How to juggle care giving and your own family life for senior parent care…by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; My mom and dad have hit the age that they both need care. Dad is younger than mom but he took a fall and has a very bad back. Mother is suffering from heart condition that really limits her ability to do around the house and go out. She is on oxygen most of the time and is so tired she is unable to care for dad. I have been trying to do things for them, but I have 3 teens at home and I am almost sick from exhaustion. What can I do now?
Well the secret is always in the money isn’t it? If you have money to hire in help or even a limited amount you would be wise to get a house cleaner. At least the house itself would be tidy and you would not have to do that part yourself. Alternatives are getting family members to come and clean for less. We have a young mother with her baby that cleans for my sister. She is her grand-daughter so she pays her a little bit and the cleaning and visiting with grandma is all done together. If your parents have a faith-based life with a community attached, call and see if they have a retired lady or young mother that would be willing to clean each week for a small amount that you can afford. Just remember; it has to be clean. So when you get someone in…tell them what you want them to do. Make a check off list and make sure it is done to your liking. If not explain and see if they can improve or get rid of them. You can not afford to pay someone to sit and talk and have a sandwich instead of washing down the shower and tub. Be strong on any help you bring into your parent’s home.
The next thing, that makes all the difference in the world, is a bath lady. Every single senior will get ticked-off at the thought of having one. But when they come; they will spend hours telling you how wonderful the bath lady is – I can not explain it. But I have seen it so many times. If they come and help your mom with a shower it is done so fast that its like a miracle. The heart patients are so receptive to this because it is exhausting; showering on their own. You find well trained bath ladies at a professional in-home care service. They will come and do a free review of the home and needs…and talk to you about their services. You can use as many services as often as you can afford; but even if you are low on funds…make a bath lady a priority she will add quality to the care being given. (PS she also reports any mark or problem with your parent’s body as she washes them. It helps to know if they have a bad skin spot where they are sitting…or a bruise or an open wound.)
Walk through their home with a good friend of yours. Tell your friend, it has to be a safe and practical for your parents. As you
walk through the family home…think of how to add handles to places that need support if they have to bend down or step up. Take away throw rugs or things on the floor. Remove clutter of newspapers and stacked books or hobby things. Clean it up, make it safe. How are they getting out of bed? Do they need a shower bench or handles in the bathroom? Does their kitchen need to be sorted so the everyday things are at a closer reach. Be strong…make good, wise changes and let your friend use her eyes that are not clouded by years of loving the home and it being ‘your parents’ place’.
Talk to your own family and tell them you need help. What could they do each week? Could they all come over on a Friday after school and get the yard cleaned, the garbage out, the wash carried up or down stairs, the bed changed….you know if you figure out that every Friday…you have a storm of duties and you all work. In two hours you will be free as a bird for the weekend.
Go and fix meals for the week in one night ! Don’t tell me this can not be done, I do it all the time. It just takes planning and saves you so much energy. Stay there for dinner that night and have the family over for dinner. Make it easier for you to be in one place, at one time. Then buy nice Rubbermaid dinner containers and store the dinners for the week. You can freeze a few left over dinners. This way your parents just microwave the meals and eat good home cooking each night. A big soup, a nice slow cooker meal, pasta, a pre-cooked roasted chicken for a couple of meals. Come on, you can do it! They add their fruit and salads, cookies and treats. You get it all done in a swoop of one evening. It may take some thinking, but you will see it is doable and easier than coming over every day.
No matter how smart and bright and gifted your parents are at this time. Take over the care of their medications. This one item could extend their lives. You simply have to gather up all their meds and find out what they are and why they are taking them. You write it all down and take it to the pharmacy where they will explain the medications. Then you list what is needed every day for each. IMPORTANT: You then add in the supplements that they should both be taking, Vit D – 1,ooo units per day / Multi-vit for seniors / Vit C – 1,ooo units / Joint compound 1-2 pills per day, per person. Ask the pharmacy when you ask about their meds if those supplements are OK to add. Now, once a week you fill up their daily pill containers. They never again worry about what pill when. You handle it all and simply leave the container there for them. Remove their pill bottles to a large bag in the storage room. You will now make the call each month to order the pills and try to buy them for a 90 day amount. Use a pharmacy that has a computer and call back system. Give them your cell phone, they should be able to call you once a month and tell you when they are ready for pick-up. Picking up pills and the worry of doctor OK’ing the Rx is a nasty chore, so make sure the pharmacy is up to date. (I use Walgreens and like their price and their computer program.) This is a key issue to care for seniors…medications are understood and given on time, every day. Make sure you mark the weekly pill containers with their names (I use nail polish or stickers) This way; medication is given to keep the pain away and keep their body functions going without the ups and downs of missing medications —-bodies feel and act much stronger. If they have to take food with their meds, make sure you get them into the habit of having a yogurt or small apple sauce container before they take their pills.
Don’t be afraid to change oxygen delivery companies. One of the biggest problems with oxygen is poor service or delivery. If your mother needs to use her portable containers…she needs them. For her to wait for them is not acceptable. Make sure the oxygen machine is one that moves up to 10 and adds a little moisture so she keeps feeling strong as long as possible. Medicare pays for this service so make sure the money is spent on a company that is reliable.
- General cleaning of the house; like kitchen and bath is done weekly or twice a month by another person. Family, friend or professional.
- Bath lady is hired min. once a week to give your mom a good comforting bath.
- A clutter free area for a walker and ease of use is made by you and a friend as you clear up the house. Adding safety touches anywhere that a problem may arise.
- You enlist your own family to help on a weekly basis. You give out chores and they all go to work in a flurry of activity. The yard, the garage, the garbage, the wash, the big items that need repair are all handled and you can relax.
- You choose a day during the week to come and make dinners. You will be shopping for the food, have a menu plan at hand and then hit the kitchen. To make it easier you have your husband and kids join you that evening for dinner at the grandparent’s home. This is the slow cooker meal or the big pasta dinner. Leftovers and other meals are placed into nice storage containers that freeze and chill well. Salad mix, fruit, cookies, nuts, pies whatever their favorite treats are left behind. DONE = a week of meals for them to choose and microwave. Yeah.
- You take over their medications. You know and understand what they are and how they work and what time of day to give them. You buy new and load up the big pill containers for the week and your parents are now safe and snug as bugs in a rug.
- Check the service companies that are providing the oxygen, medications, bladder control or diabetes equipment. Make sure they bill properly to medicare and that they are easy to use. Do not be afraid to change. You may have to have the doctor re-write prescriptions, but this is just done once and then the ease of using a business that is good with their customer care is essential as your parents move into more and more use of medical equipment.