10 Tips for Seniors “in-Care” to Kick-start 2014

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Ideas to keep a senior looking forward to the new year…to throw off the current depression over the holidays by francy Dickinson
George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

Dear Francy; Uncle Chuck is really lagging behind since the holidays. He is tired, quiet, and his eating has fallen off. How can I get him revved up? The winter is long and cold…very little around to excite him and I don’t want him to jump down into a depression?

This is a big deal for a lot of seniors…even if they are not shut in’s…they start to dread the winter months and have very little to look forward to, in their daily life. Here is how I am helping George through the down feelings he was displaying from the holidays, into an up attitude for the winter.

10 TIPS TO PULL SENIORS UP INTO 2014

  1. Update your wall calendar...let them see January, Feb and March. I know you have a calendar on your cell phone. But a senior needs to see the calendar in the hall or kitchen so they can feel the day and month changes. That way they keep an eye on the forward movement of time. Mark the football playoff’s and the Super Bowl, then the start of the Olympics. Talk these events up. If there are family birthdays…put those down on the calendar and add a picture of the family member so the senior can be reminded of which grand child is celebrating their birthday. Make the week busy on the calendar with appointments and highlights..it really keeps them looking ahead. Talk about it..everything in life needs a bit of PR:
    “We have lots to do this week, doctor appointments, a birthday, the football playoffs and I see that Sherlock Holmes is returning with new episodes this month.” (Add in the senior’s personal interests and take just a few moments of time on the web to look up something that is current and relates to the senior’s hobby or interests.)
  2. Weekly outings. Before George’s Parkinson’s took his legs and muscles away that caused me to add more time with him to help him walk….we would schedule things to do each week or at least twice a month. What is up in your area? You can find local events that are free or almost free…on your own town’s website. We have a playhouse that has a Thursday night once a month, that is on “love offering” to view the play. We have older movies in a local movie house that are reasonable and make a fun out and about. We have George’s friends from high school that come to visit and I get out the old photo albums, we have family that will come and enjoy the football game with George. Special dinners on Friday nights that are served in the dinning room instead of on a tray and early morning hot chocolate while you watch the sun rise. You can make the outings short or long…but make them fit the senior’s health, energy and interests. It takes time to be involved with the senior on this level…but the return of mini-excitements is well worth your efforts.
  3. Just add a few changes to the routine. So, George started to show signs of skin problems (with all his sitting in a chair routine) I had to change his routine and get him to move his weight from one cheek to another – every 40 minutes. So, instead of just getting him to stand and moving the pillow. I have added a little jig. When he stands he walks fast in place with me holding him and walking too. We do all of this together. He does this little jig for just a couple of minutes. Then we stand and take a deep breath and do an arm stretch that takes the arm and his upper body around as far as it can go and back. I hold on to his other hand to steady him. Then I let go and get him to balance and we laugh and do (we must, we must, we must develop our bust –you remember those) then in the end (still holding his hands) we bend our knees together and stuck out our bottoms and then stand up and pull those bottom muscles in as tight as we can hold them. This simple, few minutes throughout the day…has gotten him to have a steadier walk and better transfer muscles. Who knew? I did…I figured it out, because I got quiet and thought about what would help him. YES…it means I stop what I am doing every 40 minutes and spend a few moments with him…but the connection is good for both of us 😉 Don’t wait for doctors to tell you what to do..just get creative and see the changes for the good
  4. Is your senior cold? I was lucky enough to buy an electric blanket (throw size) for George this year. I bought it for Christmas gift, but gave it to him when we had our nasty cold weather here in the northwest, in early December. Boy, has the heat around his lap been a hit. I don’t have to turn up the house heat and I don’t have to dress him in 12 layers of clothes. He also got a nice travel pillow set with a small soft cushion and neck cushion and those came just in time to help George with the change of weight throughout the day. He is able to cozy into his electric Lazyboy chair and really get warm and rested. If your senior is using an older chair…or multiple throws to give them warmth…add a new layer of electric warmth…its been a big hit!
  5. Does your senior spend their day staring at a TV set? Well its time to change the chair…give them another view…put the TV in front of the window…so they do see the TV…but they can also enjoy the view out the window. Or move the chair to the largest window in the room and adjust the rest of the furniture. This keeps the senior involved with a fresh view. I also talk to George about what I will be doing in the spring…add a bird house to watch or a bird feeding station right outside his window. Add a fountain or a privacy fence so the senior can really enjoy the view of the trees, plants and right now “snow” right outside his window…instead of just having a darkened room with a TV blaring. Make their daily view new and interesting.
  6. OH, TV blaring...there are two things to let you know. First…we added something called a TVEars to the television a long time ago. It is a headphone system that allows the senior to hear the TV in both ears and gives you a break from the loud speakers. Then there is a new TV, that is easier to see and enjoy. Its time…for a flat screen for Grandpa. That is a fun way to have the kids and extended family put money together so the TV expense can be shared. It will be enjoyed…for hours everyday!
    Then the shock when a good friend got us a surround sound system. Instead of having the TV sound blaring so loud that the whole house is shaking…it moves the sound into higher and lower ranges and George can have one of the speakers right by his chair and I can turn the volume way down. He can still hear the voices and understand the story lines. I also have the “caption” turned on the TV…but the surround sound has really made a huge difference in the quality of TV for both George and I. (Thank you ‘Uncle Bob’)
  7. Time to change the daily menu...or just change the look of the everyday food? How about going to a small snack every 2 hours instead of the heavy meals three times a day. When George started to eat less…I started to think of ways to change the food. You can do this three days a week and then use the rest of the week for the usual Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I think you will find it’s easier for you to prepare small snacks and the seniors love it. I also have added a thermos of hot tea or ice water…so I do not have to run into the living room every five minutes. George is forced to think about refilling his own cup and giving him a task is a good thing.
  8. Problem solver. Both men and women want to feel needed. So sharing a problem with them and asking them to just listen or share their input is a good thing. Some times the senior shares information that is worth its weight in gold. Sitting, talking and listening for a few minutes each day…means the senior feels worthwhile and needed. You do not have to share heavy-duty stress issues…just the perplexing life situations that have to have attention.
  9. Keep the senior clean and wearing clothes that are new — not from their 1990’s closet. Often seniors feel they don’t need to update, they rarely go out and see anyone so who cares? They care!! Its time to get the senior some new daily shoes with gel in-soles and support. Shoes or sturdy slippers that look fashion forward and clothes that are made of cozy materials and are easy to wear…but newer and have color and fashion. This idea of getting both men and women to have their hair done, enjoying a treat of a pedi-cure at a local nail shop and/or wearing clothes that make them feel fresh and new…can raise the emotional outlook of 2014 up a few notches.
  10. Thinking. George does not need a daily paper…so my friend Cheryl has gotten him a subscription to TIME. That way he can read about the news in a full story form and understand it much better…than TV 24/7 day-to-day reporting of a current events. I often get him a Sunday paper and then bring him the small local papers when I go out shopping. George does not remember the information that he reads, his Alzheimer’s has taken his immediate memory…but he feels calm and safe with old routines. The TIME and Sunday paper are there for him to read and ‘think’ over and talk about, when ever he needs them…so he is not just watching TV. You and I may get our news from the net…but seniors feel safe with reading the headlines.

I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing and you can add a few new things for your senior this month. 2014…it has a good sound to it and even though many seniors (in care) feel like their life is almost over….its really is just another new year…they may have many, many more…so its best to keep their chins-up and push them into the new year with a smile instead of quiet silence….
Thank you for taking time to care for your senior…keeping them at home, happy in a care facility or safe at home with you…all of those things means you have to give them your time and love…added to your normal life routine, it can make for a crazy/busy life…but you care enough to push through and still have a smile. That shows what a great person you are…thank you. Blessings, francy

Tea Cup Candle made by my niece, Shelley Hatch..fun way to remember Grandma's china ;)

Tea Cup Candle made by my niece, Shelley Hatch..fun way to remember Grandma’s china and easy to do with candle wax, scent, and wick…EASY  😉

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Re-Charge Ideas for Family and Care Givers in 2014

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How to keep caregiver’s energy, emotions and health strong and re-charged in 2014 by Francy Dickinson

Care Givers have to be charged up and ready to go…
in order for their seniors to receive good care in the new year.

George and my niece Pam- at the table for Christmas dinner

George and my niece Pam- at the table for Christmas dinner

Dear Francy; I thought when the holidays were over I would be able to re-group and feel more involved and ready to give my mother another year of care. Its just the opposite, I thought this care giving would be a few months to a year at the most. Now, its three years and she is so filled with anger and upset…that I can hardly be nice…let alone excited about sharing my home with her for another year of my own life. I know that sounds horrible…I guess I am just getting to be bitter and I thought I was a nicer person. Do you have ideas to help me boost up my energy? 

ACCEPT WHAT CAN NOT BE CHANGED AND MAKE THIS YEAR ABOUT YOU!

I can not walk away from my husband even though his Parkinson’s/Alzheimer’s is going full force. Its not just ‘my duty’ as his wife…it’s my own choice to do the care giving…so as I arrange for George’s doctor appointments in the early part of the new year, I am also thinking how to help myself. I need to re-charge and get my mind and body in order so this year can be healthy for me and the days filled with happy activities for us both. Instead of living day by day in boredom or stress.

10 Things to Begin the New Year of Care Giving:

  1. The care giver’s personal health. Review how you are feeling. Are you able to obtain insurance? I know you get so into caring for your senior…but how are you doing with your own health? The new health care plan will be good for you to research. The rush is off, the state or government’s online sight is up and running…go take a look. You may be in the low income range and get a great deal with a good health insurance program and you can relax and have any outstanding worries checked. You will have a life on your own after your senior passes…so you need to check out your blood pressure, your weight, your energy level, any ache or pain and your food intake…and get an idea of how to keep YOU healthy.
  2. Weight gain is a universal problem for care givers. So, its time to really make a plan of action. Get a journal and write down the true facts. How much do you weight? Has your weight gone up more than 10 pounds in the last year? It’s time to tell yourself that a 20 minute early morning walk…or afternoon walk (while your senior is napping) needs to be added. Maybe you don’t want to do that in the cold or rain…so if that is so…than walk or run around the house for 1,000 steps or about 10 minutes each day. This action will get your body in shape and you will be ready to take that 20 minute walk when the weather changes in the early spring. — Tell yourself that you will eat every two hours. That means you will chose something to eat..not nibble all day, as you prepare your senior’s food and pills. — Chose a range of small snacks and meals that will keep your energy level up and keep you feeling full. Remove the easy things like sugar, candy, donuts…and add loads of water and green tea. — Small changes are the most powerful. Journal your ideas and keep that journal active so you stay on your plan.
  3. Add something new to your day, just for you. Get more books from the library or add a Kindle to your life and read. Your senior has lots of little rest times and nap times…if you plan to get your work done early and then take an hour or two in the afternoon to enjoy a new book. — Read up on a new hobby…many people are starting needle arts, men and women. Nothing like learning knitting, crochet or needlepoint and have an easy project at your side. Something that you can pick up and put down without worry. — Are you a guy that loves to work with wood or do small repairs around the house, but find the garage or workshop out back is too far to venture when you have to be close to your senior in care? One idea is to get a baby monitor and you can hear the change or the senior calling for you…or bring your work into the kitchen. Many seniors no longer eat in the kitchen when they are unwell…they eat off trays…so taking out the kitchen table and putting up a bench to work on projects is a fun way to begin a new activity and feel close to your senior. There are no rules to your life, making changes so you can enjoy personal time…is a key to success in your re-charge.
  4. Mentally, you are getting down with the extended care giving? Its time to join a support group. Today it is so easy. In person support groups for care givers are found at senior centers, libraries and coffee shops. You can find them in the local paper or ask at the library. You can also join an online support group that will help you with care giving or (like I did) with my writing. I have a group of wonderful woman that are busy with life and still want to write, many of them have published their work and we encourage each other to stay active in our writing. Even if our lives are so busy we can hardy breath…the weekly meeting is online in a chat room and we have grown to be dear friends. This support each of the members has given me has developed into a friendship that now goes far beyond support on our writing. There are Skype meetings and websites that have support groups. Yes, you have to find a group that hits your own needs or interests…or maybe your faith group has a senior meet once a week. Find something that hits your own buttons and do this just for you. The meetings are an hour and if you get one close to home your travel time is small. Your emotional health is just as important as your senior’s. I know you do things to keep your senior busy and looking forward..so now turn it around and look at your own needs and find a group to enjoy. Support or shared interests…groups are there close to you and also can find find ‘MeetUp’ on the net, with a listing of group meetings in your area.
  5. Calm…the stress of care giving is so high that most care givers have no idea what kind of strain it is on our bodies. Everyday is a surprise at our house, George is quiet and then has a fall…or an onslaught of diarrhea..everything is then thrown up in the air. So how can you get yourself back to calm – in the middle of chaos? You learn to breath. Its a simple way to train your mind to calm. You take three deep breaths…in with your nose and out with your mouth. When you do this the oxygen goes to your brain and you feel instantly calmed. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the results of being calm, get stronger. — You turn on mellow music, and turn off the TV for a while. Maybe 15 minutes of calming music in the house will calm everyone down. You have a good green tea handy (not coffee to make you jumpy) and drink it when the stress is overwhelming, it helps you feel calmed and gives you a sense of caring for your own needs. — You go back to stretching or walking, even if you do it in the kitchen…that will also calm your mind and reduce your stress, hurt feelings, worry and anger.
  6. Privacy. As George is getting more and more in need of full care…I am getting more and more in need of privacy. So, I have put a comfortable chair in the kitchen and a table with my reading, computer and such, next to it. I use this as my own little area…to sit and be quiet…to make a phone call or do some chat online and I find it really helpful. I may be giving George most of my time…but when he is settled down watching TV…I can go into the kitchen and watch my own TV channel or keep busy with writing, reading or on the computer. It has really made a big difference in my personal feelings. I needed help removing the feel of being “trapped” in the house.
  7. Cleaning. It is really easy to be in a home for days on end and not really do any real clean-up. There is so much to do with care giving that the energy to clean seems overwhelming. But I assure you that cleaning the house and organizing things gives you a natural ‘high’. Just as you feel good when you step out of the shower –nice and clean…so you feel good when you work on one room a week and get your home clean and clear of clutter. Older people that live in homes for 10,20,or more years get used to their surroundings. That means that they just turn off their brain to the living areas of the house. You have to fight this.
    >>I am thinking this way…when George passes, I will be on my own…I will be upset and sad…so why not start the process of cleaning and clearing up years of “things” now?
    I first started with the garage. It had been a few years since George was able to be in the garage…it had always been ‘his space’. So I really did not know where things were, or what a lot of the tools and such – were even used for. I slowly, (I mean a couple hours each week when I was taking out the garbage) sort and put a couple of plastic bags full of things that we no longer needed or used into the garbage can. I gave things to the Goodwill, I threw out things. I asked neighbors what tools were for and marked them or sorted them for George’s son to take home. I am proud to say…the garage is now clean and clear. NO…not perfect…but I know what things are…and George’s old stuff is really now gone. He had saved 15 books on car repair for various cars we had over the years. I do not fix cars…so those where thrown away. The fishing and camping things were given away, the boxes were cut down and slowly added to the recycle each week. Now, I feel like the garage is mine and I know where things are when I need them. One step, one room at a time…but keep moving through the house. A small paint project, new throw pillows…life can feel fresh and clean with small changes.
  8. Retreat. I tend to just be quiet and stay close to home now. I used to be a very social person and my Georgie and I would go out to meetings, to visit our family and friend, to work, to dance, to eat, to do sports and to go to church. Now we are “at home”. So, I am making more of an effort to call and invite family or friends to come and visit. I bake cookies or a pie (or buy them 😉 and put on the coffee and we enjoy a good visit. George likes the visits and I keep them short and within reason so he does not get too tired. But I get the reward of friendship and family. Yes, it means I have to clean the house and get out of my sweats. Yes, it means I have to take time to invite and prepare a small treat for my guests. But the return for my efforts is laughing and connection with family and community.
  9. Personal appearance. How easy it is to just cave in and wear easy and older clothing around the house. So last year, I went out and bought a few new things to wear and I try to dress up a bit every day. I used to dress in suits in my working days…so its nice to put on a bit of jewelry and make sure my hair is done and nails are done. If you find that you have let your self just melt into the daily grind…its never too late to change. I have a good sonic tooth brush, I have a wonderful fancy face scrubber and I make sure I am cleaned and have my moisturizer and lipstick on each morning. I wear clothes that are comfortable, but colorful and I add vests to keep warm…but I also add a scarf to feel colorful. I don’t care if you are man or woman…you know what you can do to look better and feel clean and proud. If you keep yourself groomed…you will keep your senior groomed and that adds a great deal to your inner sense of self and emotional health.
  10. Spiritual time. I certainly do not care what your spiritual leanings are because there are thousands of folks reading my blog…so there are thousands of different thoughts and beliefs. But I want you to start to take a time each day…to just go to your Private area…and get quiet. Relax your mind and go to the space inside your mind…that will bring you peace. If you like to read a book or daily word…if you like to just write down positive statements or listen to music or step even farther and connect to a faith leader online. Go to youtube.com and listen to someone on a subject that allows you to feel closer to your inner you. If you have gotten far away from the practice of prayer or meditation…don’t worry…it will come back to you. When it becomes a daily habit for you…you will find your mind, body and emotions will start to be stronger and more relaxed. I reached out to a former pastor and he is now stopping by monthly or when he is in the area…it has made George feel good and look forward to the visit, too. Do good things for you…and you will be able to do good things for the senior that you care for each day.

I hope this gives you ideas of how without money or a lot of personal time…you can still make changes that uplift your mind and spirit. I thank you for giving another year of care to your senior and I honor the love and the part of your own life…you are gifting to another. francy

PS…would you please go to the right and sign up for my blog? Thank you..it will be sent to you when I write it and you can enjoy it automatically. I am not writing as much as I used to because George’s care is getting more time consuming…but I am still here if you need me. Just send me an email…francy

Here is to your health and happiness in 2014