10 Tips to Keep Your Medications Working for You

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; I have no idea what medications my Uncle is taking on a daily basis or if he’s taking them properly. I have the pill bottles, do not know what they’re for and I have the daily box that is always filled when I arrive. He is 82 and seems well, just needs me for shopping and cleaning his small home. Do I need to push him for more information?

Yep! Here is the deal with medications for everyone – if you do not take them on time during the day and in repetitive days, then you are not really taking the medication that the doctor has prescribed. It may seem like blood pressure or even allergy meds show few signs of change, but inside the body there is a war going on and it needs to be put into a neutral state with medications. You can say, “Well I am old, I will stop medications and just let nature take its course.” That to sounds like a good idea; but you do not know what path nature will take you down. Do you want to NOT be able to walk or talk with a stroke? Do you want to be bed ridden or stuck in a coma for the rest of your life? Do you want to leave your home and be in a care center full time? Do you want to be on constant machines cleaning your blood or a machine in your chest to keep your heart going? Worst of all –is the diabetes side effects of blindness and losing limbs, not a pretty picture. So you can think that skipping pills or going off of a special diet for a day or just taking the pills that are easy to swallow is no big deal, but it can come back and bite you – badly.

Here is my over view of how to handle medications for yourself and seniors in your care:

  1. Know the medications. Either go into the doctor’s office and have them reviewed for you, or look them up on the Internet, or go to the drug store and ask for a print out of the pills and their reason and side effects. If your senior says something makes them dizzy, then you need to find out which pill does that and if that pill can be replaced with another Rx. (Note, when you find new medication ideas on the Internet, print them out and take them into the doctor on your next visit to review-they should always be open to this kind of discussion.)
  2. Always ask the doctor and the pharmacy if they could please use generics where ever possible. Even if the senior has a good drug insurance coverage. You save them the deductable. Plus the more money that is saved over all helps all of us when it comes to drug costs.
  3. Each doctor’s appointment- you are required to “bring in your medication bottles”. Since most seniors have more than one doctor this is how the medical offices keep track of the medications that can change since the patient was last in office. I found this way too overwhelming when my mother began to have over six meds and then went up to 27 a day before her passing. So I kept a list of the medications. I sat down in front of my computer and lined up the pill bottles with the information about each of them and put together a listing.
    Name of Drug/Reason/Strength/Times per day/with or without food/Dr that prescribed/
    I repeated this for each medication and I would add and remove as the prescriptions changed. Be sure to put the date on the paper so you know the last update. Now you have power. You can take this list into each doctor’s office, keep it in your kit for emergency trips to the hospital, check up on the pills and their purpose and most of all, you can fill the weekly pill container with morning and night pills properly divided.
  4. The medications all have reasons for time of day delivery. Some make you tired, some make you go to the bathroom, some make you dizzy, hungry or up energy. If you take them as the doctor advises then your body will respond in the proper manner at the right time. And if you have side effects with a new drug, it can be address from the get go.
  5. Side effects are nothing to ignore. They can really get a rolling start and change your life. People coming out of heart attacks can have big problems with their bladder control that means that their drugs need regulation and it is a hard thing to do. But it can be done. Some medications can make you feel more emotional than normal, dizzy or actually give you a rash or make you sick to your stomach. All of the side effects are listed on each new drug. But if you wonder about them, call into your pharmacist and they will review the problem with you and advise you on another drug to suggest to your doctor, or to assure you that the side effects usually go away in a couple of days or so. This information will keep your return visits to the doctor down to when you need to have the drug Rx changed or updated. Ask your doctor if all medications can be geared to twice a day, so memory is not challenged with seniors living on their own.
  6. Emotional drugs can be hard on those who take them. They can have very difficult side effects and the patient does not want to wade through the time to make changes. We all understand that feeling odd inside of our body or our heads is a terrible challenge, but taking drugs for high end emotional problems is paramount to wellness. So as a family care giver you need to keep on top of this and keep returning to the prescribing doctor with your list of the senior’s complaints until he can find a mixture of medications that fit their needs.
  7. Journal the drugs and the senior’s behavior and daily feelings. There should be a spiral notebook in the care area where you can check off the daily drugs, food, mood and physical ability of the senior on a daily basis. If you only do it every three days, that is better than nothing. This way the doctor will see that when pills were forgotten the breathing went down, the walk was staggered, or the emotions were more on edge. This is the stuff that is needed to keep anyone taking more than a couple of medications informed. This is how a doctor will treat and be thrilled at the information. They will thank you and give medication changes in a more effective way with this type of information.
  8. Cannot afford medications? There are ways around this with help. All drug companies have special services for those that are on a budget too tight for medication spending. Ask your doctor about this and they will hook you up with the different services available. You can turn to your own state human and senior services offices and get the senior on their program for financial or medical assistance. This is provided in each state, they have different rules for each state. But basically it can span a lot of things, it can give the senior food stamps only, or medical and drug coverage, or pay for care givers. It goes on and on and it is decided on the income of the senior and the spouse. Do not think you have to give up your home for this service that is not true. Veteran’s services are also there for those that have served. I am talking about served, not about retired only. My husband was in only three years and he is now receiving help from the Veteran’s for his dementia. Always check out the available services for all seniors it makes good care sense. Last is Medicare that has “D” coverage that will help with medication coverage. This is also inserted into your insurance coverage and you need to know that twice a year you can make Medicare supplemental insurance changes in the spring and fall. There is no problem changing during those times, but the rest of the year, you need to stay in the insurance that you currently have or pay a fee.
  9. The actual pill bottle can be coded to a color for couples that live together and have lots of meds. Hard to keep track so this is an easy solution. You can ask and sign for Easy Open bottles. Know that those bottles have to be kept away from your young grand children. I keep all of George’s medication bottles in a basket on a high shelf. Once a week I refill the medications into his weekly dispenser and then order whatever I need to keep the pills properly stocked. It is always less expensive to order three months of an Rx. So ask your doctor to write one month to try the medication and then ask him for a 90 days refill Rx if the medication is to be used over a long period of time.
  10. Do not be afraid to change your medications to another drug store. They have services now that ship pills out to you instead of having family pick them up at the store. They have computer services that automatically refill the drugs and call you when they are available. They have lots of nationwide services that will fill the order in any state if the senior visits family or travels. They also have services that provide breathing, diabetes and other ongoing conditions with all of their medications and services needed, by mail. You can also get many items ordered by your physician in prescription form that are not just pills. That would be bladder control products, special dietary supplements, breathing machines, oxygen, walking and bathing assistance products. This all depends on what Medicare, supplement or regular insurance companies will cover. So ASK – when the doctor says you need something to care for your health, ask him if you can get an Rx for that so it is covered by your insurance. They are there to help you, but they cannot guess at each patients needs.

My husband is a dementia/Alzheimer’s condition patient. He shows such a difference when he has his medication on time for four or more days in a row. It is like night and day. But with dementia it is hard for us both to keep on top of the pills. Sometimes we skip an intake for morning or night. We have learned to just ignore it and not take the night before pills with the morning of – pills. But this error means that my husband may get diarrhea, feel extra dizzy or have real memory or emotional challenges for a couple of days. That means that his brain cells are dropping and he is going backwards not forwards in his fight against Alzheimer’s continued attack on his brain. We try hard, but things happen. When they do we regroup and try harder – we feel lucky that there is medications that make his condition better and we are dedicated to keeping him alert and active as long as possible. It is the quality of life, not the length of life that we feel is important. That is why taking medications on time every day is paramount in elder care.

Thank you for your email please do send your questions to me. You will find the email button on my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and you will also find my on demand radio shows talking about senior care issues. If you found these tips helpful, I have a workbook for those of you that are giving care to a senior called Senior Care Givers Workbook 101 – It is a step by step of how to give good care to seniors.

Blessings on your day, francy

Escape Stress and Constant Pain

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: I have a 10 yr old daughter and 83 yr old mother living with me. I am disabled and under continual pain. The stress level in our home is so high, it’s not healthy. I know we all feel it and react badly to it and I am responsible for changing it. But how?

Let’s just start with change, you can find change for you and that will affect both your mom and daughter. So, you are on the right track. I know that no magic wand removes pain or stress but you can learn to live with it in a way that does not do damage to you and others. I have a few ideas that I have used both for myself and for those I care- for I hope you will find some of them helpful for you.

 

Calming Pain and Stress:

  1. Pain can be controlled if it stays within an area that is workable. Pain clinics will help anyone with medications that can be used, but learning the timing of them and the additional over the counter meds is really important. Sometimes it’s not the Rx but when you take the Rx. I have been off pain meds for my back for years, but I still take Ibuprofen before I go out and do any physical chores. The before makes the difference. Timing, it is in the timing. So take note of this and talk to a pain specialist, not just your doctors. They have ideas that are terrific. Pain can be constant and still allow you to live a life, but you have to get it to a range that you can work with on a daily basis.
  2. Stress is a building situation. It will start small and then just roll downhill like a snowball during the day. To STOP it in its tracks, you have to know your own stress key. If you feel a slight head ache, if you hear your voice tone going lower, if you see the senior or family reacting badly to you- Take note you are out of balance. Take a break, walk away and always breathe three deep breaths. That allows the oxygen to come back into your brain.
  3. Pain will take you out, if it’s constant, even finding times in the day that it can ebb is important. So make sure you keep notes on your pain or stress and rank it from 1-5 during the day. You may immediately find clues to the ups and downs.
  4. Evening Pain when it is time to make dinner is always hard on everyone with pain. So my tip is to make dinner prep in the morning when you are doing your breakfast and lunch. Use the slow cooker a lot and then dinner is just a pickup.
  5. Pain every other day. It is an old trick of those of us that live with continued pain that we do certain tasks every other day. That way we do not overload our life, yet we live our life. One day you plan to dust and vacuum, the next day you stretch, rest or go for a walk. One day you sit at the computer for a few hours the next day you stand and the clean the kitchen. Changing daily tasks keeps your body from grabbing hold to pain in any one particular point.
  6. Pain/15 minutes break. My sister had a very bad back like mine and she developed a 15 minute rule. Like many that take a 15 minute break, she would take a 15 minute physical work time and then sit down and rest for a few minutes and start again. She was able to paint the inside of her home, work in the garden and clean, by just going slow. It takes a lot of discipline in these fast times of ours. But you would be surprised at the work you get done with very low pain received from doing it!
  7. Stress over what? If you do keep your journal and write about your pain or stress, you will be able to see the launch points. Words, deeds, multi-tasking what is your weak point that sets you off? You are the one that has to do the work to find that out. So you can avoid it or change your mind towards the event. Down load a Journal program for your computer and get in the habit of writing a little bit about you each day. It is a good habit; it will help stress and stress or pain. I use Star Diary and love it, I downloaded it and paid around $10 for it and it has been a gift to myself. (you can have a password to keep it private)
  8. Get away. I know it is easy to say and hard to do. But you have to remove yourself from your home or work. Take time with one family member at a time, or just alone. That means that you go to the grocery store and do not go right home. Stop at a coffee shop and just sit with a coffee or tea and muse at the others in the shop. Let time bring your stress down and go home relaxed, instead of exhausted from shopping.
  9. BE verbal. I would find myself on the edge so often when I had mother in my home for 24/7 care. I would just tell my husband; “I am sorry if I am not pleasant today, I just feel totally stressed.” He would usually go and sit with mom and get her calmed down and give me time for a bath, nap or just sitting quietly alone. I did not have to ask for his help, but I would have asked if I needed it. Talking to family and not keeping it to yourself is really important. I would tell mother I was taking a down day. She would then know that I was going to give her food and respond to her bell when she needed me, but I would be taking a nap, reading or be out in the garden and she was fine on those days. We just had to work together.
  10. Taking a trip from anywhere without travel. This is the real gift that I hope I can give you. During days of bad chemo time, I learned how to do a self hypnosis/meditation that helped me so much. I have moved it into my normal life pattern and now it is part of who I am. A simple start; just take a break anywhere and be quiet, close your eyes and think of a place you would like to be. It may be on the beach or hiking in the woods, or shopping at the mall. It is your thoughts that bring you to a place that makes you comfortable and smile. Be at that place and just rest there, feel the breeze, smell the surroundings and feel the warmth or cold. Be there in your mind, so when you open your eyes you have a feeling of renew – The more you do this simple exercise the better you get- the more places you go – the more relaxed and eased with your pain or stress.
  11. I have always got a book developing in my mind or a project that I am working on – inside my head. When I have quiet time, I think about it and I am right there looking at it and making it work. This will take me out of deep pain and deep stress. My mind starts to become involved in this complex dreaming state. Like remodeling a home step by step, creating a garden step by step, cooking a meal step by step. My mind goes through the steps and before you know it, you’re pain is lowered and your stress is dropping away.
  12. Finally, no excuses. I try hard not to give myself excuses for my behavior. I do apologize to others if I find myself difficult. But I do not explain why I am difficult. My pain, worries or stress is not their life, it’s mine. I have to deal with it, change it and move on. I do sit down and share my problems with family and friends but I do not dwell on it nor do I talk about it without end. There is a difference between sharing and getting support and driving family and friends crazy. We all have to know those lines.

Looking for help and finding others that have similar problems is really a good thing. Keep the sharing positive with ideas of support and change. Twitter, chat rooms and local support groups with similar situations as your own make a huge difference. But they are not places to go dump! They are places to ask questions, share experiences and ideas and give your own support to others. In return you will learn so much about your own situation and how to better it.

I love the fact that you take on the idea of change for good- for YOU and not change for others. That is really the key, only you can change you and that change, no matter how slight, will ripple out to your friends, family and co workers. Your investment in solving your stress and pain will result in your everyday world really improving in quality.

Thank you for writing to me. I would like to invite you to my web site for other information www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thanks, francy

I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips join me!

Smart Tips for Just Retired Seniors

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: I just retired and my kids want me to babysit my granddaughters, my husband wants to by an RV and I just want to rest for a while. What do your seniors say?

They say, “None of the above!”

After talking to so many seniors about their early retirement; lots have told me that’s where they made some errors in judgment, just because of the reasons you stated. Everyone else has ideas for you and you have to be the one to make the decisions about your own life path. All these years you have done things for a work, home, family, children, spouse – now it’s YOU time.

So here are some tips to follow and see where they lead you:

  • Do not make a big move in your first 6mos -1yr of retirement. Just let the dust settle. If you really have a move in mind, spend that time sorting your old life and selling things from the house and getting your mind in a place that you can walk away without regret.
  • If you do move keep one foot on your home base. Lots of seniors run down to sunny climates and begin their play time. Nothing wrong with that, but if you become unwell, lose a spouse or just age to the point you need assistance (we all do you know) then what? Will your children or family be able to care for you miles and miles away? So, the idea is maybe keep a small home, condo or even some things you do not want to move in a storage unit. That way you can rent them out to make the payments and then have a place (or things) that are easy to return to if you need to make that change in the future.
  • If you do go on an RV trip, keep your home. I have talked to dozens of RV’rs that love their life. But they have been so upset making a complete cut from their things back home. It sounds great to just hit the road, but in time, you will want to settle in somewhere. If you keep your things in storage you can retrieve them at will. If you need to settle into an RV park most find a trailer is easier for long term living than a motor home. If you have plenty of money, no worries, but those that I talked to were on a very strict budget and it was hard for them to change their mind in mid-stream.
  • Think things through for a 5-10-20 year plan. You may think that a good ten years of retirement is what you will get in life. But the world is changing more and more folks live into their 100’s. You need to sit down with family and have a plan:
    Example: 5yr/stay in family home and travel in RV – 10 yr/Purchase a home that is long term retiree – 20yr/know that you may need assistance to stay in your home, or move to a retirement center, small apartment or live with your children. Think about your choices and what you want will be able to afford.
  • Prepare your future first: Get your will, your health care directive and insurance papers all in order, copied and give to your children for reference. Get a good inventory program (this one is free http://www.iii.org ) and take pictures of your things from room to room. Use this for insurance and your will gifting or remembrance. Take time to mark your things for family and friends add that listing into your will papers. Talk about your wishes for funerals and get the expenses figured out or prepaid. All of this can be done in the first few months of your retirement and then the nasty subjects of old age are behind you and you can run with the wind at your back.
  • Decide what you like to do and do it. Start to make a list for you and with your spouse of things you love to do but really never had time to do. Some call it a “bucket list” – I call it a fun guide of your retirement. Then when you start to hit the road to travel you have your favorite hobbies or interests right by your side to guide you. This should be done in a spiral notebook kept on the counter in the kitchen. Each partner should jot down things they enjoy as they think of them and then in a couple of months sit down and really look at it and see what each of you desires today and in the next few years.
  • Talk to your children and set rules about Grand Parents. What are you really willing to do? Maybe a once a week babysit or on sick days you go over and take care of the grand or great grand kids. Maybe one full weekend a month you take the grand children to give your kids a rest. But make the deal your deal. Make it a way to enhance your children’s lives, not make their life easy breezy at your expense. So many seniors work as day care for their kids, but then they get stuck. If you do take on the care giving, add the time frame. I will do this for three months, or every six months we will re-visit this and see how I feel about it.
  • Life is short, live it. My mother and dad spent their whole life talking about what they would do when they retired. They had little money and no time, so the future wishes were safe for them to make. The bump? Dad died at 62 and never got to retire. Mother told me she thought she would live just a few years more, but she lived 38 years after he passed. That is a lot of alone time. So, take advantage of retirement while you and your spouse or both well and together. Yes, grandchildren and family are important, but so is your time together.
  • Haven’t done anything with each other for a while? Take a class. I find this is the first thing that will bring an older couple together. Dance class, stained glass window class, how to fly fish class, boating safety class- whatever hits your buttons. Maybe each one of you choose and both of you attend both classes. Senior Universities are cropping up all over the country. They’re free classes given in retirement communities by retired professionals with a wide verity of backgrounds. They are fun, they are usually free or nominal and you can really enjoy the information and get a new outlook on life.
  • Computer working well for you? Got a Blackberry, know how to text? You might want to find a senior center in your area and join a FREE Computer Club. I worked with a PC Club for years giving free – how-to classes. It was fun for me and fun for my seniors to learn all about the Internet and the new gadgets and just enjoy life online, instead of barely using your computer – Worse yet, think you can live without one? If the world is over taken with computers and gadgets today – what will happen in 10-20 years? You will be older and more of life with revolve around new tech. Get on the band wagon, do not feel dumb, feel empowered with new information and enjoy the connections like Twitter. I am @seniorcaretips on Twitter and its filled with terrific people giving me powerful information about my life and business on a daily basis. Don’t be shy, join us!
  • Don’t be embarrassed about “senior” as your new title. So what? Life moves on and you are moving and grooving with it, right? Ask for those senior discounts they make a huge difference in your spendable income. We are using Shari’s web site and George gets his free pie coupons and I get a two for one dinner coupon and their Honor Points. You can find the info on their website https://www.sharis.com/ Just one among many companies that know that senior power means money and they are willing to give discounts and free incentives. Coupons may have seemed below you when you worked and were so busyà now a little clipping for an extra $20-$40 dollar savings on your groceries means you can go out to dinner and still be on budget. Remember, always ask for the senior discount, when buying food, services or products – get in the habit and I will assure you 10-20% will be your min. savings overall. Kool!
  • Buying big ticket items turned out to be a no-no for seniors. They thought that a top of the line, new car, all paid for would be perfect for them for the rest of their retirement with less driving. But 10 years down the road they needed a new car. They bought a new RV vehicle instead of a good used one and it deprecated fast. You have to force yourself to think “long term” and live “long term”
  • Another problem, new retirees bought a smaller home that was modest for retirement, but did not plan for long term. 10-15-20 years later the roof, the carpet and other major repairs are needed and they do not have the money to make that happen. If you plan a retirement home, make it long term. One story, good flooring that will hold though the years, a safe and easy to use bathroom and shower, a yard that is not too big and a roof and siding that will last. Don’t forget enough bedrooms and baths so you can have a roommate or care giver in the future. Think down the line, when you are older and unable to pack up and make another move. Get your retirement home in place with the idea you may be there till you are in your mid 90’s. You may not have a spouse and be living there on your own. That gives you a different eye on things when you look for your new home.
  • Join AARP, they are the largest senior organization and they represent millions of older Americans. They offer lower fees on insurance, medical supplies, and traveling discounts. They have millions using their service so you get discounts that can really keep you aligned for future drops in your income.
  • Take a safe driver’s class. I have taught safe driving classes for the last four years. I love them, the seniors that take them get a discount on their insurance and it bubbles up the defensive driving techniques that we all know, but are stored way in the back of our brains. Good for everyone over 50! Don’t forget to add Road Side Service to your insurance listing. You do not want to be stuck on the side of the road and pay for a tow or tire change!
  • Seniors living with roommates. If you are in a larger home and do not want to move, maybe the idea of a roommate to help with the costs will be just right for you. George and I invited my dear friend into our home. We have a full downstairs with bedrooms and bath. She was on her own and could not afford a lot of rent and with G’s Alzheimer’s we could use the extra income. We now are living as a family and it has been very rewarding for us all. Think on this, it might make a big difference if you are single and want to keep that family home for a few more years!
  • Think medical care, do you have long term insurance, do you have your doctors in order and your list of Rx all ready to take with you on the road? Think of things that may not affect you today, but might mean your whole quality of life in a few years. Example: using a nationwide drug store chain for your Rx means you can fill it in any city you visit, instead of trying to have the pills mailed.
  • Change your habits over to email and text with a cell phone that will inform you of incoming messages. That way you will stay in touch with people where ever you are located. You could be on a trip to Reno or in your backyard and you will know how to call for help and receive family updates. Buy a GPS Garmin type of gadget that shows you the way home from anywhere in the world. That way you never have to use a map or hear, “Where are we?” again.
  • Watch your food intake. Staying at home, by the kitchen, can mean your weight goes up with the amount of easy snacks or boredom. Take up a new walking routine, join the senior center or Y and have fun with a senior exercise program 2-3 times a week. Those things are so good for you and your spouse plus they add new friends to your new way of life.
  • Dedicate yourself to having good check-ups. You have been too busy for doctor visits in the past, now that is behind you. Do not be afraid to face your body and what it holds. Living long and living well are two things that need to go together. Get your breast, your heart, your prostate, your colon, your blood pressure checks and figure out how to eat, exercise, and add supplements and medication to keep you as well as you can be. Have a calendar with doctor appointments firmly made ahead of time. So if you travel you can still stay well. Find out if your health insurance covers you in other states and how to use it if you are out of your home area. You may be able to visit other clinics or doctors in cities that will keep you from shortening your travel plans. Get extra travel insurance for health, if you’re going out of country.

Whatever you decide to do, do not sit down and watch TV all day. Get up, keep a daily planner just like you always did and have your days filled with events. Walking, talking, driving – keep that mind working. Volunteer, I mean the kind of volunteer work that really uses your talents, do it with your friend or spouse and do it often. Do it if you travel, every town has needs for a few hours of volunteer work. Retirement is simply leaving your place of employment, not retiring from life. Keep busy, join, help, love, dance, play and write. You are just starting the rest of your life. Mother used to say that you will have time to do anything you want when you retire. She lived forty years of retirement and she traveled, took classes, learned to paint, learned to make dolls, gardened, knitted, baked hundreds of dozens of cookies, played cards with gal pals and still had time to spend with me. At 100 years she passed with a library book half read on her bed side table. Life goes on longer and better than you ever imagined!

Happiness on your new adventure, please do go to my website and enjoy the information for seniors www.seniorcarewithspirit.com. I have my Dear Francy blog information that goes back a long way with loads of tips. I have written a “How to Give Seniors Care- Care giving 101 Workbook” that is designed to help spouses and family care givers with basic home nursing and care information. And I have added a new venture called Loving Memories that is a FREE service that finds just the right senior care facility for your family member.

Thanks for reading and join me with my on demand talk show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/SeniorCareWithSpirit – I have a new one scheduled on this topic and you can read about it and join me live, call in or listen at your leisure on demand. Thanks francy

10 Ideas to Help Senior Spouse Care Givers

by francy Dickinson                    www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My husband came home last week from hospital. He had a stroke and is now recovering. He went into a care facility for only two days and hated it and demanded he be home again. I’m way over my head and heard about your blog- Help!
First, I’m very sorry you are both going through this health challenge. You will see in my many blogs that as a person who has spent many years as a full time care giver – now, caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s/dementia – I feel very strongly about being the lead in the Health Care Team between my husband, the doctor and me. I’m the care giver and I do most of the work and I am clear headed, therefore I get to make the rules and the rules have to include my own (as well as my senior’s) good health, energy and happiness. The senior in care comes first, but just like raising children – the mom/spouse care giver has to take charge and stay strong.

Here are some ideas just to begin your process.

  1. Get a formal Health Care Directive in place that shows that you can make health decisions for your spouse. It will also give you the ability to ask for his medical information. You do this by filling out a form (from office supply store or software called Family Lawyer) Have it notarized and then you make copies for Dr’s and hospitals, so you are able to be in charge as your spouse’s health team partner.
  2. Talk to the doctor about having a Physical Therapist helping you at home. In-home care of professionals and care givers is really important when you’re just “at the beginning stage” of a health challenge. You will be helped and you will learn from them. Don’t try to do it alone, even if your senior is demanding privacy. Stick up to your own needs, get a team in place. Therapists, care givers, bath people all of them are there for you to use. At least for the first few months while your senior is adjusting to his recovery.
  3. Emotional changes happen when a senior is recovering from a stroke. Their mind has been affected and it will show signs of change. Those changes may heal with time, but it takes loads of time. So if you feel your senior shows signs of anger issues, confusion issues, and speech or memory changes – share it with the health care professionals. Do not be afraid to share these changes with doctors and care givers, it’s not a private issue when you are on a health care team. It is reporting serious change that can be treated with therapy or medications.
  4. Keep a notebook with a daily log. Write down the pills that are given and the time, any response to the medication, the emotional and physical changes you notice.
    *Example: George was starting to shuffle in his walking with his dementia; I reported that to his neurologist on our next appointment. Dr changed his meds and 24 hours after the new meds were taken, George was walking normally again. You keep the running tab of things that seem out of place as well as things that go well. So you are prepared to talk to the medical professionals and get them to join your team and all of you will work towards your husband’s recovery.
  5. Sit down with your husband and go over rules of the road. Just like you would with any teen ager -there are house rules to establish. The medications have to be taken on time each and every day. Exercise will be done in the morning and evening, no matter what is going on. Visitors will only stay 30 minutes and then off they go so they do not wear down the senior. Getting dressed, using the walker, practicing their speaking, and eating good food is not a choice it is a requirement. It may sound dreadful to have to go over everything, but this is what has to be done to get him well.
    * Yes, you will find your relationship does take a change. But it is all for the betterment of your senior and to their good health. If you have been the passive person in the marriage/relationship then you will learn to be assertive, because that is what is required during this healing time.
  6. Go online and read about your spouse/senior’s condition. You will find so much information. There are chat rooms filled with folks walking in your footsteps, so join them. Twitter me at @seniorcaretips. Do not be alone. Do not be afraid. Sure life is great when both parties are well and happy, but real life comes with bumps. Just know that learning about how to give care and what is required of you means getting answers from those that have gone through a similar recovery. It will make you strong.
  7. Who is in charge?
    I had to change my own health care directive a few months ago. I removed my husband’s name and put down my sister as my Power of Attorney for health care. It was so hard to do. My hubby has treated me as a princess for over 30 years. But, he has dementia; he cannot make decisions for his own health now, let alone my health. So the change had to come.
    Change, it is always foreboding. Facing tough decisions with your spouse/senior is a very hard thing to do. But you will do it. There are no bad decisions in health care, there are just different choices. You’ll listen to your spouse/senior, listen to the health care people and your own inner voice and then you will decide on a treatment that makes sense to you.
  8. Family members are loving and want the best. But they are not there giving care-you are! You’re there giving care 24/7. You do not go home at night or take the day shift only. You are there day after day and you know how your spouse/senior is doing. You can see the changes for good and bad and you have to trust your own decisions. You will find that family will try to guide or lecture you. That is fine, hear them out, but remember you are in charge and you are going to make the decisions. To go against what you feel is right because a son, daughter or Uncle has forced their opinion on you – is not right. You have to be strong and have faith in your own choices. The health care team: You, your spouse and your doctor.
  9. Set up your home for recovery. A bed may have to be moved, a walker, bath chair and commode may have to be added and used. Just remember, that the old way of life is on hold while your spouse/senior recovers. Think care giver thoughts and keep things cleaner than normal, be more organized, and follow health care instructions to the tee. Do not allow the spouse/senior to make the rules, remember? Their recovery is going to take you to be strong and follow the health care professional’s suggestions, not his.
    * My husband’s good friend got a knee replacement and went to the therapist and did all the exercises- totally recovered with good speed. His second replacement- a few years later- he did not go to therapy, he thought he knew how to do it on his own. He has never recovered and limps. He told me he thought he only had a few years left to live, now ten years later, he’s very unhappy about the choices he made.
  10. You, you are the “it girl” now. The spouse that is well is left to be the spouse/senior in charge of the health care plan. It is not easy and can be very emotional. So, what does that mean? You need to reach out and talk. Talk to a support group online or in a group by your home, to your family or best friend. You need to eat well, drink water like a mad person, and sleep. If you do not sleep at night, then take naps. You have to stay strong, and that means you need to walk away every week. Walk out of the house for a walk around the block, a drive to meet a friend for coffee or shopping. Get out and get a fresh look at the world. Your strength is going to help your spouse/senior to gain strength again.
    *I always keep a diary to express myself. I write three things that made me happy today and three things that upset me today. After just a few days- you can look back and see the things that bother you or that bless you. After a couple of weeks you can even look back and say – “Hey, I have to stop letting that word, or person or action bother me. Or I have to order more chocolate ice cream because it always makes me happy.” It’s my own self help- and it has carried me through years of care giving.

     

    This is just the beginning. There is always more and please take time to read more of my blogs and join me with my on demand talk shows on all sorts of senior care issues at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/SeniorCareWithSpirit

    I have so much info to help you on your care giving adventure. I even wrote a Senior Care-Giver 101
    Workbook to make the check off lists of daily tasks and how to give care and home nursing techniques easy for you. The workbook is at http://www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
    click on Products.

     

    Thanks for all you do for your husband and for reading the post. Blessings, francy

7 Easy Meal Recipes for Shut-in Seniors

by Francy Dickinson                              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My Dad simply will not eat any of the food that they deliver to him. I have tried to buy him good frozen dinners -he hates them. How can I help him eat well at home?

I have a few ideas from my days going through the same thing with my mother. She loved to cook, but her last few of months living on her own left her to weak to cook. But some times it’s good just to know that a home cooked meal will arrive once or twice a week. If you’re alone or cook for a family a good dinner that’s made in the slow cooker or on Sunday when you have time – will go a long way. The key will be you making a week’s menu andputting it on the refrigerator. That way the senior knows what to eat each day. I used a piece of masking tape on the different microwave reheat containers with numbers and then put the numbers next to the menu days. If  they have to add something like fresh salad to his reheat dish, then just add it to the menu list. Be sure to put the re-heat microwave time next to the meal so he does not over cook. He will be involved but it will be easy and taste good to him.

If you are able to give him one day a week of a few hours you can pre-fix 7 easy meals. It will take time to shop and time to pre-cook. But the meals are designed to be fast prep and healthy. You’ll need a few good re-heat Rubbermaid type of containers so its easier for him to grab, nuke, add the salad sides and eat! I would do it at his place so he sees you cooking and appreciates your time and he can enjoy the smells from his kitchen. I have the shopping list at the end.

  • 1st dinner/ Buy a pre cooked roasted chicken – this is good for 2-3 meals. You prep them like this. Slice one breast and dark meat piece and heat with mashed potatoes and gravy from the deli section of the store (buy small container) If there are left overs store for lunch next day. Mark the menu for your dad to add in some carrot salad (or Jello salad) from the deli section (small container) after he has microwaved the dinner. Left overs can be a possible lunch
  • 2nd Dinner/Take the other chicken breast and slice it up and toss with Ranch Dressing. (This is for the inside of 2 torteas.) Add one chopped Roma tomato to the shredded chicken breast, sprinkle with shredded cheese – roll tight and store in wax paper. This makes a good dinner it goes into the microwave for 3 min to heat. He can add a side of his carrot or Jello salad.
  • 3rd Dinner/Dinner from your place/ One good weekly meal that you served your family and set aside a portion for the senior. It could be a nice soup, chile, stew or roast. This is the best dinner he will get so make sure it has gravy and plenty of spice to make it tickle his palette. You can find ideas on Slow Cooker Meals added to your IGoogle page/its an application for your home page. 1-2 servings
  • 4th Dinner/Fish – a small one meal piece of whte fish that’s easy to cook fast. Put in a covered micro container to steam. Be sure to add Ranch dressing, chopped green onion and squirt with lemon juice before you steam the fish. It will cook in about 3-4 minutes. Take out and cool then place on the reheat plate and add a side of Rice a Roni type of rice mix. Pick a fresh green veggie that you will steam for two dinners. You can use broccoli or asparagus. Steam it up in the microwave with plastic on top and a little water in the casserole dish. Add a sprinkle of flavored herb mix like Mrs. Dash on top and a dollop of butter or marg. This will be used for the fish and another dinner
  • 5th Dinner/Left over chicken pieces a leg, thigh and wing. Put on a micro dish and cover top with BBQ sauce to give the chicken a different flavor. Add a side of baked beans and another helping of green salad that you buy pre-mixed.
  • 6th Dinner/This meal is a fried meal. You can choose for him/1 hamburger steak or 2 pork chops. Either one is cooked the same; open the meat and let set while you’re doing the rest of the meals. Heat the oil and rub or dip meat into flour and then fry in oil. You will put salt, pepper, and always use paprika and a steak spice mix on them as they cook and you turn them over after they brown. Sprinkle spice/herbs on top of them as you turn them. If it’s pork chops; brown them and put some jam on the top or a squirt of maple syrup and add 1/2 cup of water – cover for 20 minutes on a low bubble. If it’s the hamburger steak than you want to dab a little BBQ sauce on the top and cover for an additional10 minutes on low. This meal is served with the rest of the Rice a Roni type of mix and the rest of the green veggies that you have pre-cooked.
  • 7th Dinner/Buy the fresh pasta(ravioli) and the Tomato Sauce in the deli section. They come in pre-pared containers. You can add the ravioli to the place and put the tomato sauce on top and add a sprinkle of Parmesanon top. You will put a side of Italian spice bread on the side. You can find the bread all pre-herbed with garlic and such in the frozen section.
  • Add in a good selection of fruits, yogurts, nutritional drinks and sweets for the in betweenfood. Make sure his morning is started with a good cereal served withVanilla Silk (soy-milk).  Have some pretzels, and some gummy bears for him to enjoy and snack. If you choose the better snacks he will have a better choice of good foods for his day.  

Your Shopping list:  You may have to shop for spices or condiments that you like to use when you cook- to put in his cupboard.

1 fully cooked chicken (the kind they roast at the grocery store)
1 hamburger steak or two pork chops
1 piece of white fish that is large enough to serve the senior
1 package of Rice A Roni (Chicken flavor type of rice mix)use for 2 dinners
1 small mashed potato container from deli section
1 small chicken gravy container from deli section
1 small carrot salad from deli section (2 dinners)
1 large pre-mixed green salad from the salad section so this will be a side for two dinners
1 BBQ Sauce – I like to use the honey BBQ
1 Ranch dressing
1 can of Baked Beans for one dinner – use rest for a lunch
1 bunch of broccoli or other green veggie to steam for 2 dinners
2 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of green onion
1 RealLemon – lemon juice to have in the senior’s refrigerator
1 serving of deli prepared ravioli
1 serving of tomato sauce from right next to the pastas in the deli section
1 container of Parmesan cheese
1 frozen package of pre-herbed and garlic bread that has individual pieces

These are meals that are easy to pre-pare, take very little cooking and just need you to be solid on getting it all done in one full swoop. Think fast and think easy. Buy most of the things pre-cooked or packaged and then the prep time is less. It’s never fun cooking in a strange kitchen, but take note of what he needs and just add it to the shopping list. As you’re in the kitchen go through the refrigerator and cupboards and throw the old spices and mixes, condiments and baking things that are no longer going to be used. You do not want out of date items on the senior’s shelves.

Please do come and visit my website www.seniorcareforseniors and get more information and tips for senior care. I have a great Care Giver 101 Workbookthat will really help to guide you in the care giving of your senior or spouse.

Thanks francy

Join me on Twitter @Seniorcaretips

Gift Ideas for Seniors in Care

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: Mom is very picky and wants to go out to breakfast on Mother’s Day. My family wants to take me out for a lunch and go to a movie. How do I do both?

You don’t, your mom can have a wonderful breakfast on Saturday morning. She will understand that Mothers Day is any day that she is given love from her children. Invite your siblings and make the breakfast fun. You could have your family be at the restaurant and then you take her in for a surprise. The breakfast or lunch is enough. If you need to add anything else get her a wrist corsage, she can wear it all day long.

Other Tips for Gifts for Seniors in Care and at-home:

  • Small flower bouquets are best, usually there’s a space limit so a small glass container with a few lilacs or garden flowers are just as sweet as a big bouquet. I love the wrist corsage, my mother used to just love them. She would wear it for a couple of days, putting it in the refrigerator at night. They do have fancy fruit and cookie bouquets, but seniors do not eat the volumes that we do and they can go unused.
  • A nice covered glass dish with handle filled with a favorite treat. Like crackers, chips, popcorn, etc.
  • Bulletin board that is covered in a print with ribbon crossed on a diagonal is a perfect project for family members. Fill it up with the senior’s cards and pictures and place it right across from their bed. You can always use a special wall mount with removable backing so you do not hurt the care center walls.
  • Cleaning your pet and bringing them in for a special treat, many seniors miss their family pets and a good hug goes a long way
  • One of the great new picture viewers filled with the older family pictures. This makes the project good for you to scan and capture old photos for the family and share them with Mom or Grandma. They have these views large, med and even small on a key chain. They hold lots of pictures and do slide shows as you press the button.
  • She loves cards; get her a hand held game machine for cards from the larger box stores like Walmart. Most are easy to use and you just load it with batteries and off they go. They can play blackjack or poker from their bed or chair. The audio can be turned off and the games are easy to hold and usually from $10-$30
  • A guest book, if a senior forgets who’s visiting – you can make a guest book asking the guests to sign their name and date of visit and add a little note. When the senior says; “No one every comes to visit, me” You can open the book and read the names and sweet messages
  • If they love puzzles like crossword, then take a look at all the things you can buy for crossword puzzles. You can go online and print them out and find crosswords designed for different hobbies and interests like quilting, gardening, politics, etc. Great for the brain and passing time Add an easy to use pen and there you go, you’re leaving fun behind
  • Small manicure set that will fit into your bedside table or basket, a large scale mirror X7 is great. Lip balm, small hand cream, hand cleanser all small enough to fit into that drawer or basket she has by her side.
  • Cable TV expansion for movies – most care centers have cable but they do not have the extension for Show Time and you can ask if it is available and then add it for a three month period at a time. If she leaves the center, gift it to her roommate.
  • Hard of hearing, you can add a bedside phone that is made for hearing challenges and program in a few numbers. This is such a lovely treat when someone can hardly hear anything on the phone
  • Have some talent with nails? Give her a bedside manicure, with a warm cloth and a good nail file. Then brighten her up with some spring time polish. Nothing like a good nail polish to lift a gal’s spirits!
  • New slippers and a new house coat or easy to wear sports pants and top. Whatever is easy for her to wear, is what you need to bring her. Many times they cannot button, so you have to get a zipper, often they can dress over their head and often the pants have to be loose to work with bladder control products. So keep it all in mind, but a nice new outfit always hits the spot
  • Seniors are always cold, if you find an extra fuzzy, bright and fun throw – that’s the ticket. Then remember to take it home every few weeks to give it a good wash.

I hope this information is helpful for you. To think about someone being stuck in a room on their own is not easy. But so many little things can bring them joy. Please go and visit my website and enjoy my on-demand talk shows with more tips, and my workbook written for Care-Giving 101 Workbook it will give you a lot of guidance on in-home care. www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thanks, francy

Seniors in Care Facilities – Tips for Visits and Safety

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: Mom in-law is in care facility and we’re visiting twice a week. It’s clean and she seems well fed but angry. Her dementia is still raging and she took a fall out of her bed and hit her head two days ago. How can I help keep her safe and sound in the care facility?

Here are a few tips:

  • Visiting twice a week is very good. Change your days and your times, so you’re there, but not on a routine. That way you can see the progression of the daily care staff, as the weeks go by.
  • Check the facility for being clean, the patient room, the eating facility and the public rooms are easy to see. But a walk down the hall will show you how the storage closets are kept orderly, the shower area clean, how the kitchen is run and the pill dispensing cart is being used. You just observe, even if you know nothing about care giving – you will see that organization is the key to good care, and cleanliness is right behind. If you have a question – ask the management about the staff, not the staff. It keeps the resentment from the questioning from reflecting on your senior’s care.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for a review of a fall. It should be logged in and reviewed by the staff. If it’s a staff problem you need them to make adjustments to the procedures in the facility and make sure they adjust the monthly payment to reflect any incident that caused harm to the patient. If it’s the patient that is being unwise in their movements or manners, then review how the care staff can make changes to avoid a repeat of the problem.
  • Take treats into the staff. This is open to what you like to do yourself. But once a month, I would bake brownies or cookies, or stop off at a special candy store and gather together some treats. You could buy some expensive coffee beans for the lounge or bring root beer and ice cream for a treat in the summer. Be creative, but be smart. Drop them off at the nursing lounge with a thank you card that has the patient’s name and your name. This goes along way for the staff to know you care about them and in turn they will care about you and your senior patient.
  • If the patient has dementia/Alzheimer’s let the staff know the real patient as you do. Take in pictures of the patient when they were young and first married, have a little label with names of spouse and family in the picture. Make a copy of a college degree or service certificate, so others visiting for the first time see that a very valuable person is inside of that patient. Honoring who a person is, inside, makes the current situation more understandable to strangers.
  • See if you can surround the senior with things that bring a feeling of home. A favored piece of art on the wall and a small shelf with bits and bobs from their collection. A throw that was crocheted by the senior or a book that has always been a favorite. Things from the past will surround a person and give them a feeling of safety. Ask about the rules of the facility and then make the creative side of you bring just the right stuff in to the room to perk it up!
  • Always ask the senior what they did yesterday?? Have them tell you what ever they remember. It’s important to take note. If they are abused or do not like things, it will come up in one of these conversations if you keep asking. You can hear what is bubbling inside of them, what bothers them or makes them happy. You do not need to worry about the details; just the feelings you get from the senior.
  • Food treats for seniors. If a senior does not have a food restriction, then do bring along something special for them. They may love some chocolate, cracker jacks, or a dinner of food from your family heritage. Heritage food is lost in care centers and still is so important to the senior.
  • A small covered jar of wrapped hard candy for visitors or care staff is always a nice lure to get them into the room to check up on the senior
  • Take a container of those cleaning wipes and each time you visit. Take them out and go over public surfaces around the senior’s room. A double protection against germs is always good.
  • Make sure the senior has a way to call home. If you need to put a large printed sign with your phone number taped to their room phone, do it. If they want a cell phone and are able to use it wisely, do it. They need to have a way to feel connected, not dumped. If that is hard to do, then make a quiet evening time call each night. Set a time that is good for you both and just make it an evening call each evening. The repeat of the calls is what the senior will feel – they can count on you is what they will think. Those are good things.
  • Check the senior for signs of red marks on their skin and ask each week if any skin irradiation has shown itself during the week. That is a very important point. Hot spots on older skin are hard to heal, if you catch them before they happen it makes life easier. The skin will show if the staff is not moving the patient around, bathing them carefully, or changing their bladder control products on time. Each time they do a bath, they will make note of the skin problems, you can ask to see that chart and take note that there are none. If they have them, then ask how they are being treated and stay on top of it until it is healed. If it repeats often, there is a care giving problem to be addressed.
  • Bladder infections or UTI’s are very common in seniors in care. You want to make sure they have cranberry pills added to their daily intake and you want to know that the infection is being treated, but the cause is researched and addressed.
  • Just because the senior is in care, does not mean they cannot add supplements. You can talk to their doctor and supply the supplements for daily dispensing. Turmeric is very popular for dementia and infection treatment…our doctor just added it to the OK list and mom was able to enjoy the supplement each day.
  • Remember, the facility wants to have you in charge and up to date, they want you to be involved, so do speak up. Read about your senior’s care and bring up the ideas you gather during the family meetings at the care center. You can have a monthly meeting at the care center if you like. I love them, you keep up with their ideas and how things are going – good stuff.

Hope these ideas help you with your care for your senior in a care center. It is always a hard choice to make when you place them in care. I have a free service for families called Loving Memories it helps family place seniors in good care facilities. We review the senior and their needs and then find a care facility that meets those needs. I also have care tips, workbooks, on demand talk show information and just all around good stuff on my website. Please do visit www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thanks, francy