How care givers can handle the frustrations that dementia and other senior health problems can manifest! Staying sane, while you give them care. by Francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; It’s the nasty looks, the angry words and the refusal to even move when I ask him to! This has driven me to the edge. How do I keep going; when I have only been caring for dad a month and I’m out of my mind?
Well, my idea is to remember; who is the senior in care? And who is the care giver? The care giver is the boss…but the hard part? You have to do it silently.
I want you to think of your senior as a young child. Now this is not to demean a senior adult. They are full-grown and with or without dementia they have lived a life that is to be honored. NO, do not demean them. You simply think of them as emotionally equal to a young person of 3-6 years. When there is a problem to handle…you ask yourself what would I do if I was caring for a younger person?
Your dad is still trying to wear cargo pants during the day and his favorite shirt all week-long. He has trouble getting to the bathroom on time and then dealing with taking down his pants is adding to the constant accidents. Even if he does a morning clean up…his clothing is starting to smell. (Does that sound familiar Have you ever seen a 5-year-old that will not get out of his Spiderman pajamas and cape?) So, what you do is lay out two outfits for the next day and take his clothes and clean them. In the morning he has two tops and two pants (hopefully comfortable around the house sweats) to choose from. The other clothes are in the wash. He may be upset…but you have given him two choices and he has the feeling of freedom. Now that means that you have to sort through his clothes and get rid of a lot of things he no longer can safely or sanely wear. But once you get the routine down, the senior feels the honor of choice — even when the choices have been designed for the senior’s better good.
Your senior, is a sugar girl. But she has (diabetes, bad teeth, over-weight, or sugar highs at night) so you have to control the intake of sugar. Find a glass candy dish with a lid. Then find a few things that will hit her sweet tooth. Maybe a couple of cookies, a couple of sugar-free gummys, a mint, raisins, etc. Put two or three each in the dish each day. I would place it on her TV side table around 3PM. Let her chose and she gets to eat it fast or slow through the evening. You let her know…”This is your sweet dish for the day, remember this has to last”
Make sure you remove all signs of the sweets in her kitchen area…or your kitchen area. Keep them put away in a large plastic storage bin. So you have to hand out, but just like a young child…you only give them out in small quantities (Do you remember small baggies of goldfish or Cheerios for your toddler? This is the same idea…a treat, but not over-doing it)
PS/ Diabetic sweet products use sweeteners that can give the senior ‘the runs’ – it is very important that they only eat a small amount of the “candy style– sugar substitute” in those snacks. Keep an eye on this so you can learn to judge the amount your senior can handle.
What I am talking about is to think ahead to the day. What time does the senior have to eat or sleep to have a day that is calm? Have you been in the grocery store around 11’ish and heard a few children crying and carrying on? Why?…they are getting tired…they are getting hungry. The mother’s has miscalculated the time issue…they think a quick trip to the store and then take them to lunch. Wrong…the kids are on the edge of no return at that time. Children and seniors need to stay on a daily routine to give them a sense of security and well-being.
If you want to take a senior out. Make sure you have a cheese stick in your purse and water bottle ready for them to take a pill or just drink. Make sure you stop for food and insist they get home in time to nap. DO NOT MAKE MULTI-STOPS. Go to a doctor appointment and to lunch–then home. Another day, you go out and go for a walk around a store and then get ice cream. Another day you take them to a movie and make sure you feed them lunch and they go to the bathroom before they go into the theatre. “Thinking ahead” that is the job of the care-giver.
Your senior needs just the basics. They need a good bed that is comfortable and easy to get in and out of for night time bathroom runs. They need a good day comfort chair by the TV with a side-table. The side-table needs one or two drawers to keep their things in to keep them from a lot of ups and downs. Example: tuck in a nail file small scissor, pens, notebook, hand cream…those are just ideas to keep the need to constantly be asking you “to bring” them things..is reduced.
Plan, to give the senior their space…but you MUST check on them every 12-20 minutes. All mothers have this time frame in their minds; when they’re raising young children. You know that quiet can be good…or can mean the child is getting into trouble. So a check-in every few minutes means you are staying in contact with your senior’s needs, changing moods, and bathroom trips.
This means that you need to learn to plan your actions around the house to that time frame. It may seem overwhelming, but it works. You will get used to it. Then once you are on the same program as your senior…you know to take in their afternoon coffee or tea–or, to ask them to fold the clothes in the morning when they have energy. To keep the house quiet after lunch so they can nap. Not to mention; you can invite them to walk to the mailbox with you — to get their exercise in before 4PM when their energy naturally dips.
Most arguments and bad behavior is a sign of the senior wanting to be the BOSS. The senior is feeling that they are loosing personal power and they want to get it back. You are the person around for them to push buttons and try to be the boss. So when you change your thought pattern around…it allows them to ‘think’ they are making the decisions. The resistance goes down and the upsets depart. YOU, are the boss…and you have to keep the movement of the day and choices of the senior ‘pre-planned’. You do not find grade school teachers just walking into their classroom with 30 children – without a daily lesson plan. So think of your care-giving as a time to be prepared. The daily rituals will fall into place and you can then repeat the weekly plans with small changes. Both you and your senior will feel calmer.
After lunch each day…when the house is quiet and your senior is napping. Sit down and make a plan of action for your day and week. Then you can construct it to give the senior time to rest, play, eat and be calm. You can make time for yourself with visits to relatives senior centers and invite others to your place to give you a ‘time-out’. You can do it…it does take energy…it takes pre-planning–but you can do it. Once you have the rhythm down…it truly can be quieter in the life of both you and your senior.
If your senior continues to be really difficult — remember to write down examples and take them into the doctor the next trip. Let the health care team know you are on the edge and you need help…and they can advise a medication that can help lessen the stress for the senior. *** When I told the doctor and he gave George his medications for emotional stress…it made such a huge difference that I can not believe it took me so long to share the personal upset I had been fighting. Now, George feels calmer and every small issue is not a debate.
You are very kind to be sharing your patience, love and attention with your senior. Give yourself breaks. While the senior is watching their favorite TV shows…you walk out the door and go around the block…or just sit on the porch and breath a little. If your senior refuses baths–hire a bath person. If your senior has been in a snit all week, call a friend, cousin or sibling and ask them to come and give you a break. When they do…go out. Get in the car and drive to the store and just walk around. Or drive to the park and just relax…or drive to the coffee shop and give yourself a quiet treat. These little re-news…will make a huge difference in your ability to cope with rising stress levels.
Do not forget that music is your friend. Learn how to use a light tone in the morning….to get the day going…a quiet tone in the afternoon and early evening…and then a quicker tone when you want the senior to have dinner and be up in energy. Then tone the music down again in the later evening to prepare the senior for the quiet of the night. Music will lift you up and will calm you down…so keep it close and use it often.
Blessings on all that you do…francy
OH, do sign up for my updates and new posts —