Clear Your Mind and Your House for Spring

 
Seniors clutter free
Elders need help to clear clutter

Seniors need to keep their homes clean to help calm and clear their minds.

Help them with a plan of action to get their home back in order after living in their house for 20+ years! As we age our minds take in clutter in different ways. Many elders have slight to moderate dementia and clutter around them takes their brain away from relaxing. Even as they sit in their favorite chair and watch TV…they are looking around and telling their self they have to sort this or that pile of newspapers.

Dear Francy; Mother is still in her home; she has fallen twice so we have a helpline service. She has a heart condition and she gets very tired. I go over every other day and do her basic shopping and other needs to keep her in her home. But, she will not let me touch a thing in her house. It is filled with old lady junk and really getting dingy and dirty. How can I get her off the dime and the house clean again?

You know I always have to be the bad guy with this situation…because dirt and junk equals health concerns and falls. You have to sit down and tell her that its just time for spring cleaning. If she wants to stay in her home, she will have to do a clean-up and keep it safe. You cannot go over and watch her sitting in the middle of clutter and worry about her falling.

 Sounds good…but you need a plan. So figure out how you would clean the place before you have your family chat and make the time period for the plan of action after the talk very short. You chat with her on Thursday and show up to clean on Saturday!

I would pre-plan a weekend that family, friends, or hired help can do a complete clean of two to three rooms. I always choose the living room and bedroom first. Then the next cleaning is in a couple of months and is the kitchen and bathroom. When I say the living room…it might be your mother’s family room, it’s the room she lives in the most and has the most stuff to sort and clean out.

Get a group of helpers in line and pick a weekend so they all have it on their calendar. Then call them to remind them, or you’ll be standing there all alone. Do the plan in your mind and keep it on paper so when they arrive you can give everyone a job.

Things you will need to help you:

  1. Someone with a truck or van that can take things to the charity shop or dump. It has to go out the door and off the property that day. Give them money for gas even if they say no…gas is too expensive these days.
  2. Have some young people to lift and to carry boxes. Get boxes small from the liquor store. You can pack and move them easier than big fancy moving boxes. Since this is just a clean, you don’t have to go way out on the boxes and packing up old things to give away.
  3. Have a plan for the recycle. Newspapers and magazines are usually the biggest part of an elder’s out of control home. Know where to take them and have a map of the drop off so the driver can get there and back again.
  4. Get water bottles, cold drinks and I a good frozen lasagna to put in the oven and feed the crew. You can have a purchased salad and French bread. Have a box of cookies or cupcakes from the store and just let them munch as they work.  
  5. Plan for 3 hours of work for everyone. That’s why you need your notes and to be really organized.
  6. Have good, sturdy, plastic bags to use for throw away. Have wipes for the cleaning and take over a good vacuum. Often elders have very old vacuums that will not work to get the dirt out of the house. Get a good duster and a can of furniture polish.

Planning is the key. If you tell yourself you will pack up and carry out the junk one day and then come back the next day and do a steam clean of the carpet…or mop and wax of the floor. That way the job is cut in half and the action is fast and has a real impact over one weekend. And it limits your mother’s fuss and worry over the whole project.

Get a friend, or relative to take your mother for the full day and she will not be there to be nervous and upset over the clean and people in her home.

Be very kind. If you know your mother likes knickknacks, do not think your design style will remove them all. Cleaning them and arranging a few on shelves and tucking the rest in a box for the closet will work. You do not want to give away things that are family treasures to her. Take down the huge collection of grandchildren and great grand uncles. Take the pictures to your home and pick out just a few to re-frame and re-hang.

The magazines, books, catalogs, newspapers and other clutter do go. Old silk flowers can go or be cleaned and rearranged. (They just get a bath and drip dry.) I always tell the senior that “it was all donated to a charity so others can enjoy it.” It will allow her to relax and know they have a home. Take note; if the magazine subscriptions are doubled…be sure to save a few address labels and notify the publisher. Magazine sellers often confuse and take advantage of elders.

Have a special big basket that you will put bills, mail and other paperwork into and take home. At the end of the day, you personally go through it and sort the information. This way you can tell if your mother is still doing well with her paperwork. If so get an expandable file folder and return the information with labels on it. If there are too many old and unpaid bills…keep the information. In the future, you will have to sit down and have a chat with her about her finances. I would wait a few days for her to adjust to the changes in her home before I had a serious talk about her finances.

Furniture that no longer works in the room needs to be given to the local charity. Keep throw rugs out of the room- they are a high fall risk. Furniture that clutters the room and keeps her from walking directly to and from the kitchen and bathroom, should be removed. If she is not now, she will one day have a walker – leave room. Just try as hard as you can to think ahead.

Look at the room ahead of the clean and see what can be done to upgrade it. Can you buy a slipcover for the couch and new throw pillows? Buy it ahead of the clean, so the room is a nice surprise for her.

If your dad used a special chair and he is no longer there, in the home…do not remove it without her knowing about it. That can cross over to a sentimental action that could really put her in a depression over a simple misunderstanding.

If the room looks sad and dirty, plan the next weekend to be the painting weekend. Give the rooms a quick coat of fresh paint. You want the new “green” paint that has a low odor factor. It will let her feel like she has new things. At the same time, she will still have the feeling of safety around her with her things back in their place.

No putting off projects on your part. If you make a commitment to do this project, do it right and on time. Elders need their safe places…don’t leave her without her home in working order.

Her bedroom will need new linen, bedspreads and drapes. Go and buy the “Bed in a Bag” ahead of the clean and give her a nice uplift with new colors and new sheets. Her closet will need new hangers…buy 50 skinny hangers ahead of the clean.

Bedrooms are always two steps to clean:

  1. Clean the room and re-dress her bed in new linens and her windows in matching drapes or blinds. Clean the rug or floor. Make sure she does not have a throw rug to trip on, by the bed.
  2. Return in the weeks after the clean and sort the closet with your mother. Get it cleared and re-hung on all matching hangers so it looks great when it’s done. (Ready for new clothes, too)

Keep something in your mind as you clean. This home will be up for sale in a few years. If you paint the home use a very neutral tone and if you need to shine the floors do it… they will look good for the future home sale. That is why taking down old drapes and putting up fresh ones…is wise. Your mother will enjoy them now and it will aid in the sale of the home later.

The idea is to go over the process in your mind and have it all scheduled out. That way your mother has little discomfort. Then the next time you come to do the clean for the rest of the house, she will be more relaxed about it

This project may seem like a pointless action that will just get your mother really mad at you. You may be right. But keeping her in her home and safe is your goal…and that requires you to be the strong one sometimes. If you do a good job, she will secretly fall back in love with her house again…and you will wind up the good guy in the end!

Thanks for all you are doing…care giving is a special gift that rarely is appreciated ….

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Alzheimer’s Valentine Secret Surprise

Alzheimer's Valentine

George's Valentine Surprise

 

It’s a strange road you lead when you’re a full-time caregiver / spouse. The days seem to fill with things that have nothing to do with you…but are so important that you find there is little time left at the end of the day…to be you. That was how it was going after the holidays. It was time for George to start his treks to his various doctor appointments. Getting the appointments getting George ready for and to the appointments and then the regular daily chores seems to blur the months together.

I found that it was Valentine’s Day. I had planned a lunch out with my sister and her husband so George would feel the change in the daily routine. Before I got up…George had left the bedroom early and gone to the kitchen to prepare his tea and bagel. His routine for breakfast has been set for quite some time. I have been pleased that he wakes each morning to remember the routine. But as the months go by the routine has been changed from a breakfast and tea for us both…down to a toaster bagel and tea just for him. I’m fine with that, the doctor has advised he keep doing small chores and the easy breakfast keeps his mind ticking away. Sometimes he leaves the tea on a forgotten counter, or the bagel in the toaster, but it’s the thought process that counts.

So I was happy when he returned with tea in hand and warm bagel wrapped in a paper towel and said; “Happy Valentines Day, Francy.” It was a pleasant surprise that he had remembered the day without my coaching him. I wasn’t feeling well. A small allergy had blown into a sinus infection with swollen itchy eyes…so I was nursing myself and feeling totally off the beam. But the tone of George’s voice brought me back to the blessing that I still have him by my side and he still remembers my name and the extra special day.

Oh, the years that have gone before were so different. George was quite smitten with Valentine’s Day. He would always bring me a sweet piece of jewelry; some years expensive and other years modest…but a remembrance that I still cherish to this day. He would have a fancy card, flowers and usually a dinner out. Sometimes we would go to a special Valentine function or dance and he would dress to the nine’s in his tux or dinner jacket. I remember all those years; I have to remember them because he has forgotten them. So, I often remind him of one of our sweet adventures when he is in a sour mood. And I remind myself when I join him in a particularly difficult day.

I got up that morning and wrapped myself in my robe and grumbled to myself as I scuffed my way down the hall to the kitchen. Thinking of making my own tea and taking a bevy of pills and eye drops to get myself well again. As I rounded the corner and entered the room…there was a large piece of paper propped up on the counter by our fish tank. At first I couldn’t really focus on what it was because my eyes were so swollen and so I had to move closer to view it.

There in front of me was a handmade Valentine card from a man who does not have an ounce of art talent in his body. I cried of course; cried tears that really had more meaning then just the card he had made, the tears were for how even when our life has changed so much…there is still love.

George had asked me to take him out to get a card that week. But my eyes were so bad I did not want to drive. I had told myself to remember to ask Cheryl to help him do a card for me on the computer, but that had also gotten forgotten in the midst of the daily routines. So when George got up that morning he was without a card and decided to take the matter into his own hands. He went up to my office and found some art paper and came down to the kitchen and found an ad flyer on the table with gifts for Valentines on it. He carefully cut out the jewelry from the ad and glued it to the paper and made his own card. I suppose when you read this you think it was a sweet thing to do. But you would not understand the many steps all of this took…it took him a couple of hours to do the project. While I was sleeping he was busy cutting away and pasting. He had to put all the thoughts together, remember the tasks, find the objects to cut, glue, and paste and then put a theme of a card together. It was by far the most complicated task that he had done in months. There were not tears of sadness and loss…for once, there were tears of joy for his creative self that was trying so hard to come to the top of his brain.

I have said it before but I feel my mother put it in words that I shall always relate to; as she aged into her 100th year she said she was becoming so upset with her daily regression. She shared with me; “Remember how a young baby starts to learn things and every day the mother is filled with pride and joy at a new ability the child has added? First it’s the baby’s eyes begin to follow movement, then they turn over, then they hold up their head and start to sit. Then the crawling and walking and talking come and you can barely keep up with the changes. Each new step is a mother’s rejoice. Well I am doing just the opposite. Each day I seem to lose ability. Little by little I can feel my body go backwards, getting weaker and weaker.” That is how it is now with George’s brain, day by day little pieces of his brain retreat and he becomes less of who is was as a person all his life. But this time; he was able to reach down and become something more. It was a joy on a day that like all other days except for its name of St Valentine’s Day. I think somewhere mother is rejoicing in George’s day of creative power…and certainly St Valentine is giving us a wink.

There will be a Valentine’s Day that I will be without George and when that day comes I am not going to remember all the fancy presents, flowers and dances he used to take me to…nope. I am going to remember this card of love that he worked so hard to piece together step by step…so he could reveal his love for me.

How lucky am I?

Please do come and join me with more information on caring for Alzheimer’s and other senior care issues www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com

Thank you for all you do for your own senior in care…francy

George in office
George reading while I work in office

HELP- Alzheimer’s 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 point– it 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 – 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 – is 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’s 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…

CHECK LIST:

  1. Dr. appointment – 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

Please go to my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter so we can support each other  www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Holidays with Alzheimer’s

Dear francy; My mother and I took my dad (who has early dementia) to Texas to have a family Thanksgiving. It was simply the worst event of my life. Dad was confused from the moment we got in the car. The check- in at the airport was awful. He was mad and angry at the TSA check through. Then on the plane, he simply got rude to the flight attendant and everything went downhill from there. He did not want to be at our relatives, he did not want to eat. Oh my gosh; it was simply one moment of embarrassment after another. Dad had shown little signs of dementia at home, but we had no idea of his decline until we went on this trip. Should we get him into the doctor for a checkup or is this a normal event that we simply missed the signs?

Alzheimers at Holiday, Alzheimer's, Seniors Alone

My Georgie at Christmas

 

I think it’s really both. Your doctor should hear that he was so moody and had what they call an “event” on the plane. That is common, the oxygen changes in the plane and it affects the brain. But the doctor needs to know the different things that happened. So, first write it all down in simple terms like an outline. Fax that letter into your doctor or take it with you for the next appointment. Ask for an appointment as soon as possible. Christmas is right around the corner and if the stress of change is beginning to affect him – you need to get it handled.

The doctor will read the letter that you outlined the problem and be able to assist you in a mood type of drug that will help your dad cope with the pressure of change. It will mean that he will be less upset and that is the goal for all of you as a family. These medications are designed to just calm him down, not make him tired or unfeeling. As the dementia progresses; your doctor will increase this medication as needed. This is what your doctor and medications are for so do not feel like you are doing something wrong to report his behavior and ask for help. Doctors are trained to help you and so you will become part of the health team for your dad. You, your mother, the doctors and your dad; all together working to make his dementia progression as slow as possible = Health Team.

Have a talk with your mother and really allow her to express herself. She may be shocked and upset at his behavior, or she may have been looking the other way on all to many occasions when your dad has been moody before this “event”. She has to talk about it, if she is covering for him – as many loyal wives do for their spouses – that has to be talked about. His health means being very open and out there with the different ups and downs of his behavior. He will go downhill on a fast track if he is allowed to just go on emotional upsets without any attention being given to them. So, your mother is the front push of the Health Team. She has to get used to talking to you honestly about the daily ups and downs in your dad’s behavior. Then you both can decide when that behavior is not acceptable and needs to be reported to the doctor. Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients can get angry and not know how to express their needs and will lash out with words and with physical fighting. If that happens; the doctors need to know so they can medicate and keep the patient calmer. Your mother has to be protected from any harm during her care giving. Honesty between you and your mother will be a key to giving your dad good care.

Alzheimer’s/Dementia Spouse care givers have to be giving all the knowledge they can have to understand the steps in the decline of the senior. That way they know how to express their own needs and what to do to keep their own spirit and health intact.

Here are some ideas to help the spouse or the family care giver:

  • You may have to make plans for your dad to have a pro care giver brought in once a week to care for him while your mom gets rest or an outing.
  • You may need to take him to a day care for dementia patients once or twice a week –  or just a few hours – so he can get some interaction with others and your mother gets a rest.
  • Maybe once a week you and your family can come over for a Saturday night movie and bring dinner…so your parents can have family interaction and feel like they are still connected and not alone.
  • You may want to call five of your dad’s old friends and ask if they would commit to calling him once a week in the early afternoon, or coming over to visit once a month for no more than 20 minutes. That will give your dad a touch of friendship and connection with others.
  • You may want to have a bath lady come and do the personal bath each week. That way your mother does not have to argue about a bath. It keeps dad clean and keeps mom calmer.
  • Maybe you can have a neighbor/sibling come over for two hours each week and you take your mom shopping with you. Then stop for a quiet coffee time and then back home. This break means your mother gets a boost of energy from you and your dad gets a separation from routine.
  • Make sure your dad gets an out and about at least every other week. Even if he gets uptight. It can be a car ride to get gas and coffee and never really leaving the car. Or a ride to your house for dinner. Keep the event short and simple. Try not to include a big crowd or strangers.
  • Sunday services may not be on the list any longer. You can ask the pastor to visit the house each week. Or you can attend a quieter mid-week service. These large crowds of people, even though he knows them well – can set him off to a place of insecurity and that means opening him up for another “event”.

To Review:

  1. Get the doctor on board with information and updating medication
  2. Make sure the main care giver understands that the senior is changing and they will both need more support
  3. Get professional support for just a few hours each week, so the cost is within budget and the spouse has a relief from care
  4. Get family and friends to assist you in their own way to keep your dad connected but calm
  5. Keep your senior out of the house but within boundaries of their own comfort level
  6. Change things around for the senior like heavy holiday stress or large faith or family events into smaller doses to keep comfort level calm
  7. Holidays can be any day that has friends and family around the senior with a light dinner. The stress of thinking you have to have a big event with all the trimmings is now going to change. Do not think “This may be his last Christmas for him to remember.” He has already changed, his holiday has to be less of everything, with more love and happy up energy.

This whole adventure through care of loved ones at holiday time– is a bum. I am learning step by step as I go forward with my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Our Thanksgiving was way too much for him and I was to blame. I wanted him to be happy…but I forgot that his happy has changed. A simple good meal and a good movie would have been much better. I have learned and I will not be doing a big push for Christmas. Keeping things down and calm, but still celebrating is the ticket. I guess we are all going through this journey and learning together and I thank you for all you are doing for your parents.

Blessings on your holidays may they be quiet, calm and filled with the real love that you and your family have for each other…

   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 new newsletter 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. It’s 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

NO MORE HOLIDAY DÉCOR?

Seniors Need Holiday Decor

Keep Senior Happy at Holidays

Seniors Stay Healthy with Holiday Celebrations By francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mother lost Dad last April and this is her first holiday without him. She has decided that since it’s just her, in her small home she will not decorate for Christmas this year. She has always been heavy on the holiday decorating so I am surprised and worried it’s a sign of depression. Should I be pushing her into a therapy session?

Any therapy is always good for people to have when they have been through a loss of a close loved one. If you decide to go that route I think a senior support group with folks of similar experience would be wise instead of a heavy duty therapy session. Most seniors will go through all the stages of loss and it may take them longer than younger people…to process. Holidays without spouses are tough…so give her room to grow into the new person she has to now become.

NO MORE DÉCOR? NO WAY

I feel very strongly about décor of any kind for the seasons. Not just Christmas or Halloween, but all the seasons. As we all go through life on a busy highway; days begin to slip away so fast. One day is two weeks, then its three months and then it’s our birthday round again. To keep our minds in the present and to celebrate life’s seasons we need to remind ourselves of the season and the best way to do that is to decorate with touches of spring, summer, fall and winter.

Being alone is no excuse to ignore the celebration of life that goes on around you. There is not a season on our calendar that we do not find a holiday or special birthday or event…to celebrate. This way we make a point of the celebration and have something to look forward to and a way to use our creative side.

This idea that we can change what we eat and stop cooking properly or change how we clean our homes and live among a pile of newspapers — grows with the idea that being alone, means no one cares. WRONG. We have to care; our homes and our lives have to be led as though we are having friends over that evening for cake and coffee. It’s a mindset that needs to be instilled in small children and seniors. Live your life like you are prepared for an upcoming event…and an upcoming event will happen!

My mother lived a very long life in good health and totally busy at all times. She passed at 100 and she had made the most of her full life cycle. She would talk to me about all her girlfriends starting to age more and more. “Francy, she lives in a tiny hole of apartment and has no room for us to play cards.” Or “Francy, she let her hair go gray and instantly started walking so slow she gave up our walks at the mall.”

Mother would share these things with me. She watched others go through their idea of what was accepted as “Getting Old” or being “a Widow” and she never liked what she saw. So, mother kept her home up on a daily basis. She would get up and pick up the small but ample apartment she lived in each morning. She would have her breakfast and then do a little clean-up with dusting and doing her dishes. Then she would settle in and do some reading or her knitting. If the weather was nice she was outside working in the yard for a few hours and if the weather was bad she was meeting a friend for a walk in a covered spot. She got out and about twice a week. She baked pies, cookies and froze them for family a couple of times a week and she had her home ready for the season at all times.

Everyone enjoyed stopping to visit mother. Her home was clean, it smelled delightful, her coffee pot was always brewing fresh coffee and those cookies could be popped in the microwave for heating up at any time. It was always enjoyable.  On her own, she would sit in her living room and enjoy the clean open room and her décor for the upcoming holiday.

YES…the décor was minimal compared to her days of a big home, larger family or when her husband was alive. But the seasonal décor was important to her and she was always finding ways to make small statements that spread the cheer. Her door would have a hanging craft piece that she would find at the local craft fair. Her coffee table would have an arrangement fitting the colors and theme of the season. She would have a small table top tree and a village scene on her dining room table. She found ways to make the joy shout out, even if it was holiday towels in her bathroom or a pretty holiday theme platter or cookie jar on her kitchen counter top. All year long, she found ways of stating the season changes and that made her home special for us to visit…and for her to enjoy her life on her own.

Being inside of life as it moves is so important. If you allow yourself or your senior to sit in the dark and retreat they will begin a downward slide in their mental and physical health. And remember; the argument that, “I really don’t care anymore now that dad is gone” – does not work. First, family and friends are still in place and need the senior. Second; letting ourselves go down does not mean a pretty dying in your sleep. It means you could have a serious heart problem and not be able to breath and have to use oxygen all the time, you could have a stroke and have to drag your legs around or be bed-ridden. Trust me; life is not perfect…so the alternative? Change the outlook in small ways to keep things comforting for the  senior, but in flux. Change is scary, but it’s also exciting.

NO DO NOT MOVE WITHIN A FEW MONTHS OF LOSING YOUR SPOUSE. But make changes. Take their favorite chair out of the living area. Paint the walls, buy new throw pillows. Do things to slightly start to remove them from the home but not leave the spouse with a feeling of loss every day. So, change the décor for Christmas this year; but do not put up the big tree with all the family ornaments. Leave that stuff in a box till next year and then the senior can sort the ornaments and give them to family members for special childhood memory gifts. But this year; buy a new small tree; one that spins or has those lovely laser lights inside that change color. Buy a poinsettia for the cocktail table and a nice fresh wreath for “inside” the front door so the pine scent spreads around the house or apartment. Put up some new holiday towels in the bathroom and ready a spot in the kitchen for the holiday cards. Have your mom take a picture of her and all her grandkids dressed in hats, scarves and gloves and use that as her holiday greeting card. Get her tickets to the local holiday performance of “the Singing Christmas Tree” “Nutcracker” or church play. Allow her to have her calendar filled with weekly things she will do with family and friends or the senior center. Keep her busy. So she can start to restructure what she feels is a happy holiday.

Happiness comes in all sizes and within funny events. It may be helpful to take your senior shopping for small grandkids gifts. It may be best for you to have a teen grandchild come over and do all the wrapping for grandma. It may be best to bring the senior over to your home on the Christmas cookie baking day and have her do the dishes while you whirl around your kitchen. Holidays can be remade and invented for all of us-as we age. But holidays and seasons, make our lives special. To give that up is a step towards being a sad and lonely person.

To change our lives just enough to move us into a new and rewarding future is the key for us all. Making new traditions is not hard, it just takes loving hearts and hands to help the senior see the new sights from a different window.

Blessings on all you do for your mom, francy

   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 new newsletter 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. It’s 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

Living Long, Easy – Living Well, Takes Work

Dear Francy; My parents are in their early nineties and still live in their family home. The house is small and easy for them to keep up with hired help for fix-ups and me for assistance. But, they are now doing less and less…their days are spent watching TV and sleeping. I know that they will face their end times but I want them to stay in their home as long as possible. What can I do to keep them safe and yet home, at such an advanced age?

Uncle Bill & Mom 100+ Yrs of Living

It’s all about quality of their days now…so keeping them moving and thinking — it’s the key

  1.  Do they move around during the day? Keeping their legs working and their balance in place is really a hot point.Make sure they move around to go to the bathroom…make them walk around the house or up and down the hall twice each time they go to the bathroom. Their commode goes over the toilet during the day to help them up and down on the toilet seat. Then at night move the commode into their bedroom for ease of use when they are trying not to fall at night. NO Should I ?….this is a must and do not let the senior make decisions that effect their balance and possible fall at nite!
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  3. Do they eat on trays by the TV all day long? That will keep them from knowing what they are eating and allow them to snack without thought. Have them eat at the kitchen or dining room table not in front of the TV on trays. This is really important to keep their food intake under control. Intake of food in advanced age is very hard. The palate does not taste food and the stomach is not hungry for food. So making food spiced well and served attractively is important. They will concentrate on their eating, chewing and swallowing safely. They will eat a full meal, not piece. They will be able to see each other and be forced to talk to each other to encourage their interaction. If there is a care giver there, ask them to sit and visit with them while they eat. To be there in case of swallowing problems.
  4. Do they remember what day it is and talk about things happening in the present? Their minds have to keep working not go on vacation. Keep a wall calendar and put all their appointments on it and add in family events. Grand children’s birthdays that need cards sent or calls to be made – holidays coming up in large print – reminders of voting days and library return days. Keep them in the present as much as you can so they do not simply stop thinking. Order books from the library, they have special “homebound” programs that will send out a few books for them to read and return in a pouch via the mail. FREE… Talk about TV programs that are coming up that have interest for them. PBS has history series that are so well done, they have Masterpiece Mystery and Theater and art programs. These are quality shows that can be easily understood and enjoyed.
  5. Are the newspapers piling up around the house and look like they are not being read? You need to keep them thinking and reading. Change the paper to just the weekends. It means less paper to throw away and still is a weekly review of local events. Add a Newsweek or Time subscription so they get the news in detail. If they have trouble listening to news each night, this will do a full in-depth report of major events so they keep up on life around them. Remember those magazines need to be dropped off at the library. Most libraries have a magazine exchange for those that can not afford them. It’s a kind way to stay gifting all through the Sr’s life.
  6. Is their surroundings looking dull and like grandma’s house? Everyone enjoys a clean and pretty home especially when they spend all their time in their home. Make a few changes…Add some new throw pillows for color, change the grand children photos and update their selection. Get the family photos on an electronic photo frame that will be changing throughout the day. Ask the family to help you do a weekend of painting and get the kitchen, and living area updated with new paint, clean windows and curtains. It will lift spirits and have to be done when they choose to leave the home and the house goes up for sale. So best done so they can enjoy it.
  7. Do they still have friends alive that they can connect with once a month? This is really hard- as you age- you lose your friend base.
    If friends are few and far between now, have them go to a local senior center at least once a month for a card day, or craft day or an exercise class. Let them met some new folks to get their minds going on interaction again. A senior DayCare is around $14 a hour and you can find them in care facilities. Keeping their social skills alive means they will interact with their care givers and family much better, too!
  8. Do they have something to take care of or do you do everything for them? Everyone needs to have chores and responsibilities.
    Add a pet to the house. Your local shelter will find an older dog or cat that are small and easier to care. This is an addition that will give them a worry. They will even complain at first…”Oh,NO we don’t want to worry about a pet” Well too bad; older pets need good homes and love..and so do they. This new pet will add a feeling of movement to the home, noise and something to worry over and do for all day long. It will give them a reason to get up and put them out to potty or feed them. It will allow them to pet and stroke the animal and get that tactual interaction that all people need to keep healthy. It could be a bird, it could be fish…but pets are important to older folks and not to be ignored as something to hard to handle.
  9. Do they keep clean? Is the home smelling clean?  Many older people simply do less cleaning of their home and their own person. So schedule a bath lady once a week so they have a good supervised bath. Then make sure that the house gets aired out and have a good air cleaner. You can find ozone air filters that will push the air through the house and clean it out for you. Keeping clean is a foundation for a happier disposition. You will find almost all people who are depressed dress poorly and have less personal hygiene. So if you see this in your seniors disposition, take note and remember that depression can hit elders hard and it can be addressed and treated by their family doctor.
  10. Are they missing out by not hearing or seeing well? Do not think that someone older does not need to hear or see well.
    The idea that older people do not need to hear or see well is nuts. If you are in your eighties and will live another 4-25 years you need to keep your ears and eyes working. So get them help. Ck ears for wax, get at least one hearing aid. Add TVEars (a great headset) that gives them personal hearing for the TV. This also allows the TV audio to be turned down so you do not hear the TV in every room. Check their eyes, get glasses and updated frames or add magnify sheets so they can see to read and to understand their medications and the TV schedule. Get them to remove their cataracts that will open the world to their eyes again. Keep them thinking that time is moving forward but they deserve to move with it, not get stuck.
  11. What if you live to 120? My mother never thought she would live to 100 years. She was shocked as the years moved forward and she kept living on after many physical challenges. So she would say; if I knew I would live this long I would have done more when I was eighty. You see no one thinks about this…they just think they will drop over any time after 80+ so they wait for it to happen. Doctors have answers to many problems that caused early death – now, even something simple like colds can be handled so they don’t turn into pneumonia. Heart attacks can be medicated and life extended. So stop the thinking that your elders will drop over any time now. Start thinking…” If I am going to live another five to ten years what do I need to do?” It does make a difference. Movement will be more important, eating will become something to be involved with and dressing and interactions with others will be fun again. Life can be very long and a quality life is a treasure. Keep thinking ahead as you care for elders. Mother would often say; “All these pills can’t I stop taking some?” I would then go over her pills and ask which one do you want to stop. The pill to help you not get a stroke?- the pills to make your stomach feel better, the pill to help you go to the bathroom eaiser…on and on. She then would say..well I suppose I better just keep taking them. She was right, medications, exercise, food, personal care, friendship, family and social interaction make life worth living. So keep it up, keep them moving and grooving, no excuses…before you know it will be five years down the road and they will still be in their home and happy!

I thank you for all you are doing..francy   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 November 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. It’s 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

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