Visiting Old Men at Holiday Time with Spirit

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I visit my Dad and my Uncle, both at the same nursing home, twice a week. They are both in a rut, angry and never have a pleasant word for me. I try to talk football or something in the news but they just do not respond. Come on – a suggestion please!

OK, here it is…think snow! Hey Christmas time is the perfect time to just be. Not to try to be anything but you. I would suggest a trip to the large hardware store and get some outside decor for holidays. Buy the long extension cord and the two deers and a tree that lights up and then place them on the lawn where your Dad and Uncle can enjoy them at night, or where the whole place can see them in the evening during dinner. That will light up the place and make both the guys feel special that you were the one to do the work!

Take them a few catalogs and give them a gift certificate for each so they can buy a gift for you or each other. Just because someone is sick or confused does not mean they do not want to enjoy the holiday time, if they are given a way to do it.

If they can go for a quick zip around town to see the lights…get it in line. It may take a little time getting them warm and tucked into the car, but the drive around town and to the drive through for ice cream or a hamburger will give them a lift like you would not believe.

There are fun new picture displays that you can load and they will be continually turning the pictures around like a slide show. How about flipping for one and load it with old pictures and new pictures.

Do you have a dog? If you know they love animals…give your dog a bath and take him in with a bow around his neck and have him carrying some great home made cookies. Lots of men in adult homes like to have a nice “drink” each week. As a matter of fact some places have an open bar on Fridays just for that purpose. You can always bring along a couple of beers that you three guys can enjoy together. (Obviously ask the home first so the rules are OK with with the liquor.) I have asked doctors about this a few times and each of them have said that in less the situation is really difficult – a drink to celebrate is not going to put anyone over the edge on their meds. It simply needs to have common sense attached to the event.

Bring in your computer and show them Google Earth and let them see their old homes and your house and their friend’s home on the screen. This is so much fun for seniors. I have been going over older homes that they lived in years before and they love the online visit. Now that Google has the drive by curb camera view, it is really a kick.

Take in one of your friends and play a game of cards or dominos. Do it all together and make it a “guy night”. What they love about this is the feeling they still have value and life is still fun. You can take in your DVD player or small computer and watch a movie together. You bring the popcorn and they get to watch a special you saved or a movie they would enjoy. I find anything in the second world war era is a joy for guys. They love to review that history stuff, and they love “how to” shows. It may be hard for them to follow a full game of football, but you might find a good review of twenty years ago on the NFL channel that will hold their attention in little snippets.

Most of all…just go. Even if you sit there and do your email, you are there. Let them know, “I am here because I want to be”.

By the way…picture albums, picture books, and old magazines with things they love to talk about are perfect for a quick review while you’re there. Guys love cookies, if you don’t bake – ask a lady in the neighborhood, at work, or from church to make you some old fashioned cookies that guys love. She will know which ones really hit the button –  you give her a five and she makes cookies…easy exchange!

Hope this helps…I know they may seem like nasty old men, but they just need to have someone giving them a good – bad time – and they will turn around. Do not take the words personally, they’re in the now and their life is reduced to the four walls around them. If you come and just let them see a glance of the world outside with your ideas and things to do together…it will brighten them up, even if they do not admit it! Part of being an old guy…is having fun with a frown on your face. It makes life more of a challenge, but they’re worth it. And if you are visiting twice a week…you are worth it too!

Thank you for your care to the seniors in your life. Please visit my website and enjoy other ideas and tips

 Enjoy your holiday, francy Dickinson

Senior Care at Holiday Time

By Francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going home for Christmas and staying with my mother who is in her early nineties. She has care help and she wants me to stay at her place so badly. Should I book a room at hotel or flip for the couch?

I think you’ll find the time with your mother is better than ever. She has her needs met and you can review how the care giving is going. She has you at home with her and that is her blessing for the whole season. Go ahead and rent that car so you both can get out and about, but stay with her – it will pay off for years to come in your memory.

Just remember to keep calm. Life around a senior is a different world. They can tire easily, sleep at a drop of a hat…so only plan one event per day. If you want to go out for lunch, make it a late one and then do a little drive around to see the lights with her. If she wants to do some shopping; go out right after breakfast and go to a place that she can get lots of different things, like a walmart, so there is less in and out of the car. Let her buy you something and you get something for her. Giving is what the holidays are about, no worry about the faith base you each have, just enjoy the gifting. It may be your last time together…so make it joyous.

If you want to take her something make it fun. Maybe buy two pairs of pajamas that match with a holiday theme…and you can have one for yourself and one for her. Just silly things, that would make anyone laugh and feel like they are having an overnight party, instead of a difficult guest situation.

Make popcorn or have pizza..things that your mother would not make for herself. It is all part of just doing what feels fun and being friends together. Even if the pizza and spices are not on her diet, life is short…go for it. And if you need to have a glass of wine together do it. But do not go to her home and sit and drink a box of wine, that can be done in your own front room not hers.

Let her talk about her problems once. Then each time she retraces her stories, pull her away from the negative by injecting a question. “Mom, who was that lady that you used to go and take ceramics class with?” Let her think on it and get away from the little things that have consumed her life lately.

Tell her about your life, but in terms that will settle with her. I find that to tell the full story may result in seniors worrying about a small issue for ages after you leave. So, keep life real…but upbeat. Bring pictures, let her see your friends, children, grandchildren, your home, your business or office, your new car, your new backyard update or your last vacation.  Bring your laptop and keep in contact with your family back home and show her a Google Earth of her house and your house. She will be thrilled.

Little things, if you can not think of a gift how about a monthly one. Maybe cover her TV costs. Seniors only have their TV, how about you ordering DishTv or paying for more movies on her cable? Maybe get her a new TV set that is easier for her to use and see.

Bring a label machine. If you would spend an afternoon just labeling things in large print it will make for so much less stress when she is looking for something. She opens the cupboard and there are your signs, rice, sugar, or first aid, or light bulbs. Hey, change her light bulbs, make them all “Green” and show her how that will save her money every month.

Go green add a water reducer to her shower and make sure her shower chair or bench is working for her. Get her into using body wash and scrubies instead of bar soap and wash clothes. Flip for a maid, have them do a great 1-2-3 on the house if it is looking a little sad. Get some new couch pillows to brighten up the room, or a new lap throw to give her a change.

Call some old family friends and you begin the conversation and wish them well on the holiday and then pass the phone to your mother to say a simple hello. So she can reach out and enjoy old friends and voices from her past.

Make sure she is getting the news from upbeat places. Some stations on the radio and TV are very limited in their views and can be depressing. Find a radio station and mark it on the dial for her and explain about a neutral TV station for news so she keep up but doesn’t get down on news.

When you leave, leave you behind. Let her feel you were there with your kind words and loving laugh, your friendly manner and your forgiving behavior. Old wounds, old words, old arguments…let them go. Ignore them if they come up…life needs to have frequent updates and reboots, just like your computer. Make your update time with your mother, something to smile about.

Perfection, over planning, over doing, over spending – all of that is yesterday. Today its just you and your mum…having a laugh together. You both need it.

Hope you find this helpful and please visit my website and get more tips on caring for seniors.

Happy Holidays from francy Dickinson