life of both you and your senior.

If your senior continues to be really difficult — remember to write down examples and take them into the doctor the next trip. Let the health care team know you are on the edge and you need help…and they can advise a medication that can help lessen the stress for the senior. *** When I told the doctor and he gave George his medications for emotional stress…it made such a huge difference that I can not believe it took me so long to share the personal upset I had been fighting. Now, George feels calmer and every small issue is not a debate. 

You are very kind to be sharing your patience, love and attention with your senior. Give yourself breaks. While the senior is watching their favorite TV shows…you walk out the door and go around the block…or just sit on the porch and breath a little. If your senior refuses baths–hire a bath person. If your senior has been in a snit all week, call a friend, cousin or sibling and ask them to come and give you a break. When they do…go out. Get in the car and drive to the store and just walk around. Or drive to the park and just relax…or drive to the coffee shop and give yourself a quiet treat. These little re-news…will make a huge difference in your ability to cope with rising stress levels.

Do not forget that music is your friend. Learn how to use a light tone in the morning….to get the day going…a quiet tone in the afternoon and early evening…and then a quicker tone when you want the senior to have dinner and be up in energy. Then tone the music down again in the later evening to prepare the senior for the quiet of the night. Music will lift you up and will calm you down…so keep it close and use it often.

Blessings on all that you do…francy
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Alzheimer’s “Taking a Break” for Care Giving Spouse

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How to go about taking a break from care giving for spouses and family…giving the Alzheimer’s senior a safe resting spot and a break from building stress at home. by francy Dickinson

It takes a family to give care to a senior and keep their spouse/care giver a break!

It takes a family to give care to a senior and keep their spouse/care giver rested !

Dear Francy; My dad called and he is giving up on care giving for mom. He has had a cold for two months, is tired, frustrated and just feels she needs more care than he can give. I don’t think its time, yet. Even though her dementia is nutty; she is still able to carry on a conversation, do personal chores when guided and even cooks once a day. How can I get this situation ironed out? I just need to have direction. Thank you, Katy

Katy I get it! I gave myself a mini break today. So I understand the worry and the stress and the need to just throw up your hands and make it go away. Your Dad is the best…how caring he is to give her care in the first place. Here are some ideas to guide you:

ALERT–> TAKING BREAKS FROM FULL TIME CARE GIVING:

  1. Mini breaks; are days that the care giver does very little for the senior. It can be done with a day of giving the senior a chance to see how their skill level really is holding out. Or, it can be that you just do the minimum to keep things going. It’s good to do this once a week, so if the care giver is not feeling well…or is extra tired…there is still a slight break for them.
    It is a one day routine, not done more than one day in a week. You will go back to full-time care giving the next day after the break. This is a good routine to understand, because there are days the spouse care giver is unwell, tired or injured and they need to only do a minimum of care. You will still bring the senior food and medications and do the basics needed. Then you just spend the day in another room or outside on the porch. You check in on the senior every 20 minutes — but you do not fuss over them. 
  2. Today, I gave a day back to George to check on his Alzheimer’s progress. He said he would get up and get his own breakfast of a bagel. He does this about twice a week…all other meals and snacks are given to him by me — on a tray or at the table. 
    What did George do today? He failed his day….he did not get out of bed for food or water. He did not walk or exercise, he only went from the bed to the bathroom and watched TV. I checked on him during the day, asking him to get up and do a walk and get his food…he responded that he would, but never did. I took a break from a day of being pushy and raising my voice and controlling the time frame for his care. At 5:30PM – I came into the bedroom and we chatted about his in-ability to do the tasks for the day. He did not clean up, no tooth brushing, no hair, no nothing. I think it puts the point into my mind, just where he is in his care. He is in need of an attendant at all times. He can not do for his own self any longer. Some times you need to do this test to really see what the senior can do without care. And take note on how much care you actually give to your senior each and every day 24/7. 
    How did I take care of it ? At my 5:30 check-in…I took control back and had him get up, brush his teeth…walk up and down the hall four times and then he came into the kitchen for a light supper and his evening pills. (He had not taken his morning pills, because he did not have his breakfast) We talked about this progress and he was surprised that I was unhappy. He said he could do it if he wanted, he was just tired. I know that is not true…it is just what he is now telling his own mind. But, it showed me that my husband needs me full-time. It is hard to understand that when you give care everyday; all day and all night the care giving starts to creep-up…and you don’t realize the extent of the care needed and the amount of care you give, each and every day…until you step back and take a look. 
  3. Mini-out and about breaks. I have breaks from my Georgie, when I go out to grocery shop and then take a coffee-house break before I come home. I take time to quietly garden in the back yard for 1-2 hour breaks. I take an early morning walk with my dogs, break. I leave George in the front room with the big TV and settle-in, I go into  our bedroom with a smaller old fashion TV and my computer or Kindle Fire. I take time to read, to listen to Pandora and to write notes to my friends on Twitter and FaceBook. I stay connected to my friends via Internet so I am not isolated.
  4. Taking sleep breaks. When you give care…it’s important to set a daily schedule that is yours not your senior’s time. I set the day and then I can set my own time around it. One of the things I do – is to give George a good lunch, then walk him up and down the hall…give him a bathroom break and then he settles into his chair and naps. I then force myself to lay-down.  I may just cuddle with the dogs or listen to music. But I rest, and if I sleep and take a real nap — I applaud myself. I deserve rest and getting it where ever I can, is important for me to do.
  5. I eat differently than George. I am overweight. After many years of care giving and eating poorly, I have now trained myself to eat on my own food program. When I do this I get more energy and I have a plan to my day. I eat protein and low carb. George does not. He eats a full meal with proper nutrition but not low carbs. So that means that I cook two different meals? NO, actually that is not true. I cook a meal with meat and veggies and for George I add a starch and dessert. It is a one meal deal, with two different ways to serve it. If I did not have a weekly meal plan, I would be really overweight. I make a meal plan, I have food prepared for both of us and treats for George. I stick to it and we both stay healthy and within our weight range. Eating well keeps my personal energy up and I do not get drained down.
  6. Supplement are a must! If you think you can do a job like care giving and not take extra vitamins and mineral with supplements –YOU ARE NUTS. I take so many different supplements, but they keep me strong and help me with extra energy. They keep me healthier and they help me get over any bugs that come along the way. How do you start. Make it simple…just add a good quality of multi vitamin and 2,000 units of vitamin C to keep you up and going everyday. Then do some self-study online and find supplements that will fit your personal needs. If you do this your health will stay strong. All to many spouse allow their own health to fail as they give all the love and care to their spouse…foolish. Care givers need to be the pillar of strength that the family revolves around…not fall apart and need to be given care or lose their own health and life after they lose their spouse. I am determined to live through my love for George after he makes the full journey through the end of his life.
  7. Staying on a time plan, means that I can have my own time plan. Once again; giving care to someone is not a throw the senior in front of a TV day plan. You have to decide what each day brings. If you want to be in the yard working…then you take the senior and get them situated int he shade with music and a newspaper. If you want to be on your computer you find movies to tape so they can be on demand for your senior’s viewing. If you want to bake all day…then your senior needs to be a the kitchen table with a newspaper, a project to do or a TV to watch. You bring the senior along with your daily schedule and then you both feel that life moves and changes and you get things done.
  8. Neighbors n friends that come and sit w the senior are gems. I found a couple of senior neighbors that have told me they are fine with coming over for an hour or two and watching TV or playing cards with George. That means I can take a nap, go to the store, meet my sister for a quick-lunch out. If someone says…call me I will help. CALL THEM! It takes a village is not a joke…it does take a lot people do small things to make the care givers life ‘do-able’
  9. Senior Day Care centers, senior centers, faith centers…there are various places that will take seniors for a fee, or for free for a few hours. This is a gem of a service. They understand that spouse care givers need a break…so they make different activities available for the senior. Many of the activities that George likes are usually seasonal. It helps him feel the change the season and enjoy…an egg painting class. A turkey walk or a New Years bird watch….line dancing, chair yoga…the list goes on and on. If you do not search out and find these services you will never know how the change can give your senior a boost and you an escape from the pressure of care.
  10. Rest-time-out. We use the Veterans’ system and they have a yearly service of 30 days of an ‘in-care facility’ available for each veteran with dementia. I can use it one week at a time, all at once, or on a day by day basis at a Alzheimer’s day care center. These rest-pit care services are covered by many of the insurance companies….call them and ask. Ask your primary doctor for any knowledge he has of services in your area. This is a way for me to take a full week off and maybe get out-of-town, or stay with my sister, or simply sleep well without George waking me all night. What a great gift to care givers to have this service available.
  11. IN-HOME CARE…there are so many ways to use in-home care. You can have a family member come each week to visit, you can run an ad in Craigslist or the paper and hire someone (who is trained and has a background check) to come into the home for a few hours each day, you can hire a professional bath lady, or my favorite– is a wonderful in-home care company that will come out and give you a review of what is needed and price quote. If you can not afford the whole package they suggest for you– then pick and choose what services would help you out. These service companies are bonded and licensed so you do not have to worry about their care givers coming into your home. Safety; is never to be under rated for you and your senior.
  12. When the choice to move a senior in to a facility is made…you want to really review the different choices you have in your area. Do not make any facility (no matter how great) a long drive. The family will have a hard time to visit. Now with Alzheimer’s you think a senior will forget and adjust. Trust me; memory is a strange thing…everyone needs to feel loved and attended to…even when they seem to be lost inside their head. A person needs spouse and family love….for a reason to move through their day, live for tomorrow. If you were trapped inside your own mind…would you not want your loved ones to be there and hug you and bring you treats? YES…everyone wants to be loved. So the facility needs to be close to home.
  13. Check it out. Each facility has to be checked by the state department of health. Ask the facility to show you their book. The inspector goes over things and writes it down in a book that is available to the public. You can see if they are clean and have nothing to hide. Then go to the facility in the day and the evening to just walk around and see how the seniors are being treated, fed and if the air smells clean. Ask friends and family for ideas about facilities in the area. Go online and read about the facility and see if you can find reviews. Join the family support group that the facility should provide. This way you get ideas of how to keep giving support and love to your own senior as they go through the down stages of their health.
  14. Get into your mind how the end of the life with your senior will be. Then make it so. What I mean is; If there are things that your spouse has said they want to do…make sure they do them, soon. Don’t put it off. Georgie wanted to visit his parent’s grave site…so I drove up to Seattle to make sure he had that experience and I took a picture of him by the grave stones. He looks a that picture often. I have talked to him about care and what he wants me to do as he needs more care and procedures and how he envisions his memorial.
    This is never a fun thing to do for anyone…but once it is said and done…the family can comply and keep the senior happy when the senior gets to a point that they can not express their wants or needs. You, as the spouse, have a lot of decisions to make. So when you have had this chat, you will feel your decisions are not made alone…but are made with the spirit of the senior and their desires on your mind.
  15. Dementia and other extended health fights…mean an elongated journey through grief. It may seem odd to think I am grieving and George is still sitting in the living room.  But little bits and pieces of my George die every day. Some times, I just really feel the loss. I will ask your family to understand that grief can be a long ride and to support the care giver if they are going through a hard time. I fight depression and exhaustion on a daily basis…that is what care givers do…they work through the pressures and sadness.
    One day I think I am ready to face life without George and then a week later, when I ask him to help me with some small chore and he can no longer give me that help…I will fall apart in sorrow over what seems like a small thing.  Spouse or full-time care-givers need to understand this grief. Family, friends or other health care providers…need to take note of the emotional ride that is taken when a person is in a journey to the end of their life.

Your dad is the boss of him…..so if he feels he has nothing left to give to your mom –take that as a sign that he is stressed and totally void of energy. Don’t try to change his mind…take a turn at full-time care and give him a week break to be with other family members and recharge. When he returns; if he still feels the same way, then it is time to add in-home care staff or move your mother to a care facility that is appropriate. I hope the ideas will help you and your dad.

I give you both a hug…for being there for your mother. Care giving is a very hard time of life. I honor anyone who does it for love of family…or as a profession. Blessings on your senior in care…may they open up and see the love that is being given to them. Francy

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Seniors

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Pictures of family make a hit on Xmas Tree

Family Pictures make a hit on Xmas Trees

Ideas for Senior n Elder Christmas gifts that will be enjoyed all year-long. by Francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; What do I get mom and dad…they have everything…their house is loaded to the ceiling…and I still have to figure out something they will enjoy???? HELP!

You got it…I have ideas that will help your seniors and give them joy all year-long ;O

IDEAS FOR SENIORS THAT WILL HELP THEM ALL YEAR-LONG

  1. Health…its always a shock to hear that a senior dies because they got the flu or a cold. It means their immune system was just too low to help them heal. So what if you make a difference? Gift them an Auto Ship of a quality full spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement. I like the ones that HSN features by Andrew Lessman. His ‘Complete’ vitamins would be a great start. You just ask them for the auto-ship and your gift is in the bag…and your seniors are in business with quality daily vitamins that they do not have to budget for or worry about. NICE
  2. Merry Maids…is the name of our local house cleaning service. What is your’s?  Seniors that stay in their homes need to keep the house clean…but scrubbing bathrooms and kitchens are often just not in the picture when they age. So, gifting your senior a house-clean, bi-monthly or monthly – is a dream come true for them. You tell your local maid company (that is bonded and safe to be in the home) to clean up the kitchen and baths…so you can all feel fresh, clean and safe
  3. Roof and Gutter Clean This is a great gift for seniors in their homes…a good roof clean off…gutter clean…maybe even a chimney sweep. If you want your seniors to stay in their homes…this is the one chore that will help. You and your teens could gift this to your seniors…and make a day of it. Easy, cheap and loving gift that keeps your senior without worry.
  4. New space heater They make great space heaters that are safe and work well..they can make a difference in the monthly heating bill. If seniors spend their time in one room, they can keep the main heat on low, close off the spare bedroom vents and just add extra heat in their living area. It’s a gift that will give them less stress over high winter utilities.
  5. Whirlwind decor So you plan ahead. Get a wreath, a table arrangement and a tree. I would suggest using artificial so there is no worry over needles. Get a theme going and then hit the house the weekend after Thanksgiving. Take the kids and everyone hits the floor running. Clean-up the front walk and door area and hang the wreath. Dust and vacuum the house and put up the tree, making sure there is an easy way to turn the tree-lights on and off. Clean out the dining area and put up the center table display. When you leave…the house is clean, decorated and ready for your senior to enjoy until the 2nd weekend in January when you come back and repeat the process and remove, pack in plastic bins and store the decor for next year!
  6. Senior in care center? Arrive at the care center with a yard display to put outside your senior’s window so they can see the deer or lighted tree at night. The whole center is able to enjoy your gift…then retrieve it and store it at your place for next year.(Ask first, use LED so the light bill does not go up because of your display)
  7. Monthly Fruit Delivery. NO kidding- seniors love fruit and because the price is now high…they would really enjoy a nice box of fruit each month. Do your research many on the online companies do a nice monthly fruit delivery. I personally adore the chocolate dipped strawberries…Oh My…they are so good😉
  8. Easy stuff? Re-new the house…new throw pillows can really perk up the living room. New sleeping pillows can bring clean and fluffy dreams. New kitchen towels or easy non-stick pans or a new microwave…those can give the senior a great boost
  9. Hearing Loss? TV Ears can save the household from wearing cotton in their ears when a senior is trying to hear TV. Change the TV to ‘caption’ and buy the TV Ears. OR do as our dear friend Bob did for us…get them a good surround sound. The levels of sound allow most seniors to hear clear and able the TV to keep on a lower volume…NICE
  10. Add a senior onto your own Cell Phone family plans. A smart phone for a senior means you can have them a part of your Internet options. They can text, get pictures of family on their own FaceBook page. Add the safety of connection to 911 and you…and its a winner. Any time you give a gift that is technical in any way…take time to explain and have the senior use the features in front of you…they absorb the info in a different way then your kids…take time…make the gift easy to use.

Thank you for all you do for your seniors…know that giving time, as well as your money…is an investment that means the most. George is going to get a couple of technical gifts this year…but I will show him how to use them over and over again, because his Alzheimer’s takes the immediate memory away. His excitement and hours of enjoyment will be worth my time …..Blessings, and Happy Holidays, francy

My Georgie in 1996 w our dear Standard Schnauzer Ralph...Memories

My Georgie in 1996 w our dear Standard Schnauzer Ralph…Memories

Routine gives Alzheimer’s n Elders Good Home Care

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George’s Routine -Daily exercise with me ;O

Ideas to give Elders and Dementia/Alzheimer’s seniors good care with routines..by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Dad moved in two months ago and stays in bed all day. What can I do to get him up and out? 

Good Care Secret? ROUTINE

Many people lose their routines when they retire or suffer a loss of a spouse or a health change. It is a normal for them to react…they just cope. So, if you are unable to get them professional care…then YOU have to be the care giver with the mostest….and that means YOU return the senior to ‘a routine’. You might remember back to when you were raising or helping others raise their children…children respond to life so much stronger with a routine in place….well…this is just like that…the more you pre-program the day with activities that are repeated…the more secure the senior feels and the more they respond in kind.

I say this with love…because it means that YOUR own life is changed…you, have to live for another and it is very challenging…trust me — I live it. But here are the rules:

RULES FOR DAILY ROUTINE:

  1. You will do the routine for two days and then take a break. So we have two days on and one day off. That off day means you can sleep in or do your own morning routine. 
  2. You will have an up attitude, even when you are down, sick or tired. That is what it means when you ‘give care’ You are giving not taking.
  3. You will think through a routine and write it down and then make it your own.

FRANCY’S ROUTINE WITH GEORGE:

George hates to get up in the morning. So I do not pressure that…I allow him to rest. He has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s so there are loads of issues for him. But what to remember is that everyday…is a new day in his mind…so it has to be a new day in my mind too.

I bring him breakfast and tell him that he has to get up in 1/2 hour and then I take note of the time. I either rest, or go and get things done in the house while he is eating and then return at the set time for him to get up. I make sure he has taken his meds then I get him up and bring him into the bathroom. Usually, he has already gone to the toilet…so I begin with him sitting on his bath bench facing out into the bathroom – or facing me standing right next to him. It is a good height and easy for him to get up and down from this sitting position.

I start him by asking him to remove his upper clothes and as he does that I go and get his clean clothes for the day. I always put out an under shirt and a thermo-shirt and then a flannel shirt or nice sweat shirt (sometimes with an added vest.) <Why so much? Seniors often have a problem with feeling cold and to keep the house temp in order…I layer his clothing>

Once he is undressed on top: I then get warm water and give him a wash cloth and he does his personal wash up, then deodorant  Twice a week we do a bath; the other days it is this procedure instead. <Many elders become worried about water and a bath is hard to get them to do…so this is a short clean, if the problem with the bath continues, then hire a bath person to come once a week and you do the clean up ea day in-between>

Then I help him dress with his undershirt, his thermo-shirt and have him stay seated.(I do not add the rest of the tops until he is done with all of his clean up and ready to exit the bathroom) Still in his sitting position: I then have him do his leg exercises that keep his calves strong. <This exercise keeps the falling down to a min. The calves are the point that helps us stay up and balanced> He will sit and lift one leg out straight and then do flex and point of his foot for a 20 count. Keeping the leg out and straight the whole time. Then we change to the other leg. I do the flex and point with a slow (one-and two- and three…so the point is on the number and the flex is on the and count– up to 20) You can do this a round of one or two…depending on how strong the legs are and if they have fallen within the last month. If so, repeat the 20 count routine on both sides.

He stays in a sitting position and we take off his socks. I let him do it and he bends down and then takes off his pajamas and his Depends…he then cleans up with a fresh wash cloth, just like we did with his torso and then sits back down. I make sure his feet are done and I help him with this so he can be steady. I then apply a moisturizer for his legs and feet and he has to rub it in. It will require him to bend over; so I stay close and hold his shoulders so he does not fall while he rubs in the moisturizer all over his lower leg & feet. If there is fungus on his toes we do the drops at this time. The skin there gets very flaky and we want it healthy, clean and moist. <This is when you notice if there are any sore spots or red spots. If so you talk to the doctor right away by phone and get guidance  Any sores on legs or feet are serious and hard to heal…get help —fast>

I then (while in a sitting position) have him put on his new Depends to the knees and add his sweatpants to his knees and then he stands and we pull them up. He sits down and we add his socks and slippers. He then gets up and goes to the sink and I have him do his shaving on his own. Then I remind him of his mouthwash, his floss and then he sits back down to do his Sonicare. Now you may or may not have a Sonicare…but I feel they have saved our teeth. They are an investment, but they do such a good job when you are unable to move your arms well to do your teeth. <Obviously if using false teeth you would have them soaking while you did the body clean and rinse and put the teeth in fresh and ready to go. You never brush false teeth they are made of material that is to be cleaned with a Polident-type of soaking once a day to keep the mouth fresh and you would  have your senior rinse their mouth with mouthwash before the teeth are put in again.>

Now he is back standing at the sink:  I have him use a wash cloth and get it very warm water and let George go over his face. Then I use a sugar scrub…it is designed for the face. Or you can use a cleanser for the face with beads in it to remove the dead skin on the face and leave it looking fresh and healthy. George moves and scrubs the scub all over his face up into his brow and hairline and his eye brows. Then he takes the hot wet wash cloth and cleans it off the scrub…rinsing and cleaning until the scrub is gone. Then he puts on Oil of Olay. <Any moisturizer is good, this one is easy for a guy to use and It is designed as a nice face moisturizer and it goes all over the skin of the face and ears and chin. it has SPF in it so the sun will be kept away from delicate facial skin and ears.  Now he is clean and ready to leave the bathroom.

I remove all his clothing that has to be washed and put it in the closet in a large clothes hamper and do a load twice a week of his clothes alone. < It is “SO-OOO” important to keep the bathroom and clothes clean, the bed linens and towels clean too! The ability to have bed sores and infections in small cuts and scraps are very high – when a person is older and their body is not as healthy as it used to be. Clean everything…be a freak…or hire it done. Its your choice.>

George then goes out to the living room. Where I have a straight back chair. I put a small pillow on the chair for his comfort and he sits down. From here he does his exercises. He will first do a stand – squat – stand and slowly sit. This is an exercise that allows his thighs and bum to learn how to sit and stand from a chair, again. I use the term stand as (solider with his straight arms down to his side – I say squat and he does and I move my arms to the front so he remembers that he has to balance his body with his arms. Then I say solider again and he goes into the straight standing position with his arms straight down to his side and then I use my voice “Slowly down” for him to sit in a slow motion….then it is repeated for at least 10 times. If we do this 4 times a week…his body responds well…if we do it less…he forgets the routine and his muscles get weak again. That is when he begins to fall and it goes down from there…

I have learned that his routine is really ‘my routine’ and the more we are able to stick to it..the better his body and muscles respond.  

From there I do arm exercises and I will do a little video for you to use if you like. I will add it in to this blog when I get it done.

After we are through I help him back into his chair and have him do 3 really deep breaths to load up his brain with oxygen. Breathing-in with the nose and out with the mouth. The is the beginning of his day…from here he rests and we do what ever our day holds. But I do this as often as I can. YES…it is a pain — NO he is not always nice to me while we do it — YES I have to push him each time — NO he does not remember the exercises or the toilet routine —YES it does make a difference in the quality of his day forward.

It’s a routine that takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes because he is slow. But it sets the tone for a full day of healthy, happier emotions and the attention makes him feel wanted and I always give him a full cheer-leading routine as he is going through is paces.

I know you can do it. It would be done like this at a professional care facility…so I think doing it at home makes the ability of the senior to stay in good health and strong all the longer. I feel that Alzheimer’s is going to take over George…but we can hold it off by keeping him fit and clean and happy in his day

Blessings on all that you do each day for your senior. Francy

How to enjoy being a Senior and still think YOUNG!

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Enjoy being a senior and still feeling and thinking YOUNG! by francy Dickinson

George and I taking a coffee break at our local Black Bear Yogurt n Coffee shop..reading newspapers to keep current

Dear Francy; My husband is requiring more and more of my time to care for him…I feel like I am aging by the minute…can you help with some tips…to keep me at least “feeling” a bit younger at heart?

 

OH boy, do I relate to you and your feelings that you would like to keep in shape and keep feeling young–even when your lifestyle is pulling down and getting closer to home…here are some ideas to give you a kick-start on youth ;O

Body Shape: For all too many reasons all of us tend to spread as we age. When I started to care for my mother in my early fifties, I started making really bad eating choices. I had little time and I would eat standing up, on the run. I gained a lot of weight and now I am trying hard to slim down to a healthy weight again. Either the Weight Watcher’s plan or the low carb (Atkins style) will be your best bet. The key is that you have a plan that can work with what your husband is eating. I do Atkins and I simply add potato or rice to his meals and then we eat the meat and veggie. He gets the desserts and I get the de-caf tea. It is not that hard. I am now addicted to the Atkins’s Shakes each morning when I take my supplements- it gets me up and going with a kick. Then I move…I started just walking around the house making sure I take 1,000 steps ( I used a pedometer) and keep on going. If you find that difficult, you can do exercise sitting in a chair with the PBS ‘Sit and Be Fit’ program. Remember any taped exercise program can be found at your local library and enjoyed in the privacy of your own home.

All seniors should enjoy a pedicure instead of a trip to a foot doctor for nail cutting

Feet! When you hit mid-fifties many of us start having feet problems. The padding on your feet starts to change and the actual muscle and bone starts to ache. We have a wonderful solution…you do not have to go and get expensive shoes from a doctor…you can buy gel insoles and enjoy your favorite shoes with cushion from the pain. I love my insoles and wear them, even inside my house slippers. You will find many different ones at the drug store, give a couple of types a try. I use the ones that support the arch and heal, they have made such a difference. No more ache or pain. Here is the perfect cream to keep your feet feeling soft Jergens Crème in Deep-Conditioning Oatmeal, $6 (in Drugstores)

Nails  Always hard to believe when you are young that you will get so sore that your toe nails will be hard to cut and keep short. Instead of going to a podiatrist every few months. Go and get a good pedicure from a Nail Shop. This process is so relaxing, they soak your feet…cut your nails with precision, then they massage your feet, ankles and calves…OH, it is heaven. You can add a color polish or just have them natural. They will remove the callous and they will check for any problems with your skin. This is just what you need every 5-8 weeks you go to a local Nail Shop and get pampered, male or female…you will enjoy it. Price is from $15-$20 with a $5 tip. Well worth the investment in your feet. Do not worry if you have fungus, they will have clean ways to deal with it and will offer ideas for you to find help with the condition…don’t be embarrassed about your feet. Just let them take over, its their job and they raise their families on their income…so spread your money around to a local nail shop and give them a nice tip. I always take in a big coffee or tea drink for myself and I have my earphones on and listen to my favorite music as I soak, massage and relax!!

FACE: Even if you rarely go out the door…or if you are out and about every day…your face needs help to stay looking and feeling good. Try a daily cleanser that will defoliate your skin and leave you looking younger with just a good daily wash cloth. Aveeno Cleanser daily with beads – Called: Positively Ageless Beauty Cleanser $8.99 (in Drugstores)  Then you want to moisturize your skin…now you can go for expensive products but an easy one to begin to wear every day…with or without makeup that has SPF15 for sun protection & a little wrinkle fighting too: L’Oreal Paris Youth Code BB Cream, $17 (in Drugstores) lasts a very long time and this is perfect with or without makeup.

A different style is easy to do and will make a huge change in how young you can look, no matter what your age

HAIR: Lots of people tend to lose hair as they age. It can be upsetting. So what to do? First you can use products that help you voluminize what you have like Aussie Aussome Volume shampoos and conditioners. These products plump up your hair and they smell great. $3.25 ea (in Drugstores)
Then you can change your hair style. Men may want to cut their hair shorter and woman may want to do a different hair cut that will fluff the hair. Remember getting your hair reversed color…so the gray is toned down a bit will help you look and feel younger. Beauty schools have great prices and your hair color is done every two months. You can go one month for a cut and the next month for a cut and color…it makes you feel so good to look fresh and up to date with your hair.

Quacker Factory featured on QVC.com

Fashion: Something new with fashion is in your future😉  If you are not going out much and you have changed your pattern in life. Its time to update what you wear. You want to make sure you get new clothes each year. A few pieces in the Spring and few pieces in the fall will let you feel “in fashion’. Comfort can be the new ‘Yoga Pants’ that are so comfy and yet, updated. Nice casual tee tops with fun designs like you find in Jean Brice’s – ‘Quacker Factory’ found on QVC.com. Comfort and fun…now that is fashion that we all love. And the prices are great too. The men need to think about how often they go to the bathroom. After years of shirts, ties, jackets and slacks; my Georgie is now happily wearing easy pull up sweat pants and nice warm tops from Walmart. I keep them fresh and get new ones each year. When we go out of the house he wears chinos pants and warm jackets…but in the house, its comfort, but with a nice palette of colors and warmth. Every season there is something that you can buy to express the current fashions…I love the very long scarves…I have a couple of new ones to wear over my coat or sweaters and it makes me feel ‘Updated’ without a big investment or change in the rest of my clothing.

Music n TV  You know it helps to really take notice of daily talk shows or night-time talk shows. Even if you only watch them once a week, they usually have the latest stars, bands, and fashion as well as current talking points. You may not agree with the guests, but you will keep updated with current thoughts and styles and we all need to keep in the here and now…no matter what our age.

Stay updated and tuned into new ideas and people!

Computers and Cell phones: I have talked to all too many seniors that simply refuse to be a part of the computer changes in the world. They all have fancy words to tell me how silly technical life is and they are perfectly fine without it. Well that is ‘old biddy’ talk of old people. We all need to keep current. I remember when the microwaves came out how many people said they would never get one. My mother was the first out the door, she thought anything that made cooking faster…was GREAT!  Please; the world changes and anyone alive needs to figure out how to be a part of that change. NO you do not have to buy every gadget, but YES you do need to be online and learn how to shop and pay bills.

I remember when my mother would go to the bank get cash and then walk to the drug store and pay her utility bills in the 1950′ and 60’s and then she would walk all the way home. Hello! Now, we all go online and pay our bills, buy products and get lower prices — do not tell me it is not worth your time to save money! The Internet also has a wonderful service to all product sites, REVIEWS. You can go and look up an item and there will be 10 to 100’s of reviews about that product. Before your money is spent; you can read what other people have experienced after they purchased the product. Wow, this alone has changed the way I shop…I no longer get a product and get disappointed…I know ahead what it will do. If I don’t like something that I buy online or if it does not fit–I can easily return it.  Like the slippers I ordered for George from Land’s End. I just call them and they are sent back (free shipping) and the new size is sent out to me…1-2-3! If you are afraid to learn new things…then buckle yourself up and do it anyway. All senior centers have computer classes and classes in how to use the new tablets and smart cell phones. You can learn and you can join the world of fun.

Age does not stop us from learning or growing…stay in the now. Even if you are in your home more than out and about, these days. Learn new things, talk about the daily news…do not worry about reading newspapers, you can get your world-wide news from the Internet and cable networks…you can SKYPE your grand kids and be a part of their weekly activities. You can exchange pictures of your friends and family via the Internet and you can chat up long-lost friends through Facebook or Twitter. Things that may be overwhelming today, will be fun and bring you joy…tomorrow.

Kindle Fire for reading books n Internet Connection

CHANGE  Keep up your love and caring for your hubbie…but don’t you dare stop searching for new ideas, new products and new ways of enjoying your own life and feel young and in the know. My new thing is a KINDLE/Fire. It is a small touch pad that has books loaded on it for me to read. As I sit with Georgie, spend hours waiting in doctor offices and hospital rooms or long nights without sleep…I can click on my Kindle and check my messages from friends and family…and then just sit and enjoy my book (hundreds of them) right in my hand.Not to mention I can adjust the font size, if I am tired…I up the font so I can see it easier – LOVE THAT.  Kindle has free books to download every day and I have enjoyed that feature so much. I’m a mystery cozy nut…so the more the better. I did not think I needed anything like this Kindle. I am a long time book lover and reader and I always used the library. But then a friend gave me the Kindle/Fire as a gift and now….I am hooked! Its fun, easy and I just had to take a little time to get to know how to use it. Now, I don’t leave the house without it.

Finding fun…is a senior’s job in life. We all have daily challenges  but we have so many more things at our fingertips to keep us involved and interested for a very small amount of money. Life is good…and for all of us that give care to our seniors…life can and will have joy if you just keep moving forward with your own life.

Thank you for all you do for your senior…Blessings, francy

Dealing with a Life Crisis n Alzheimer’s Too! HELP!

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How to get through a life crisis and still give care to an Alzheimer’s senior…by francy Dickinson

My Georgie with his great grand daughter, Claire and little Missy

Dear Francy; My mother died 3 months ago and I have a very big problem. My dad has early stages of Alzheimer’s and his emotions and memory loss have blown-up since mother has passed. I am a single mom of three and have no place or money to keep dad and my brother’s wife does not want him in her home. He has his home, paid for and he makes a small income each month, but his life is going down fast and I don’t know how to help him?

Friends are doing a big Auction with lots of items to help us in our move…TY francy
Auction 2 help 

Yes, we have some work to do. First, let’s just have a quick review of the brain for Alzheimer’s from a lay-person. Any person, with any kind of a jolt to their lives is going to have a loss of brain power. If you have a bad fever, a fall, a big argument or a death within your close circle of loved ones – the brain takes a hit. A person that is younger and has full function of their brain, will grow back the brain functions over a short period of time…and although they may feel a little loopy or tired, or experience some feelings of being ‘out of focus’, the repair takes place and the brain will once again function. For a person that is older the brain repair is on ‘slow’, and it will take a few months time to recover all of the brain functions up to par and then move forward. For a person with dementia/Alzheimer’s it really sets them into a ‘swim of things’ and takes a great deal of time for the brain to even  ‘try’ to recover.

Auction 2 help bit.ly/QEY6j0 I experienced this early in the Alzheimer’s process with my husband, George. He had pneumonia and it was not diagnosed. So he went in and out of hospital within a one month time frame losing his body’s ability to fight the infection and finally just having a mental check-out. When they found out his problem and gave him medications he was able to  return home from hospital…it took another six months for his mind/brain to recover. Even after that time, he never came back like he was before the onset of pneumonia…it put a quicker movement into his Alzheimer’s decline and it was such a sad thing to have happen.

It took a long talk with George’s neurologist to get an understanding of what was happening to him. So, you need to know that even on a good day of your dad’s Alzheimer’s he is not functioning like he would…he is grieving both the loss of his wife, life partner and friend. He is in the midst of that and that pressure is going to cause him to express his own thoughts in a confused way.

As always; a trip to his neurologist that specializes in Alzheimer’s care should be done right away. The doctors that give this care specialty are very savvy and will be able to help you understand where your dad stands in his Alzheimer’s progression. He can adjust his medications and help him with diets, exercise and social interaction suggestions for you to follow.

I would suggest that you try to keep him in his own home. He can not be alone and be safe…so my suggestion is that you either hire someone to come in during the day to keep him eating and moving and establishing his own routine again. Or you get someone to come in and live, in the house. This is a very common thing to do in the senior care field. You could find an adult student that needs a place to live and is willing to provide simple services for your dad; in return for free rent and food.

Or you could go into the community and look for another senior that would like to be in the home. I would go to the nearest senior community center or faith facility and ask if they know of a senior that needs a place to live and would be open to giving your dad his meals and making sure he takes his medications and gets to his doctor appointments. To be there for him so he can have six months to a year to move through his grieving and re-establish his life. It is worth your time to find just the right person. That will give you and your dad time to adjust and then face a move into an Adult Family Home.

I like the Adult Family Home…they are usually a house that has a few bedrooms that have other folks with Alzheimer’s in each room. The owner is a trained health care professional and provides a more family type of atmosphere for the patients. This place may be their forever home, or a place to stay for a few years and then transition into a care center that will provide more advanced care.

What I like about the live-in help is way to give you and your brother  time to heal and adjust to the huge change in your family dynamics. You can both stay close to keep an eye on things and still afford his care by exchanging a place for the person to live and eat…in turn for their time giving attention and ‘light’ care to your dad. Usually the house work is left to you or an outside person to do once a month. Then, when your dad has the time to repair from his grief and adjust to his mental loss…it will be time to give him more care and protection with an Adult Family Care Facility.

You can hire daily in-home care that is done by professional services…or you can go the private live-in help, which will give you less trained people. If you do this, you will have to set the rules and outline the chores to be done each day to help your dad.

The professional in-home services have their routines all down on paper. The company comes in and does an assessment and then puts a plan of care together with you. It is a very well run organization, but it is pricey. You can often set your budget and then pick and choose the care services he needs the most. The care that is given from the service is bonded and done according to a pre-agreed on program of care.

The private hiring of an in-home resident can also be very pleasing for all around, if they are interviewed and required to provide a reference and any one younger would have a drug test. That way you can know your dad is safe. The point here is – your dad can no longer live safely on his own. He needs to be cared for and if you can not do it…you will have to get someone to step-in. Keeping your dad in a stable situation is what will allow him to extend his mental abilities as long as possible without a big drop in his functions. If you allow him to just be on his own, and he is unable to remember his medications, eat well or interact or exercise…he will be in a downward spiral that will not be able to be repaired. His mind is not going to heal it will only go downhill…so this is a must..you have to keep him as calm and comforted as you can — as soon as you can…or he will take a dip.

The sale of your father’s home will pay for care in an Adult Family home…so I would keep that in your mind. As you go forward this next year…be sure to make improvements to his home to get it ready to sell in the near future. You can lay out the landscaping so it can be taken care of with bark and a lawn mowing. If your brother goes over a couple times a month to mow the lawn it will look tidy. The inside of the house will need new paint and cleaning and maybe updates to small things to give the house a good sale position on the market. It is best to do a little of this prep work each month…so the expenses can be budgeted during the year. Then when the time comes that your dad is in need of more care, the sale of the house will go easier.

You do need to take over his doctor visits. You need to be in the office with your dad to hear the doctors and understand the medications, food and exercise needed to keep your dad’s brain functioning at its peak performance. That performance will be a slow dip but good care can keep your dad in a bubble of calm and love for a long time.

Once again, if you can not do any care for him…then an Adult Family Home from day one is your goal. But I think with the help of you and your brother, hiring a service or a live-in help would be the best answer. This could keep your dad in his home and allow him to adjust to a new type of life for a year or so…then as he changes his routine’s a move into an Adult Family Home would be easier for him to make and not cause him a total melt down.

I understand the upset that a big change can make to an Alzheimer’s senior. We have to move out of our family home. We have lost it and will need to find a new place to live. I am really trying hard to absorb all the sadness and fuss myself…to keep my husband in a protected bubble. My husband’s Alzheimer’s is moving ahead and I do not want him to go into a severe decline over the move. So, this is a very hard time on me. I am asking friends to help and making plans to keep him calm and protected with a family member during the move. It takes a lot of planning to keep the pressures away from my husband, but in the end…we will be in a new place and he will have his things around him and he will feel safe.

I appreciate all you are doing for your dad…I know how hard it is to make these decisions for your parent. It’s an odd thing to be a child/daughter one day and a comforting care giving daughter the next. You have my appreciation for your love and time that you are giving to your dad. I understand that being a single parent on top of it all…is quite the undertaking…but you can do it! Blessings, francy

If you are saying, “Oh, I forgot” then get an Alzheimer’s Check!

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How to fight Alzheimer’s before it hits hard. by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; It’s  me this week…I wanted to ask you all to really take note of your forgetfulness. If you find you are simply having more than simple ‘senior moments’ then get a memory check. Get a ‘Monty’ test from your doctor or memory clinic. This will give you a baseline of your memory and mind skills…so, as you go forward your doctor can see what changes are taking place. Everyone has moments of memory loss….but when it is more than a few…get checked!

If you think forgetting means “Alzheimer’s” and you are afraid to have anyone know, or to even know yourself ~ if you do have dementia in your life….re-think that decision!!!

Alzheimer’s is a combination of memory, cognitive skills, conversational skills, emotional responses and normal age changes…all rolled together. So, thinking that simple forgetfulness is your problem is only a tiny part of the Alzheimer’s family.

Low blood sugar and high blood sugar can really work on memory loss and confusion. So easy to control with proper diet routines, your blood sugar level is a quiet rumble in your life. You could be living with it everyday and not know….so get a blood sugar test…be in the know about your body. What if; just the way you eat….could change your mind’s health for the best? How easy is that fix?

Thyroid, boy, this is a problem that so many people have and so many people live without knowing it’s out-of-order. The thyroid can be low or high and your body will react in really nasty ways. Like gaining weight or causing other health problems to break-out as a result of faulty thyroid. To check your Thyroid you take your temp as you wake –in bed…in a resting position for three days in a row. If your temp is below the normal level let’s say 96 degrees…then you want to go into your doctor and talk about the thyroid. You will need to do a good deal of study about Thyroid if it is out of kilter…because ‘natural’ thyroid medications are essential to treating this condition properly. The thyroid can and will affect your emotions and your memory…so you need to check it if you find the signs are there. Do a few hours of work on the Internet and read about all the treatments around thyroid and get knowledgeable. Then write down your questions and go into the doctor with your questions in hand. That way…you are in-charge of your treatment and your lifestyle changes. The medication is not the only change you make with thyroid disorder, you have to make nutrition changes too…so be in the know.

Then there is stress…that will take your memory away from you for short or long periods of time. There is the low but constant stress…like what you would have if you were a teacher. You have the daily stress of children, class energy, noise and such…most teachers tune it out and do not think they are suffering from stress…but they are…and they often show it. Then there is the high stress…that is what I find I have giving care to my Georgie…never knowing when I will find him on the floor from a fall…or acting out in a highly emotional way. My day will be quiet and then the ultra stress hits. Stress is really important…so if you find that you are the middle of this type of lifestyle, you need to know that breathing in oxygen is your ticket. You simply have to train yourself to take deep breathing time a few times a day. I do it in the morning right after I get up, I repeat it at 11AM–1PM–3PM–6PM–then before bed. Or if I am in the middle of an ‘event’ with George I will do my breathing as I am helping him cope and have him do the breathing to re-oxygenation his brain.

Stress has a lot of side issues that can be high blood pressure and such. So once again, getting those check-ups for simple signs of body changes are the answer to change your stress into controlled life issues. Meditation, yoga, just resting with feet lifted above the heart…you name it…it will make a difference on both the stress and your memory.

Food. Choosing a life style of eating…vegetarian, vegan, low carb, low sugar, low salt, low fat…they are all choices we go through in our lives. But that does not mean our bodies work well on those choices. That is why you need to keep up with your simple testing of protein levels, sugar levels and blood pressure –not to mention cholesterol. Those tests are a once a year thing…they are done with a blood draw and urine test. They are no big deal. If you are 30 or 70 you need to know what is happening with your own body. To say; ” I only eat vegetarian” and think that means you are healthy is a dangerous road to follow. Your body responds to food intake on its own terms and you need to make sure you are choosing the right nutrition for your body, your age, and your activity level. Protein intake has to be high as you age. I have already added a nutritional drink to my diet every day. I take it in the morning and it starts my day with a boost of protein so I can get through what ever awaits me with my care giving. I am 62 and according to my tests I’m in good and even health. But, I know my care giving stress is taking its toll so I am trying hard to be good about my nutritional needs.

Exercise. It’s hard to believe just because we spend our day in an office and walk around the house and do chores that we could be ‘in bad shape’. The truth is in your own daily movement. If you are not walking more than around your home…more like walking each day around the block or doing some sort of ‘extra’ exercise your body is going downhill. It may be a slow or fast slide…but you have to control it. I know that I have gained way to much weight being at home and eating through stress. I now have to move and watch my eating with a low carb diet. I can tell the difference, not the way I look…but how I feel. When I am on my low carb I have energy and can think and be creative. If I start to munch too much, I just start to feel aches and pains and get emotional and forgetful. I feel the change in my body. Do you?

Supplements. I know so many people who do not take any nutritional supplements. There is no law about it…but in my mind, it’s nuts. We all live such busy lives…to not take at least added minerals or vitamins is living on the edge. Eating well and healthy enough to give us good nutrition takes time and money…do you prepare all your food and eat healthy each day? If not, think of adding supplements that will enhance what you already do in your daily food intake.

I live without health insurance. I simply do not have the means to pay for it. So, I just have to live with the idea that I need to keep my body as strong as I can. It makes me crazy worrying that I might have a big health issue…and my doctor visits are $200+ but I still go in once a year.  I am so aware of it, that I have done a lot of study about my own personal needs. I take supplements and minerals and so does George.

I have interacted with so many dementia/ senior and Alzheimer’s care givers that we all share different supplements that help our seniors in-care. So George has quite the list of things he takes each day along with his Alzheimer’s medication. I feel they help him. I encourage you to do your own study. I know this is all time, time to study, time to look things up, time to find a good price on supplements and such. But it is an investment in your own physical and mental health. If you are worried about your memory…the place to start is with at least reading about good food, supplements, movement, breathing and taking these simple medical tests each year.

I wish you all health and good brain power. I also wish you the courage to face your health with honesty and listen to what your body is telling you. There is no reason to ignore memory loss or any other feeling you have about your own mind or body. Face it, today there are answers and solutions…be active, don’t wait till there is no answer and no way to make a change.

Thank you for all you do for your seniors. Giving Care is a lonely and hard journey for us all… it takes love and a kind spirit to stand by the side of a senior facing a difficult health journey. Just being there is a gift…Blessings, francy

HOT DAYS MEAN COOL SMOOTHIE RECIPE for Seniors!

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Great Protein Drink Recipe for seniors in care, during the hot days of summer. by Francy Dickinson (the opening picture is our wedding photo ~ we will be married 30 yrs in September)

Great Coffee Smoothie for Seniors

From Dear Francy: Did you know that many of the medications that seniors take will make them ‘feel’ cold? That is why we have such a problem with them wanting to be dressed warm on a hot summer day. I make sure that George knows the outside temp, everyday…and when it hits around 80+…I change his lunch into a smoothie. It gives him something different and it helps me pack in protein. Win ~ Win!

Georgie fell in love with a local coffee shop’s fancy coffee smoothie drink and it costs over $5 –Now, I make one myself at home. He gets the treat once a week. He is always a happy camper when its smoothie day. YES, you can always make a smoothie with ice cream, but George is now a little overweight and I don’t want to boost the drink with extra empty calories. This is great for a diabetic and any senior that is watching his intake but loves sweets!

Since George is not supposed to drink a lot of coffee, I only

Serve the drink with a straw for easy sipping😉

have ‘instant decaf’ on the shelf. When I make this drink I pour a half coffee cup (6oz) of hot water into the mug, then add an extra big scoop of coffee and two sweeteners and stir, then I add that to the blender drink…as you will see below. The combo of caramel, chocolate and coffee is so yummy that George is up for this smoothie every day. But I keep it as a special treat once a week. His diet has been going very well…I am just cutting down on sugar and replacing more fruits. Summer is so easy to give good fruits. If the fruits get over-ripe for hand eating…I just pop them into a smoothie drink. I would make them the same as below without the chocolate or caramel flavoring…just let the fruit do the talking.

Coffee Smoothie – Easy Recipe – Use a Blender

4 ice cubes in bottom of blender
Add 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Designer Whey with 18 grams of protein per scoop and only 100 calories)
2 Tbsp of sugar free Caramel flavoring syrup (made for coffee drinks)
1 Tbsp of sugar free chocolate syrup (Hershey’s)
2 packets of sweetener ( I like Splenda )
3/4 cup of 2% milk
1/2 coffee cup or 6 oz of strong coffee

Blend on high till the cubes are mixed with the liquids and serve in a large glass with a straw! Easy Treat for Seniors in Care…you can always top it with a whip topping if you like. Hope your senior enjoys it as much as my Georgie does!

As always I thank you for your kindness that you give your senior in care. Care givers make the difference from making it through a day…or a senior having a great quality of life…Blessings, francy

PS: Please click on the SIGN ME UP button that you will find on the right hand side menu and we will send you an alert when a new blog is out for you to enjoy. And please leave me a ‘comment’ at the bottom of this posting, I always enjoy hearing how you are caring for your senior…f.

He Looks Great ~ He Must Not Be Sick!

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Looks and awareness are still there, even when Alzheimer’s is chopping away at the brain. Opening Photo is our wedding…our 30th anniversary is this September by francy Dickinson

George w his Great Grand Daughter Claire n little Missy

Dear Francy; It was mother’s 84th birthday. I bought her a dress, had her long time hair dresser (my dear friend) come over to do mom’s hair and ‘makeup’ . I spent two days reminding her of family names with picture flash cards. We had a nice gathering, a cake and she sat enjoying the day completely. But, the next day I got three, count them three phone calls, to ask me about her dementia. They thought I was over exaggerating her condition because she looked so good at her birthday and talked ‘just like she always did’. What is with people? Mother was in bed for three days after her birthday – recovering and she has not had a friend or family member visit for two weeks. I get so frustrated sometimes! Amy, Detroit 

ME TOO! George’s family came to visit. I spent time reminding him of the names and cutting his hair, doing a good mask on his face to help his extra dry skin and bought him a new shirt.I made sure he was calm for the whole day before and got him up early with his pills so he could be ‘present’ when they arrived.  He looked so good…no one even asked about his health condition.

I get it. I get the frustration and I can top it…so can every other care giver. There are stages to dementia and Alzheimer’s and through those stages there are peak days and down days. But only the care givers see those down days. It does make it hard on the care giver, because it looks like we are making up tales about the loved one. That is just how it is. We are the only ones to see through the smile and know inside the mind there is a blur…and that day the senior looks good and acts relaxed because we have given them good care before the event.

Family and friends just do not know what to say or do. They do not understand the many layers of care that are required. They come over and the senior boosts up their energy and ‘acts’ the part –then the next day they die back down and we have to scoop up the remains and start to rebuild. There is no answer to this. As your mom gets worse, the family and friends will simply drift away…that is what people do. So try not to get too upset over the situation. Accept it. If you find that you can no longer give care…then look around for a place that is within your budget to help your mom. We can not see the future…maybe we can care for them forever…or maybe we have to give the care away to another for the good of our self and our loved one…taking a day at a time is all we can do. I know it’s hard to do…I live it every day too!

Here is a listing of what my day as a care giver is like with George in the upper middle of his Alzheimer’s decent:

  1. Early rise to clear up the clutter in the house. This allows George’s brain to see through the house and not get upset or nervous. It’s amazing how confusing a bunch of newspapers and dirty dishes are to a senior with dementia.
  2. Light breakfast so George can take his pills with food. Served in bed, he does not want to get up early he is too tired in the morning rises around 11’ish, if I am lucky.
  3. Do my outside work with watering and any clean up, then off to the computer in the kitchen so I can work on my senior site and do my writing. I stay close while G is in bed in case he is in need of anything.
  4. Time for G to rise. I get his clothes ready and place them in the bathroom. He takes a shower with the tub bench for easy use 1-2 times a week depending on his mood. Other days it’s a sink clean-up…with me reminding him of his teeth and face. I have problems with his skin being really dry, so he wears Olay with sunscreen everyday after he washes his face. His ears are getting sores and his skin is so thin…I have to be very careful. His teeth are getting bad so I have to remind him to brush and use mouth wash for dry mouth.
  5. He walks to his lift chair and gets down and watches TV. I have to start the TV, get the remote in order for his day of TV and then he is able to use the up arrows to turn the channels.
  6. Phone begins with calls and I pick up the kitchen and do light housework until noon’ish. Then its time for a light lunch for George. I get him a protein drink early afternoon. I make him walk to the kitchen to get his decaf tea. I keep a quick heat tea-pot and he makes his own tea. It is an easy task and I encourage him to do a few things like that and folding his clothes during the day. As well as have the dogs in his lap so he interacts.
  7. I try to get him to do his exercises (very light ones) or walk up and down the hall. It is always a chore, he says his back hurts. He is getting weaker in the legs and I am trying hard to keep him mobile. I make sure he has doctor appoints on the community calendar posted on the wall in the kitchen and I order all his med’s and keep them filled properly.
  8. Afternoon I get him to go with me to the mailbox, or to sit on the porch or roof terrace for some sun in the summer, in the winter…I just have him come out in the kitchen for a while to chat with me while I bake or get the dinner going.
  9. There are always chores for me to do; George’s accidents mean more washing that usual and then there is a home to simply keep in shape. There is food to prepare, because good food it a key to health of any kind. I bake and I do projects. I check on George every 15-20 minutes to help him with getting up or down, or TV or re-charing the MP3 player. Not to mention reload Kleenex, little things by his chair etc. There are things to do around a home to keep it in shape and I do that each day. I’m also paring down things. We have been in our home for 30+ years. If we have to move, I need to know that I can pack without all the sorting. So, I do a room at a time and try to let things go to a charity or family that want them. Since most Alzheimer’s seniors are older…it is simply reality they will have to move, or have care and eventually pass on. Their personal and family things have to find new homes. So, I do address this issue and I am trying to sort through George’s pictures and such for his children to have for the family heritage. There is no putting it off…sooner or later, the home will have to be sold and move on…so its best to do it a little bit at a time so it’s not so overwhelming for you or the senior.
  10. I write as often as I can and about two times a week I go out to shop. When I leave the house; I have a small white board that I write down where I went and how to call me and I put the phone down next to it. I am not gone more than 1.30min and I call him twice.  I leave my number written out each time, because he gets confused with automatic numbers in the phone now. That little white board is a great tip I got from a good friend😉  George does not wander, but I tell him that I want him to say in the living room…do not answer the door or the phone unless it’s me. I have two small dogs and they do a great job keeping him protected in his chair.
  11. I often have to make sure he is going to the bathroom or ask him if he has any personal problems. He tends to cover them up and not talk about them…so I need to know. I can help with diarrhea or with constipation– but only if I know he has it. He has just recently gone onto using Depends and he finds them helpful. But, the transfer of using Depends was very emotional for him and it took a few days for him to settle down and use them properly. I worry about falls, so the changing of Depends means I get him very easy to wear clothing. Sweats so they just pull down and up easy for him. I am constantly reminding him to sit down to get dressed, his mind will just not accept that fact.
  12. The dogs go out and in – during the day, they are small and we have a back yard. The house has levels and we have to take them down the stairs to get to the back yard. I do not allow George to do that anymore…he can fall on the stairs. He is very unstable these days.
  13. George uses a cane, the walker is simply left behind him…so I am looking for the cane all day. He leaves it everywhere. He puts it in any room he visits and then leaves without it in his hand. So that means he is very unstable and often falls. Most of the time the falls are into a chair or he catches his self and is able to pull up. But often I’m called to help him regain his stand and get moving again.
  14. Everyday around 4’ish I make sure he has tea and a treat…it raises his sugar level and keeps him in a better mood. ‘Sundowners’ is a condition that many seniors face and it means a sour afternoon and evening if you don’t address it right away. I do not plan visits at that early evening time of day…we try to do anything important from 11-3PM.
  15. On some days there is a quiet time and I can get loads of work done. On other days; George sees something that bothers him and he tries to fix it. He will go out to the garage and get lost looking for a tool. He will take something apart and not be able to get it back together again. He will tumble while he is trying to fix something on a lower level…the days are always a mixture of ‘what is going to happen today?’
  16. If George has to go out, it takes a village. I get him up earlier, which makes him angry. I push him to hurry in the bathroom, which drives him wild. Then we get him in the car and off we go. I have a backpack with snacks,protein drink, his MP3 player, a special ID tag that he wears around his neck, extra depends and such in case of emergency. If the day is long, he will get very spacey and you have to lead him around and make sure he does not fall. In public we use his walker, or get a motorized chair. He loves to zoom around Walmart in a motorized chair…he feels free. (with me running after him…sad but true ;O )
  17. Nite- time he wants to watch TV. His TV choices have changed with his ability to understand words and story lines. Now, he watches current news shows and documentary type programs…he is engaged at the moment but can not remember long story lines. The Olympics were great…now we are stuck with summer re-runs.
  18. I do evening online meetings with my work friends and get things done in that fashion and then I am cleaning up and ready for bed. I go to bed around 10’ish but I do the computer, watch the news and listen to Coast2CoastAM on the radio till quite late in the bedroom. I call George into the bedroom around 11’ish and he often says he has to finish a program. But no later than 11:30PM he is in bed and listens to his MP3 player. He loves to listen to audio books, they keep his mind going. He says he hears too much background noise if he tries to be quiet. I guess his brain is unable to stop processing.
  19. His latest thing is narrating his dreams out loud. So, I have been having a hard time going to and staying asleep. He talks about his dreams and is asleep…and the dreams are disjointed and strange…so its always a hard thing for me to cope with late at night. Not to mention he does not get a real rest..but Alzheimer’s has that brain activity attached to it — so it will not be changing any time soon.
  20. Next morning it starts all over again.

Don’t think we do not have bad days. Days when George is in a mood and will not move, or his takes a fall and can not move. I can get sick and often really tired and we have to change our plans for the day. I try not to worry over going off our plans…life happens. I just keep on mission and try to keep George as calm as I can. I suppose I spoil him, but if he is calm…my life is calmer…so its just as important for me, as it is for him.

Blessings on all you do for your family….giving care can be hard and lonely…I want to make sure you understand that your senior cares about you…even if they do not put it into words. You are keeping them in a safe home and making their day filled with love…THANK YOU, francy.

Seniors Love Reading WWII Books!

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World War II photo book and how it came from Kitty’s dad to you…by Kitty Kirwin

My Georgie opening his book at his  81st birthday. He was so excited and had to leave the table and go and read it –right away😉

Dear Francy: I have been friends with Kitty for a few years and have heard about her father’s photos. I was there while she was going through them one by one and trying to get the best out of the film. Film, from the WWII era…finally coming to life. To many of you that adore the war and all that it represents…you need to order this book! I ordered a copy for my Georgie on his birthday and he flipped over the ‘up close and personal’ views of the war photographed by an airman that was there on the ground and in the air! He loved it…it has been re-read over and over again. Kitty Kirwin has written many other novels and is a very talented person. I am very pleased she took time to be my guest writer. 

I am so pleased to present a lovely lady who writes from her heart. I know you will enjoy her work. How important it is for us as care givers to remember that the old memories are still in place in many of our elders. George’s Alzhiemer’s has taken his immediate memory away…but he still has his old memories of being a young boy during the war and following the war detail after detail. He used to mark a map, that he kept on the wall above his bed,  as Europe was taken back by the ‘Good Guys’. The book brought back a lot of memories for him…I know you will enjoy it too!

____________________________________________

I am K. F. Kirwin and was recently asked to write about my latest book ‘My Dad’s Pictures From WWII’. Twelve years ago, Dad gave me twelve rolls of film strips. He had stored them poorly with rubber bands and paperclips, that had rusted! At the time, I was an art teacher and was teaching Photography so Dad thought I could do something with them.

Gwenie, Kitty Kirwin’s beautiful corgi that helps her write all her works

The filmstrips were in very bad shape. There should of been over 300 pictures but because the film was gun film, which was used in WWII, it crumbled as it was unrolled. After a lot of patience, I managed to save close to 200 pictures. I printed them all up for him and I asked who all the people were in the shots. He did not remember and with his eyes losing their ability to focus well– he could not see them close enough to identify the people or places.

Dad was in the Army Air Corp and these pictures were from his time at the end of WWII. He was stationed at Orly, France. The pictures are of the airfield and Paris at the end of the war. After many hours of time sorting the pictures and picking the best ones I took them to the Pima Air Museum, in Tucson. They helped me identify many of the pictures. I decided to sort and gather the best and put them into a photo book of WWII.

My Dad would have loved this book. Hope you do too!

I wish I knew who the people were in the pictures maybe even know about their stories. My book ‘My Dad’s Pictures From WWII’ is in need of identification of many of the shots. Do you have an idea of who or where the photos were taken? I have an email address in the back for anyone who buys the book and knows someone. I will happily get them a copy of the picture so they can inspect it and enjoy.

This year after a few very bad health issues, my son said; “Mum please put together that book of Grandpa’s photos.”  He felt many of those that lived through the war or now, dive into the study of the details of World War II, would really enjoy seeing them. I would appreciate your purchase.  I know there are many seniors out there that really get a kick out of mementoes from the war era. Francy has told me that George has a whole bookcase filled with WWII themed books…so I hope this one will hit the spot for you or your family members. Some of the profits on the book will go towards my son’s Grad school education… for his support of my time creating the book.

Thank you, Francy. I so wish I had your blog to use the tips before my Dad passed away. I spoke to him in the last 20 hours before he passed. I am glad I could and this book is a tip of the hat to his life and his time of defending our country.

Cheers all! Kitty

Kitty F. Kirwin, author of “Haunted Bedtime Stories” and other books

Please come and visit my author site and enjoy all of my books.

The Amazon link. http://amzn.to/QkhLYN

e is for Escape

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Dear Francy is a surprise today: Escape for seniors in care and their Care Givers…a guest post by a very wise lady. Rachelle Reese writes wonderful books and is an extraordinary woman. I know you will enjoy her post.  I am in hopes you will try her books and fall in love with them too! 

How does a senior read ebooks  ow.ly/cetIt

Senior reading an ebook like   “The Reunion” on a reader

I have always been an avid reader. I love the look of the words on a page, the feel of paper beneath my fingertips, but most of all, I love the way a book can carry me away from my own troubles into an alternate universe. While recovering from surgery several years ago, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. Books were my relief from the boredom of laying around, unable to do anything. And while I read, even my pain did not seem as bad. Unfortunately, this meant that my husband had to locate and bring me books. The smaller books, I went through too fast. The larger books were heavy and cumbersome to hold. Plus, books are expensive.

Fortunately, today readers have more choices. eBook readers are light and hold a large number of books. For example, the 6″ Kindle weighs under 6 ounces. There is a huge selection of eBooks available, at various prices and even free. Best of all, you can browse through the titles, select the books you want to read, and have them delivered to your device immediately. This is an ideal solution for a homebound senior.

When choosing an e-Reader, it is best to visit a store where you can hold it. The e-Reader should feel as comfortable in your hand as a book. Use the controls to make sure you will be comfortable using it. Some e-Readers have a touch screen. Others have buttons.

If you don’t want to purchase, or can’t afford, an e-Reader, you can still read eBooks on your PC, tablet, or smartphone. Both Kindle and Nook have players that allow you to read eBooks on a variety of devices.

Another advantage of eBooks is price. Some authors offer their eBooks at a lower price than a paperback. If you have a Kindle, you can subscribe to Amazon Prime, which allows you to borrow books for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. And many authors promote their eBooks by offering free giveaways. For example, we are offering the Kindle edition latest book in our Dime Store Novel series, The Reunion, free through Monday July 16th.  If you’re not sure whether you’d like an eBook, download it for free and give it a whirl.

Rachelle Reese is the coauthor of the Dime Store Novel series and two short story collections: Bones of the Woods and Mind of a Mad Man. She lives deep in the woods with her husband, a bunch of dogs, three cats, a herd of cows, three donkeys, and a guinea hen.  Their Dime Store Novel characters blog at http://dimestorenovel.blogspot.com.

Note from francy: Amazon is featuring Rachelle Reese’s book  ‘TheReunion’ on their page and if you hurry you will get it FREE. She and her work are favorites of mine. Don’t be afraid to try new things…if your dimes are low, ask your kids for a reader. I love the way you can adjust the vision of the fonts up and down…at the end of a busy day I make my fonts BIG and my tired eyes can see again! Embrace the good changes in life. eBooks are a wonderful way to carry your own personal library around with you in a small size. If you go to a doctor’s office and have to wait, out the reader comes and you can relax and enjoy a chapter of your book. I adore mysteries and I have dozens of them on my Kindle to read at moment’s notice. If you enjoy the bible…you will really adore the eBook readers…you can take notes and highlight places that you want to come back to again and again. Just click here to see Rachelle’s book CLICK

francy Dickinson with her Bichon, Missy

As usual, I bless you on your continued care of your loved one. I understand that thank you’s are few and far between…but giving to them when are unable to care for their own needs is such a kind and loving thing to do. Be sure to Click on Click to see Rachelle’s book…and click on Sign UP with me on the right side of the screen so you can be notified when I update you with a new blog…francy

SENIORS And HEAT – IT’S DEADLY

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Visist your seniors today and check for heat stroke signs

Ideas for keeping seniors cool in the warmer weather months…by francy Dickinson

When I began caring for my mother in her 90’s with heart problems, I was shocked at the extent of her feeling ‘of being cold’. She wore layers of clothing all year long…she had her space heater on in the summer and wanted me to give her heating pads. Why? I would be so confused and wanted her to be outside in the sunshine…but she was too cold there.

I talked to the doctor about this and he said, it was her medications. Many medications fool the body into believing that it is cold. Even though the seniors temperature is normal, they ‘feel cold’ . So, that made sense to me and I tried to help her with year round flannel sheets and a good electric blanket on her bed. I would serve her tea warm not cold in the summer and I would give her a hat and sweater when we sat outside in the middle of a heat wave. Lucky for us, we live in the Seattle area and our summers are very moderate. But, all along…I would push her drinking juice and water.

ELDERS DO NOT DRINK WATER….LIKE WE DO!

I don’t know when we all started to drink so much water. But older folks did not grow up with water bottles. They had drinking fountains and drank when they were thirsty…so it is very hard for them to drink water, on our demand. Mother and my husband George…would drink water with pills –but just enough to take the pills. So, I have learned to give  fruits like grapes and watermelon, fruit drinks watered down…and as much decaf tea and coffee as I can get in them during the day.

Water is not only important for reduction of heat stroke, but also for good bowel movements and kidney functions. It’s not just water for thirst, its water for a body to function well and stay healthy and working. Many seniors take water pills to help their hearts clear out the water in the body….that alone will drain the system of liquids. So the seniors have to keep intake of water up…and up…and they have to do it in the summer even more.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT IS HOT AND THE SENIOR THINKS THEY ARE COLD?

This is so important. You simply have to ‘remind’ them over and over again to drink…to keep the room cool with a fan or AC and if not — you have to take them to a ‘Cool Center’ in hot weather. Each summer we have waves of extra hot weather..and with it waves of seniors that lose their lives to heat stroke and dehydration. As neighbors, family, spouses and simply caring people…we have to be as observant of our elders as we are of our small babies.

If you know a senior that is alone during this heat wave…please check on them over and over again. Seniors do not want others to fuss over them…so they will say; “Oh, I’m fine here -everything is OK at my place.” Do not take that as an answer…go and check…see if they have the temperature in order and there are signs of drinking liquids.

IDEAS FOR KEEPING SENIORS COOL:

  1. Cooling Centers are set up all over your area. They can be at high schools, churches, senior centers. Just ask, call your local library and ask them to locate a senior cooling center for your own senior. Those librarians are always a wonderful source of information…please use them!
  2. Time for a movie…or a walk over at the mall. If you just want to get your senior out and about…find a movie they will enjoy and know they will have a couple of hours in a cool spot. If their apartment is extra hot, call the local fire department (on their business line, not the 911) and ask them if an air conditioner is available for a senior that is bed bound. If the senior is on Hospice, ask Hospice to check on the temperature in their home. There are many avenues of community help out there…get creative and find someone who will step forward and give you help.
  3. Not only can you give your senior liquids, but fruits such as watermelon, grapes, apples and always bananas for their potassium. Ice cream is a senior favorite, but Popsicle are golden. Sherbet and Popsicle are really easy for seniors to have two to three times a day. You can buy a big bunch of Popsicle at any box store for very little price. If you are going to check on a senior that you do not know well…arrive with a box of Popsicle and ask them to enjoy them a few times a day to stay cool and keep their body hydrated.
  4. Bed clothes are way to warm at night. Add flannel sheets to keep the senior feeling warm — but remove the electric blanket and layers of heavy blankets during the summer heat.
  5. Change the senior’s clothes. Layers are fine, but make it layers of underwear, tee-shirt type of material and then a sweater or shawl. They do not get to wear winter warm clothing in summer. I actually change the closet in the hot and cold weather to make the dressing choices easier for the senior. So flannel shirts go out the door to the storage closet and the polo shirts and short sleeve shirts hang in the closet. Adding a light jacket, sweater or sweat shirt is fine…but keep the selection of clothing tilting towards the cool side in the summer. Remember: Mumu’s were invented for one reason…comfort in the heat😉
  6. Most seniors shower. As you age using a tub for a bath becomes harder and the risk of falls increases. Showers are the best way to cool down each day…a moderate temp shower on the cooler than normal side will reduce the body temp and ease the skin. ALWAYS HAVE A BENCH OR SEAT IN THE SHOWER AREA WITH A GOOD WALL MOUNT HANDLE FOR SAFETY!! You know; senior skin gets thinner and it makes it very sensitive. So you will have to keep moisturizer handy for the senior to use in the summer. A Spitzer bottle of water will also provide the skin and face with moisture in the heat.
  7. PERSONAL: (Cover your ears.) Body parts are body parts…so women that are older have hot spots under their breasts, on the high thigh or hips where the stomach skin slouches down and other personal spots. Men are the same with even their penis effected with the skin shrinking down and the area becoming moist. So, ask your doctor 4 help here…or just get some cream that you would use on baby bottoms to fight diaper rash. That cream will go on, in those sensitive areas and keep them from rash and infection in extreme heat. (OK, you can uncover your ears now)
  8. Cool clothes or small zip lock bags with ice inside held under the arm pits –on the neck, or lower back, will cool the body fast. NOTE TO SELF: Check to see that the senior has ice available.
  9. Fans should be kept on in the sleeping area…maybe the senior can sleep in a back bedroom instead of their usual bedroom…check the house for the coolest spots and keep the air flowing or the AC on in those areas. Check the internet for less expensive portable AC units. Do your home work and know the investment is always well worth it, when the heat hits.
  10. Be creative. I know seniors get stuck in their ways…but take a look at their home or apartment…you can work things out. Then if all else fails…I sit down and get serious. I told my mom– that I loved her and wanted her to be with me as long as possible. Her health was simply the most important thing to me, so how could we keep her body cool and healthy? I made it a joint venture…don’t lose your family, friend, neighbor or spouse in a heat wave…it can be prevented!!
  11. My tip for seniors alone…get them a small ice chest to have by their feet, at their favorite chair. Then you can fill it with Boost, water, fruits and sugar treats etc and they only have to reach down and open the lid to get refreshed!

Once again, I thank you for caring for your loved one. Because of you, their life is richer and you have to focus on that. I know that getting thanks from seniors in care is rare. So, take it from me…YOU ARE SPECIAL…francy

PS I have been going through hard times with my husband Georgie, so I have not kept the blog up to date. I am sorry for that…I will try harder. Georgie has Alzheimer’s and is forgetting how to walk. I have had to re teach him to walk on a weekly basis, lately. He also had so many accidents that he is now using Depends….it was a hard thing  for him to do, he was so sad over it. Life is never easy with care giving but, I do want to be here for you and I know you support me. It’s a lonely road when your spouse is failing in their health. Let’s work together to make the road as smooth as it can be for us all…f.

Dementia – Alzheimer’s Spouses Care Tips

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Ideas to keep the spouse of dementia and Alzheimer’s seniors strong throughout giving care…by francy Saunders

Alzheimer's spouse keeping calm

George enjoying the dogs n keeping calm

Dear Francy; My husband took the car out last night and ran it into the neighber’s rockery. I was making dinner. I left him sitting in front of the TV shouting at a baseball game. Then crash! I feel like my insides are gone…my head is empty, my heart is not even in my body anymore. What do I do?

You keep going on. You keep making dinner and knowing that you are doing what you can with dementia. You tell him it was OK and you bring him in the door and give him sugar to calm him down. You keep his name on the car insurance even though he has not driven in a few years. You get the car fixed or use “Hello Kitty” duck tape to fix it yourself. You are a strong, Pioneer Woman and you can do it!

This letter hit my heart, because I have experienced so many of her feelings. Let’s face it…this is our life. No one else understands but us…we do not come from our house and go somewhere else to rest at the end of the day. 24/7 is no joke for us…it is what we live 365 days a year. I am talking to you, not to the daughter or son or dear friends that help us give care. I am talking to the wife or husband that is the full time care giver, plus the lover of the one that has dementia. YOU and I are the ones on the front line…we understand each other.

Here are some tips to help you cope with your non-stop care giving:

  • Never believe that your spouse will stay. Think toddler; they would never be left in a danger spot, you know they will not stay. So use that thought pattern when you are trying to keep your senior safe.
  • Never believe that your spouse will take or eat anything you give them. They may even hide it. Keep a check on what you give to them, so you know where they are in protein and sugar. Give up  healthy food ideas…feed them what they will eat and try to slide in a high mineral and vitamin each day with their other meds. Do healthy eating on the sly…if you can make veggies look fun…or serve them with a dip…do it. Just know, intake of food is the goal…adding a supplement drink is great…but will they drink it?
  • Hide those keys to the car. Just like you would do if you had a teen in the house that was always asking for the car. Tuck your keys away in a special place that only you know and do it repeatedly. Take the second set of keys and put those in your office, far away from the main house.
  • Treat your mate like a toddler when it comes to going out the door. Tell them ice cream, donuts or coffee shop is there treat — if they just stay calm and follow you around while you are out of the house.
  • Get new clothes for the senior to wear around the house. The old complicated pants with belts, shoes that tie, tops that button…were yesterday clothes. Now, give them easy to slip on pants, shirts, sweat shirts, and pajamas. You can still buy style; just color and style that is easy on and off.
  • Shoes have to be strong. Get them comfort shoes to walk in and easy to take on and off. No shuffling scuffs…slippers have to have a good sole and support their feet. Falls will not only happen, but will be part of the senior’s life. Make their walking as safe as possible. Get the old shoes out the door, so their is no argument about what to wear. NO flip-flops, or sandels, the foot has to be supported.
  • Order a full TV schedule. Even if you and your spouse have not been TV people. Get the full cable range. You will never know what the senior will want to watch and something on the big TV channel list will hit them and they will ‘fall into’ the program. Old shows that used to have a plot or jump around in content will no longer interest your senior. They will want to watch history, or food channel, or military, or old movies. Don’t argue, just do it. TV is a way to keep their mind moving and occupied…you can not possibly be the full center of attention for an Alzheimer brain. Cable is an investment in the life of you both.
  • Make and keep a full range of doctor appointments. Even though the mind is effected in dementia…their body supports the brain. Keeping the senior well will eliminate the senior’s worry over things. They can get focused on skin sores…so have a skin doctor check each year. They will have problems with their bladder, so get a urologist to keep them on point with meds to help with function. They will have stress, so make sure your neurologist gives them a calming medication. Overall health may seem not important when the senior is going nutty day by day…but you having to care for their body functions or problems on top of mental health…is huge!
  • Make bath day twice a week. Water becomes difficult for dementia seniors. Get them a bath chair or bench, put on a hand held shower head and hire a bath lady as soon as you can. Even if they only come once and teach you how to bath a senior fast. This is a big deal with a senior. They have to keep clean, their skin needs attention and their hair needs to be tidy. Learning how to bath them is important. Do not put this off; even if they are in easy stage of dementia – add the bath chair or bench and hand held soon…so they move into the use of it while they are able.
  • Change your home; there needs to be a safe room…that means that your family room or living room…needs to tidy up. The dementia mind, needs less stress around it. So remove clutter, remove all the family pictures on the walls…keep it clean so the brain can see order. Take away the foot stool and get a Lazyboy so the spouse can easily get in and out of their favorite chair. Move the TV so watching it is easy and will also give them a view out the window. Many times the mind of a dementia senior will wander out to look at trees for hours.
  • Get your bedroom ready for change. Getting in and out of bed has to be easy. OR….OR, YOU will be getting up every time your spouse needs to go to the bathroom – all nite long! So you may have to raise up your bed so the senior can just sit up, turn and step out of bed…not stand up from the bed. Get new pillows that are strong and will wrap your spouse for the night. That will give a feeling of safety.
  • Give up the fight. Even thou rules will be broken over and over again. There is no fighting Alzheimer’s anger…you just have to let it flow and then stand your ground. YOU are the one that sets the rules of the house now. NO ONE can break the rules; so there is a lot of being the MEAN SPOUSE, but that is not going to change the fact that you set rules and enforce them for the safety of you and your spouse.
  • Eat on time, take drugs on time, take rest on time, take exercise on time….setting a routine. Routines are golden for toddlers and platinum for seniors with dementia. When they are on a daily pattern, they will be calmer inside their mind and that means you are able to relax more. It is not easy to have daily patterns…but you can and will set the routine and stay on it…I know you can do it.
  • Tell yourself to take a walk outside, around the house or block. A drive to the store on your own for a shopping trip…will give you a re-boot. You need it. If you have to get a sitter for your spouse…then ask a friend, a family member, a neighbor to come over twice a week for at least 90min and go out the door. Even if you just drive to a park and sit in the car in silence…and breathe.

That is it for this time….I will try to get back to a few more tips as we move along….I always thank you and bless you for all you are doing for your spouse. This is not a fun trip…how many times I want to ‘drive to Hawaii’–but I am here, day after day. I know you are there with your spouse too. Together we can make this journey with our loved one.

I know how strong you are….you are like a rock. Rocks cry….rocks crack, but rocks stay in place throughout time. You can do this, you are doing this…and I thank you for all you do that no one but you…knows you do. Its personal and private, but it also has to be shared. Share…stay well..francy

Alzheimer’s Secret – Highs and Lows

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How to help Dementia and Alzheimer’s energy stay moderate not high or low…by francy Dickinson

Ups and downs of Dementia Alzheimers

George up and happy with Mimi’s visit

We just had a great surprise…a long time Twitter friend came to visit! George was up and happy and involved with meeting her and talking to her…but today – he is in bed. Does that sound familiar?

I really wanted to share the Up’s n Down’s syndrome because so many of us have experienced it and it leaves us (as care givers) feeling like we see another person from others.

When George has his family come to visit, he perks up and gives them his attention,  love and laughter. They walk out the door and he takes a crash dive and I have to pick up the pieces. It has happened so many times that I have learned a few tips and I thought I would share them.

You are not going to be able to help others understand that the person they chat with…is the best they can be. The senior is on a high in energy and is performing for them. The visitor sees that person and believes that is how they are on a full time basis. I have often gotten a little lecture about my comments on George’s condition; that they must be exagerated. That is always so hurtful to me.

I want George to be well, to be happy and live a wonderful retirement. I want him to spend time out and about and enjoying his life with his friends and family. But no matter how much I want that for him, it will not happen. George, has Alzheimer’s that means that he has up’s and down’s and I am the one that has to try to keep him within boundaries so his life is as rich as it can be on a daily basis.

As a lay-person, it has been explained to me that each of us lose bits of our working brain each day. If we are healthy those bits are replaced by the body. When a senior has Dementia the replacement of those bits becomes labored and then slows down like molasses. So, if George gets excited and uses up his energy and brain bits on a single event…it takes time for him to recover. He has to restore his body and brain energy and working parts. As the Alzheimer’s moves forward that replacement gets slower and slower and one day, will simply not happen.

That means I have a job…to decide what is worth George having a high and then a few days low. Some times I simply have to say NO, to an event in order to keep him on an even keel.

Here are some ideas to think about when you are making those decisions….should I take George to an event, or have so and so over to visit? Or, should I say NO, and be the bad guy. Thus, giving George a reprieve from a heavy low…that would take days to recover.

TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE SOLID CARE DECISIONS:

  1. Make sure you remove your own feelings in this decision. This is a hard one; as the spouse of a senior with dementia…my life is involved in each decision too. So I try hard to step back and make my care decisions for the best of George…not the ‘best of francy’.
  2. Has George been having a solid and calm month? Not, the last few days…but the month. Alzheimer’s has a flow and monthly is the smallest amount of time I use. Maybe he has had a month of falls, or bladder accidents and emotional upsets that have been higher than normal. If that is so, then extra visits, events, or celebrations are put on a low burner.
  3. Plan ahead. I have a 4th of July celebration coming up. It is extra important this year because we have lost one family member and gained another. Many of my family is going to be at this celebration and I want George to go. So I am already planning ahead. I am going to make sure he is exercised each day of June.  That he does not miss any of his meds, and has plenty of sleep. I have decided on the day of the celebration I will take things to make sure he can have a mid-afternoon nap and will eat well, with extra sugar to give him energy.  I am planning that far ahead…so he will go through the day with the least amount of stress as possible. If he gets extra tired…I will be ready to leave the event and go home.
  4. Visiting at our home or going out? I find that George is getting more and more attached to the ‘safety’ of his own home. It is easier for us to have a visitor here…one or two at a time. I can remind him of the visit a couple of days ahead. I start to talk about it and then he is eased into the idea of excitement. I make sure he is up early that day and gets ready and then has time to be calm before they arrive. I remind him again of who they are and I always serve food to calm him and keep his energy up during the visit. I keep the visit down to no more than two hours. (as time goes on, this time limit will dip down to no more than 20 min.)
  5. Events out. I have been surprised lately that George does not do well going out to dinner. He does well out at lunch. But dinner upsets him, he is bothered by all the people, the noise and thinks the food is bad…so why take him out? Because I want to keep his mind feeling that going out is ‘safe’ and normal. I have decided that I will only take him out to lunch from no on. The stress of after ‘4PM out the door’ is too much for him. I try to think up ‘out of home’ visits weekly – but make them calm and easy on George.
  6. If George goes out to my sister’s home and visits, he is fine. He knows the home, the people and he just sits and enjoys his time. It really gives him very little stress. If he goes to his son’s home with family, he is fine. But he goes there less often so the stress is higher. Now if he goes anywhere that he does not know the place, or many of the people are new to him – that is no longer good for him. Even though his life has been very social, he traveled a great deal and loves people— George is not his old self. I have to remember that and work around his fears and upsets…and make his life ‘safe’ as much as I’m able to do.
  7. Surprise is not a good thing for George. That is what I try to keep to minimum. If someone is in town and calls to come and say; HI. I ask them to wait a while, so I can approach George with the news and let it sink in. Let him get up and get dressed and not be too rushed. Let him know they are coming and I talk about it with a calm voice and up energy. I ask the visitor to come around 3ish…and to stay for an hour. It can be embarrassing to do this to people…but I have learned that it is worth my discomfort if George can have a nice short visit and still feel well the next day.

The point of the above tips, is to show you how I am now just easing the way for George. I try to keep him in the loop of our daily lives. But I no longer share the heavy stuff. I don’t talk about bills, emergencies like my car needing repair, the chores around the house that need to be done, or the choice of what food to eat for dinner. Those ideas and thoughts would take George into a worry and maybe a depression.

This is where the hard part starts. Because as a spouse, the sharing of daily life is what you do with your spouse. George and I will be married 30 years this September…we have been bestest friends and he had been a business professional. To leave him out of the loop of life’s pressure is totally foreign to me. But I have to ‘man’ up and know that life is now mine to oversee.

What I also have to know inside my mind? That George’s health is important to me. So is my health. That means I have to make decisions that are good for George and are still healthy for me, as the care giver. I often have to say; “I have to come first, in order to have the energy to care for him wisely.”

It’s hard to explain to others, when they just want to stop by and take George out for coffee. Some times its a good thing, some times it’s simply is a NO. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, we all make decsions that turn out to be not the wisest in the book. But do get in the habit of thinking small daily issues through. Take your time; one day of not caring, could mean two weeks of you helping your spouse through a tough recovery. Days of no energy, confusion, anger, depression…that is a hard way to learn that thinking through your daily activity choices is important everyday.

Blessings on all that you do. I wish you well with your decisions. George just had breakfast in bed and I will get him up later to sit in the sunshine for a while. Other than that, he will be resting today…healing after our fun visit with our wandering Twitter friend.  ;)   francy

Keep Seniors Eating with Healthy, Easy Snacks!

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The importance of healthy snacks or small meals for seniors and elders in care. by francy Dickinson

healthy fast snacks for seniors in care

Apple Pie Always a Senior Favorite

Dear Francy; My mother is not eating…I am not kidding. She has always been thin, but now, she has no appetite. I have tried every dinner I can think of but nothing works. What can I do to spark her taste buds? Anne

When you get older, and many times when you are on certain medications, you lose your taste buds. The taste of food no longer pulls you in…nor does the smell. So, the best thing to start is to really spice up the meal with low-salt herbal spice mixes like Mrs. Dash. My secret is to simply tell the senior they do not have to eat a meal…just snack. That might sound easy but it means you have to make sure that snacks are easy to grab and easy to chew and swallow. So, this is a little extra work on the family member that over-sees your mom’s care.

Every 2-3 hours the senior needs to have a snack…a protein drink, a piece of cheese ( I love cheese sticks), a slice of good deli meat, veggies with dip, fruit with dip, a piece of chicken, a slice of steak, a baked potato. Keeping that energy level and blood sugar on an even keel is the true key to strength in mind and body. How can you help them with smaller eating all day long? Here are some tips to help them on their way.

It means you have to prepare food ahead and have it ready to go…so I will list ideas that will keep you involved and keep her eating:

Senior Snacks:

  1. Chicken is so good….so you have all sorts of ways to serve it in small pieces. Bake or buy a roasted chicken and have it sitting in the fridge for snacks, or pre cut it into small pieces and have it in a zip lock…even easier. OR — buy the large family size chicken thighs and legs and put them into the oven – spice well, put BBQ sauce on a few and bake them all. After they bake and cool…divide them into small zip locks – freeze a few bags and keep a couple in the fridge for easy snacks.
  2. Apples are so easy to use…you can peel, cut and slice and put some lemon on them and tuck it into a ziplock for easy grab snack. Serve it with a sweet dip, caramel..or some sour cream mixed with honey and cinnamon. Adding protein, calories is the point. If they dip, its more calories and that is a good thing
  3. Another soft dip sauce that is easy is peanut butter with honey and nutmeg…it makes a great dip for fruits and celery –always adding in calories and protein to everything that the senior eats
  4. Buy full seed and bran breads and crackers so when they choose to eat, it’s filled with good grains
  5. OK-Mok crackers are high in fiber, so are wheat thins – they’re best if you put them into a glass container on the counter – so the senior is tempted to grab a few when they walk by.
  6. Visual is so important…so make sure their cupboard is filled with containers not boxes. Buy see- through containers that will keep snacks fresh but let the senior see and grab easily. Do not pile on loads of food, best to do small amounts. If they live alone; buy a box of crackers, put 1/2 box in the container and take the rest home to your own family to enjoy. That way the crackers and snacks stay fresh for grandma and they change types often.
  7. Get soft cream cheese that is flavored with something they enjoy…the strawberry cream cheese is delish. I enjoy the salmon one myself. Good things are available in the dairy isle…take a look. They are pre making all sorts of things, including puddings. Remember buy small containers so they do not spoil so fast.
  8. Yogurt is great, but many elders do not like it. So introduce them to the Greek style yogurt that is richer and the new trend is putting loads of goodies into the yogurt. You will find it easy for the senior to have a small treat that tastes so rich.
  9. Every week, take over another fruit that is fresh. Strawberries; hull them and have them ready to reach in and take a bite. Do not put them into the salad drawer…keep them right out on the shelf so when the fridge door opens they “look” good and ready to eat. Always prep the fruit so the senior will eat it. Pineapple is so good, but only if the senior can take a bite size piece…otherwise it looks like too much for them and they pass over it. Bananas are great…and show grandma she can cut it in half and eat it…then eat the other half the next day. Often seniors say; I can not eat a whole banana…so let them know it’s OK to only eat half
  10. Veggies; many elders do not eat raw veggies. It was not popular when they were cooking or growing up. So, entice them with cutting veggies into small pieces and buy the tiny carrots and tomatoes. I buy a larger Rubbermaid container that has a green top. It’s a “fresh” container. If you get the larger one, you can fill it with a mix of little veggies that the senior can grab. It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks and then you can add a few different veggies to the mix. You gotta have “Ranch dip” for the veggies…and a secret? You can add in 2 scoops of vanilla protein mix folded into the ranch dressing. Each time they reach for it…they have more protein with each scoop. Watch the due dates on things and be prepared ‘throw away’ things. Try not to fuss over the waste…its better to have good food available for the senior than force them to eat left overs for days.
  11. Soup- I make my soups, cool and put a serving into a small ziplock. I then take it over to the senior. That way they get homemade split pea soup, German potato soup, chicken and broccoli soup– without buying a can and its the family recipe they probably cooked on their own for years. I freeze the soups and always write what it is on the ziplock in permanent ink. They can grab and go with soups in the freezer to the microwave or bag into the boiling water for heating.
  12.  Steak is often not eaten by elders with problem teeth. So, I buy small steaks, I slice them into small long slices. I then marinate them for 3 days and put the juice and the steaks in smaller ziplock. This way they can fry the steak in just a few minutes and have thin small size to eat as a snack or dinner. (Easy Marinate:. 1 bottle of Italian dressing into a large ziplock and put in the steak pieces. Place it in the bottom of the cool meat drawer, in fridge and turn it over every day. ) Once again, transfer the meat once it has soaked for three days and put small amounts into ziplocks so Grandma can grab them easy and fry up with an egg for breakfast or a baked potato for dinner.
  13. Pies are a perfect meal if you make them with fresh ingredients. A good apple pie can be breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack or dinner.Seniors do not have to think of fresh fruit pies as dessert…they can be just everyday eating. So when you bake or buy a good fresh fruit pie…cut it up and put it into Ziplocks.( I know I use a lot of them and I do buy the off brand of zip bags in bulk.) This way a couple of pieces are in the fridge and a couple more in the freezer. The senior needs smaller pieces and almost everyone loves the taste of fruit pies. They need to place them on the plate and hit them in the microwave for 1 min to warm and that brings out the flavor again
  14. Apple sauce and apple butter…both great stuff to have handy. The apple sauce comes in flavors and is in single serve containers…how easy is that one? Apple butter makes a good yummy toast treat on top of a rich grain and nut bread.
  15. Old fashioned but yummy: Quick coffee cakes and small one egg cakes work great for seniors. Once again; you leave out a small about; 2 small pieces and then they can add ice cream and have a filling treat. You can buy them at the store and cut it…or make easy cakes on your own.
    Here is my recipe for the one egg cake   http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/
  16. Soft cheeses make for good dips and cracker toppings – I like the cheese with herbs and garlic…OH boy YUMM
  17. Popcorn may seem like a good snack but seniors can not eat it well, so go to Trader Joe’s and look over their selection of chips and snacks. They even have sweet potato chips, pretzels with peanut butter inside – be creative, it will pay off…the senior will love the new tastes
  18. Heritage…this is my trick. I think of the senior and what they ate when they grew up. What recipes were popular in the 1920’s or 30’s? What country is their heritage or are they Jewish or Latino? That means they have flavors that are in-grained in their mind about food. Once you get a feeling for the spices and treats that they enjoyed when they were younger and raising their own children…cooking, entertaining — those are the tastes and smells you want to bring back to them
  19. Many seniors love candy…sugar can really boost their brains as well as energy. Old fashioned hard candy like lemon drops, licorice that’s in small pieces and fresh so they can chew it. Do not bother with peanut brittle or taffy…their teeth will not do well with it. Keep a candy dish by them with spice drops, MnMs — It looks festive and tastes so good
  20. Add drinks with protein. You have to get your senior into protein drinks. If you have to buy a few and get the taste going…do it. I always chill the drinks, they taste better…there are many chocolate ones and the taste is vastly different between the companies. You can always do a vanilla flavor and ask them to drop in two strawberries and do a quick blend each morning. Work on it, your time will pay off with added intake of calories and protein. Most seniors have one each day and often two or three if they are not eating well

I hope the ideas have helped you thinking in a different direction. For us eating is so easy, we can even do a drive through to get a quick burger. Seniors living alone and elders in care are limited to what is in the house and how easy is it to prepared and eat. That is the key…easy.

Good luck, and thank you for all you do for the seniors in your family. Care giving can be a time-consuming and lonely time, thank you for your gift of love.

Blessings, francy

Would you do me a favor and click the LIKE button and write a comment so I know how to give you some tips to help your life be a little easier…OH, and click the JOIN button and they will send you a notice when I have a new blog for you.

*For all that want to know about George…he is due for this summer memory appointment. I will report back with how it went and what the doctor says about his medications. He is now on a cocktail of Alzheimer’s drugs…to boost his brain…Thank you for your prayers, I always feel them. f.

Loving through Pressure and Stress

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How to cope with care giving in the middle of high stress…by francy Dickinson

OK so some days the stress and anger simply hit the screen of life and I have had one of those lately!

  1. Pressure building was my husband fighting Alzheimer’s and having more problems with personal accidents and the clean-up that involves
  2. Then I added on a nasty fight with spring allergies. My eyes have been swollen shut most of the last two weeks. The itch and worry over my eyes has not made me a happy camper.
  3. Worry over money has been a big problem for me and all seniors living on small budgets. Its a daily worry and now that George has lost his ability to understand that problem, it is getting worse. He forgets we can not spend money and often asks for things that are not in our budget and its hard on me to tell him, NO
  4. Then the car stopped working in the middle of the road while my friend, Cheryl was driving. She was suck in the middle of traffic and called all worried
  5. I was feeling panic over-coming me…I sat down and tried to take the issues into mind and be calm
  6. I called AAA car club and renewed our membership so the tow would be covered
  7. I called Cheryl and told her help was on the way.
  8. I called the car repair place and told them my car was on the way and I would have to OK repairs because of money restrictions
  9. I called my sister and asked if she would help me with the repair cost and I would pay her back
  10. I called Cheryl again and made sure she was OK…she said that the tow truck was there
  11. I called a dear friend and asked her to go and pickup Cheryl and bring her home

All during this problem, my eyes are swollen and I can barely see the screen of the phone to make the calls. George is in the living room yelling at me and telling me how stupid I am and how I should listen to him and let him make the decisions. Bad language is flying in the living room and the people on the phone could certainly hear it. What to do? The stress building and building?

  • I took a deep breath and went in to George and told him to calm down and he was not going to speak to me in that way
  • I was angry and I expressed my anger…I told him to be quiet while I tried to figure out how to handle all the problems- I kept my voice in a calm tone so I would not push him into any more anger
  • I removed myself from the living room…closed the doors to the kitchen to block the noise and I fixed George tea and a sugar treat
  • This sugar treat would serve to raise his level of energy and give his brain a boost and usually cools down the anger
  • His inability to “fix the problem” was giving him a power problem – he wanted to be the answer man, but could only be angry
  • Returning to him with a time out and telling him Cheryl was fine and on her way home and car would be fixed
  • George was too angry to accept it as the end of the situation he kept up the ranting for over two hours
  • George was then too tired to even walk to the bathroom and had to call for my help
  • I put him into bed after the bathroom and turned on the TV with a military channel to take his mind in another direction
  • I closed the door and called my sister again to talk about the money and the repair shop to get the news that the fuel pump had died and would need to order the part
  • I fixed myself a cup of tea…I went out the front door and walked around my house…even thou I was avoiding pollen, I needed the air
  • I came back in to another call from the repair shop that there may be more repairs to come
  • I fixed myself some lunch and drank water with an Emergen-cee package of 1,000 vit C
  • I took the dogs out to the back yard and swept the walk
  • I came back in and cleaned up the kitchen and checked on George, who was now asleep
  • High Event was over and George would forget the entire argument when he woke up- but I wouldn’t

No I was not OK….

Yes, it was a nasty ‘Event’

Yes, I kept my mind working on life instead of focused on not having money, or  car problems and care giving problems

I can not change my income at this point in my life…but I can still change my overall thinking process. George is to unwell with Alzheimer’s to correct his outbursts….but I can keep myself from jumping into his anger pool.

I know that the job of a spouse to care for their loved one is a hard job. But I think the anger issue and the lack of the one being cared-for to appreciate the care that is given– is the hardest issue I have at this time. Yes, I often feel badly that I am angry at the way George reacts and his lack of appreciation…but NO, I can not change his frame of mind. I can only do things to give myself – my own feeling of appreciation.

  • I made a few calls to friends to hear them say I was OK…and I was a good person, I needed that
  • I took a long shower and tried to tend to my face and eyes to relieve the discomfort
  • I put on spring clothing so I had brighter colors around me
  • I did not go off my diet, I am on a low carb diet and I simply had a special chocolate drink that was low in carbs
  • I moved around the house…getting myself filled with movement and listening to music helping my stress dissolve
  • I played with my dogs…giving them care and their kisses brought me happiness
  • I stayed away from George so my mind was kept calm
  • I sat down before I went to bed and wrote out my worries and upset in a journal so my feelings would be honored, but not haunt me all night
  • I allowed myself to cry out the upset and I was able to sleep

We may not be able to make life less stressful..but we can face the stress and work through it. I did not fix myself a drink, or take a sleeping pill. I knew that would be an unwise way to escape the pain. I wanted to face the pain and change it…not run from it. Because I am a strong woman that can calm myself down, think through my problems and ask friends to help me come up with answers.

I wanted to share this Event with you…because I know if I’m having a hard time….so are you. Giving care to others is not an easy or fun thing to do. Pretending that spouses giving care is no big deal is a lie. Life hits and family members need to be cared for no matter what is going on in your daily life. I understand the pain you feel, the fear that takes over your heart and the uncertainty of your own future.

Try hard to remember there are thousands of us going through this experience and there is a tomorrow, there will be a happier time ahead and you can catch moments of joy even on days filled with ‘Events’.

Being honest and open with our friends, family and our own self…is the most important action we can take. Just hold on, because I am sending you all prayers of strength…we can do this,we really can and we will rise again to a life that is filled with memories of good times, not bad. Memories of giving our loved ones our love and our all….and knowing their lives were filled with our loving care all through their end of life journey.

Blessings…francy

Waffles for Family Brunch w Seniors

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Family time with seniors and how to keep the senior in their own home. by francy Dickinson

Sourdough Waffles for Brunch!

Spring time is a perfect time to visit your seniors and take the makings for a meal. I always think that food breaks down the gap in a diverse family. My favorite meal on Sunday is waffles. I do it the  easy way, with Bisquick, and then I like to add in my sourdough from the crock. The waffles smell so good and are so rich. I always get a special syrup – in our house- its boysenberries. Then I do a quick egg for those that love them and keep it simple for those that just want the yumm of the waffle. If I think ahead I get a basket of strawberries and use those on top of the waffles too! YUMM.

It is usually easier to just take food over to Grandma’s house. The TV can go on and the NASCAR races, basketball or football can be entertaining the family. That leaves you to spend time with Grandma and get her kitchen cleaned as you prepare the waffles. The interaction with your elders on a fun basis, allows you to check out the condition of their kitchen and food pantry. When elders are living on their own- they need to be checked by the family to make sure they are eating well and keeping the house clean.

I always had the breakfast planned the day before, then we would go over to mom’s around 11:30AM so we could sleep in on Sunday. The family would say NO…but when we were all in the car the mood changed and the day was reprogrammed for helping Grandma.

As I cooked, the youngsters would be in the living room with the TV on. They would dust the area and run the vacuum. I would have my husband set the table in the dinning room, so mother could use her sweet china. It made a simple breakfast into a special meal.

I would be clearing out the fridge making sure the dates on the products were current or I would throw them and make a shopping list. I would go over the counters. Older eyes have problems seeing details in the kitchen….so a good counter top clean is easy and helpful. I would use a hot cloth to clean the shelves of the refrigerator and wipe off the stove top.

Making sure her dry pantry was not loaded with products that were ages old. When elders stop cooking or just cut it down to cooking for one…the pantry tends to age. You do not need old flour, cake mixes or canned food. It really takes a very short period of time to review it and clear it out. Once again writing down what should be replaced on the shopping list.

Keeping the conversation uplifted and involving the senior with your projects you will find the few hours you visit go fast and loads gets done.

While the table is being cleared and dishes done. My husband or the younger kids…would go around the house to do Grandma’s “to fix list” . The back yard might need mowing or the lightbulbs changing…what ever it is…you make a quick run through the house to make sure its safe and secure.

Don’t forget to change batteries on the fire alarms, change the filter on her furnace and clear the back porch so she can escape in an emergency.

Once a month, brunch at Grandma’s brings you all a good meal and a feeling of family. This is how we can keep our seniors in their homes. By helping them with the little things that get out of kilter…the things that need to be fixed, replaced and added to the mix to make their aging home stay clean, efficient and safe. Start your monthly visit for the whole family…your youngsters will learn how to gift their time and enjoy the love that their grandparents have for them, too!

HEY…would you click on your right and sign up button. You will then be notified when I share a new blog. And yes my senior care books are coming out…I am very excited about them.

UPDATE: on my Georgie..he has had a very tough month with his Alzheimer’s he is in a very emotional place. He had his meds upated and that helped. It has taken a lot out of me too. As you know the care giver is so involved with the spouse that a bad day for George is a bad day for me. But sharing what I do and how I have learned to cope, helps me get over the humps. Wishing you all a wonderful Spring…Here in Seattle we have had rainy weather day after day…so I am looking forward to the warmth and time in the yard again.

Blessings on you all…francy

High Protein Breakfast for Shut-in Seniors

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Dear Francy writes about high protein breakfast and recipes with ideas for care. Francy Dickinson

Up out of bed senior eats breakfast at table

Getting George out of bed and feeding him breakfast at the table

Dear Francy; My dad refuses to eat anything but fruit loop cereal every day. I know this is not enough for him, what can I do?

Many seniors get into a daily eating pattern. Cereal is a common easy repeat, so is toast, care givers have to learn how to tweek it so the daily habit is healthy. First, do not try to remove their favorite food. Just make a change in a slow way.

Almond milk can be added to the diet in place of regular cow’s milk. Many older seniors grew up with milk and simply love it. They want it at each of their meals, but many seniors find that milk starts to be a problem with their medications, or causing a build-up of mucus. Adding almond milk to the mix is a great way to move them into a different direction. If you have not tried Vanilla Almond Milk…do it! It has a great flavor that is low in carbs and really a wonderful addition to the shut-in diet.

My mother got into Pillsbury, Toaster Strudels. She wanted them for every meal. So what do you do? I said that she could have them for breakfast every other day. She was fine with that. I also gave her strudels, if she was feeling unwell, as a comfort food. She was in her late nineties when I cared for her, so to me, her wishes and likes were always honored. At the same time, I had to make sure she had more protein in her diet.  I would put protein drinks or powder in everything I made for her.

My husband George (who is now fighting Alzheimer’s) loves his bagels with apple butter topping. So, once again, I allow him the bagel, but only twice a week. That way I can get his protein breakfasts in the door and keep his sugar levels on a study stream. **Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients need to keep a higher sugar level to help their emotions. Just the opposite of the diabetes senior that needs to watch their in-take of sugar and of carbs.  NOTE: Carbs, like breads and such, change into sugar as the body absorbs them.

I will use your senior’s favorite as Breakfast A – It does not matter what it is…it’s going to be on our list as B-A: or substatute with a Fruit smoothie for a change of pace.

Your Weekly Breakfast Menu:

Monday Breakfast:
B-A or a Fruit Smoothie (You will find a great recipe on my food/recipe site CLICK HERE)

Tuesday Breakfast:
Hot cereal – with 2tsp of brown sugar or honey in the cooking water/ Sprinkle the –top with flax flakes or Metamucil powder – top it with Vanilla almond milk, or vanilla protein shake.

–>This means the hot cereal is packed with the daily needs of a senior for their bowel functions. Then it is adding in a boost of protein with a topping of the almond or protein milk. If the senior needs to watch their sugar in-take use a sugar substitute.
–>Some Seniors really like oatmeal, others like cream of wheat, then you have the troops that like their regular cereal mixed with hot milk. You judge and serve what feels right and adds nutrients.

Wednesday Breakfast: B-A or a Fruit Smoothie

Thursday Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs n Yogurt
–>Adding in 2 tbp of protein drink or Vanilla almond milk, sprinkle in the flax flakes or Metamucil power, salt n pepper with a drop of Tabasco Sauce. Mix this with a blender, or a whip and really make it fluffy. Pour into your preheated pan (Pam spray if needed) and either stir for scrambled or let heat through for an omelet. Serve with a great flavored yogurt.

–>Ok so this is a great way to get more into eggs, then just eggs. You can always use your Eggbeaters (or egg whites) with this just make sure you whip it so it’s foamy. This makes great eggs and you have everything in the mix to add the bulk and the sugar and the drop of Tabasco…why? Seniors lose their ability to taste. It makes eating so bland and so boring they start to pull away from their food. You do NOT want to add to much spice, it can really upset a stomach…but just a drop (and I mean a tiny drop) will just add to the taste along with the salt and pepper. The yogurt will calm down any heat that it causes in the tummy and add even more protein and helpful things for the intestines. I know I keep harping on bowels. But just trust me; when you are older and in trouble with your health, your bowels go wacky. You need to help seniors keep steady and adding daily Metamucil helps. If their problems are in the opposite direction, you can add a stool softener to their daily morning pills.

Friday Breakfast: B-A or Fruit Smoothie

Saturday Breakfast: Protein from the refrigerator.
This is a Danish treat, an open-face sandwich served for breakfast with different things on top from the left-overs in your refrigerator.  This makes for a change of pace and perks the senior up to see what is on the sandwich.

–>What you want to make sure is that the only bread you buy for a senior is loaded with brans, whole-wheat, seeds and such. It makes great sandwiches and good toast. Take one piece of bread and toast it.
–>Then you will use something to spread on the top. It could be cream cheese, (I like the soft kind with flavors that you can buy in a tub and lasts longer than the brick.) yogurt, apple sauce or apple butter. It’s now time to sprinkle your bran, flax or Metamucil over the spread.
–>Look in the fridge and pull out bits and pieces. Chicken or meats from last night’s dinner are perfect. Paper-thin cut the meat and layer it on the toast that you covered with cream cheese. Add a sprinkle of sliced tomato or cooked veggies from the dinner. Sprinkle it with Mrs.Dash to give it more of a kick and serve. You can serve it as it is, or put it back into the toaster oven and toast the top for a minute or two…either way, its Yummy!  You might want to serve it with V-8 juice; now available in veggie and fruit mixes.

Sunday Breakfast: You have more time today; let’s make it a day for pancakes for the whole family.
–>You can make a larger batch for the gang.  If you are cooking just for your senior, make the batch and then layer the unused cooked pancakes with wax paper and place in a freezer bag. That way you can reach in the freezer and get a couple of pancakes anytime the senior is in need of a calming meal.

–>The only difference with these pancakes would be instead of using the water to mix into the pancake pre-mixture — you add in your protein drink with the same measurement. If the senior is the only one eating the cakes, go ahead and add in the bran, flax or Metamucil in the batter. Cook them like you normally do, the only difference will be that you added more protein to the batter, it will not show in the taste.
–>I like to serve these with fruits and a dollop of yogurt on top. It is so easy to buy frozen berries in the market. They last for ages and you can open them and use a ½ cup for a recipe anytime you like. Perfect to add to a smoothie or other toppings. Not to mention, the yogurt is not just a treat to eat in the whole cup, you can open it and use it, a dollop at a time, during the day in different ways which will sneak-in the added protein.

Cooking for seniors in care is always a challenge.
I try to keep in mind what the nutrition rules are and how I can make things taste good, yet, always add-in good nutrients to their meals. Simple foods? Yes. But, even everyday breakfast can make the day start with a mind that is healthy and food on a tummy that will absorb the many medications that your senior will have to take.

As always, check those medications. You may find one has to be taken “before food” if it does, you want to take that pill to the senior with water as you wake them up or get them going in their morning toilet. You can then go and prepare their meal while the medication dissolves into their system.

Because everyone asks about food, recipes and meal ideas; I am going to try to add more tips in this direction and I have started to put ideas down for a care giving cookbook. In the meantime…good news, my care guides are almost out the door. They will be ready in March…yeah.

Blessings on your care giving…you make a huge difference with the time and love you give to your senior, thank you. francy

New senior care book will be out in March - YEAH! That's mother "Toots" and me with loads of good ideas for care.

Fight Depression in Seniors In-Care

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Ideas for keeping a spirit going for a senior in-care by francy Dickinson

Seniors love real plants in bloom

Dear Francy; Mom will hardly stay awake these days…she naps all day and sleeps all night. I try to keep her up but she just has no interest in anything. It’s hard to get her to eat, drink or take her meds. How can I get her back in the grove?

This is so normal…if a senior does not have anything left to live for – they begin to dip. Just take your mind into their mind-set; they have lost friends, spouse, family members and their health. They feel they are making others fuss over them and they feel no longer worth the time or effert that it takes to keep them going. Now, it’s up to you and the staff of any care center to change that mind-set.

There has to be a running calendar, posted front and center, of what the world has to offer them. Put up a large calendar to show the upcoming holidays, the family birthdays and events. I would even put the Passing Days of family that have passed away. Make the calendar the current month and a month ahead. Even if you have to print it out on your computer. Talk about it each day and get the senior in to planning for the future.

  • Circle dates that will bring the senior a laugh. If their heritage is Irish, our St. Patrick’s day is a perfect point of interest…and then add in some shamrocks around the room to brighten up their day.
  • Easter is always fun for seniors; they can do a bit of online shopping and get those granddaughters a pair of white shoes or gloves. Help them be a part of the celebrations, not just view them.
  • It may be February, but the spring bulbs are in bloom…and bringing in a small pot of them from the grocery store will really show the senior that sunshine is on its way.
  • There is the first day of baseball practice down in Arizona and NASCAR is a go in the south. You have golf starting now, if not interested in the golf, thenwatch for the lovely courses that they visit all over the US and the world.
  • See if there are TV specials to look forward to that week, have a current event rolling on the news channel and talk about it with the senior so they stay involved in the world and happenings.
  • How about a daily French Word to spice up the morning? French Word of the Day – Free French Vocabulary Lessons Online http://bit.ly/wfXGEj – you can print it out and walk in the door with a word to share and lift the day a little for senior in-care. You can do the same thing with English with a word and a meaning each day. There is the long adored ‘The Daily Word’ that many seniors enjoy. Daily Word http://bit.ly/w7b55B
  • Decorate the room with the theme for the month…ask family and friends to sign in to a wall mounted guest book…so the senior can see that they have had a lot of visitors.
  • Put up a bulletin board and put cards and snaps of old family photos and new grandkid pics.
  • Ask the senior what day it is…what month it is…what is happening around them that week? Keep them involved and thinking about their involvement in life and the world.  Ask them if they have visited places on the news, or if they have family still in the ‘old country’. Ask them about food that they remember from childhood and how to prepare it.
  • Add a new project for them. Spring time is time to clear out clothes and freshen up the sock drawers. Change their favorite chair to the window and move the TV so they get a great view outside and of the TV. Bring in some new throw pillows or a new house coat or slipper. New is good, change is good…small changes make a huge difference. Your ideas will keep the senior attached to life and find enjoyment in a daily sweet spot.
Thank you for your love and time giving to your mother. Care givers rarely get thanked for all they do…know your love makes a difference everyday. Blessings, francy

My new care book is coming out next month...Yeah!

Answers for a Depressed Spouse Care-Giver

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Ideas to help those feeling low and helpless with depression over giving care to their spouse 24/7. by francy Dickinson

Family friend, Kathy, giving me a break and caring for mom

Dear Francy; My wife is in late stages of Parkinson’s. She now sleeps a lot and her speech is very impaired. I can not really understand her or what she wants from me. Her ability to be mobile is gone and I have to stay by her side when she moves. She does not eat anything but cookies and drinks only soda pop. The house is a mess, I am tired and mad most days. I know you help others with ideas, but what can you do for me…I’m just angry.

Anger, yes…who would not be angry when the person you have given your heart to for so many years…suddenly needs you the most, but you are unable to really help?

You just have to trust me this frustration and anger is called depression. If you have never had anymore than a few blue days in your life…depression may seem a fussy word for you. But you described just the situation that brings a person down.

See if this fits?

  1. You try so hard to care for your spouse that you actually can ‘feel’ their needs. You know when they need to go to the toilet, eat, or what they say when they mumble. You try to think ahead to things that will keep them calm. This is very what mothers do with small infants; the ability to talk, does not mean there is no way to interact with another person.
    But/ if you go to the bathroom yourself, take a step out of a room or just fall asleep in your chair you miss the clue. You then feel like you have let them down. They’re in need, they have fallen, they have had an accident, they are crying from frustration…it feels like your fault.
  2. You find that you are sleeping at the top of your sleep…any small noise wakes you up and you feel you have to go and check your spouse. This light sleep makes you feel out of sorts all day.
    Result/ you get very little sleep at all and almost no deep rejuvenating sleep. Therefore, you are just running on fumes most days and your frustration turns to anger towards yourself.
  3. You try to  think of things to feed your spouse. As they lose their sense of taste they turn to sweet or sour foods. They eat less, so they are not hungry. They forget how to swallow well and you have to be right by them at all times to keep them from choking. They need water for flushing their pills and the toxins in their body, but they will not drink water. You try but they resist every road you go down.
    Result/ you don’t eat well yourself. You do not want to make a dinner for one, it feels like to much trouble so you grab easy choices to eat. Toast, sandwich, cookies, chips and other easy to eat food. They simply give you sugar highs and lows, upset stomach, weight gain or loss and you counter with more and more caffeine to keep you going.
  4. You need to be there to move your spouse from point A to point B. Too unsteady to walk on their own, that means you have to jump up each time your spouse needs to move.
    Result/you have no time to your own self. You get pulled away from doing the washing, making beds, cleaning the house. You can not take time to walk out the door even to retrieve something from the garage. You feel almost trapped in the room with your spouse and your world gets smaller and smaller.
  5. People tell you to get out and about. But preparing your spouse is so time-consuming. You have to clean them up, get them dressed, struggle with the upset they have on any change of pace to their day. Then you have to get yourself clean, dressed and ready to go.
    Result/ you forget your grocery store list, you lose your keys, you are late for doctor appointments or if you do go out to eat…the process is so upsetting, you simply find staying at home is safe and easier. Plus; one trip out the door, means 2-3 days of bed rest for your spouse and more work for yourself.
  6. TV becomes the focus of the household. It will calm your spouse and give you that ‘white-noise’ in the background to rest your mind.
    Result/ you nod off during the shows and that reduces your night-sleeping ability. You sit in a chair and do not get real exercise so when you jump up to help your spouse you find you have a sore back, or achy feet.
  7. When any moment of intimate talk with your spouse does take place, or even quiet time–you look at your spouse and remember old times, memories of places you have gone together, things you used to say to each other. You miss the little jokes you once shared, the songs you sang, the silly talk between you. You start to hate holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and you avoid the thoughts that bring out the pain.
    Result/ you get upset and emotional, then you get mad at yourself for being silly and you get angry. You walk around the house just thinking of what you can do to change things and yet, come up with no answers.
  8. You wake up with an idea for your day; maybe you have a household repair that has to be done or a chore that has to be attended too. You have it in your mind, how you will go about the repair, or what tool or part you have to buy to make the repair. Then you start to care for your spouse. The morning personal cleaning of them, their breakfast, their pills, adjusting their chair or couch area, the whole process and then you realize that the day is half over. You have had no time to do the chore or to leave the house to get the tool needed.
    Result/ you get upset with yourself that you are getting nothing done around the house. The place looks messy, dirty, and it is over-whelming.  You start to pull back and force yourself  not to look at the mess, not even think of the repair. You just protect yourself from disappointment by ignoring your surroundings.
  9. You have had a stomach upset for a few days, you know you do not feel right. You get so busy helping your spouse and dealing with anyone coming over to help with the house that your own health is coming second.
    Result/you slowly become weaker in your own body. You start to have more problems. You feel allergies, problems with your bathroom habits, your own cleanliness. Everything seems to go downhill. You would go and get yourself checked-up with a doctor but the ability to be free to leave the house is so limited you just put it all on the back burner.
  10. Your family or children come over and when they do your spouse rallies up and looks so much better. They see a person that is doing well, maybe in a good mood and wonder what all the fuss is about when you call them.
    Result / your relationship with the family and old friends starts to go down. You call them less, you rarely ask them to help you. You know they are busy and so you simply cope. You feel upset towards others that don’t understand

All of the above things equal a care giver that is burnt out, tired, feeling helpless, angry, upset and that all twirls together into high stress and depression. It does not mean you are a bad person, or that you are not strong, or that you are not doing your best. It means that you need help.

HELP – HOW CAN I GET SOME OF THAT?

  • March your bottom into your doctor’s office and tell the doctor you need help. Let them know you are tired, upset, worried and simply have emptied out your energy pool. Let them look you over. Let them see if your weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, energy, strength and emotional issues are understood and treated. That way you can continue to care for your spouse with a renewal of energy and creative ideas to help them. You get strong, so you can be stronger for your spouse.
  • Call a ‘family and close friends’ meeting. Explain you need to have some time to breath away from the house. You need help with a few hours here and there to take your mind and body out the door and away from care giving to ‘just be you’. Let them come up with ideas; maybe they will offer to come and help, maybe they will offer to pay for in-home care. No one knows what you are going through until you share. I had to share and when I did I was shocked at how kind and loving my family and friends were to me.
  • Call a professional. There are companies that your doctor or friends can recommend to come into your home and help with different chores. If you are on a strict budget, do not worry…the companies that do this work, know all the ways to get paid. They will know how to bill you personally, through your insurance, through a local or state funding, or other means. Give them a call; it will cost nothing for them to come and give you an evaluation. They will tell you what you need and work within your budget. If nothing else get a bath lady to bathe your spouse so that chore can be done fast, professionally and allows you the rest while they do so.
  • Ask the doctor to advise you of an elder care social service. This is really nice. They are trained people who know how to find different services in your area that are free. They will help you get things done. They can advise you and you can alway say NO…but to know that there are people out there that will help you is so important. I have personally gone to the local hospital and worked with the social worker there. Hospitals are very community oriented and they want to advise you on services. There is no cost to go and talk to an Elder social worker.
  • Call your local Elder social services in your area. They will hook you into things that your state can provide for you. Often there is food, care, energy bill relief and medication money available from your state. It is a wonderful service and your tax money, all the years of your working life, have paid for these services. You are not talking anything from anyone – the state wants their residents to be safe and well cared.
  • Let neighbors and your faith community know that things have now gone into over load…do not be quiet. No one can help, if you don’t tell them your efforts and challenges. The help will be for you and your spouse…so speak up. Veteran’s, service organizations like Elks, local community services, fraternal and union orders, there are so many people who are waiting to give you a hand. Reach out…talk – tell them you have needs.
  • Hospice is a free service for those who are on a life ending journey. They will come to your home and make an evaluation and give you ideas of how to use their services. If it is not time yet, they will check-in with you every couple of months, if it is they will ease in the door and take over and give you so much more time to yourself. This service is so important and most people call them way to late. When you call they will come and offer food prep, cleaning services, medication, nurse services and the list goes on and on. Know that it is there…to allow you to return to the job you really have…the loving spouse. So you can have quality time during the journey’s end for your loved one.

The key to your situation is being brave enough to reach out for help. To talk, interact with others and to understand your personal strength is the key to good care for your spouse. You need to stay healthy and in a place of peace with your emotions. No one will take away the sadness of your situation, but they will honor it and help you find ways to work through the journey. I thank you for your loving care given to your wife. Blessings, francy

francy Dickinson with Missy

PS I am working on a care giving book for all of you…I’m excited to say it is scheduled for publishing in the next month. Yeah.

If you would be kind enough to click on the ‘Sign up’ button on the right of my web page —- you will be notified of new posts and of my book release.

OH, OH don’t forget I am on Twitter at @SeniorCareTips you can click the button and follow me for daily care giving tips

Never Too Old for New Year’s Start-Overs

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Ideas to re-boot and review the care for your elder in the New Year. How to get a boost in the care giving routine. by francy Dickinson

Adding Mobility in the New Year

Dear Francy; My dad has had a hard holiday caring for my mother. He feels like his life is fading as fast as my mother’s life. He is worn out and simply feels frustrated with the doctors and medications that have been given to mother. I have asked him to get a new doctor, but he says it’s best not to rock the boat. How do you feel about changing doctors in mid-stream for a Parkinson’s patient?

I feel like you all deserve the best care you can get. If the family doctor is no longer making head way with your mother…then it’s time for a change. If you do not have a neurologist you need to do some research and get one. Get your mother in the door and ask for a review of her symtoms and a re-assestment of all her medications.

The world changes so fast and every year there are new medications. As a patient moves forward in their care they may need to change their general health medications or limit them down. Neurologists are like the geeks of the care world. They love to research the different meds and do an in-depth review of all the chemical compounds in the medications.

Let’s take another step; let’s get your dad thinking positive about his health and his own future. As a care-giver; the emotions of the spouse do make a difference in the quality of care. Depression is very real for those facing the onslaught of a constant down swing in the health of their life-long partners. Here are a few tips I use:

  1. Get his own health check-up. Many times women are the ones that keep their husband’s health on track. If she is no longer able to do that sort of thing…it is up to him to make an appointment and get a full check-up in the New Year. Knowing his body is strong, or if a problem is beginning for him….he can add medication or a proceedure to deal with it and give him a feeling of well-being.
  2. Depression is not a light issue. I talk about it so often because so many care-givers suffer with depression in silence. The family is concentrating on the care of the sick spouse and the other spouse just seems to slip under the radar. Pay attention to him and make sure he is taking his own medications, that he is eating well and he gets breaks from the 24/7 of care.
  3. Freshen up the surroundings. If a home becomes a care place, it often gets very disorganized. That clutter of pills containers, bills, pillows, and care giving things can really get over whelming. Try to help him calm the place down. Many elders use their dining table as a place to put bills…get them into a spot that is sorted and easy to review. Get a spiral notebook so your mother’s care and notes can be kept in one place, not on little pieces of paper. Get the dining table free to be clean and tidy, get the living areas calmed down so the care giving and the patient can feel comforted not distracted.
  4. Do phone checks. If you have other siblings have them call in the morning and you call at night. That constant check-in for just a couple of minutes will keep your dad feeling he is not alone and you can judge if he is in a good place day by day.
  5.  Get your dad into watching a TV show, or radio program each day. Many times if one has a focus on something simple but distracting it can really lift spirits. It might take you to do a search to find a sports show, and interview show or a game show that your dad would get a kick out of viewing or listening to on a continued basis. This repetitive action gives the days a basis. When you are care giving around the clock…you tend to lose your daily clock. If you can replace that with something enjoyed by your dad…he will look forward to it each day.
  6. Exercise for them both. No matter what stage your mother is in her journey, she needs to move. If she can still walk…she needs to do so, if she can only do transfers she can do hand and feet circles and lift small weights. Your dad can take a walk in the back yard for 10 minutes while your mother is napping. That way he is close, but still feels the fresh air and moves his body back and forth. I do this on a daily basis. It may not be a fancy walk in the woods, but it gets me moving, breathing and rests my mind with the quiet of the outdoors in my own backyard.
  7. Have your dad change his daily drinking of coffee to one cup a day and then switch to tea. Most older men have problems with prostate issues. They do not understand the way that coffee pulls on their body and if they make this change it will help them. Running back and forth to the bathroom is very exhausting when you are busy giving care. Keeping an eye on this issue is important there are medications that can help and it should be talked about.
  8. Watching skin care. Lots of elders tend to stop bathing as much as they used to. It means that the skin can break down and so they need to set a ritual. I have an every other day shower rule for my Georgie. He gets his shower and his legs and arms get a good moisturizer so the skin stays healthy. Then he has the next day off.  Take note of the bathing in the home. If your dad has trouble with bathing your mom…get a ‘Bath-lady’. This in home service is worth its weight in gold, they will come once or twice a week and bath your mother. They are trained to bath and check for any sore spots on the skin. They interact with the elder and do their hair and moisture treatments. They are a great choice of added ‘in-home’ care.
  9. Ask family to give your dad an afternoon or evening off each week. Make sure he has plans. No staying home; kick him out the door to go to the store, have coffee, visit a friend or do a hobby. This simple rest from the care giving can save the mental, emotional and physical health of a spouse giving care.
  10. Make sure your dad is wearing comfortable, clean and new clothes. Lots of elders tend to stop shopping for new things. All of our minds need to have new things in our lives to keep us feeling good about our self. We need to get our hair done, our face and teeth clean and our clothes looking good. Just because they are in their home most of the time, does not mean they get to ignore their personal appearance. Men often do this and it will affect their emotions.

I think that the beginning of the year is a perfect time for anyone to review what has been working in the past and what has not been working. To share it with family and the health care team they work with and make changes. Your mother deserves quality care; new medications, new supplements, new food intake, more water and other fluids and movement…could change the stage of her health.

Your dad deserves some space to be his own person. Encouraging him to do a hobby or see friends is just as important as his giving care to your mom. He needs to keep his own life pattern so when your mother passes…he will have a reason to live on in peace.

It’s never too late and no one is ever too old to make decisions to empower and improve their lives. Encourage your dad to make some changes this month. Often, the thought of change itself; is hard for someone in the middle of giving care. Help him with your spirit and love…it will make a difference for both of your parents.

Blessings on all you do for your mom and dad…thank you for your care, francy

Francy with her Bichon, Missy

PS My new book on senior care is coming out this winter…I’m excited to start sharing it with you and help with more care giving tips.

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Merry, Merry Ideas for In-home Seniors

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Here are some tips for helping elders through the holidays when they are stuck in the house or in-bed…from francy Dickinson

Our Holiday Home in Washington State

Dear Francy: Mother is nearing her end, she is in bed full-time and can only see out to the back yard. This holiday is pretty sad for us. Do you have some ideas for those stuck in their bedrooms?

The end of life journey is never easy…but making it a joy in bits and pieces is something we can all achieve if we give it our creative thoughts. So here are ideas that I have used and the elders have found enjoyable.

IDEAS TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH YOUR ELDERS IN CARE:

  1. If a bedroom is by the bathroom, it’s a great place to put the special hospital bed. But if the home has more  activity or a view from the front of the house…move over that sofa and put the hospital bed in that front room.
  2. Once a hospital bed is ordered from hospice, it is usually understood that there is a three-month care range for the elder to experience. So, this move of putting the bed into a special room with a view, or a large TV or just where the action is —-is a great choice. You can also move the bed around in the bedroom to face a window so they have a view…when they are bed-bound.
  3. Often commodes have to be used anyway…walking to the bathroom is a trip that becomes too long- even if it is within 20 steps. So, don’t worry…just pick a place the elder would feel good to be in during the day and nite.  (If you have to move furniture…do it!  Take it out to the garage or basement area so there is room for the senior to get up and move around to a chair or commode with their walker or wheelchair.)

HOLIDAY DISPLAYS:

Outside Light Show for Elders

  • Set up an outside light display for the Elder’s window…so during the day they have a small tree in their room —but at night the lights become a fairyland outside their windows. Seniors often have trouble sleeping nights– with pain and worry–so a lovely outside display really makes it special.
  • If you don’t have a holiday light display; ask around, get a friend or a neighbor to share their display of tree, deers, etc with you for this holiday season
  • After the holiday add a peanut feeder for the squirrels or a birdfeeder for the birds in a cold winter weather -that way the activity of the window and view gives the senior a way to meditate and rest
  • You can leave little fairy lights on after the holiday to go through the cold and snow of the winter. Just a little twinkle lights on a bush or tree by the window adds wonder

TURN OFF THE TV…
AND TURN ON THE HOLIDAY MUSIC

  • When you feed the Elder their dinner, or do their night-time procedures—turn on the holiday music. This is a great way of celebrating old memories and holiday traditions, to surround the senior in music. Find a Traditional Holiday Music channel on your Dish or Cable, or find a local radio station that features holiday music through the week before Christmas.
  • Ask a friend, or a neighbor to include your senior in their cookie list. So the senior gets the flavor of homemade cookies and each evening has a nice treat to enjoy before bed. Add cocoa in a nice fun Santa mug and peppermint candy cane sticking out the top of their morning coffee.
  • Take note of the different holiday traditional programs on the TV. Just like you would with the kids, think of your seniors and make sure they are able to enjoy the specials. The favorite movies would be; Miracle on 32nd Street, White Christmas and many more. Each year different singers have specials and there are cartoon specials like; “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” that add a happy note to the day.
  • Note that ordering a new TV Dish or cable so the senior has a variety of channels to enjoy when they are bed-bound is a caring thing.
  • Think about the senior’s heritage. Our family has a Danish Christmas Bread flavored with cardamom and my mother always looked forward to it. There are other traditions of cookies and different dishes that are special for the holidays. Taking time to ask; what is a good memory for the senior???  is a perfect way to add love to the difficult time of illness over holiday time.
  • Do not forget those gifts; a pair of slippers, a new robe, a fun hat or throw to keep the senior warm…all of those are usable and kind to give as a healing joy.  Never forget that all seniors love chocolates…and chocolate dipped fruit, or small seedless mandarin oranges or sweet apples.
  • Watch things that are hard to chew because most people in pain do not have good teeth

SPECIAL THINGS FOR SPECIAL ELDERS:

  • Asking a local church if they would visit with a caroling group, or young people dropping off some soup- or holiday treats…would all be appreciated.
  • Family members that are very small could dress up and bring over a nice arrangement of greens so the house smells great and the kids can play in front of Grandma.
  • A telephone listing can be made special if someone shares their SKYPE with Grandma and she can ‘SEE’ grandchildren or great grandchildren from a far.
  • A scanner can be used in the elder’s living room and pictures placed on a thumb drive so the family has copies of old pictures. Then place the thumb drive in a slide show frame so the elder can see old pictures run through their show —each evening.
  • Teens can bring over their laptops or tablets and let grandpa see his old house on Google Earth, or view the lights on Broadway, or pic out a cam-pic from their old village in their parent’s home in Europe or Asia. Even more ideas from those that love their Internet…yeah…fun stuff.

Home bound, bed bound, does not mean…that you cannot open the world of love and memories for the senior in care…give it your creative ideas. You may just make their holiday the best they ever had…blessings, francy

Hey stay tuned for my two new care giving books…they are due out in January…

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Thank you…and Happy Holidays…francy