Bad Day, Need Help – Note in bottle from Caregiver

Francy Dickinson                   

Dear Francy: I am having such a hard time, I have tried and tried to get my dad’s outlook more positive – but he is just stuck in mud since my mother’s passing. Help?

Yes, that is called the angry old man syndrome and it is a real effect of men that have been pampered and loved so much that when they lose that spouse they simply retreat in anger. It is certainly not directed at you, it is directed at the world.

So lets go over some tips for you to use:

  • Exercise, even if he is really limited you must get him up and out the door. A walk a day with an older neighbor, a walk with the dog, a drop off at the Y and let him do a senior exercise program, or just you and he walking around the house every time he goes to the bathroom!
  • Get him a good multi-senior vitamin supplement and add a few other things to it. B-12 is a biggie for brain function, and lots of folks are talking about Vitamin D for seniors so go and do some Google work and see what you can find to make his system work as well as it can.
  • Reduce his sugar, if he’s diving into cookies and candy to relieve his depression. Change that get some puddings and Jello without sugar. He eats- the sugar gets a lift and then comes crashing down to depression or his current form, anger. So keep him on a more stable up and down with a lower sugar intake.
  • Invite others in to visit him. Call some of his older friends and ask them to come over for a piece of pie and coffee and to visit your dad…if you have no one, then go to a local church and just talk to the minister and ask if he has seniors that like to do lay-work in the community and would visit him and play cards or take a walk.
  • Have at least one event every month that he enjoys and looks forward to get out of the house. I give this one to your kids or grand kids to pick. The miniature train display at the historical museum, the WWII movie at the local theater, the Civil War re-enactment at the local park, the July 4th parade in a small local town. Just give this to the kids to figure out and they will enjoy the event along side of him.
  • Try the penny jar routine. You put out two jars, one filled with pennies or beans…and every time he says a swear word or gets mad you –go over and put a penny in the empty jar. This is an amazing way to show someone they are repeating a negative task. You can say, dad you are swearing so much it bothers me, but he could care less – until he actually sees that empty jar filling up with pennies from his own actions. You will see a change, I promise, I have used this with myself and I have really been able to make a mental note on change.
  • Doctors can prescribe meds if they know what is going on. Write a letter to his doctor and just tell him the changes your dad has made and see if the doctor feels meds can help. I believe in these meds, my husband has Alzheimer’s and one Zoloff pill a day keeps his confusion and anger away!
  • Give him things to do. Make sure he is not sitting all day watching TV. If he is at his own home, write a list of honey do’s-just like your mother would have done. And press him to get one or two done before your next visit. If he is with you, you do the same. Make the chores easy and with no more than three steps to finish the task then he will feel he has a reason to keep going.
  • Ask his advice. I would sit down with him once a week and tell him you have a choice on a few things this week. Should you go ahead and try to save money with these coupons that you see on the TV that everyone uses or should you just shop in the discount grocery store and not worry about the fuss. Ask him what he thinks. He may blow it off and think your conversation is not worthy, but do not take it personally, the information will go into his mind and he will make a comment on it at a later time. You are giving him the respect to ask his opinion and that is what he needs. Even if the conversation is not deep, it only has to be sincere. You can talk about politics or neighborhood problems, just talk.
  • Make sure his surroundings are reflective of him. If he is in his own home, make sure your mothers things do not dominate his visual everyday. Move the furniture around in the living room to give his chair a better view of the window and the TV. Paint the room, use earth tones throw pillows. In small ways remove your mother’s feminine side and allow him to have a space that is his- instead of him living in a museum to his wife.
  • After an incident that you two argue or you get your feelings hurt. Let time pass…maybe a few hours or a day and then go and sit down with him and say. You know dad I am trying hard to live my life with lots of people that need me, I count on you loving me and giving me support. No more arguments OK? No long boo hoo passages, just let him know, he is a part of your family team and you need him to support you- not fight against your every move.

Well I hope some of these things help bring your dad back to a place that he can find a good smile. I certainly appreciate your time with him, I know it is not a pleasant thing to be with a person that is angry at the world. Please do sign up for my newsletter and visit my web site for more information at You are doing a very good job, just think creative, not negative when you’re giving him care.  

Thanks, francy


Where is my Pepto? Senior Care Tips

francy Dickinson          

Dear Francy: My mother has asked me to buy her pepto, lip balm and other over the counter stuff on repeated occasions. What’s up, I can never find them when I go over to her place, is this early dementia?

Well before we have your mother diagnosed by a blonde, like me. I think we should start with something I can tell you- if she’s forgetting and losing things, then you schedule her for a memory test at her doctor’s office. Some primary physicians do it but most ask you to go to the neurologist. This is a good thing to do – they do the memory test and a year later they repeat it. That way the doctor has a base line and can see if her mind is changing in any alarming way.

How about something you and I can do to help her out right away? Ah, organize! I know you’re saying that your own home is not organized so why should you help your mom on this subject. Well, it’s always easier to clean in someone’s home. Less distraction.  Here are the steps to get the bathroom and the table by her TV chair in order:


  • Start with taking a large black trash bag in the room and open all the drawers and dump. There will be old hair brushes and rollers, and creams that have gone green with age. There will be hairpins and old make up and it will just go on and on. So, throw as much of the old stuff as you can. Anything that you have a question on, put it aside.
  • Add a 7-10 size magified mirror that sticks on her bathroom mirror, so she can actually see without glasses. That way she can put on and take off makeup and do her facial hair work.
  • Clean out the drawers with some soapy water and line them. You know, you buy the Rubbermaid liner that’s a plastic sheet in a roll and will be easy to clean and freshen up old drawers. Then you’ll get a few of the plastic trays for drawers-just like you use with silverware, only single size. Those are for her toothpaste and brush so they stay clean-sort of thing.
  • Take a moment to re-think the drawers. You want to have a drawer for teeth cleaning and small first aid in one of the top drawer areas. You put in the tray liner and buy a new toothbrush ( I personally live for the Sonicare it’s so terrific) if she needs it. Then you put in this drawer the things she would reach for everyday. Maybe a new moisturizer (by the way get one with SPF she may not know how important that is these days) Then the neosporin, the anti-itch cortisone cream, any other cream she uses on a daily basis and her underarm deodorizer. You can slip in a few other things like a small band aid box and one of the newer liquid band aids and tell her how to use it. This means that she opens this drawer for her basics, teeth, deodorant, moisturizer and small cut and itch repair stuff.  Her morning routine in one drawer, or in one small basket if she does not have a drawer.
  • On the other side of the bathroom sink – that top drawer is for her hair and her make up. Once again, use those individual trays. Three or four trays will hold her tweezers and small scissors, eye color, under eye concealer, mascara, blush and mineral makeup. The mineral makeup is new to older folks, so introduce her, it will not stick in her lines and help her look young and pretty everyday. Her lipsticks go in another tray and remember, only keep a couple -they turn bad- as does moisturizer and mascara. So if she’s not using a lot of makeup these days – do a replacement with new. In another tray is her comb and hair brush and a tube of hair gel. Show her how to just shampoo, moisturizer, towel dry and comb through her hair and then use the gel and run it through her hands into her hair for it to look tosseled, if she’s in a hurry. Lots of older gals get into not doing anything with their hair and this way she looks good everyday.
  • Under the sink gets cleaned out next and everything goes. This is where you put the toilet paper stash, the basket with cleaning goods for the shower & those cleaning wipes with bleach. A small plastic tub for her throw away shavers, back up shampoo and her bar soaps that she can easily grab. The same type of tub for her “over the counter” med stuff. (Her prescription drugs should be on a high shelf in the kitchen away from moisture, not in the bathroom)
  • Load up the plastic tub with the over the counter drugs: Get rid of all outdated stuff…just throw it. Buy new items and I know it sounds expensive but once you get this down it will be all in order for her. You should have Pepto, or generic, tussin cough syrup, Imodium pills for diarrhea, stool softeners for constipation, a cold pill that she can take with her meds, Vick’s, larger band aids,a new easy to read thermometer, alka seltzer & cough drops. Everything ready to use if she is unwell- or needs something in the middle of the night – she just grabs the basket.
  • The rest of the shelves in the bathroom, if she has them, like a linen closet, should be cleaned out. Old towels are gifted to charity and old shampoo or other products or fancy gifts that were given to her for the last ten years – that no longer are used – go in the trash. The shelves should be empty…they only hold a couple of new towel sets that are new and feel fresh and fun to use. They hold a basket of wash clothes for her to use on her face. The toilet paper can go here and her cleaning products from under the sink if she has this extra space. The other basket that works well here is the one for her hands with moisturizers and her nail polish, cotton balls and remover. So If she does her nails she just takes the basket down and takes it with her. But all the old junk..the old curlers and curling irons, bottles of fragrance, bubble bath  and blow dryers that she never uses – they go out the door. You want the area to be clean and easy for her to see what she has and what she needs.


  • This is a must for all seniors. You have this for their chair side-table at home or in a care center. If its a care center it’s a smaller basket, but the at home, needs to be on top of the table.
  • In this basket you put a small magnifying glass, emery boards, a pen & letter opener, small paper scissors, a small glass-cleaner spray bottle, tums, lip balm, small hand cleaner, small hand moisturizer, tiny Swiss knife, Q Tips and a small pocket mirror. The basket has to be easy to grab and look through or a box with a top if she likes things tucked away.
  • The point of this is to think of things she has to get up and go and get all day. Then she has to remember to put them away and they find their way down her seat cushions and on the floor before that happens, so this way, she stays organized and still has her things right at her finger tips.  I like to put a klenex box and salt and pepper by the chair too…so if she has carried her food in the living area, they can have the seasonings close at hand. My mother always wanted a small glass container with a lid to keep little sweet treats in and she kept a nice tile to protect her coffee or tea cup when it was at rest, on the table.
  • I also love the over the chair arm and the slide in the mattress caddies. They work so well for the remote controls and the magazines and such and they make everything close.

Why all this fuss and work on your part? The easier it is for your mom to not walk around and get up all the time, the less falls you worry about. The cleaner the area the less visual clutter the mind has to sort through and can help anyone with light memory challenges. The easier her bathroom is to find things and know that it’s at an arms reach, means she does not tuck this here and there and then forget where? If she is having memory trouble just label the drawers for her in the bathroom.

Remember the majority of illness happens in the bathroom. If seniors feel sick to their stomachs or have problems with their bowels – in they go to the bathroom. To have it tidy and clean and easy to use, means it could help them in an emergency.

If her bathroom is really looking sad, you can perk it up with a new light fixture that uses the new low volt lights. Very easy for anyone to trade off light fixtures, just remember to turn off the light at the switch before you meddle with them. You can get a new faucet so the old one does not leak. You can bleach out the counter tops and make them bright and then shine them with a car wax. You can paint the room with one gallon of paint. And you can remove and replace the caulking around tubs and sinks with an easy to use acrylic caulk for tub and tile. The place will look fresh and fun for her to use again.

The Bathtub: You can have the old bathtub redone with a service that refurbishes porcelain and it makes her tub all new and pretty. You can add a great bathtub hand rail or special bath chair. The handheld shower is a very easy addition to any tub and you will only need Teflon tape and the hand held shower kit. The shower curtain should be see through so she has plenty of light when she’s in the tub. The toilet area should have a handle to help her up if she’s unwell.

As we all age, the bathroom is used more and more, so it needs to be easy to use and not have floor rugs that slip. If you want to get a new floor mat that sits in front of the sink that does not slip and is made of latex, great, otherwise rugs come out of the bathroom. Almost all bathrooms that have vinyl can be easily upgraded with the new 14″ vinyl tiles that stick on and look so great with grout lines printed right into the tile pattern. They are inexpensive and take off 10-20 years of age in the bathroom. (wish I could have something that took off years!)

Your mom will feel updated, upgraded and have less stress to remember where she put her lip balm, if you take a little time on this. Remember, people live in homes for years and years and the bathroom just gets more stuff in it, rarely does it get a good clean-out. So this is just the ticket for you both!

I did this with my mother and other seniors in care and they responded with so much excitement. I redid mom’s bathroom after my father passed – in a more feminine color with fancier towels. It really did make an emotional change for her. Please do go to my website and get other tips on care giving and read the rest of my blogs on Alzheimer’s and dementia if you are worried about your mother’s memory.

Thanks, francy

Dear Francy Help with Alzheimer’s Medications

by francy Dickinson

Just returned from training for a few days had a great crowd and did a nice class in senior emergency preparation. It’s always enjoyable to train a good group that are active in their minds and bodies even at advanced ages. The word is aging, but trust me – they’re doing it with grace. For all of you that are joining my blog today…thanks for the good time hope you enjoyed all the new information. By the way you will find my Care-Givers Workbook 101 on the products page of my website and it has loads of tips for caring for dementia and Alzheimer seniors.

Dear Francy: My husband does not want to take any medications for his Alzheimer’s. He has good health and he does not want to “feel funny” – I care for him in our home and I am so worried about it all.

Well, bad news for your husband, his Alzheimer’s has impaired his ability to make decisions for his own health and you get to choose if he needs different medications or care.  Your husband’s demeanor is only going to get worse. It will either go into highly frustrated and intense anxiety or it will slow into a non-responsive or retreating mode. Either way, they are not good for him or you.

Now, I know you have been a good kid and gotten a Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney to cover your husband. If not…this is the moment to do it. Go on the net and buy the Borderbund software called Family Law– it’s very inexpensive and it has a step by step program to take you through the legal part of the Health Care Directive. (Or buy a hard copy of the directive at Office Depot) Then go and get it notary stamped at the local bank and then make copies for his doctors so there is not question on who is making the decisions.

Then sit down and write your doctor ( a neurologist) a letter. On the top it will say. Please have doctor read this before our appointment on Thursday and then put into my husband’s file – his name here– Then you begin. You tell the doctor how your husband is acting at home. Is he upset and worrisome, or super quiet and not interacting with you? Just slowly go through a few things that bother you about it and ask the doctor to begin your husband on an emotional drug to keep him calm or keep him engaged in the world and a Alzheimer’s mediation that works for mild Alzheimer conditions. Always remember to ask for generic if he can so you can afford the medication. Then you will fax the letter (go to a Copy Shop for faxing if you need to) and make sure it is sent off and they receive it before your appointment. If you do not have an appointment make one and send the letter to arrive a couple of days head of your appointment.

This means the doctor has time to review your letter and make a review of your husband and his condition and when you arrive you will find him informed and ready to help you. Because this is really about you. You are the care giver, you are your husband’s only life line! Without you, he is not able to do anything. So, you are the important party here. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to give him good care, there is a problem. If the overwhelmed is from no medications, that is just not fair to you.

I have to help my husband with his meds twice a day. He would never, and I mean never remember, on his own. I had a day when I was training and then came home tired and he went all day without his meds. Morning and night. I had put them out, but I was not there to remind him. So, by the next day he was acting strange and I checked and was so disappointed in myself for not remembering to check on him. It’s hard for us as care givers. After all – I was tired and stressed with the training class and all that went around it and was gone, then home to be exhausted and losing my voice after training for five hours a day for three days…so, I was in need of a little TLC too!  No one can be perfect, but we can try to do as good a job as possible. The next morning we started again, I gave him his meds and he went forward on his plan. But his body did not, he had a very bad reaction to the meds with diarrhea after the body had gone a day without them. So, this is why meds are so important to take on time and for us, as care givers, to have a plan in place if we get tired or sick.

My husband had a cell phone, so if I am not going to be handy…I set the alarm for his pill time. He is still well enough to remember what the alarm is when it rings. But if he moves out of that stage – and into a deeper problem with memory – I will just call my friend or sister and ask them to call him and remind him and ask him to take the pills while he is on the phone.

George’s Zoloft is so important to his emotional health that it reflects right back on me if he does not take it. So, I always say if George misses the morning pills, that “I have missed my Zoloft” – Even if I personally do not take the meds, they effect my life so negatively if he forgets to take them- it feels like we are one with this medication. Medications for emotional and mental conditions are simply to be prescribed and taken. There is no excuse other than selfish behavior- the reason for so many homeless people is that they have problems taking their meds and it reflects so badly on their abilities they can not function properly without them. Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a combo of emotional and mental conditions that have to be cared for and treated with medications to ease the symptoms.

Often my husband will ask me,” Don’t you think I take too many pills?” He can do this over and over again. So, I have a list of his meds and what they do for him and I just show him the list and ask him which pills he wants to stop taking? – The answer is always, “Well I suppose they’re all OK, you should have shown that to me before.”  (Trust me, I have shown this list to him on numerous occasions, but his memory for things like this is simply non-existent. This having a list handy is really a life saver for me- on the daily repeats that he now endures)

So, to review:

  • Get your legal papers in order so you’re really accepted as the person in charge of decisions for anyone with dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • Explain the changes in your spouses behavior to the doctor in a letter – sent before his appointment. Then you will not have to have an embarrassing confrontation in front of the doctor. This will allow the specialist (neurologist) to make a better choice of medications. Sign the letter with your name and Power of Attorney on the bottom…so he knows you have the ability to make these decisions.
  • Make sure medications are taken on time, everyday…no matter what is happening in your life. Most of these drugs are taken with food, so after breakfast and dinner is better. Ask for generic for your budget and if they are too expensive- tell the doctor to give you a slip that you can fill out and send into the drug company and they will gift you the drug – if you’re on a tight income range.
  • Remember the care giver is just as important as the patient. You are the reason for his health and well being. You are the strength that is going to carry him on for a long time in your own home. If he wants to be in his own home, you get to set the rules and taking meds and keeping him safe is your job. You make the decisions now. That can be hard for people that have had long time marriages and the husband has been the power point of the relationship. But life changes, you now have to stop being the nice girl that listens and follows and become the assertive lady that sets the pace and keeps the care level high.
  • Think of yourself as part of a care team. Your husband, then you, as the care giver, and then the doctor…that’s the triad that is going to make this tough situation of giving care for the long term, to Alzheimer’s spouse – successful in your home.  

I applaud you for your kindness and patience in your care giving. Alzheimer’s takes more than a Seniors mind, it takes the once sweet relationship of husband and wife and turns it on it’s head. It leaves the care giver lonely and feeling alone before the spouse has even died. But you are not alone, you have so many others that are right behind you and you need only ask questions and we will all try to help.

Please go and enjoy the rest of the Alzheimer blogs on my Dear Francy blogs and visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.comto get more information. Don’t forget, when you get to the stage that you need  care facility help for your loved one, please contact me and let me help you through that process with our Loving MemoriesSenior Care Facility Placement Service that is FREE for you to use.

Thank you, francy

Down Days for Seniors in Care

by francy Dickinson

Dear francy; I have my down days but my mother is having horrible down days and I just can not seem to bring her up and out of the hole. Can you give me a few tips?

Yes, first I will state that down days are simply real and human. We all have them, so a day here and there is nothing to fuss over. But if a senior that has had medical problems, is on a few prescriptions, or is confined to a smaller space – has anger issues, is upset and snaps easily, has quiet days that go on and on and is rarely happy over their daily routine, it’s time to talk to a doctor. There are so many medications that can simply lift the spirit up. I know lots of folks do not like this sort of thing, but you know what? When you stand there at 70+, -80+,- 90+ and above and have your own problems, then start to throw rocks at the medications that can help relieve stress and depression.

But before you take her into the doctor’s office, you have home work to do. You need to write a one page letter that will be faxed to the doctor’s office with a heading saying “Please Put this In my mother’s file and ask doctor to read before our appointment on Thursday, thank you ”
This letter is going to be a good review of your mother’s situation. Where she lives, how she is feeling her meds and her feelings of depression and upset. Then you have to be honest, no making up stories. You then tell the doctor that you are her care giver and you are now starting to find yourself feeling down and upset because her emotions are so strong and uncomfortable for you on a continued basis. Be sure to tell him,  “I doubt mother, will be happy about a depression pill” but I’m really over my head here and I need help on this issue. Thank you –

Now, this is the deal. He will then have time to read and understand the appointment. He will understand your mom and your feelings without a big discussion in front of your mother. This is what I have been doing for years. I did it with my mother, other people I gave care to and now my husband. Boy has it made a difference. I can sit and think about the circumstances for the visit, the problems I have seen, an example of the situation and then – the asking the doctor to please help. They do. They respond very well – they will give her a look over and check her current drug list and then they will ask a couple of questions and the Rx will be written.

Now, here is your next step. There is never one drug that fits all. You have to have your mother take the medication for a couple of weeks (some times three weeks for emotional meds) and then take note. If she does not get better, or if she has side effects, or is extra tired or whatever. Then you need to call the doctor’s office and let them know. Ask them if the doctor could please re-access the medication and make a change. He will then call you back and tell you, NO – give it more time. Or YES, I have another med that will do just the same without that side effect – that sort of thing. But to just put the pills aside and think that they will never work for you, or have her take them and not help the problem is silly. So, keep an eye on this and see how she does. Remember to call the pharmacy with actual questions on reactions too – they’re the specialists in medications and I have had pharmacists suggest another medication to talk to the doctor about. Very helpful.

OK, if you feel it’s not emotional, just being difficult or teary over special situations than it’s a problem that you personally can handle. You have to bring your energy level up each time you see your mother. Even if your day is busy and your life is up side down side – you walk in the door with a smile and a bounce. Before you enter the door, take a couple of deep breaths to clear your mind and pull your energy up and then just go for it. Every day have another thing for your mother to concentrate on.

  1. American Idol, Dancing with the Stars are perfect for catching the mind and having them look forward to something on TV
  2. The next holiday…here we are at Easter Time. Talk to her about your Easters as a child and how you loved them and you were thinking you and your mom could go over to a family members for Easter Dinner together…or what ever holiday you celebrate in your family.
  3. The next family event, usually older people have loads of younger children in their family, so who’s birthday is coming up? Maybe buy or make a cake and invite the grand or great grand child over for a fun tea party with their parents. Anything that sounds like minimum work and maximum fun.
  4. The next outing. You have a doctor’s appointment next week, I was thinking we could drive by the park and take a look at the trees and see how they made it through the winter, or the spring bloom or the flowering plants. Or a stop for lunch, if they cannot get out of the car well, get KFC and then drive to a view park and eat in the car. Something different, something fun.
  5. Keep up beat. If she is in a mood, just do not allow yourself to jump in her swimming pool. Avert the discussion to another subject, something in the news, or about your friends or family. Just ignore nasty behavior, she may be doing it to watch your button response. That is a nasty habit to get into to and you need to make it stop by not responding with anything but a smile.

I know you have loads of creative ideas too. But what I know is that when you are tired and you are stressed – creativity tends to step back and you just feel the raw nerves of the situation. I hope you will visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.comand get more information there and read over some of my older blog posts for ideas that will fit your care. I have done a very solid Care-Givers Workbook 101 that you can find on my website under products. I think you will find it very helpful for your continued good care of your mother. Thanks for all you’re doing for your mom.

Best wishes, francy

Have You Read Your Crystal Ball Lately?

by francy Dickinson             

Dear Francy; My dad passed five years ago and I gave mother my word I would be there to care for her and she would be OK. But in the last couple of years I have had arthritis come into my life. I am really getting crippled up and I know I will not be able to care for mother as I had promised. My heart feels heavy, but I think I have to tell her to make other plans.

When I read your email I just see the love you have and the honorable person you are and I am so sorry you’re facing such a nasty condition with your arthritis. But you know that’s why we have Plans B and C and D and E – because life changes. We may know about and appreciate those that can read crystal balls and see the future, but rarely are we lucky enough to have that knowledge when we make our own plans and promises. 

You are not alone. All too many couples will retire and hit the road in an RV. They sell their home, their things and they take off for the sunshine states. They are so happy that no one will dare try to talk them down. Once there they enjoy the life of leisure with new friends and all seems fun until they hit a bump. One of them has health challenges, both of them miss their family and friends, the driving is to hard for them, the RV setup and break out is to much for them. Something happens and then what? Then they have a trailer or RV that has depreciated in value, no home to go back to and no things to set up a household. What do they do- life changes, money and income have lowered since they retired and they are really in a pickle.

My mother sold her large family home and went together with my sister to remodel and build a second story for her to live in over my sisters home. The full amount of money that mother had from her house sale went into the remodel. The deal was my sister would have mother there for the rest of her life, living without charge and that my sister would provide care for mother so she would not have to move into a nursing home unless she was really unwell. For ten years mom and my sister had a ball together. They did hobbies, gardened and shopped together. They had dinners and parties together. They went on small trips together. Good times for both of them until, my sister became unwell and passed very quickly of cancer. Then life hit the windshield when mother found out their agreement of a life-long place for her to live and have care had…turned into my sister’s will of leaving the full house to both of her sons, no provisions for my mother. It was a mistake that cost my mother her peace of mind for the rest of her life. She did stay in the home without further payments because her grandson moved in, but the care part was out the window. It became a daily need of myself or other family to care for her. Until she was unable to live alone and then I had her move in with me. This was no ones fault, just a mistake in the legal agreement and who is ever thinking that they would outlive their daughter? 

One of my mother’s best friends had a son just my age. We grew up together really and when his mother started to age she bought him a home right next door to hers so he could be close to care for her.  But, he began to drink and do drugs heavily and soon he just wanted money from her. More and more money. He would tell her to write him a  check or he would not do the shopping or the whatever it was she needed. She was in lots of trouble with him – welding his power over her. As her only child, he had her power of attorney and her life soon became a prison. We were all heart broken over the situation, yet no one could do anything about it and she soon died of a stroke. Had she known, she would have had a dear cousin take care of her legal side of life, but she loved her son and never thought he would treat her that way. She did not have that crystal ball and it made for a sad ending to a lovely lady.

I have watched these and other sad stories so much that I preach Plan A, B and C all the time. If you can not care for your mom, be honest. It’s certainly not because you do not care for her, you simply are not able to do it. So, make plans. Have her sell her home and move into a retirement apartment that has care provided for it’s residents. Have her hire a young person to come over for two hours a day to do things for her. Be creative with different choices and you will see that its not that bad to change directions in the middle of the path. But if you let it slip and she becomes unwell and all of the changes have to happen when she is not able to deal with them, that is not fair. You may have to make plans for your own personal future as well. Maybe you two will find a place that has assisted living help together! Just know that your decisions and your life path may make changes and as long as you can discuss them, ask others for input and help and know when to call for help instead of ignoring the situation….that is the way loving families handle bumps in life…talking, sharing and taking actions that are well thought out. Plan A has to change to Plan B and later it may move on into Plan C. But without that crystal ball, those plans have to be in place, so the future is as good as it get. Not a sad note to a dear life.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and please do go and visit my website and get more tips on senior issues and care giving at

Thanks, francy


WHAT do I do with Mother’s Stuff?

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; My mother has lived with me for four years and now she is moving into a care center. I have paid over $200 month to keep her things in storage for her and now, I know she will never be on her own again, what do I do?

Well, it is not the best time to attack the storage unit with her new change of pace into a care center. Wait until she is settled first and then you can decide what to do. But something does have to happen, there is no purpose to keep things in a storage unit that could be given a new life out and about. Here are some ideas that I have used.

Storage Unit or Family Home you are going to be the referee for this process, so take off your daughter hat and put on a neutral hat and be kind to all involved.  

  • First, you want to take an inventory (photo inventory). This is not a fun thing to do, but it has to be done. So plan for a weekend and get a gal pal to help or your teen and above children. You take your trusty digital camera and have it all charged up and ready for loads of pictures. Have a few boxes in your car and a permanent marker at hand. You will need a box cutter and then more of the packing tape to re-tape the boxes.
  • Now I have a sorting tool called, I just know what is not going to go to anyone I know – family or otherwise. That knowing means that I have a few large trash bags at the ready and they are going to be your dump bags.
  • Then there will be the bags that will be give away to charity bags & boxes.
  • Then you will have a few boxes for family.
  • I put the family boxes out and put names on them. I included the boys, too. Because some day they will have wives and a household.
  • Line up all the boxes of what I will call your mother’s grand children, grand nieces, great grand children. Then put the boxes out that have your mother’s children’s names and you just start to sort. Then put one box aside for Family& Friends.
  • I would think you would know enough of each of their tastes if they have homes and how they dress to know if they would like a vintage dress or coat. Maybe a handbag or evening bag, gloves and even a pair of very unused shoes. All the rest of that sort of thing goes to the give away pile. Your mother has all she needs to wear at this time, so you do not have to worry over older clothes. Do go through pockets, inside purses and such things –  valuables do get left behind and you do not want to send them to the charity without a check.
  • China and special things. Here you have a duty to share the wealth with the family. The best pieces go to the nearest in her heart. But do not bother giving china to people who do not cook or entertain. It’s best to give china to someone that does the family dinners. The rest of the things. The side dishes, the older generation dishes you need to divide up among the siblings. The little things like wine glasses, tea cups, salt and peppers, sugar, creamers they go into the grand and great grand children boxes. Just take turns and know you are spreading the memories around. 
  • Gifts; most of us know the different gifts that were given to our parents through the years. If you sister gave something to your mom, put that item into her box. If your dad gave something to your mom share those with all of you.
  • The special memories need a box. There will be lots of photos that can be gone through at another time. Put those into a large plastic bin. Old photos, pictures of your older grand parents, wedding certificates, hand written recipes, old family books and such – those go into the plastic bins. No worry over sorting, you can do that at another time. They will go to a person that enjoys older memories, there is always someone in the family that loves the stories and keeps the photos. Now days a simple computer program means it can all be scanned and then given a copy to every family member so you all get to have those special old photos and recipes and bible entries of years ago.
  • All the everyday things, like towels, stepping stools, things from her everyday life, they all go to charity or dump.
  • Her furniture – take a picture of the pieces and spread them around to anyone that wants it. Usually no one will really want her furniture unless you have a person with a new apartment or home.
  • Books should be sorted for money or notes tucked in their pages and then given away to chairty. The fine furniture take the pictures and ask her who she wants to have them. Usually family ask for things long before the parent goes into sickness so have your mother decide.
  • Once you have finished the sorting then you go back to the boxes. Find a small table and go to each box and lay out the contents of the box and take a picture of it and then put it back into the box wrapping it carefully this time. Repeat this process with all the boxes and then close them up and replace them in the storage unit and then lock it up.
  • Now, you need to go home and print up a small pictures of each of the boxes and contents. You put the name of the person on each and you go over to your mother and you review what you have there and what you have giving each person. This is when you ask if it looks OK and she will say yes or no. Then you ask about the heritage questions so you know where she got things and who gave them to her and how old they are and such. So each box will have a picture on top and then the description of the things inside. If your mom wants to give one thing to her and not to him, then take note of the change and do it. Remember to use your camcorder or voice recorder to put her information on the tape, it makes it easy for you to share and nice to have her voice talking about family history that you can use on a website or save on a disk.
  • I like to remember people that are close to your mother in the end of her life. Maybe a neighbor or a young person at church and so on, they could get a little candy dish, or pin that your mother always wore. Let your mother think about it, it will give her lots to do and you can spend a few visits working on the project.
  • Now, when the boxes are given out, there is no muss or fuss, your mother has viewed the contents, you have written down the history and they can know they get a little piece of family history with each box they open.
  • Jewelry is different. I always give jewelry to the siblings and not to the grandchildren. It is up to the siblings to know if their children will take care of the jewelry or expensive art. You can write notes on the things and let them know your mother wanted her grand daughter to have this for her wedding – type of thing. That’s special and it releases you from hurt feelings.
  • Now, you can see, if you take pictures, review it with your mother as much as she can do without getting too upset or tired. You become the person that is doing the work, but not the person that “controlled” the distribution. Even if your mother has passed, this way of taking photo’s is good. One person may say they wanted something special and you can show them that they got just as much as their sister and if they want that item to ask her now and make a trade of something in their own box.

I know it sounds nuts, but things mean a lot to people. Being fair and doing all that you can is all that is asked. Hurt feelings can last years. It can break up a family of siblings in no time. I tried hard to make it fair and as a matter of fact, I personally took very few things. I have no children and so I just had the things that mother had given me through the years while she was alive. I had no one ask me about anything that I separated for them. I was ready – I had the photos and I was ready to show them to anyone. I also did something that I think is important.

Long before mother was ill, I had her take special things and give them to her grandchildren or kids as we went through the holiday time or birthdays. I would keep her from sending money and asked her to give them a pin she loved, or a candle holder, etc. It was a nice way for her to share the stories for them to remember.

When you hand over the things you simply say.

“You know these things belong to Mother and they mean a lot to her. But they are really family pieces. If you do not want them any longer, or do not use them please give them back to any family member and we will hold them for one of the future family members to enjoy in years to come. We all understand that some things do not fit into some lives, but please think of these things as yours to enjoy but the family’s to pass down to in our line of heritage.”

You will never get a guarantee of this, but in the middle of a nasty divorce they can always say that you considered those items to belong to the family as a whole, not an individual to sell or give away to anyone outside of the family. I always think it’s so sad to go to antique shops and see lovely pictures of people with no names and no home or a family member. They are just a photo in a pretty frame hanging on a wall.  To keep that from happening, stories of who your family members were and where they lived bring them to life and they mean more to your neices and nephews than just a frame or an old sugar pot.

Lots of work ahead, but you have your family’s history in your hands and that’s a very important thing. Thank you for caring for your mother. I hope you will go to my website and get more tips on giving care and family issues at

Thank you, francy

Visiting the Alzheimer’s Parent-Reluctantly!

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mother just called and she has been visiting my dad, daily in his new Alzheimer’s care place. She needs a day off and wants me to go over. I know I’m suppose to want to help her and attend to him, but I do not want to go. How can I tell her I am not going?

You Don’t! You re-focus your thoughts about the situation and you come to your mother’s aid. Now, do not think I do not understand your feelings. I have a husband with Alzheimer’s and I have many a day that I just want to go out the door, get in the car and drive as far away as I can drive. But I am his wife of 27 years and he deserves to be cared for so I re-focus my mind and move through those sad and helpless feelings.

Your mother is really your concern now. Your father is in a care facility and they will care for him. But your mother is suffering from a loss of her husband that will feel like he has died, but he is still there in front of her and she has to still be concerned with his well being. The loss one feels, as a spouse of a person with dementia, comes on in different degrees from the first signs and certainly the formal diagnosis. You feel like the person you married has changed. Then you feel like you have to help them, but it soon becomes clear that you can not make them well. Women make people they love well – like their children over colds and broken legs and husbands over the flu. But dementia/Alzheimer’s does not have a cure, it has a progressive change of behavior and memory loss. Your mom would find that little things effect your dad in strange ways, he may be short tempered or confused over things he did well all his life. She would start to slowly take on his chores and tasks in their home life. Then the money responsibilities, then the main repair responsibilities, then the decisions made for family events, where to go to dinner and if to take a family holiday. Then there are dietary changes, more medications, more doctor appointments and more intensive care and overseeing her husband. Slowly she is the one with all the power in the home and your father would feel that change and fight against it. She would find her feelings hurt one minute and guilt over her feelings the next. She would feel the small intimacy’s leaving their relationship and the little jokes between them would be forgotten. Their favorite music, movies and friends then leave his mind and she is left alone. All alone- but still standing next to her husband. The feelings of loss begin in small steps and then escalate into sorrow and grief. Now, she’s made a decision to place him in a place away from their home. She is absorbed in worry over her decision and she goes home to a house that is totally empty. The worry does not stop. She may have to sell the house for his care, or go through their retirement money that she would need for her own care. She has been going to the center to see him each day for one reason. She does not want him to forget her. Then all of a sudden, she’s exhausted and has to rest and yet she needs someone to check on him in these early days. She turns to her daughter and that is YOU. No matter how you personally feel and I know you have all of your own reactions to his condition and what has happened the last few years – you are her only hope of rest. So, you need to re-focus on her for now and just walk through a few things with me.

  • Call your mother and tell her you will go over and see your dad for the next two days, not just today. Tonight you will bring her dinner and a bottle of wine for you both to share. You’ll be there by six and she can rest and have an early dinner and then sleep. Do not take no for any answers, you need to start to be assertive with your mother now, she needs your care.
  • You will make up your mind that this is a duty, I know you have love for your parents, but this is a moral duty. I know you understand those things and you will make it through with my help.
  • You will shower and get nice and clean with no fragrance and then dress in a down manner of everyday clothes without bright colors or patterns. Colors and patterns are hard for your father to process with his mind and his senses may be put in a spin with a fragrance.
  • You will stop by a good bakery and get one of those large cookies, or a package of ding dongs or something special to take with you. Sugar treats are good for men anytime.
  • You will also get yourself a small spiral notebook and stick it in your purse with a pen. When you are done with your visit you will write down the date and time and then make a note of anything that upset you. Only one upset allowed per visit. Then you write down one thing you personally feel went well. This is your journal to help you through this process. Tuck it in your bag or the car for use after each visit.
  • Then you will go and find one of your favorite pictures with you as a young girl. With or without your parents in the pic and then you will take it to the drug store and blow it up to a large size and print it off. You will pick up a package of those thumb tacks and then print your name and “daughter” on the bottom. Or Emily with Dad or some such thing. So anyone entering the room and not knowing your family will understand who you are in the picture.
  • You will then drive over to the care center and as you enter the door you will look up at the clock and take note of the time. Because you will be there only 20 minutes. No less, no more.
  • You will smile at the staff and ask to be directed to your Dad’s room and then you will take a deep breath and walk in with a smile. You will ask the nurse to turn down the TV, NOT OFF -just down so his attention is at you not trying to focus in all directions. You will say; “Dad you are looking great, it’s Emily, your daughter and I have a cookie for you.” You hand him the cookie.
  • You do not look to see if he sees you as his daughter and knows your name. You just smile a loving smile at the man that is your Dad.
  • You resist asking him how he is. You’re there to talk and you do the talking. You start with a slow and informed pattern of speech. You talk to him as though he is able to understand you. DO NOT talk to him as a child, even if you think he does not understand. Your job is to have a one sided conversation with him.
  • Show him the photo. Say,”Dad, I brought you my favorite photo from when I was little. When you see this remember I love you.” Then go over to the wall opposite his bed and thumb tack it up. Get yourself situated in a chair or somewhere comfortable and then begin in a good tone so he can hear you. Talk to his head and as he moves around, just ignore the moving, keep your rhythm up and just talk.
  • Now, you talk as you would any friend you have not seen in a couple of weeks. Tell him how you are, your house, the kids and your husband, or friends. Let him know about your job and what is happening there. Each time you talk, you re-introduce the details to him. “Joey and Mary, your grand kids are doing so well. You remember how Joey loves to swim – well he is doing so well, he just won an award. I guess he gets that from you and all your time golfing.”  take little breaks and keep your voice calm and pleasant. “Work is good, you know how I work as a bookkeeper for the insurance company and I have had a lot of extra things to do. My boss has taken another job and the office has been very busy. I know you understand since you were always busy with your work, too!” That sort of thing. When you run out of things to say. You just smile and sit and just relax. This is not a performance, it’s just another way of talking to someone that cares about you, but their mind is so confused that they find it hard to put their thoughts together. You see what you do after a few minutes is relax him, he hears and remembers your voice tones and he may fight to make the connection of who you are and what you are telling him – but it all goes in his mind. It may come out in clarity after you have left, or never. But he will know he likes your voice and he likes that you are there. It just takes his mind so long to process that his reaction is not in normal time mode.
  • You inspire him to an upbeat mode. You make sure you stay in control and you just talk. “I worked in the garden today, the sun was so warm on my face, it felt good.” That is that, make it an easy way to talk.
  • If he asks you something you answer, if it’s a subject you do not want to talk about, move your answer to another thought pattern. “Oh, dad my car is working well. I drove over here just fine. I was worried about the brakes last week, but they seem fine now.” Keep the words simple and easy for you and easy for him.
  • When the 20- minutes is up. You stand and say goodbye. It is good to try to touch him, either in a hug or just pat his hand or shoulder. Smile and tell him you will be here tomorrow and then turn and leave. That is that. Nothing big, nothing hard, nothing sad, just a visit.
  • On your way out, you stop by the nursing desk and you thank them for caring for your father. You tell them you will be here each week when your mother takes a break and give them your home phone for an alternate number in case of emergency.
  • Now, when you return you can bring your computer, or bills to pay, or needlework to do – if your dad is really quiet. Just sitting there and talking a little and then doing something simple in front of him will bring his mind to place of quiet and ease. If he is having a hard time that day, let the nurses care for him and you just sit and relax. It may be a warm day and walk around their exercise area would be good, too. Always take a deep breath and keep working on your project or the task at hand and let him “feel” your peace.

Then you leave and go to your mother. She has to be cared for during her time of grief and this is grief. She has lost your dad. Even though he is still alive, he is gone to her and she is all alone. You need to understand this and let her friends and family understand it too. She may need some dinners for a few weeks, she may need some lunches with friends. Things to keep her mind filled as she works through the different things she is facing. If she needs you to go to her doctor, or bank, or lawyer, or her minister…offer to be there. You will make it through this together.

I am very sorry, this has happened to your family. I’m sorry it has happened to me. You and I both have to remember; this is a progressive condition we cannot fix it, but we can support the process. And in the process we have to ask others to help us, too. You have to tell your children, husband, and friends that you are going through a nasty time and you would appreciate their love and kindness. You have eat well, sleep well and stay strong for your mother. You will have to have an eye open for her health now. The key issue is none of us need to lose our health over the care of our loved ones. So, it takes work and together is how we can cope and get through to the other side of this time with your dad.

I know you are strong enough to do this. I know your mother will make it through this time, too. But I hope you will go to my website and read some of my tips for dementia and Alzheimer’s care . Thank you for understanding love is sometimes duty – and we all face it at certain times in our lives. It’s just a matter of time and then life will renew itself.

Please go and enjoy the rest of the Alzheimer blogs on my Dear Francy blogs and visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.comto get more information. Don’t forget, when you get to the stage that you need  care facility help for your loved one, please contact me and let me help you through that process with our Loving MemoriesSenior Care Facility Placement Service that is FREE for you to use.

Thank you, francy