Nothing Ever Happens Here Elder Care Loneliness

Dear Francy: I am at the end of my rope, my family never comes to see my Grandmother, not even my own Mother. I am it for her, what can I do to make them see she needs them?

Well here we go. You can get creative, because you have already turned blue asking them to come – that has gotten you no where. I asked until my voice was raw. People are busy, they have other lives, they love their Grandmother, but they feel they do not have time to spend in a visit. They think they will have to stay long, go during the day or early evening when they have so much going on…so, change their mind in another way.

Come up with some creative ways to lure them in to visit her. Tell three of your relatives that you are recording some of your grandmother’s thoughts and memories to give to the grandchildren. Then ask them if they would come on (and you actually pick a nite and time) to help you with the project. Most family members want to be a part of something that will be handed down and they will have a “reason” to come and visit. Your job? Just have a tape recorder on and let the visitor run the interview. You can retreat or have it all ready and not even be there for the event.

Divide your family up into Months of the year. In your own mind put a name of a person on each month and then call them and say. I have a favor to ask, Grandma’s doctor has asked that she have more visitors. I wonder if I can put your down for this month on the ___ at 6PM after work. You would only have to stay 20 minutes or more if it fits your schedule. But I need to get this done so the doctor can see that grandma is being helped. You will find that family members respond to doctors far faster and with more concern than they do you.

Have a party. This is fall…there is Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plan an event in the main dining area of her care facility. Or in her own small home or apartment. Just serve a cake and tea and coffee. Halloween, you can ask the family with children to stop in the saturday evening before Halloween so Grandma can see their outfits and they will have a little treat. Obviously you want some candy in a bowl for them. Usually families will be off to parties on that Saturday and it will work great for the kids to have their costumes on and for a quick picture to be snapped. Fun for the kids, great for Grandma. Tell them if they can not come for some reason, call you so grandma will not be disappointed. Plan a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering on a Sunday night before the actual event. Once again, have cupcakes or such and drinks and just say it is a “Family Open House” and you will be looking forward to seeing them. Let them hear; “Since Grandma will be all alone on the holiday we can give her our attention early to make her feel loved and remembered.” That usually does it for the guilt factor…and as far as I am concerned in the case of senior loneliness…guilt works.

If no one comes, bring their stories to her. Make a few calls and find out who is doing what in the family and then on your visits, update her with family as well as your own news.

Make your family and friends, her family and friends. Make sure the staff of the care facility know you care, bring them cookies and place the plate in your grandmother’s room. If they want a homemade cookie, they need to pop their head in the door. Be breezie and friendly to them, so you know she gets that kindness in reflection of your interest. Bring your own friends with you to visit. Maybe you have a guy or a gal that you are with all the time, ask them to stop in with you and make a quick visit. Let them tell her some stories of their life and keep the conversation on upbeat things, not her own personal health issues.

Finally, if you have a pet, let it visit her. It is amazing how a senior will react to a cat on their lap for a few minutes, or a dog demanding head pets. Be sure to clean the animal before you bring it for a visit. And keep it on a lead even a cat…so you can easily handle them if an emergancy presents itself on your visit.

You, you get a star, not that you visit your Grandmother for stars…but you do get a hug for your caring. It is hard to understand others that do not have the same caring spirit on their side. But that is just how life is some of us are care givers and some of us are not. It is hard not to get angry or upset about others not showing love in a way that we do. Nothing can be done about it, all you can do is what you are doing now. Visit, talk, share, care and know that the universe will somehow find a way to repay you for your kindness to a person that has given so much to their elder.

Please visit my website and get even more tips to help you with your senior care issues.

Thanks for reading, francy Dickinson

Clear it Out and Make it New for Senior Care

Dear Francy; I am helping my mother in her own home and she has it filled with stuff that I am not suppose to “touch” How can I get rid of this stuff?

Not easy, is it? I always make projects like this as upbeat as I can and that starts with you. You have to have a good attitude and “think” update not sort and throw. Lightly talk to her about going through the memories and making notes on things so her grandchildren will understand what things meant to her. Let her think about the project. It will seem so overwhelming that she will not want to even start it. When you’re unwell, old piles of magazines and rooms full of storage are just one more horrible reminder of old age.

Next you set yourself up for one visit a week to tackle a room or part of a room. You might start with something safe, go through the cupboards in the kitchen. You can get rid of old food stuffs and sort through pans and dishes that she no longer needs. Take a few boxes and mark them with the grand children’s names (or whom ever she is close to) and begin to give a little bit of this and that to each box, plus one for Charity. Do not mark it “throw away” Let her feel it is all going to a good home.  Old kitchen items may seem used, but they can be special to some folks. Just go through the cupboards and move the dishes she will use on a daily basis down to where she can reach them. Maybe it is time for her to use her “good” dishes for everyday…and get rid of the collection of plates she might be using now. Change the shelf paper to fresh and new. Clear and clean up the drawers and let her feel it’s done for her convenience. Not to mention how helpful it will be for the grand kids to have kitchen things to use. Always praise her step by step, it is a hard thing to say goodbye to little memories and she needs to feel that its worth it. Best to have a little treat to eat during breaks and talk about all the nice old memories, that will make her feel this is worth the stress.

Then you begin again in the bathroom. Go over the old towels and throw them out and bring her a couple of sets of pretty new towels. Clean up the place as you move around and make sure the drawers are fresh and clean and then make sure her tooth products are easy to use. You might want to get her an electric toothbrush to make her tooth brushing easier and better. Throw all old medications and over the counter stuff away and make labels for things so she knows what is where. As your memory is stressed, things are so confusing, make it easier by getting it all sorted and ready to go. If you have someone that would come in and give the bathroom a new paint job, do it. If you have some loose caulking around the old tub or shower, freshen it up, that is easy to do. Getting a new faucet will make the drips go away and little things like the newer light bulbs that are power savers lets her feel, “green”. So the point is, you clean but you update slightly and make her “feel” its special. A few new towels and a shower curtain…can make it feel so good to her. Remember remove all scatter rugs and bathroom rugs, those are waiting to trip her. I like to put a phone in the bathroom, that’s where loads of folks fall or get sick and to have a phone by the toilet makes it so much safer. Oh, and don’t forget to put in handrails after you paint, one by the toilet and one on the bath tub, or shower area.

If you’re going to go through an older bedroom that is now a mess of storage boxes — tell her you need to have the room clean and clear in case you or a friend has to stay over night with her. Go through the closets and give away the older clothes to charity, make sure you express the need for clothing in times of trouble for other people to use. Do not talk about garage sales…you are stressed enough and so is she, just gift things to the Universe and you will both feel better. Change the bedding and once again, buy some new sheets at a discount house so its all fresh. If you can do it- paint the room when you’re done and always keep in mind, that neutral colores are best. They will ready the place for sale if that has to happen down the line.

Her bedroom should be last, it’s always hard to go through personal things in someones bedroom. Better to start in the kitchen, dining and living room. Giving away or marking paintings and collectibles with names of who will get what in times ahead. Then go to the bathroom and hall closets, on to the spare rooms and other storage then back to her immediate sitting room and her bedroom for last.

Remember as she ages, her clothing habits will change. All the old long gowns and cocktail dresses can be given to some cute young neighbor that will love the retro style. Her night gowns and such will be used more and her casual and comfort clothes will be her daily favorites Leave a nice dress or two for family functions, all else can go out and if you get a lot of pressure, tell her she has a gift card coming to get her something new. You will find that changing the hangers in the closet so they all match and cleaning out old shoes and purses will free up space and allow her to feel fresh again. You might have to bring in an air filter for a while, lots of dust can bother folks with lung problems.

I suggest you do all of this with an attitude that it may take a few months to go from project to project, so be brave and dig in. But and this is a big “but” if you think you do not have time to finish an area, then wait till you do. The finished projects, clean, clear and fresh paint will give her confidence that this is a project that will free her of worry.

 I put all the pictures and things in a big plastic storage bin. As I went over for visits we would go through the bin and mark the pictures to scan in the scanner so the family can enjoy them. I put post a notes on the back with little notes of who and what was happening in the picture. Then I put as many as I could in photo albums around the living room, so visitors could look up their childhood pictures and have something fun to talk about with Grandma!

Now, that this is done, you can rest assured that when time comes for her to make a move out of her long time home, most of the work is already done. I have a TIP for making sure the family feels they all got remembered equally. Take your digital camera with you and as you gather together little remembrances for family and friends bring the box to the dining room table or floor and lay out all of the contents and flash a picture. That way, when you are finished and any one says…they got more, or who got that? You can print up a page of pictures with the names of the received collections and everyone can see that you were fair.

Newspapers and magazines…have to go. You will have rodents if you keep such things around the house. So make sure you call ahead and have a family member with a truck ready to take a load of stuff to the dump. That way it is out of sight and away – no dropping things in the garage. Once the house is clear, its time to steam clean the floor and finish the painting. Get it ready to sell in your mind…and allow your mom to enjoy the fresh clean surroundings while she lives there, instead of after she leaves. New throw pillows in the living room, new covers for the dining room chairs, re-potting old plants in new updated pots and you have a new start.

Good luck, since I have done this job over and over again for senior friends and family…I can tell you that its nasty but really rewarding. Pain of change leaves when the senior sees the fresh new rooms clean and clear. When they open closets with just a few coats leaving room for guests to use the closets. See through plastic containers with labels to reminds what is where makes life more organized and easy. The seniors daily life takes on a new kick for them…so don’t give up or give in. It has to be done.

Just remember, keep your energy up and your voice tone up. Make hard decisions something you joke about not argue about. You can always have a box marked “wait and see” and they can place things in it and think over them. You will see that once the project takes on a forward motion that “wait and see” box will be emptied and on its way to a new home.

Please visit my website for other tips that will help you through the care giving of your loved ones. It can be lonely out there all by yourself. Let me help you with ideas to keep you going and your senior happier and well adjusted

Thanks francy Dickinson

“If there is anything I can do, call me” – Elder Care

Dear Francy; Both of my parents are now in adult home care. Lots of people ask me what they can do to help…and I don’t really know what to say?

That hit a heart note for me. I would have loads of folks ask how they could help with my mother’s care and I would feel the same. So much to do, but so little to offer to others. So, through the years a few things have come up to help others be ready with an answer.

One of my clients had a dad at home with her. She would send an email each month out to family and extended family about her father. At the end of the message she would always include something her dad had asked for that month. Once it was a new electric razor, he wanted an lighter one that was cordless and held a charge so he could shave from his chair, not have to stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom. She would ask anyone that could make that dream come true to call her before purchase, so the details could be discussed. It worked like a charm. One of his older grandson’s went out and looked around for just the right item, called and talked it over with his Aunt and made the purchase. He came over with two cold beers and he and his grandpa had a great time visiting, and reading over the how to’s on the new shaver. Good times had by all, just because she was able and thoughtful enough to share her Dad’s needs and the family responded. The next month she thanked the young man in the next email and asked the family if anyone was going out to buy plants at a nursery. Her dad had been an avid gardener and missed it so. Back came a reply from an older neighbor and she told him her dad was embarrassed to go out because of his prostate condition that required him to use the bathroom all the time. The neighbor said no problem, he would make it a short trip – just enough to get some air and see some plants. She talked to her Dad and told him to wear one of his “Depends” type of products just for that occasion so he could relax and he said, OK. Off he went for a 90 minute trip to the nursery that he talked about non stop to anyone visiting – all the rest of the spring.

Another client had an aunt in a care facility. Each time she visited her aunt there were new things that she needed her niece to bring to her. The client would write them down. If anyone asked her what they could do, she would look up her list and share a couple of things and ask them if they wanted to cross them off the list. They always were amazed at how organized she was and they always responded with great help and in a timely manner.

People, friends, family, neighbors want to help you through any kind of life changing situation. They just have to be guided as to what to do. Something as simple as; “We need a Wed or Thursday afternoon or evening visitor for 20 minutes – could I put you down on the list for that this week?” The person is able to adjust their busy calendar and do a friend a kindness. It makes winners all around.

You do have to be prepared, you do have to think over these things and know that your life has changed so you need to be even more protective of your time and your money spent. Have a small calendar handy in your car or purse. Have a list of “needs” for your senior at the ready. Have a list of “enjoys” too. Maybe the senior has a strong heritage from another country or part of the US. They may be craving a special honey ham from Kentucky or sauerkraut from the local German deli. Let people know, the senior always loves it when they get a little taste of home. Maybe there’s a special movie that they always enjoy, or a book that they have read over every few years, or music that they truly enjoy. If you have a few of those things handy, how easy it will be for you to come right back to anyone that enquires about how they can serve you or your senior.

If giving is rewarded – you have to give others a chance to “give”. Responding with an “Ok”, or a “thank you that was kind, but we’re OK”…is simply silly. You are not OK, you are in the middle of a very difficult time and allowing others to help you, is what caring is all about. Let them care for you, and your senior and then you can be fresh and happy to give your senior your “up side”.

There are more tips and information on my web site, please come and visit. I would be pleased to hear your questions and see if I can be of help. If you know anyone that is giving care to their family members, spouse or friends…please share my tips with them.

Thanks for your time, francy Dickinson

Boomers Running Out of Care Giving Money

Dear Francy; How can I keep caring for my mother when my budget is not covering my family costs, let alone what I need to care for her?

You need help. If you have a parent or other family member that needs care and does not have the funds for the care…you will have to reach out to your community for services. It could be as easy as adding food stamps or as complicated as going on state assistance.

I was faced with those issues when I had my mother come and live with me. We had our house payment, and budget on our income and then she had her special medical needs, food needs and medications all resting on her small social security check…we needed help. So, I asked for it. I found a gal at the nursing home that my mother had gone to for recovery after the hospital and she pointed me in the direction of the state assistance in my area. I was very nervous about applying for help. I felt embarrassed, but you have to work through that because life has to be addressed and you’re the only one that will make that forward motion happen. So just force yourself to make that call.

First they send out a case worker that just puts the information together and decides if the senior qualifies for care. I had to have mother’s Power of Attorney to do the work for her. So we got a very inexpensive software program with family law and did a Power of Attorney agreement that printed right off my own printer. We went to a bank to have the notary stamp done. Then it was off to the bank to collect anything that would be of help from her lock box. I got all of that and proceeded to fill out the paperwork.

Yes, there was a lot of paperwork but you know it was not as bad as you think. I just went through it step by step. They needed proof of income and that was a couple of month’s bank statement. They needed to know her doctors listing and her medication listing. They wanted to know if she owned anything and my mother did not own property. But, even if they do own property they can still get assistance so do not worry about that. Fill out the paperwork and follow their advice.

Once the paperwork was done, they toured my home and made sure she had a comfortable area to live and that it had a way to escape in case of fire and a bathroom and such things. It has to be clean and easy for her to use. I had taken two bedrooms and made one for her sleeping and one for her sitting room. I had filled them with her personal furniture and things and then she had the bathroom all to herself. There was a door to the outside right by her room and a good alarm for fire.

They looked over my kitchen and made sure that I could keep it clean. They interviewed both myself and my husband to make sure we did not have problems with drugs or drinking and that our lifestyle would provide room for mother’s care. That done.

Now, they went down to Mother and gave her an interview. They sat there with a laptop and asked her all sorts of questions. Was she happy here, was she in need of any thing. What was wrong with her health, how well did she walk and they would watch her as she answered the questions. They rated her on a curve over each question. Did she respond, could she understand, could she hear, could she eat, could she bath herself, could she dress herself. All of these questions were to determine what kind of care she needed. They would asses that and put hours of service on it so they knew how to give her care.

Next came me and they interviewed me. Did I want to care for her? If yes, was I willing to take some basic nursing classes to get certified by the state to give her care. I said; Yes.

The first case worker left and a week later we received the second case worker this one was to welcome us to the program and teach us how to use it. They got her on a medicaid card for medications and showed us how to order them. They got her on a special doctor listing and how to use her medicare along with the medicaid. They helped us over one hump after another. It was worrisom, yes, it was a lot of work, yes. But, it was so worth it. A nurse and physical therapist came to evaluate her and they were both helpful and understanding.

Mother’s care case worker came over to evauatie us and introduce herself. She came over about once a month and I could call her any time. So, when I had a problem, I called her. Example: mother was found to be low on her protein intake. She was having problems with her teeth and they would have to come out and she was going to get false teeth. Until that process came to an end, mother was unable to eat well. I had tried to fed her things with high protein but it was not enough. I tried to give her protein drinks but they were not enough. So, I called her case worker and she got a special protein drink for her and it was then delivered once a month and I did not have to pay the out of pocket for that product. Those were the things that made the difference between mother living with us or not.

It is the little expenses that add up and if you can not find help with the state…then talk to your extened family. You may find each person could help you with one or two small items each month that will relieve the strain of the expense.

If you have to go out and work and leave your senior at home. Make arrangements with other family members and neighbors in case of emergancy. Have a calling system in place and have the home all ready for emergancies. Leave food and water in a safe place. Make sure the commode is handy if they have problems with walking to the bathroom. Just think it out and you will be surprised how much you can do to ready the day for care. If she is on state assistance they can provide the check-in care for her and that really makes things easier for you.

If you have to have someone come and check on her once during your work day. Ask a young neighbor who is at home with her children. She will enjoy trading time with you for baby sitting on the weekends or the evenings. Or she will be thrilled with a home cooked meal each week that you can deliver in exchange for her services.

Be open to ideas and ways to share with others. Maybe a senior neighbor would come over for a check-in each afternoon. You could exchange rides to the store and food for dinners or special supplies that they might not be able to afford. There are always ways to get it all done.

Have a sit down with your family and explain your concerns and worries. Let them be a part of your time and money challenge. Do not keep it to yourself…ask others to help you. Keeping quiet will do one thing. It will make you “sick”. Many caregivers get sick over the many stresses that family and care giving parents – bring into their lives. So do not allow that to happen to you. Talk about it to your family, friends, church, boss, etc. Let people know you are doing your best and you are open to suggestions and any support or support services they may know about. 

There are people right in your area that are senior service trained…reach out and ask them for help! Remember you are loved and appreciated. I know that often times those words get lost among the chaos, but they’re true.

Thank you for all you do and please come and visit my website for more information and support.

Best wishes, francy Dickinson

Game Day for Senior Care

Dear Francy; I find that my dad is just not interested in any thing any more. I try and try to get him involved in things and he just sleeps behind his newspaper. Can you help?

First, make sure you tell his doctor. It could be that one of his meds is to strong and is keeping him tired out, or it could be that he is experiencing depression and that is how it’s showing itself. There are great meds for depression and they can make dramatic differences with one’s personality. My Georgie is experiencing early dementia and Zolof has really taken away his anxiety. So, bring it up to the doctor. You can fax a message into the doctor’s office. Ask the staff if they would call you for an appointment if the doctor feels the information needs a follow-up. Or write it all down and remember to bring it with you for the next scheduled appointment.

I always established things to look forward to like ball games, the Oscar Awards, a PBS special and made a big deal out of them for a week ahead. Then when the day came, I was ready with popcorn and down in my mother’s room watching the show with her. She got so she enjoyed the baseball games and the occasional football game. She loved the opening of the Olympics, the dog shows from New York and the various other specials I would find in the TV listings. Don’t be afraid to make the event sound a little bigger than it really is, let them get a little excited waiting for an event, it gives them something to look forward to and perks them up at the same time.

Once a month is a good rule of thumb to plan an outing that has nothing to do with the doctor. October means Halloween, that means pumpkin patches and decorations and the need for Halloween candy for the kids. That would be a good drive around afternoon for a senior. If they can not get out and walk, go somewhere to see the pumpkins and if they can walk take them into the store and help you get the candy to hand out at the door. If you have some decorations to put on the house, ask them to step outside and hand you something as you work to perk up the front of the house. Get them involved in simple but meaningful chores.

Laundry day may seem mundane, but folding laundry takes muscles in the arms and memory of how to fold each item. Let them help you with the laundry. I used to do the laundry and then come and plop it on my mother’s lap and have her do the folding. She felt she was doing something again and it worked everytime. I would bring her up to the kitchen for special dinners and have her sit at the table and do some slicing of vegetables or shinning of the silver flatware.

You could make sure your Dad is involved by having him help you put in a new dimmer for the dining room in time for holiday meals. Or help you pick out tile or hardwood for any home repair project. He could also help you around the outside of the house for winter update. I would always walk around and take note of what needed to be tucked away, trimmed, or re-placed before the heavy fall weather hit town. Now that is a perfect guy thing…just make it something you do together.

A weekly game of cards, checkers or chess is a perfect thing for a senior to do with grandchildren. Make it a repeated action and then follow that up with talking about it for a few days and suddenly an everyday occurance becomes an event! Have a small dry erase board with running total of the weekly games and make sure they get a price at the end of each month. A special pizza dinner or something small and fun for all, like a battery car or old fashioned yo yo’s. Make it more than just a small game, make it an event that will draw them all in and give them quality time together.

Emotions are so important to all of us. Seniors tend to turn off their emotions and men especially ignor any feeling of upset, until it effects their personality big time. So keep an eye open for ways to interject their daily lives with little special moments. It makes aging so much more pleasant and caregiving so much easier when you deal with happy thoughts and deeds.

Life is never perfect, but it can be a lot nicer when you think ahead and take a few notes down so each month has a special day, each week has a special event and each day has a positive moment.

Please come and visit my home page and send me a question and I will do my best to answer.
Thank you, francy Dickinson

Help I’m Trapped as My Parents’ Caregiver

Dear francy; I have no idea how I was appointed my parents sole caregiver. My 2 brothers live out of state and my sister is just 10 miles north, but they never call or visit and someone has to care for my parents that both have advanced health issues. I feel trapped and guilty that I feel that way!

Well you’re talking to a gal that understands those feelings and you would be shocked to learn how many families do this to one of their siblings. It’s just the way of the world but you do have ways to handle it. Let’s talk about them.

If you get along with your family members then call a meeting and lay out an agenda to talk about. Nothing will change on the care side, I assure you. But you might be able to have them each help in their own ways via finances. If they can afford it, they could help with the cost of a care giver for a couple days a week, or just a bath person to lessen the burden you have. You need to have a break so you can be strong for you and your own family…so push the need for a couple of days of care and have the information on the costs ready at hand.

If your family is financially strapped you can have them do something smaller but will make a big dent in your working budget. Like they could cover the cost of protein drinks. They are $2-$4 per day and can add up quickly, if someone would take that cost over for each month, it would really help. Then there are urinary products (Depends) that are very pricey, special diet foods like extra fruit or juices, add in the occasional new undies, socks or night clothing needed and you have smaller investments for each of them and a slight relief for you. Don’t forget all the medications both over the counter and prescribed of all kinds, this is usually the largest budget expense. If you are ready and prepared with a list and the prices, so your family could pick and choose what level they are able to help, it would lower the strain of the care giving for you and allow them an easy out.

Make sure you get both of your parents to sign a Power of Attorney for medical so you can make all the decisions. It is one thing to have family not giving daily care, but anther when they arrive at the hospital in an emergency and tell you what needs to be done for your parents. Get that covered immediately.

If you have to sell your parent’s home to cover their care needs – you will have to be ready with a plan. I serve as a Senior Family Consultant for clients and I run meetings like these to disapate the anger and frustration. My secret is to have all the answers on the table in front of everyone at the meeting. Find out what the cost of alternative care is and price it out. Tell the family “if” there is anything left at the end of the your parent’s lives, then you can divide the remaining estate. But for now; your parents are the issue not the future investment of your siblings.

Finally, make sure you keep a small notebook with a general listing of things you do. Write down the mileage you spend coming and going and doing shopping and doctor appointments. It can be a very impressive investment with the rising price of gas. Someone may be able to help you with that issue each month, or you may have to take it out of your parents income to cover your costs. To do that, you need to show that you are helping them, not taking from them. You need to be given a replacement of funds that you personally spend and have a substitute caregiver to relieve you. This way, your siblings can “see” your investment in time, energy and money and it becomes clear to them that they too have to step up and help.

If your meeting is well run, some sort of pressure is usually relived. They may have long running family issues that intermingle with the meeting, but all in all, they will be facing reality and know that if nothing else they can give you respect for your time and loving care towards their parents. Be prepared, many times, the meeting does nothing but stir up anger. That is not your intent and you have to force yourself to be the manager of the situation and try to stay out of the negative issues and bring people back to the immediate problems on the table. If you feel you can not do that, hire a professional Senior Family Consultant and find more information on that on my website Or ask a trusted friend of mature age to help you with the meeting.

Be aware that promises are promises, ask right away what they can do and how they can pay for it. Could they transfer a hundred or two into your parents account each month? Could they give you a gas card or Drug Store or Grocery store gift card with a few months on it for you to use. Go over the ideas in your mind and have them written down and ready, so when the meeting is over, it is really settled, not tabled for another six months.

Giving care is a very lonely and loving thing to do. Until someone is in the position and lives the day to day, it is hard to understand what a challenge it is to all parts of your life. That is why I have my website, the Dear Francy Q&A postings and try to provide tips for caregivers. Your parents deserve good care, if you’re the one that has to give it to them, you need to find ways to keep yourself healthy and happy while you’re taking this journey.

If no one else has thanked you lately I would like to take the time to do so right here. Sometimes, just a hug and a thank you can change a hectic day into a place of calm. Please visit my website and find more information on giving care and getting help for the many situations that pop up while parents or older loved ones are making that progression through health challenges and on towards their life’s end. This journey have so many turns and has no set time, so you may think that you can not really do the job at hand. That is not true, you are strong enough to help your parents through their journey with love and dignity and you will see that long the way, you grow by leaps and bounds.

Please come visit my web site at Send my your questions and I will try very hard to answer them all.
Thank you, francy Dickinson

Cheer Weekend Blues for Elders

Dear Francy: My mother is so bored and in a blue mood, can you give me some tips to help?

When you’re home bound or very restricted in your comings and goings…it is very hard to distinguish the days of the week. The importance of days is very high for emotional well being, so a weekend should be reguarded as important to a senior as it is to family member with days off.

Since the TV programming is never very bright on the weekends, this is the time to make sure a movie is on hand. Either borrow one from the library, have the senior do a Netflix account or just rent one, but movie night on Saturday is really something fun for the senior to enjoy. You can take turns with an older movie one week and a newer release the next. If the senior is living with family members, this is the night for everyone to come to the senior’s room for the movie, it gives the senior a feeling of connection. Make sure there is a treat to eat like; easy to make popcorn, or Cracker Jacks from a box. Take a break halfway through the movie for bathroom time and then enjoy. It will be a nice uplift for the senior and the caregiver. (Also a perfect time to invite a family member or friend over to enjoy the movie, it will not seem like such a boring thing for them if there is a movie in the mix.)

Sundays may no longer mean a trip to church or out to breakfast. No matter, church services can be found all over the TV and you can even order services from their own faith center and they will be delivered via a CD. Having a special breakfast or brunch is a lovely tradition for Sundays. Adding a larger breakfast with pancakes or waffles, a special sweet roll or other favorite along with their usual eggs make the meal something to enjoy. Always serve it with a nice linen napkin or fancy towel on the tray and use better dishes than the usual everyday set.

A great way for the caregiver to enjoy the weekend is to look forward to something different. Maybe arrange a visit from a family member, or have a friend bring over a pet (bathed and pre-fed so they are calm). Just a short visit is the best and having some cookies and coffee to offer the guest makes the senior feel like they are really entertaining again.

A walk, even if it is to step outside and sit in the sunshine for a few minutes. A wheelchair ride down the block and back or putting a chair by an open window or sliding door…so they feel they have a different view than everyday.

Traditions, once set, make good friends. Maybe its a round of cards or a quick game. Maybe its having their nails polished or a nice bath with extra care given to their hair. The senior can make a call to a relative they enjoy and talk to them about their week or something happening in the news.

Helping the senior have weekend traditions, makes them feel there is meaning in their week and days don’t just melt into days. Keeping a clear difference between something easy but special to do on the weekend compared to the weekday, allows them to look forward to the weekend, not dread it.

Many care givers have their seniors work on photos and memory books on the weekend. That allows them to talk about their past and family that is no longer with them. Other crafts are often prepared and the project finished with the senior so the attention span can be short but fun.

It doesn’t take money to accomplish a fun weekend for both the caregiver and the senior. It does require some pre-thought on the subject and setting plans that can enhance the living experience of you both.

Please visit my home page for more information on senior care-giving and do leave me a question you may have and I will do my best to answer – Thank you, francy


Election and Banking Worry for Seniors

Dear Francy: My Dad has been so worried over the money problems in the news and the election is driving him crazy. He is out of sorts and hard to life with – would you offer a few suggestions?

When TV’s are on all day in a senior’s room…news filters in and out and through their minds. As you come and go and your day is filled with the to-do list of a care-giver and other life issues, you may not notice the immediate daily news intake.

I always tried to “head off” any big worry day in news. I would come in the room with a smile and just lightly review what was happening. That way my mother got my take on things. Something like, “Yes, there is a banking problem but nothing like what you went through during the crash…what was that story about your boss getting your savings out of the bank before it went under?”

We always talked about politics…I let mom have her own ideas on the different taxes, propositions and candidates. I also had a mail-in ballot for her at each election and I would go over it and help her make the decisions. I wanted her to stay connected, as long as she could. And bless her heart, she did stay involved and her mind was crisp and clear to the end.

No mater what your senior is facing; it helps them have ideas and challanges away from their own worries. The important thing is not to ignor the news because you never know what they can actually “hear” and understand as they watch. Let them tell you what they think or feel…and then share your ideas and always make your points, positive. Keeping your voice tone calm, but never using language that sounds like you’re speaking to a child. Even if their memories are going – keep speaking to them with respect and keep your own mind thinking that they are able to understand.

Its amazing how emotional reactions can cause a chain re-reaction downward in one’s health. So, keeping the news in front and open – but reviewed and put in its place is really important. Don’t forget…if something is really bothering the senior, alert other care-givers or visitors to keep the conversation upbeat…do not allow the doom and gloom to over shadow the days events. Always use the tip – of ending conversations with another subject or idea for them to ponder…that will bring their mind onto something that can keep them calm as you leave the room.

Please visit my home page for more information on senior care-giving and do leave me a question you may have and I will do my best to answer – Thank you, francy



Dear Francy: My Aunt has fallen twice, that I know of, around her home. She’s unstable and refused to use a cane. What can we do to keep her safe and in her home?


First you have to make sure she has an emergency cell phone to wear around her neck. She needs to know how to use the phone and the best thing to do is get a family cell package for you and add her cell onto it. Make sure you train her how to use the phone; repeat the basics many times so she can just press one button for 911 or another to call you for help. If that is not available, have her sign up for an “alert” service. You will find your local hospital usually has one and/or there are many companies nationwide. Ask the alert company where they are located and how they contact you when she presses the button for help? You want it to be very easy for her to use. If she falls she may be unable to move around to get her usual phone. (Important for anyone living alone: put a phone in the bathroom with the emergency numbers programmed into it. Lots of falls and heart problems occur in the bathroom area, so it is best to have that covered. )

Then do a walk around her home. Remove all scatter rugs and if she has large Oriental style rugs, use carpet-double sided tape and make sure the rugs are secure and can not be moved or caught by a heel. Check all the tables in the area, if they are unsteady remove them. Table top walking is the first step when people get unstable in their walk. They hold on to whatever surfaces they “think” are sturdy places to grab. But a table can come down on top of someone so easily, so make everything that she might use as a crutch is strong.

Move her furniture so there are easy pathways through the house and to the bathroom. You might want to introduce a night chamber pot system. You can buy or rent them and they are very strong and work in their bedroom at night and then the chamber pot is cleaned and kept out and placed over the toilet during the day. (This would require someone to check up on her daily.) You can purchase hand rails for the wall in the bathroom, on the bathtub and by her bed. All of these things give her a steady place to reach out and find assistance to steady herself. Get a few plug-in night lights and put them in areas that she might walk in the dark. Have a flashlight by her bed; if the power goes she will still be safe.

Make sure her glasses are up to date; vision can cause distortion when walking. Ask her about dizziness, lots of medications can add a slight dizzy side effect. They will feel this when they go from a flat, lay-down to a sit up or a sitting up to a standing. If they take it step by step and let the inner ear adjust, the dizziness will not interfere with their balance. Dizziness can also be from high blood pressure, so talk to her carefully and see what changes make a difference; she may have to take the issue to the doctor.

Finally, a cane is used to assist a person when they have pain in their legs, like a bad knee or hip. If someone is truly unsteady, a walker is really what is used to keep them balanced. If they feel weak or unsteady a cane can do little…but a walker can really help them. Plus, the new walkers provide a place to carry things around and you can even get them with seats to rest.  If you try to carry coffee and use a cane, you’re in trouble. So, its best to get a walker…ask her to come and look them over and buy it on the spot. Once you leave her alone, she will venture out and use the walker in private. So make sure you have the walker set for her height and have her walk through doorways and around the house to make sure the path is free and clear.

I was very open and firm with mother about this issue, because she did not want to use a cane nor a walker. I told her that if she was unable to walk around her home without falling, that meant she would not be able to continue living where she wanted to live. I was firm on that point and she used her cane right away and of course it made a difference. But about a month later she complained about not being able to carry things around with her. So, I went out and got her a walker. She used it “at home only” at first. After a while, it went where ever we went. Mother was very careful and never broke a bone, but falling is what eventually forced her out of her home. So, this is a point to be open and honest about.  

Please visit my home page for more information on senior care-giving and do leave me a question you may have and I will do my best to answer – Thank you, francy