Elders Need Cheer Sessions

by francy Dickinson                      www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My mother seems to be going into a deeper depression. She seems to be recovering physically well from her last small stroke, but she is just not herself. She feels down and not involved with everyday life. I am having a problem with her paying attention to what the day is or what food she wants to eat. How can I bring her around?

I am sure you have spoken with the doctor about her depression, that is a part of the brain that is also effected by the stroke and special medications can be prescribed to help her with her mental state. As the brain repairs it has to be exercised just like you are doing with her body. So you will have to make sure you participate in her emotional wellness as well as how well she walks or talks as she recovers. Even if you are talking to her over the phone each day, or in person, you will be doing a few things that will involve her mind and emotions so she gets back into life with her body and mind.

Here are some tips:

  1. Your interaction with a recovering stroke victim is in the morning or in the afternoon after food and a nap. So you get them fresh, it will be up to you to arrange your own schedule around that time frame.
  2. When speaking to the senior, use an up tone in your voice so they can see a difference in an everyday conversation, and an animated conversation. As you would a very young child of two or three, use words and facial expressions that include smiles, laugh, questions, and surprise.
  3. Prepare yourself with a list of things to talk about and always start with the day of the week. Endless days mean losing interest. “Hi Mom how is your Tuesday morning going?” That is a good way to begin, not to challenge her with a question that she can fail at the answer like “What day is today?” – Start with a positive statement that will inform her. Then go over what you know to be her usual Tuesday tasks. “I know you will be doing your wash this morning do you have it in the washer already? NO, well you can do that when we hang up and today is your day to see your friends for cards. What are you going to wear? –who is going to pick you up? OK, good well you’re going to have a busy day. I will let you go so you can finish your washing and getting dressed for the girls. I will call you this afternoon, when do you think you will be back home again?”
  4. Taking information you have and making sure it is restated and then adding questions that are easy for her to answer is how you begin. When you call back in the afternoon, you will ask about her food for that evening and suggest a TV show that is coming on that you want to watch and you will call her just before it begins to remind her so she doesn’t miss it. Ask if her wash is in the dryer and how the card party was with the girls, stretch her mind with asking about what she ate and who won at cards. Ask over anything new with the girls. Get her to talk about things that are up front in her brain. Bring out more than yes or no answers, with an upbeat voice again, ask about what the girls were wearing or where they went for lunch. Push her brain, push it in the direction that she has always had interest in, but know when to be calm and listen.
  5. When she does something more the normal daily tasks, make a big deal out of it. Let her know you are proud of her. “Wow, mom you did the wash this morning, had lunch out with the girls and then you came home and went over the floor in the kitchen? You are really on a roll, good job” – “You have gotten so much done and I have just been here at work all day, I’m impressed.”
  6. When you go over to visit and you see the house in a mess…remember her mind has to learn how to organize again. So roll up your sleeves and get one room done at a time. Find small clear plastic boxes that are easy to carry and fill them up with like items and then use a large print label maker to mark them. Just like you did for your toddlers when they had so many small toys, cars, crayons remember? Now it is your mother’s time to organize, vacuum bags, filters or parts in one box. Candles and matches in another. So when she is missing something and in a huff looking for it, she can open a cupboard and read the box. It helps her mind relearn how to stay organized and find things instead of being stuck inside a swirl of a mess.
  7. When the mind is healing from a stroke or other trauma, or in the middle of dementia the home needs to be clear and clean around the senior. If the front room or kitchen was covered with small items art or otherwise, pack them away for a while. Tell the senior you are clearing it to prepare for the room to be painted and we will go through the box and get things back in place after the painting. Then remove the box to a place  in the garage or storage area. Look around the room and see it with an eye that could get distracted. Look again, what needs to be in the room and what is just extra clutter for the brain?
  8. Example; lots of seniors have a full wall of photos of grandchildren and family members right by their TV chair so they can see it. If you look again at that wall, it becomes a maze of endless photos that have been added to over the years. So, how about picking out three or four pictures that the senior loves. Take down the older pictures, fill the holes in the wall and repaint and then put up the four larger photos in a row…so it is easy on the mind’s eye to focus on the pictures not to just see a jumble of frames. It will calm the senior’s eye and make it easier for them to rest while they are in their favorite chair.
  9. Asking your mom to help you, is a great way to help her recover her old self. What did you two always do together, maybe you cooked together, or sorted clothes in the kids room, played golf, walked, or painted walls, pictures, or worked in the yard together. Plan in your mind a task that is no longer than two hours and ask your senior to help you. Have the task all planned out so the beginning and end can happen in a short time. Together you work and together you get it done. You can stand back and admire the great result together, you can talk to others about how your mother helped you finish the task when you are so short on time. You become her cheer leader over a simple task, but it gives her such a feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Let go anything that no longer brings her pleasure. The brain in trauma, stroke recovery or dementia is simply changing, so if at one time your mother loved to bake cookies and now it is a chore. Let that part of your mother drop away. She will fill the void with a new enjoyment she has changed and changing is what we all do. This change was just more sudden than others.
  11. Anger is an emotion that will come to you and to your mother on her recovery. My husband has his dementia moments and out of those comes so much personal doubt that anger is his way to express the confusion of his brain not responding as he wants. Often stroke patients Even those with TIA’s or baby strokes- can find words are lost to them, actions are lost, rituals are no longer there, lifetimes of interest on certain subjects have faded…it will take your own personal patience to deal with this. You can see if you can easily move them back to the once loved interest or change it into a smaller and less stressful experience. My husband used to love WWII books and would read them endlessly, now he is unable to remember enough to read, so I have gotten him into the Military Channel on the TV. It’s the same information it just comes to him in a way he can absorb and enjoy it easier than reading.
  12. Even in days or times of anger…you have to stay calm. You have to back away and give them time to defuse and then re-enter and change the mood or the thought pattern so the day can go forward with joy, not stuck in anger. It takes a lot of creative thought on your part, but being there to cheer them on, will allow them to heal in a positive way instead of simply retreat on a daily basis.

I know you have had to do a lot to care for your mother. Stokes can happen in clusters, just as your mother gets well, she could be hit again. So make sure her meds, supplements and her food keeps her as protected and even in body chemistry as possible. You are the person that will give her life a guidance to calm and joy…you are giving her a gift of more than care, you are gifting her with true love. Thank you.

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.

I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy

PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.

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