My Spouse has Alzheimer’s – Why do I feel Nuts??

George in his work days behind the desk

by francy Saunders   www.SeniorCareWithSpirit 

Dear francy; I’m writing to myself…I have been driving my own self – nuts lately. You see my spouse has Alzheimer’s and all too often I get caught up into his memory holes and attitude mal-adjustments. I started to talk to others that give care to their family members or spouses on a full-time basis and they too…were suffering from the side effects of Alzheimer’s care. So I have been taking notes to give all of us ideas to live better and with less stress as care givers to dementia and Alzheimer’s or terminal care seniors. 

IDEAS TO KEEP THE CARE GIVER ON THE TOP OF THEIR GAME:

  1. Two explanations and move into “Just because I said so…” George will repeatedly ask the same question. He might be worried about a family matter and ask me the same question over and over again. The first time I answer with detail and explanation. The second time, I answer in a shorter manner trying to find a memory of our first conversation on the subject. Then by the third time he asks, I give up. I get short in my speech, I get exasperated and by the actual 8-9-10 times…I refuse to even talk about it. Now remember he has the same question, he has forgotten something important to him but I seem to fall into his basket over and over again. So how to change the way I respond? Because as a care giver you must understand that your Alzheimer’s senior is not going to change their point of view, their memory loss or their attitude. I have to be the one that adapts a way to respond by going back to how we handled the terrible two’s. Remember? When the two-year old asks questions all day long, in search of answers to a million questions? You finally are forced to simply state the obvious. “Because I said so, that’s why you will not go out to play in the middle of the night.”
    So, with George I have a two-time rule, I answer the question twice. Then I simply say “politely” I have answered that question in detail before so you will just have to take the “because I said so”. Now you will not get a fun response, but instead of me getting mad and angry…I am able to keep the conversation going, keep the project on track and keep moving ahead. Instead of getting myself upset and ruining the day because I remember the upset…he on the other hand; will forget the encounter and be renewed in no time. This has aided me with reduced frustration.
  2. If they take it apart, know that you can fix it on your own. This does not matter if you are the man or the woman care giver for a spouse, life changes and your old ways have to change. George has started to take things apart. If they do not work the way he wants them to work. Now maybe this is based in truth or maybe it is his perception of something not working. We have had remote controls, microwaves, washing machines, and water heaters all taken apart. Can he put them back together…NO.
    Maybe this does not fit your situation, but the point I am trying to make is that you can and will fix it. Or you will and can learn to do a new household task even cooking, if you simply put your mind to it. I purchased a new remote control and have hidden them so he does not use them. I put the parts back into the microwave/stove fan. Now it is used for a stove fan only and I purchased a new small microwave for the counter top. The washing machine was harder, I had to watch a lot of repair videos on youtube.com and a gal friend of mine helped me walk through the idea of how to put the machine back together. It took a few tries, but we have it working again. The hot water heater is an up in the air project at this time.
    You simply have to tell yourself that you can do things you have never done before. If it’s putting oil in your car, or scrubbing down a bathroom from top to bottom. If it’s fixing a broken blind or learning what are weeds to pull and what are plants to keep. Yes, there is a lot of change and Yes you are the one that will be doing the changing. So just breath deep and figure it out. I start by thinking of a friend or family member I can run the problem by. I then ask someone I know to help me or go to the Internet and read about the project. If I had money I would be paying a person to help me and since I don’t have money I usually wind up doing it myself. But I could also do a barter, I could make cookies for a neighbor guy that could check my car fluids. Or you could pay a local neighbor to cook dinners for you and in return give her money for your food and extra.
  3. Keep your mind clear. When George is in high gear and in the middle of an EVENT…I can not budge him. So I am now doing different things to release him from the stress and me…from the strain. I have a code word for my friend… “Mama Mia” When I say that word on the phone, in person or any time of day or night, it means I really need help and to be ready to come over. I have talked to a few friends and family – I just told them…there are times when George goes into his highest gear and I can not budge him. I need to calm him down before he does damage to himself or our home. So this Code Word that I have chosen and spoken to others about is my release valve. They know that I either need them to come for me or for him. If you think this will never happen to you…I honor your way of care giving. But I ask you to trust me, you will need to use this code and it is easier to set it up ahead of time, then spend an hour on the phone in the mid-crisis stage trying to make sure your family or friend believe the situation is important.
    People may say they will do anything you need…but when push comes to shove…they tend to disappoint. So this word is my friendship test and I let them know it ahead of time. If they do not help me, they will not be bothered by my call again for ANYTHING. It is that important to me. I have been left all alone in the middle of chaos and all I needed was someone to release my stress and calm down George. They not only did not come but gave me a lecture on how George did not really show any signs of Alzheimer’s. Those folks no longer exist in my life. I need the kind of friend and family that can understand I count – as much as George counts…and my need for support is only asked of them, if it is emergency EVENT.
  4. Keep life on paper. This has helped me a lot. I am constantly interrupted from my daily chores, tasks, business making duties and personal care. So now I am writing down a checklist to remind me of what and where I was when I was interrupted and a notebook so I can remember what ever was on the top of my mind when I had to run to George’s aid. I can not yell at him to wait a minute; that would mean that the remote control is then dismantled. So it is easier to jot down a note to myself, like a bookmark on my life tasks. This way I am not always trying to catch up, or feel like I have no control or feel like I can not remember anything myself. I am in charge of my life and when I can return to my task I know where I left off and where to begin.
    I even use paper for George to write down things that he feels are important that I am ignoring. Like he wants me to cut back his pills. When I give him his pill list I ask him to choose the ones he does not want to take. He sees the pills, the reason for taking them and then says well, OK….but then this is repeated in 3-4 days. So now I have him check the pills and if he says OK, I write it down: George OK’d his pills on friday the 13th– and he signs his name to it. So the next time he asks me, I can show him the paper and he is calmed down and goes about his way. Easier on him…easier on me.
  5. Medications in proper time make a life change for positive. If you think you can have your Alzheimer’s patient or YOU…forget or be late on their pills….you are living a dream. I find the medications have to be taken with food and on time so they work through the day. If they are late, taken without food or just forgotten all together…I am in big trouble. It means that George will act up for a couple of days, he will be more upset, more forgetful, more out of focus…he may even have a body reaction like a Parkinson’s shuffle or a diarrhea attack. So I try hard to double-check his pills and make sure he takes them when I give them to him. This is different for everyone, but even the supplements that I give George make a difference. Two days without Joint Compound and George will complain of aches in the knees. Six hours after a missed Zoloft he will start showing signs of upset. The day after a night pill has been forgotten he will have the runs. The day after a missed morning med with Zoloft and he will still be having upset. Even if he took his current pills the body is missing the medication from the day before and his personality is touchy.
    I personally take supplements and find that I get tired, have  joint pain and just do not click well- without my pills each day. So I have routines in place that mean we both have breakfast and pills…no matter what the day has before us. We do this if we stay in or go out. I repeat the process for his evening pills…I make sure they are taken after dinner and then give him a treat, dessert. This is a must keeping both of us on the top of our game, not fighting to stay afloat without our meds and supplements.

I hope these tips help. I’m in the process of working out a family problem at this time and I’m so down about it. Do you get down? Do you feel like life is simply overwhelming? We all do you know. So remember if depression is more than a week of low emergy and emotions…be sure to get your doctor’s advice on your own health and need for an emotional boost. Medications are a wonderful way to keep the quality of care giving high during times of difficult behavior. Some folks believe that asking for emotional drugs is wrong, they should just have a stiff upper lip and walk on. That is so yesterday. Drugs have been designed just for those experiencing extreme emotional pressure. It does not have to be a life long medication commitment, it’s just a way to help you through a rough time. Long-term stress reflects back on your heart and any ailment that is floating around in your system. So eat well, take your supplements and get a check-up yourself. YOU are the one holding the stick that keeps all the dishes spinning in the air…get help…those dishes can get heavy all alone! 

Read about my book that can help you with loads of other tips and tricks to keep care giving easier for spouses and family!

 Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com   

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the August issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. Its a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  a lot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

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Mom’s House is a Mess- Help!

Mother, Toots, me on the left and my sis Merrilee on the right

by francy Dickinson   www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

Dear Francy: My mother’s home is such a mess. I go over to care for her and it is just a nasty experience. I just do not even want to be there let alone be there often to care for her. She still is on her own, she hates anything I do for her and its her home. I mean what can I do?  

Make changes…you know the sad news about getting older is that if you need help from others the rules change. What did you do when you became an adult and you were still living in your parent’s home? You wanted to have your own things, you wanted more freedom and you wanted your own time frame. But your parents had home rules and you had to live within them so YOU moved out. That is how the world moves. But now its the opposite. Your mom wants to be in her home and yet she needs you or someone to care for her. She has to change, she can get mad and she can yell and say hurtful things all she wants. But the truth is, her home needs to change. Since you are the girl in charge…you have to make those changes.   

Ask family members or lifelong friends to ease your work by talking to her or becoming a team member and helping you with logical changes to keep your mother safe and well inside her home. Keep her own tastes and habits in mind, but work around them, so she will be safe and able to stay in her home as long as possible. Without change; she will have to go into a care facility and leave her beloved home. There is not a lot of wiggle room for her anymore…so a combined front of family, friends and you…will make the change more productive. Start small but keep pecking away till the job is done.  If your mom has problems with the changes, get her help. There are people that specialize in senior issues and doctors that will medicate so she can relax and not be so upset over change. So here are some ideas of how to begin.  

Check off the ideas you can use and DO IT:

  1. Make a list: get a notebook and walk around the house and take notes on what would have to be done to sell your mother’s home. Remember your mother will have to sell that home to go into a retirement, care facility or when she passes. So this is your way to get the project in your mind and begin the process. Go from room to room and treat them like they do on the TV…decide how to update them for a small investment and faster sale. This is your “private list” to work off of as you go along. I just think that the changes have to be made, so why not make them so your mom can enjoy the fresh paint and clean area while she is living in her home. Why wait till she moves to make changes that she could have enjoyed while she lived there?
  2. Start with the rooms that your mother uses each day. Her bedroom, her sitting room, her kitchen and her bath. Only think of the rooms that make up her day, not the full home. It will be a small start, but will make a big impact. Start in the bedroom. Take note of this as the main focus for a week or two. Start with sorting the closet. Tell your mom, that you are going to sort through her clothes with her and put the summer and winter ones in two different places so she has more room. Then start the project slowly…do it in a room where she is not involved and take out all clothes that are really unusable. The ones that need care or cleaning and put them into black plastic lawn bags and remove them to the garage or your car. Get rid of them. Then ask her to help you go through each drawer and the closet and slowly tell her the off-season goes into big plastic bins to be brought out when the time is right. Then remove the bins to storage and sort them for old clothes and get rid of those to the charity of your choice. This can be done slowly so each of your visits you do a drawer or two, or you can schedule a weekend to stay with her and just get it done. Now that you have the closet clean and the clothes in order. You do the chest of drawers. Step by step until you have pared down her wardrobe and removed things that simply will never to be used again. That done…go out and buy some new sheets and bedding, possible new pillows and drapes. Then have a family member or another person come in and paint the room. It has to be done in one day…so you need to start as soon as she rises for the day. Think of the future sale and make the room look updated with a neutral paint color and new “bed in a bag” for the bedroom. You will now have one room cleaned and ready to show for a future sale. Your mother will have clean and painted walls, fresh linen and feel good, even if she complains.
  3. Go on and do the bathroom…make that an ongoing project over a week of your visits. Go through the drawers and clean them and put fresh Rubermaid drawer liners in them. Buy a few small plastic trays that will fit in the drawers and shelves to keep her make up and personal things handy. This is so important. It will clean the area and make the ease of use for your mother so much easier. Older people forget where they put this or that. When you have cleaned down the many years of bathroom stuff and old pill bottles and tubes of unknown creams and tackled bits and pieces– you will have a room that is now easy to use and ready for the update. Once again, paint the room…change out the vanity light to give it an update look and if you can afford it match new faucets with the light fixture. Get a new shower curtain and put on a hand-held shower spray with a bath chair for your mothers’ use. Go out and buy two large bath towels, four hand towels and a package of white face-clothes (12). Put the face-clothes in a small basket easy for her to reach. Get her a new hand cream and hand soap and allow her to feel and use the two new rooms. Dont forget to place a plastic bin for dirty clothes in the bedroom or bath…clothes are not to be put on the floor for cleanliness with elder care giving.
  4. Now that you have hit the two rooms that have the least emotional problems…you are ready to go on to the living room area. She will have seen your work, felt the fun of the result with the paint and update and she will be easier to handle. I think it should take about two days to do the living room. But first look at it closely. Figure out who can help you remove the newspapers and magazines and ask them to come with boxes and be ready to remove them completely. Figure out if you need to add a new sitting chair that is easier for her to use. Get the chore and its steps in your mind and then ask a family or friend to take her out for a day or over the weekend. Clear the room in one day and then paint the room in the next day. Remember, think of how the house will be for sale. Remove all the trivial build-up that has taken place over 20-40 years. Then make what she needs even better. Choose a paint color that will go along with the rest of the house. Replace the many grand children’s pictures with a new family shot that you have blown up big and put in a nice frame. Get new lamp shades to update the lamps and have the floors or carpet cleaned. Add new throw pillows, drapes or blinds. Change out the knickknacks for a few nice collectables. Now the front room should be re-arranged so your mother can easily see the TV and the view out a window as well as get in and out of her chair and walk to the kitchen and bath with ease. The room is ready for her and is ready for the future sale.
  5. Now you go on to the kitchen. This is what you do from room to room…so in your mind, it makes the home special for your mother. In the back of your mind you have the future sale all ready to go. You will see that this will mean that your mom is in a cleaner atmosphere and she feels happy about the new paint and cushions and towels and bedding. Its like you trade her anger and possessive behavior for a feeling that she has a new surroundings that are pretty, fresh and still filled with her special things that mean a great deal to her.
  6. Just do it: This job is not easy I know. But if you do it right, it will pay off over and over again as you go down the line with your mother’s care. As she gets less able to do things, it will be easier for you to keep it clean and for her to use it without a trip or fall. She will feel refreshed and you will have a home that will easily show well for a future sale.
  7. Dont forget to keep up the outside. The street view of the house is the sales point. So ask family to help you cut down the overgrown plants and keep the lawn trimmed and watered. If the house is in need of a cleaning outside or a painting in order to sell it, is best done while your mother is able to write the check for the work. A new coat of exterior paint, even just in the front of the home or the porch area cleaned can make a huge difference in the amount brought in with a sale.
  8. Always ask a third-party to be on your side. A friend of your mother’s, another family member, a neighbor. Ask them to back up your actions for your mother and allow her to complain to them. Facing the loss of independence or the end of life…can be huge reasons for anger and the inability to make changes. By showing her you want to change small things to freshen it up for her use – it will calm her down. She does not have to hear you are doing it for the future sale. Reality is important for the care giver, but protecting the senior from unwarranted worry is the kindest way to deal with the situation.
  9. The child inside? I find that elders usually respond just like your young children used to do. No they did not want to give away any of their own toys. But when the toys were sorted and cleaned and put aside in a bin and placed in the garage. The end of the month the toys were forgotten and the joy of the new paint, bedding, towels and the place of honor to the new toys – always won out. Your mother will be the same.
  10. This simply has to be done. It is much easier when you have a Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive in place. That way you can write a letter to her doctor and ask for help with her emotional issues. This will then be considered and the doctor can add in an Rx that will keep her calm and not so worried over the little things in her life. As always, if you are doing something for your mother’s best care, you are doing it right. But if you over use her funds, or throw out valuables because you don’t like them…that is not care giving, that is acting in your own self-interest and is not acceptable. If you don’t have time to do all of this, then it is time for your mother to go into a retirement care facility where her needs can be met by professionals. The choice is on the table and it will take both of you to make the decision.

Hope you find this helpful. It is so hard to be the care-giver to parents that have had control over their lives and still see you- as a child. But this is a job that has to be done. So putting it off is simply pointless. You will spend more time on this project than you think…but once it’s done…you can relax and know that the future is handled. You and your mother can enjoy a kitchen with a working stove and a new faucet and see the TV without the clutter. It pays off…and your mother will appreciate your time, even if she does not say so. Being a care giver is a very special gift, I thank you for all you are doing.  

Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the August issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. Its a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  alot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy