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 ūüėČ 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

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Care-Givers Giving Care on a Budget

Estimated 30 million families from all over are quietly caring for their seniors without funding from anyone. Finding ways to care within a budget of time and money. by francy Dickinson

Family helping family with loving care

Dear Francy; My parents are fighting my mother’s dementia. They are on a very small budget. Dad has Social Security and $250 in a small pension. Mother has only social security, which is half of dad’s. Dad is so afraid of the future. How can he keep giving her the care she needs, with no money for professionals to help him?

First he needs guidance. The best place to find it is through the Aging Department in their local social services. He needs to go with you and just visit the offices and get a case worker to talk to him. She will guide him to what the state can do and what the local agencies can do. You will be surprised at the many people who are trying to help elders with care. Doing this is never negative, it is real and you will have a good idea of the steps that will need to be taken as the time moves on.

Now, here are some ideas of how to help your parents:

  1. If they have a home that is paid in full they can go and get money from the government in a reverse loan. This will give them the house value cash and leave the home for your dad to live in until he is no longer able to do so without a monthly payment. ¬†Yes, some don’t like these loans but they are legal and using a company that you find with good BBB reviews on it, is the ticket. Then your dad would have money for a care giver¬†occasionally. Always ask a professional their advice before you sign the papers, but get someone to come and talk to you about the process. You need to inform yourself as much as you can.
  2. If their home has an extra bedroom, they rent it out. But instead of money, the person will give care-giving time.  This is perfect for a college or technical student. This means you need to set rules for the person using the room. They have to have reference letters or names to check and full list of duties has to be in print for them to sign. Kicking them out will happen if they over-step the agreed upon rules.
  3. This will give your dad a little free time, even a few hours a day. To get out of the house and let him calm down.
  4. He will hire a bath lady. That is a first step in any in-home care. These ladies are trained to be upbeat and caring and will do a bath in no time and have your mom powder fresh and back in her favorite chair with tea in her hand and a smile on her face. To me they are miracle workers.
  5. Next your dad will either get his own circle of friends or re-join one. He needs to go out once a week to have coffee with them, or play poker, or golf or whatever is his pleasure. He will either have a family member, his border, or a paid in home worker watch your mom. This will give your dad a mental release and time to vent to others.
  6. Keeping your dad well with trips to his doctor so his stress does not affect his heart. Keeping him well feed and involved in the family, not feeling alone.
  7. You read and you read about dementia…get your mom into a neurologist so she can get any meds that might help her. Then stop all other doctor visits, its pointless to keep her body¬†healthy¬†when her brain is dying. I know this is hard, but it is what has to be done. Get yourself on a dementia support group online. So you can vent and keep your mind as clear as you can.
  8. Ask your family to cover for your dad…make merry. Keep the visits and the home as upbeat as you can. Play calming music, use smiles and keep your mom in a bubble of safety.
  9. Feed your mother good food, with sugar treats throughout the day. Keeping the energy and sugar level high can help to keep her calm. Don’t be afraid to ask for sleeping pills for her so your dad can get a good sleep, too.
  10. Always ask for help; ask your doctors, your local faith center, your city services, your community center, your senior center, your welfare office. Do not be too proud to get help
Blessings on all that you are doing, I know how hard it is to be one of millions of family members that care for their elders. The amount of seniors tucked away trying to care for loved ones all alone without funding is unbelievable in our country. You simply have to be brave and ask others to guide and help you. You will honor both of your parents by being strong and giving as much as you can and still keeping yourself and your family healthy and safe.
Thank you, for all that you are doing…you are a caring person and if no one has told you lately…. You make a huge difference in this world…your parents are lucky to have you caring for them. Blessings francy
PS Take note that my Senior Care Book is in the editing phase and will be out the door soon…so please click on the right and sign-up and you will be notified of all updated blogs and my book release ….Yeah, I’m excited…it has loads of care giving tips!!

HELP- Alzheimer‚Äôs Anger Too Hard to Handle Alone

Senior and Alzheimer’s Anger Issues by francy

Dear Francy; I am an only child of two wonderful people. My dad is now in his eighties and has dementia and he is getting so angry and hard for mom and I to take care of– what can we do? We are tired, sad and just in a daze.

George in Fun times B4 Alzheimer's

Before the Alzheimer's Anger there was Fun

Well blessings on you and your mom. How lucky he is to have you both and don’t be fooled, he loves you and knows you are there to help. But Alzheimer’s and other dementias just take over the brain and you need help to make it easier for your dad and the care givers. So, what I need you to do is to be calm and just take a deep breath and then think like a doctor would think. Because when a body is off kilter, it has to be diagnosed and any possible medication or treatment has to be given to help.

RULE ONE: GET THE RIGHT DOCTOR FOR THE JOB

Now this may seem so simple but if you do not have a full time neurologist you need one right now. Today: ask a few friends, your family doctor or family members that might have used a neurologist in the past and get a name. Or go to your local drug store and ask them for three names of neurologists within a 20 min drive that prescribe for dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. Get a name and immediately call and ask to make an appointment and tell them your father is in great need. If they have a long wait list, ask them to refer you to another neurologist. Get this done.
DO NOT GO TO YOUR USUSAL FAMILY DOCTOR. Please understand that your family doctor is trained for caring for the normal range of body aliments. He/she is not an expert on brain chemistry, medications and treatments for brain ailments. Just as you would go to a heart surgeon for  bi-pass surgery, you will go to a neurologist to have them help your dad with his dementia.

Once you have that appointment. Take your mum out of the house, to a coffee shop and have a notebook with you. Ask her to help you write a list of things that your dad has been doing and try hard to put a range of time on those events.

EXAMPLE NOTES FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS REVIEW: 

  1. Last summer; Dad started getting shorter tempered. At that time we could calm him down and the next day he would be fine.
  2. September; Dad just started to be angry on almost a daily basis about small and large things. Nothing we say seems to release him of his anger. We try and try to do things that will help, but he just throws things, and uses terrible language and we are feeling so upset on a daily basis.
  3. During the holidays; dad got even worse. He was mad at our attempts to celebrate or to have holiday dinners. He refused to even sit at the table and he did not even eat the pumpkin pie (his favorite)
  4. Now on a daily basis; mother and I find our feelings hurt and we still try not to engage in his rants. We are tired and getting personally depressed. We need help.

Can you see the review? It’s simple and to the pointРit allows the doctor to see the timing of his decline and to see what you have done to help your dad. Now the next job is to get a list of his medications together for the doctor to review.

EXAMPLE OF MEDICATION LISTING TO TAKE TO DOCTOR ON EACH VISIT:

You will prepare this list only once and type it on the computer. Then you will update it as appropriate and take it into the doctor on each visit. Any doctor needs this list to review. You will also make a copy and keep it in your handbag for Emergency Room visits. This is important for anyone with a brain/emotion illness they will have heavy duty meds and the hospital and all doctors need to know what the medications and supplements are and how to treat any other physical problem around them.

1/ 1,000 unit of vitamin C       morning w/food

1 multiple vitamin       morning w/food

Doxazosin mesylate     4mg     One a day (to relax bladder muscles)/nite

Hydrochlorothiazide 12.5mg per day 1/2 pill  (for blood pressure) /early day

Ok this is just an example- but you want to take time to read all of the pill containers and write down the name of the pill, the amount , what the pill is for and when to take it ‚Äď plus the w/food.

Now that you have done this…anyone can come and take care of your dad and make sure they give him just the right amount of medications at the right time. This allows you and your mom to relax and know you can add a professional or family member to the care giving list. And your doctor is going to be able to enter the information in their computer and advise you on supplements to add or take away from the list and medications that will enhance your dad’s life at home while you and your mother are giving him care.

TIME TO BE REAL WITH YOURSELF

No one, not even a loving daughter/son or spouse can be with a person that is combative, angry, and demands full time care without breaks. A care giver has to stay strong in order to give care. So, you have to put down a schedule in your notebook with your mum. Talk about it and be real about it. Stick to the schedule and do whatever you can to make it your bible.

EXAMPLE:

Monday: Mother’s day all day and I will call on the way home and see if she needs anything picked up from store.

Tuesday: Mother has morning with dad…then a neighbor, church friend, relative or professional care person comes in around 1PM and stays until 3PM and mother leaves the house. She can shop, she can read quietly at the library, she can go for a walk, or she can just drive somewhere and be quiet in the car. But she is out of the house and is quiet and away from your dad. This way she will feel a release and be calmed and regenerated.  I will call her on my way home and make sure all is well.

Wednesday: Mother is home all day and I will stop over after work. I will help her with any chores around the house and make dinner for her and dad. I will clean up and she will just sit while I chat with her and dad. If there is a situation, I will do my best to relax it and refocus dad. I will make arrangements for my own family to have dinner and an evening – without me at my own home.

Thursday: Dad goes out of the house. Mother takes him shopping, or for a walk at the mall, or drops him off at the senior center for cards or a movie. Thursdays mean out of the house…but the rule is he is well fed before he leaves. A sandwich is taken or a go out to lunch Рis planned and a snack (just like you would if you take a toddler out) is tucked into your mother’s purse. Most important he is home by 3’ish…Sundowners will kick in around that time. Sundowners is a syndrome that means the energy in the body/brain dips low as the sun sets and the dementia patient is very prone to this. At home they need a sugar treat with a cuppa tea and quiet for the rest of the day.( This sundowners is experienced each and every day). Outings are done early and should only be 2 hours in length. This will allow the care giver to get out and your dad to get exercise and then be home to crash and nap.

Friday: Mother is once again there in the morning and the family plans to visit in the afternoon. Ask any relative or friend to come and visit on Friday and talk to your dad. This is a visit for him, so an old army buddy, business friend, faith based friend will do nicely. You can also ask a faith organization for a home visit for a male and they will put him on their list for every Friday. Just 20 minutes to 1 hour is needed to keep your dad’s mind up and interested in something new. Your mother is there, but out of the room, so your dad can say anything he likes without hurting her feelings. This is his time…and it then becomes your mother’s release and relax time also. You will call and check on your mom and plan for the weekend.

Saturday or Sunday: should be family day. If there are grand children or cousins, they can come and cut the grass, wash dishes, do windows, vacuum and help the grandparents with the house chores. 2 hours is all that is needed to pick up the house and have fun. They should bring over a dessert so Grandpa has some sugar for his brain and they have something fun to eat. Then it‚Äôs time for them to leave. Or if the day is planned to stay together they can make a family dinner and be quiet while Grandpa rests and then enjoy a big meal together. The kids can bring their computer games and such and just understand that it is a visit that is required of family because it is a part of life. This influx of energy with new people during the week is important…it raises the energy level of the home and your dad will be able to react off of others not just you and your mom each day.

The other day of the weekend is spent relaxing for both your mom and dad. Ready to hit Monday rolling along with your weekly plan all over again. This type of routine allows your mother time to rest and look forward to things each week. It allows you to plan your week and your own life and family routine and involves other family, friends, neighbors, faith based friends, or professional care sitters and givers to be involved and allow you and your mother to have a plan. This pre-plan may not go perfectly each week, but it is better than a daily fight of trying to cope with chaos instead of planning peace.

Your listing of weekly time, is yours to make —but making it and then planning appointments around the listing gives you both hope‚Ķ

CHECK LIST:

  1. Dr. appointment ‚Äď made and ready to go
  2. Notebook: writing a review for doctor to be given at check in so he can read it before the appointment
  3. Enter all medication listing so the doctor is ready to help your dad with new medications and print out copies for doctor appointments and a copy for your own handbag to have on hand
  4. Notebook: the weekly outline of what each of you is going to do every day for yourself and your dad. Asking others to help you, hiring a professional to be an in-home break for your mom and other activities that will help both your parents. This will keep your own mind clear and your emotions steady so you can deal with whatever comes out of your dad. His medications should do the trick of calming him down. And remember to call the doctor if the meds don’t make a difference. There are loads of different medication combinations (or cocktails) that can be done to enhance your father’s life as he declines in his Alzheimer’s

I send you blessings and know that the above is how I deal with my husband’s ever increasing anger and I have an appointment right now to review his decline. It’s a constant sadness for me to live with my husband’s Alzheimer’s…but sharing with others helps me cope.  francy

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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

Second Spouse – Now Care Giver

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; I am a lady that was widowed six years ago.¬†I then was lucky enough to find a wonderful man and have now¬†been remarried for four years. His first wife is still alive, they divorced. When we married, he had a pre-nup¬†so he could shelter his children’s inheritance and I still have my home that I rent out. Now, he has Alzheimer’s and I am the one to care for him. His family does nothing and I do all his care giving. His Alzheimer’s is fast-moving and he has really pulled back into his past. He talks about his first family as if he is still with his first wife and children are at home. It has bothered me so much. I do adore him, I do know he loved me when we took our vows, but now I feel lonely and sad. How can I keep my mind on our relationship and not feel that I have been lost in his health battle?

Well welcome to the sad world of family/spouse caregiving. It is a hard road and you have so lovingly taken that road with him and I want to thank you for that. I personally fall into the second spouse and now caring for my husband,too. Unlike you I have been with him for 30 years and so we have a long-established relationship. But that does not change the feeling you get when your spouse is talking about his former family on a full-time basis as if his memory was yesterday and you never existed. It is a hard thing to listen to and very hurtful.

I know like myself, you understand that your husband is not thinking in a form of hurting you…nor is he thinking in a logical direction. His mind is moving into a web of thoughts that really have no direction, so what he believes or remembers and talks about is his own focus. How can both you and I stay on the path of care giving with love and spirit if we are constantly hurt by things that our spouses say to us?

I want you to know that I have thought about this very hard and I know that the George that is inside of my husband loved me from our first meeting, he spent years telling me how much he cared for me, supporting me in my endeavors, rejoicing in my up and helping me over my downs. He laid a foundation of love for me to stand on as I make my way – by his side- through Alzheimer’s. So I force myself to remember this basic fact…and as his health diminishes and he forgets our life together in bits and pieces and maybe even when he forgets my own name or face –¬†I will have to be even stronger in my personal belief of love.

I know you have had less time to place down a foundation, but as you said, there was a foundation of love. You came into his life with joy and love and he rejoiced in his new life choice to be with you. You brought him a sense of security and unconditional love and that is a gift that is so special. Now, he slips..and your relationship is tested with health challenges that¬†are so hard. It’s not something that gets better, its something that gets worse…and you are still there giving him love and support. What his family does for him is not your concern, life is like that, very few understand care giving till it’s right in their face. But you can do things to keep your own mind and heart strong.

IDEAS TO KEEP THE SPOUSE CARE GIVER STRONG DURING A JOURNEY WITH ALZHEIMER’S:

  1. Start your day with you…even if you are awakened, do not think of that as your start point. Attend to the situation and then regroup and start your day for you. Take a few minutes in or out of bed to breath deep and thank the universe for a day of peace and comfort. Go over a few things in your mind you have to do today for your spouse. Then make a plan of things for you to do for yourself today.
  2. Begin new morning rituals, give yourself time to take a shower and get dressed and always do something for your own self. A bit of lipstick, a shave with a razor instead of electric razor, a teeth whitener, a new hair do for both a man or woman.
  3. This idea of just coping each day is wrong. Wrong. You do not cope, you stay ahead of the curve with ideas, and creative problem solving. That is the way to make care giving fresh…solve problems. Dont take your spouses downfall that day to heart, think of how to change that downfall. Are they losing strength? Then a light walk in place with 2 cans of pumpkin(1# cans) one in each hand is how to give you and your spouse more muscle mass and usage. Are they stuck in 1964? Then turn on the TV to news and talk about the day’s news and today and what you have in mind for the day. You will bring them back into the present and give them something new to improve their pathways in their brain.
  4. Feel and act young. My husband is twenty years my senior and he is now fighting with his Alzheimer’s so I tend to fall into his life, his history, his mind set. But I am not him, I am me. I have my own memories and ideas and I live for today. That is how we age well….we live in the present. So, I am constantly bringing my Georgie into the now. We do a funny little thing and I say Milk was how much in 1975? and he will guess….milk is how much today? and he will guess…he is always amazed at the price changes. See I brought him out to me, there….that is what I do over and over again.
  5. I stay strong with my own aging. I have turned sixty. I am on a diet and losing weight, I have added a small exercise routine to recover from an auto accident and I force myself to spend money on my hair every other month. My hair is done with color and style…I don’t go out much…so I guess I am a great looking “at home” lady now. I am proud of how I look and I make sure George looks good too.
  6. I have cleared out my husbands closet to make his life today, not yesterday. He no longer wears his suits and ties each day, he has old jeans and old cords and they are out. I bought him newer clothes¬†to give him an updated look of clean and tidy. If his underwear or shirts are looking old…out…and new ones come in the door. Man or woman, your senior in care needs to stay current and that keeps them “feeling” younger. Buy new clothes, get dressed with flair each day. No living in pajamas or house coats. Get your body in clothes that fit well and show off your body, or show you to get back in shape! I also do Georgie’s hair, I do it every six weeks and it is a light color to cover the gray. It makes his skin look healthy and he feels younger….”feels” that is a key here. How does someone feel about their own self? Make sure you and your spouse are keeping current and keeping their personal appearance up. If it takes a go out and get a hair cut and a pedicure it has to go in the budget and on the “out and about” list.
  7. Projects. When we work our day is filled with duties of our jobs, then we retire or become unwell and days just begin to melt into each other. OH NO – DO NOT LET YOURSELF THINK RETIRED. Think “what is on the schedule for today?” Have your spouse carry the laundry basket for you or fold for you, or push the vacuum around or dust, or refill the salt and pepper shakers or help you clean out the car, or give YOU a back rub, or neck rub. Ask them to bring you a glass of water, or tea or a banana. Keep your day filled with interaction. Do not take on all things…make your spouse function by keeping them busy with the abilities they have to use.
  8. Divide days up in the week and repeat the tasks each week. Monday, is office day for me so George sits up in my office and listens to a new audiobook on his MP3 player. Tuesday, is PT for me and so George gets me my morning tea and toast and I shower and get ready to go. Then he gets ready and before we go I make him do the ck of the front door. Wednesday, is our go to Grocery store day and he helps me with the list and the food and off we go. We take time to have a coffee at a coffee shop and I get him a pedicure¬†for his toe nails or he walks around Radio Shack or Ace Hardware. It is our out and about day. If he is feeling good, we shop and then visit someone. Thursday, is our at home and rest day. He stays down and sleeps and I work around the house and in my office. Friday, is the finish all projects and keep the house clean day. George does the housework with me, he is in charge of vacuum and I do the rest. Saturday, is our wash clothes days and he carries the laundry and folds his own with my help. Sunday, is big breakfast and walk around the block day with a movie that evening and we start all over again. See? Each day has a plan that he is involved with and as he feels unwell we change it slightly but I try hard to stick with the plan…it makes each day special but feeling safe for the spouse in care.
  9. Former family day. I have a list of people on a piece of paper and he goes down the list each weekend so he can make calls without time limits on his cell phone. He calls his kids, his old friends, his old work mates and family. He calls 3 each weekend and then works down the list through the month. It gives him a sense of connection and his family a sense of his changing abilities. I do not make the calls, they are on his auto cell phone list and if he misses them, it is his decision. This has been a good program for him and I encourage it each weekend.
  10. Big chores, George is not thrilled to work outside or do the garbage, but they are still his chores. I ask him to help me with yard pick up and to empty the waste bins….he does it with a grudge, but he does it and I continue to include him. In between each of these chores is long times of rest for George and that is when I shine. I can get the dinner going, work in my office, make my own calls and stay connected with my own friends.
  11. I have friends that make me laugh. The ones that are down and droopy are gone. I only have time to spread my love and joy with a few friends on a quick touch base. So I have friends that listen to me and make me laugh about my life, then I listen to them and make them laugh about their life. I started a close relationship with a few new friends on Twitter. I adore them. Twitter is new to me, but I have friends that I touch base with in short amounts of time. Not half hour phone calls, but ten minute typing a few messages to a few folks and reading funny responses back. This connection is totally different from¬†my past relationships. I have had friends that I traveled with, lunched with, shopped with and partied with…but those days are gone. I am here with George full time…so now I refresh myself with talking to a friend¬†and feel the support. I have adapted my friendship to different terms and it has worked out brilliantly. See Creative Thinking….I just keep sharing it. It is the key to you feeling in powered and your spouse having a high quality of life.
  12. Who I am, is a direct reflection of how George is doing that day. If I am sick, he is down. If I am depressed or upset, he responds with anger or confusion. If I am desperate for quiet, he makes noise. But if I stay in charge of my own day and set about my own duties, he also follows my lead and gets involved. If I say, I am off to PT…he asks to go with me. If it is grocery day and I am up and asking him about food choices and where to have our coffee he is up and in the shower to leave with me. I am now the captain of our ship and instead of feeling overwhelmed…I make sure I steer our ship with my own daily plan of action – that way I stay feeling in control of my life…instead of being a care giver that is caught in a web of duties.

I know that you can put away your mind-set¬†with the first family. It is simply a choice- you personally have to keep your mind in the present and know that his life is with you and you are in charge of the day. To refocus a dementia patient on to another thought pattern or action is the most important thing in your bag of care giving tricks. When he talks about the past, ask him questions…what color was that car? What time of year was it?…then take him into those places. Oh, it was Spring, hey what are we going to do for new bulbs this year, or should be think about Easter here for a dinner for the kids? You see you move the conversation around to your thinking and bring his mind with you. You can and You will do it.

I trust in your heart…blessings from a very dizzy blonde that is actually making a difference in her spouses life for the good…
Thank you, francy
Please find me on Twitter @seniorcaretips
Enjoy my recipes: http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/

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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď 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.

Spouse Giving Care 24/7

by francy Dickinson                           www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

A Talk with Francy; I have this picture in my mind of spouse care. I remember it from almost thirty years ago when my elder uncle cared for his wife with Parkinson’s. He had been a cared for man of leisure all his life because she had worked hard with¬†her own¬†interior design company in Seattle. She had worked long days all week, staying in a small apartment in the city. She would come¬†home to Lakewood on the weekends to care for her husband who never worked a day of their 48 year marriage. She would take him to dinner, entertain with friends, leave him with a clean home, food for the week and bills paid. She worked into her mid- eighties¬†when the Parkinson’s took her abilities away…she sold her business and came home. My uncle started to care for her in his own way. That way was not good. He was a man spoiled with his own life style and she was left alone most of the time.¬†¬†When you would visit, their home got messy, dirty and then horrid. Her care got lax¬†and her food was awful. ¬†As she laid on the couch unable to move on her own, the room she was in was filled with trash. I worried about that the most; a woman who had filled her life with tranquil beauty was dying with trash everywhere¬†she could see. I would bring dinner once a week and mother, in her mid eighties, would visit every month only to worry the rest of the month. We were unable to make changes, or move her to a care facility or do anything really. There were not the laws that we have now for seniors in care. So we just watched her care go down hill and wondered how my uncle could live his life in this manner. It wounded me and I have carried that frustration with me for all these years.

After my mother passed and I was then free from giving her care РI turned around and found my own husband suffering from dementia. It is a story that millions of people face but when it happens to someone you love so much, it just sends chills down your spine.

I am twenty years his junior and so at first I had a hard time telling the difference from him getting older and the dementia. But what I knew was the man that had given me a life of love and care, was not able to do most of things he had done in the past. So along with dealing with him, I had to change my own life and adjust to his needs. I remembered my uncle and vowed to give my husband solid good care.

Being a care giving spouse is a very odd roll. Part of you is still in the mind set of husband or wife loving your spouse…the other part goes into a roll of care giving mom that has to learn new talents to keep your spouse as well and strong as you can. It is not easy and it gets extremely lonely.

I suppose it’s the confusion that hits you with dementia. It not only consumes my husband’ mind, but it reflects off onto me. After a day of him asking my opinion over and over again, telling me he is going to do a task but never gets to the task- I often forget what he was suppose to do myself. Total confusion, spreads just like the flu. He will head out to the garage for a tool and stay there for half an hour. My worry buzzer will go off in my mind and I will go out to find him cleaning out the garbage can or sorting through the garden tools. He is off in his own world and nothing will bring him back. He is determined to accomplish some unknown task. So, I have to change his mind, I have to interject a new thought in his brain. “George would you come and help me I think the faucet is leaking and the water is going off everywhere?” Back he comes from the garage now re focused on a must do task. When he gets into the kitchen the faucet looks good and I say how good it is he fixed it. He will stand and look at it and wonder about it and I make him a cup of coffee or a sandwich and he moves on to that task. It’s a constant movement to keep him safe, calm and in a zone of happy thoughts.

At the same time, I have to make money. I can not leave the house and just leave him alone for any long period of time. But George is not in any way ready for a full time care facility. I do not make enough money to gift him a care giver each day or pay for a day center to leave him. So, I have to think of ways to make money from home with quick, less then two hour meetings with senior clients helping them find placement in care facilities. I do the research and find the facilities that fit their needs. They meet me at two facilities that I have chosen as the best and walk through them with the family and help them make the decisions. When I do not have a client I write and sell senior care help books and other how to ebooks and do my blog and tips on twitter @seniorcaretips

Once, I arrived back home to find my above stove microwave pulled apart and in a million pieces and my husband trying to fix it. I then had to step in and get him re settled with a new movie on TV…put the parts back as well as I can and then¬†went to the store and bought a new microwave. The worry over him getting harmed or walking away while I’m gone is very strong. But as a working spouse care giver I have to try as hard as I can to keep him safe and still make a living.

I often bring George along with me to keep him busy and even then I worry he will get too stressed to make it through a long meeting with a client. I had a session with a lawyer last week and George just melted in the office, we had to get him outside to walk around and sit him in the car for me to continue and sign papers that were needed. I drove him over to a restaurant and after eating and talking he returned to his calm self and I was able to drive the 25 minutes home without worry.

Each day has its surprises. Some days are calm some are horrid. Some calm days can change in a second with anger and some awful days drive me to the edge. Where I have to take a deep breath and become creative to find a way to solve the current care giving problem. Problems can be solved, they just need the spouse to stay calm within and be creative about how to re focus or find where to ask for help.

My nights are filled with worries and sleep often eludes me. But I try hard to take naps, take breaks with time to meditate and do a lot of deep breathing through out my days. I eat good food and I take supplements that I am more than convinced keep me stronger than not.

I cook healthy food, not heat up frozen and I clean my home, but not with dedication. I talk to a select few that understand I need to vent and I need to laugh. I use my twitter group to release my tension and give to others to sooth my mind. I try to interact with George in a loving way even if I am on edge from an arguing session. I get him to waltz me around the living room, pour me a glass of wine, make my tea or rub my back so he remembers the pleasure of giving and caring for others. I have a good list of things for both of us to do each day…so we stay on a daily routine and I always tell myself that I’m a good and loving person even when I’m mad, as hell, at life.

The part that bothers me is the 24/7. There are no days off…only hours away. There are no – lets take a break weekends away when George gets so confused in his own home, let alone a new place. There are no go and visit your kids or sister when he has to be watched and one slip might mean him getting lost or getting so upset he gets sick. I have no escape, no way out. So, I have to remove that from my mind. I have to give myself a feeling of escape. By reading or watching TV in another room. By working in the garden while he takes a nap. By going out to the grocery store and giving myself time at a coffee shop or the library to read magazines. I have to make sure that he has a friend visit so I can just take a nap or go for a walk. Maybe take¬†him to an exercise place so I can just listen to music or a book on my MP3 player,¬†in the car.

His dementia/Alzheimer’s gets worse everyday…but in very slow and tiny ways. The doctor says he is progressing very slowly and that is good for George. But it is not good for me. I have to pay attention¬†to his food and pills. I have to know when his episodes of anger and gait change are over the limit and we need to go to the doctor to get his meds changed. I have to make decisions for his regular health on a daily basis and it is a continual hardship to care that closely for another person. But I keep in my mind that I am giving a gift, not doing chores. I try to make his forgeting to take pills that I leave by his side at his TV chair- a joke and if they are not taken I remind him,¬†tease him¬†about it and watch him take them.

There are loney times. When I want to just talk to him, as my best friend and tell him about my day or my thoughts for the future. I want to have help with the taxes and the financal problems we have, I want him to surround me with his arms and just hug the world away. I want our close friendship of over 30 years to be there for me when I am doing the hardest job I have ever done, but it isn’t – my friend is already gone. I now stand alone, I stand next to him – but I am alone. Others that come and visit us see us together still – but we are not, he is gone in little ways and the gap grows each day.

I wish I could say, this story has a happy ending, but it does not. I am sitting in the living room typing while he is upset in the bedroom. Mad that he has to get up and dressed at almost three in the afternoon. I can be a difficult mom to him and he hates that part of our life. But what I know is that when they said through thick and thin when we married…I said those words and I meant those words and I am living those words with as much joy and love as I can each day. When the time comes that George is in a care facility I will continue to care for his daily needs in my own way…but just having him near is soothing to me. Someday, he will be gone and I will have all the time in world to do my nails and take lunch with my girl friends. Today, I choose to be next to him and I choose it day by day knowing that I make the choice to love and support him in my own way.

I don’t believe in caring for another until you drop over yourself. That is pointless, every spouse has to make the decision as to what degree they can give and help their loved one. We are all so different, some can care a long time, others can not give hands on care for any time at all…no one is better than the next, it is just who we are. But what I know is that we have¬†to talk and reach out to others for help. We have to not allow ourselves to be all alone and scared, we have to tend to our own needs. If we do not stay strong, our spouse will fall faster and harder.

My tips from the heart? Eat, drink plenty of water, take good deep breaths, talk to your family and friends, kiss your spouse, argue with your mind not your mouth and laugh as much as you can. Joy is being a part of something and I suggest you join me on twitter, or any other support group in person or online. You get so many great ideas to help you through the care giving steps. I have a workbook on my site that gives all the basics in home care giving, take a visit and look, I think it will help you.

But most of all laugh as much as you can at the crazy things around you. Because when you stand back and look at your life it is a bit funny don’t you think?

Blessings, francy