Death, How To Cope When You Are The Caregiver

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Death and Dying issues to help caregivers by Francy Dickinson

Geo n francy oilMy Georgie has been gone for three months and I am adjusting to life again. I wanted to continue to share things with you. As you know, I began this blog to help myself and other spouse/caregivers with the issues that come up in daily care giving. I still want to be a voice in the wilderness for those that are giving their love, time, effort and attention to a loved one. Helping someone on their life’s journey is a very special and loving job…I hope you will find my words help you along the way. 

If you have been reading my blog over the years ~ you will remember I have always asked everyone to use hospice services when your senior is nearing death. You never have to be worried about it. The Hospice Services comes into your home and does an assessment of the senior and they share their ideas of how to help you. Their services are paid by a Medicare type of services…it then becomes a special Hospice Service expense and the medications and services are then no longer billed to you. So, financially, mentally and physically Hospice is the way to face the end of life issues with your loved one. It will help you overcome the worry and they will help you step by step…question after question.

That said; Georgie and I did not know he was at the point to call on Hospice. The doctors did not know what was wrong with George. He had a lot of tests and the diagnosis was not known. We had made another appointment for the next Tuesday to see the main doctor and talk to him about placing George in a care facility to review his health issues. In the mean time…we were home alone together. I was trying to understand how to use the oxygen, medications, catheter and take care of his physical needs. I was going on five days without real sleep and the situation was not good and we both knew it.  He was weakening by the minute and it was becoming very hard for me to do transfers and be strong enough to help him. We were ready for his “in hospital” care. I told George that after his stay at the care center I would be asking Hospice to come and help us and he understood that…but his end came before we could move through our plans.

Early on Saturday morning…George was taking his Albuterol breathing session. At the end of the session I went to remove the breathing mask and found he had passed. His eyes closed and he had stopped breathing. It was quiet and fast and I was heartbroken.

What I am going to talk about today is the process that followed. But once again, IF I had had the services of Hospice..all the following steps would have been taken care of for me. I would have been able to sit and be calmed by loving professionals and they would have taken over the different steps that come with a death while in their care. This is why I want you to NOT follow my lead…to avoid the sadness I had to walk through have the Hospice professionals by your side…caring for you and your loved one.

What to do when your spouse, or senior, passes and you are all alone:

  1. When George passed I went into shock. Lucky for me, I had my family and friends on my cell phone and I kept the phone close to me. I knew I was very tired and I had been afraid of my falling and needing help. So I was able to pull out my phone and call family and selected friends and our dear minister – to come and help me.
  2. Everyone arrived within minutes and each of them comforted me in their own way. They were not totally in the know…of what to do…but they worked together to decide on the immediate steps to take. I was in such shock, shaking and crying and just out of it…so they were gentle, loving and moved me through the process.
  3. We all knew we did not have to report the death the minute it happened. I had looked at the clock and knew he passed at 7:10AM but that was not really needed. I was just so struck with sorrow, I had no real knowledge of what was happening around me. That is why Hospice would have been so helpful…but my own support group did their best.
  4. Our minister asked everyone to come and circle around George and say a prayer and when we did that…each of us were then able to feel we had settled the tension and brought the love into a protective circle.
  5. If you have a faith that requires immediate burial, I suggest that you start today to make plans for the end of life. You will need to know the process and have numbers to call. In my situation, I knew that George wanted to be cremated, but we had no time frame to worry about. So we just took our time and did not call 911 until all the family members that wanted to view him, did so and at that time we made our call.
  6. Our local paramedics arrived and asked if they could inspect the body alone.So we cleared out of the room and they looked over things taking note that everything looked like a “natural death”. They wrote down the death and they made calls to the medical examiner and logged it in to the official book as a death with time and place written down. Then they alerted the police.
  7. A while later, the police arrived and they questioned all of us and asked questions about George’s health care and asked me to review the last couple of days. It was very hard for me to do this interview. I was still in shock and my mind was not able to connect properly with their questions. If I had had Hospice…that step would not have happened. Hospice is a legal service and the medical examiner takes their word for it. The police were very kind, but they had a job to do and they did it. Once again, they needed us to clear out and let them be with the body. When they were done…we were released to remove the body.
  8. We did not hurry…once again, we gathered together to say another prayer and wish George a loving passing. Then we called the mortuary services and they arrived to remove the body. I did not have to do anything personally. They simply enclosed the body and took it away. They were very kind and my family was very loving.
  9. My sister felt I needed to be taken home with her. I was still in shock and she wanted me to try to sleep and process the death away from the house.
  10. When I left my home, my friend and daughter-in-law cleared out the bedroom. They disposed of the sheets, pillows and medical things in the bedroom and master bathroom. They tried their best to clean the area so I could return to the house and not be upset. They did a loving job, that I am sure was very difficult for them.
  11. I returned to the house in two days. At that time, we had to go to the mortuary to review the details and pay for the services. They applied for the social security and veteran’s death benefit for me. So the basic paperwork was done.
  12. Now, this is where I will caution you. From that day forward, everyone I knew tried to help me. They gave me advice on social security, insurance, returning medical supplies, my own health, my mental health and so on. It was a constant barrage of information and suggestions to follow their opinions. This was the hardest time for me. I did not want to be rude…I listened and tried to understand what they were saying. But really, it became total overload.
  13. I will ask you to simply, sit and be quiet. Write down things and numbers and make your notes very complete…this is no time for shorthand. Then just take it easy. There is no time frame of getting services and help, insurance, social security and such done. Just do it on your own time.
  14. As usual…others try to take over and care for you. But you have to do it all on your own. It is best of you ask someone to drive you here or there. When we are upset the world does not need us behind the wheel of a car. But just write down a list of to do’s and slowly work through them.
  15. George and I had already talked through end of life issues. I knew he wanted no memorial and wanted a cremation. So, that made it easy for me. What does your loved one want? This is the time to talk and get it out in the open.
  16. The doctor had us fill out the no resuscitate papers and post them up on the kitchen door so the EMS could see them.  We talked about the issues of care at the end of life. So we were in place when his death happened. But what about you?  Do you have your end of life issues down on paper? Please do it for you and for your loved ones. Don’t make more work and worry for the loved ones left behind.

Lessons learned. I am still working on paperwork and details of my husbands death. I am still trying to learn to sleep and eat properly again after so many months of 24/7 care giving. It’s a hard road and I am walking it slowly, alone, but not afraid. I have support of friends, family and my small dogs. I am still working on my feelings of loss and I am still raw with my emotions. But I am taking care of myself now.

I gave care to my mother and my husband until their deaths. Now, its time for me to care for myself. Its hard to do…but I am trying day by day to form ideas of what my future is going to be. I so miss my Georgie’s smile and I can not imagine how I will live my whole life forward without him. But day by day…I learn and do.

I hope this helps you to prepare and take the fear out of a passing in your home. I cleared the house with love and blessed George on his way. I am sleeping soundly in our bedroom. I got new bedding, I brightened up the bathroom and I cleaned and cleared away the sadness of care giving in my surroundings. I now find my bedroom a place of comfort for me and I enjoy spending time there.

I will say…having my family and friends as well as my community of loving friends on Facebook, Twitter and through the group that follows my blog was totally positive and loving for me. I also had a #WritersThatChat group that continues to support me through the long grief process. I am a lucky girl to have had such a dear, as George, with me for over 30+ years. As I walk down my own path of life…I do not do it alone…I am surrounded with love.

Blessings on all that you do for your own loved one. francy

PS/ I find a little reminder of George is so healing for me. I blew up a picture of him and have it in my bedroom with a candle to light. I can have a good chat with him each day…kiss his picture and feel his love any time I am in need. Grief takes its own path…some move through it fast and strong…others have more up and down days. There are no rules for missing someone that you loved…but being ready for the hard time of passing helps.

What Do You Do When Your Mom Stops Loving You?

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How to handle the anger and pain of emotional discourse between parents and caregivers. by francy Dickinson

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Dear Francy; This is a review of many folks that write to me…that have had very painful experiences with their parents. It could be their mom or dad…or grandmother. Someone that raised the caregiver and had a solid relationship and then it was broken. The pain is not a small issue…it is felt long and deep.

I suppose it starts with me. My mother and I were very close. I was the ‘late in life’ baby that arrived after mother had raised three other daughters. She was older and going into mid-life issues and I really gave her a run for her money. But over the years, I was her escort, I took her to doctor visits, cared for her and her home…included her in vacations with my husband and really felt I was her friend. When she started having small strokes and could no longer live alone, she moved in with us and lived on the lower floor of our home. Her care was long and hard for me. She was with us for five years…and it was in the last few months of her life she began to talk through her personal history…and the more she talked…day by day…the more she decided I had been the pivot point of her life. She told me she could have gone back to work and made a better life for herself if I had not been born. One day, she spent the whole day telling me how she just never really liked me and it was so hard for her to be in my house. I understood that a woman of almost 100 years was working through things. But when your own parent tells you…they really just never cared for you, as a person…it hurts. I am a fully grown woman and I understand the pain of someone facing death with health issues. I understand the dementia that slowly changes the way an older person sees the world….but it still hurt. I also know that mother loved me…she was a caring person. But loving and liking a person are two different things. I am still working with those words she spoke. In little ways I think…that I did all I could to make her life rich and happy in the end. But I know that inside of me, I was just not the right type of person for her. I was outgoing…she was shy. I was independent and she was a person that needed her family around her. I was not afraid of life…she was cautious. But we never had an argument, or bad words, we would laugh and enjoy our friendship all through my adult life. So, those words…those feelings…they are still with me. Mother died at 100 years after living with us for her last five. She has now been gone since 2006 and yet…I am still mulling over her words.

What do you do…when someone that has been a life-long parent or parent figure decides that you are not the person they need or want in their life? Well its very hard. So I am going to use three examples of family caregivers that have sent me emails about their situations that brought them to a place of feeling deep sadness.

Mary was in her late forties with a great job. She had been divorced for three years and her son had just graduated from college when her father died. She had always been close to her parents and so she really stepped up and traveled to her mother’s side. Those trips to help her mother increased and within a year…Mary sold her small home, left her job, friends and son and moved two states away to be close to her mother. Mary found a small apartment, she got a lesser job and she began the three-year care giving of her mother. Her mother was suffering with kidney problems and they became very serious. Mary tried to keep her mom busy with things that brought her joy. They would shop, go to activities, do a bit of travel and gardening together. Mary would constantly think of how to help her mom over the pain of her health issues. Mary quit her job and moved in with her mother in the last year of her life. Mary was her mother’s sole caregiver. She tried to make each day include something happy to talk about and give her mom food she enjoyed and was constantly arranging friends and family to come and visit. As an only child, Mary was really shocked that on the death of her mother…everything that her mother owned, family pieces, property, money and personal items…were all left to the Humane Society. (Who promptly arrived on the door step two days after the funeral to ask Mary to be out of the house within 48 hours.) Mary has moved back to be by her friends and son, who is now married. She started her own business and is busy, busy, busy. But, she still harbors the pain of her mother rejecting her after her death. Never telling her that she was not going to receive things that belonged to her dad and her family history items. She has no idea why her mother made those decisions…but the pain of them haunt Mary. Mary and I have talked about it many times…she has gone on with her life, she is happy and comfortable…but she is wounded.

Roger lost his mother when he was 10 and his dad did his best raising he and his brother. His dad was a professional man and spent very little time around the boys…but hired care givers. As Roger went through life, graduating from college, marriage and success with wonderful children of his own and a great business career…his dad often told him how proud of him he was so Roger always felt loved. It was when his dad had aged and lived alone a long time.. that things started to crack. His dad told Roger that his brother had been helping him more than Roger and he was disappointed in him. He would call and tell him that the brother was there when he fell or went into the hospital. Roger was really upset. He called his dad every other day. He lived about an hour’s drive away and would come if his dad needed him. But his dad never told Roger of his health issues or of any need…even when Roger asked and came over to check on him. Suddenly…it was like his dad was using Roger and his brother as bouncing balls. His brother always coming out ahead. This tension went on for five years…constant worry over his dad and his dad’s care…upsets between he and his brother…upset with what his dad wanted and needed. Then when his dad had his final heart attack and Roger raced to the hospital…his dad had put his name down as “blocked from visits”. When his dad died…he was even asked not to come to the memorial. Roger, a man with a family, grand children, money and friendly disposition…is suddenly out of favor. His own father rejecting him from his life and death. Roger has talked to me about this for many years…those actions of his dad…have caused Roger so much heart ache and feelings of failure.

Anne was the 8th child and the beloved baby of her family. They were all close and caring people and often gathered together in their parents large home for holidays. Family gatherings were filled with jokes, laughs and love. Stories of the family history, grandchildren running around and simple joy of being together. So when her mother died…it was not only hard to be without her…but the family gatherings stopped. No one really stepped up to take them over…the family slipped apart. Soon her dad was alone in a large house and none of the other siblings, but Anne, were coming to visit or give him care. No matter how often Anne would talk to the family members…they were busy and had their own lives. So she and her dad just forged ahead. At first Anne tried to keep the house and garden up like her mother did. But Anne had her own family and she simply could not do two homes. As the house became overwhelming…her dad started to get quiet and sad. Finally, his health was not good enough for him to be alone…so Anne and her husband had him come and live with them. Her dad sold his house and remodeled a garage at Anne’s place so he could have a place of his own, but be close. Then Anne began the high pressure care giving of someone with health issues and the running back and forth to deliver food and care from her house to the back garden cottage. Anne had three boys who had spent their life adoring their grandfather but now he wanted quiet and was always complaining about them. Her husband would go over and watch TV with her dad and then the complaining began that he did not have privacy. A lifetime of a quiet, loving dad had started to turn into a man who was mad and his own anger was directed at Anne. The rest of his kids rarely came to visit…no matter how much Anne tried to get them to come…so the dad felt it was Anne keeping them away. The situation was not just hard, but hurtful and three days before her dad passed…he had called a retirement center and told him he was being abused and needed to move in with them. Anne was too busy to think about the sadness when her dad passed…but now that her own kids are grown and out of the house she has more time. Anne cut ties to her siblings…she just could not deal with the thoughts that people she loved were not there for her when she needed them. She has worked through the anger over what her dad had done…at the end of his life…but the reporting abuse has left her feeling such pain. She still does not understand why her dad would say things so hurtful about her.

So, that is the review of issues between parents and their children…who have grown into adults and gave their love back to their parents. What to do? How to heal? I have talked this over with so many family members that I know that just saying it meant nothing…the hurtful words, actions or times…are just forgotten. But the hurt does not go away. You can tell yourself that an older person has fear of dying issues…but hurtful words and deeds take their toll.

What most of us have decided is that talking about our pain helps…even if we have to repeat the story a few times with a few different people…it helps hearing it in your mind and through your ears. Making a personal pledge that we will not do anything like this to our own family caregivers when the time has come is also helpful. But the most we can do…is to simply put the experience down as a sad life story…and try to move on through our lives.

Care giving is a gift…and just like any other gift…it can be accepted with grace and a thank you…or it can be taken and put aside and not appreciated. When you take a step back you see the bigger picture..but you can not step back far enough not to wonder why…the one person you loved and tried to help…took advantage of you. Just know you are not alone…and your own moral compass gave you the ability to help and love your family member at a time in their life when they needed to have someone to help them. That knowledge means you tried your best…and nothing more needs to be said. Even thou your mind and heart will never forget the slight from someone so loved by you.

I want to once again, thank you for all you have done and or are doing for your senior in care. They need you, even if the journey is not pleasant…they need your love. Blessings, francy

What if someone said you were going to die soon…then what?

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How to handle the journey to the end of life by francy Dickinson

My little Annie and her never ending love.

My little Annie and her never ending love.

Dear Francy; I am 47, I live alone and work in a doctor’s office. I have an adult son that is now in France with his own family and his dad. I am alone, no one in my family is left but me and a distant cousin. I have not been well for quite some time so I have very few friends and no one that checks on me or is a close confidant. When the doctor told me – my time was close…I just came home and sat down on my patio and wanted it to end right there and then. I was given your name by a friend, she said you ‘knew about things’. I wish I knew about things…I was wondering what you think I should be doing? I just don’t have the energy to think lately…and yet, I want the end of my life to be joyful. Do you have any ideas for me?

Yes! First, a Friend told me one day…that you should think of death as the beginning of a new life. Think how happy everyone is here…when a new baby is born into our family or community…we all give showers and gifts and stand in line to hold the child with great hope. What if your death here…is like a new child’s birth on the other side? What if when you enter that realm or dimension…you are the star…you are the one everyone is waiting for? Your family that has passed on, dear old friends…anipals that have passed – all standing in line for hugs. What if you are the center of attention? Just a thought to throw around in your mind.

I sent you a personal note and asked if I could share some information on the blog and you granted me that right. So, I will talk about the idea of death that bursts forth when anyone is faced with it. The recent tragic news about people dying in terrible fires and storms, children being shot in their schools and cars dropping off of bridges without any notice. You can be faced with end of life situations at any age…but for you and many, its health issues that take over the body and cause an end to life. You are still young, but a person’s age does not matter, death is death.

I was faced with 4th stage cancer in my twenties. So I know the pain and trials of thinking about death. I know the feeling that just making it through a day to day situation seems overwhelming. But the truth, as I know it…is that life enfolds and I lived on. I lived through the procedures, the pain, the confusion, the trauma and thirty years later — I am still here. So timing of our death can be very tricky and I would not get caught up in dates, times or places of your own demise…it may be tomorrow…or it may be a very long way, away.

Since you are alone, you have the privacy to be emotional when you need to be. You don’t have to be brave or polite for your family or older parents…you can just be who you are and that is a gift. That means that you have the ability to sit on your patio and enjoy the air, the noise of life and the sunshine….its a good place to be. I happen to be a great believer in trees. My family has a history of staring at the beauty of trees, as they made the last part of their life’s journey. It gave them all a feeling of calm, peace and they often talked about things they saw in the trees after hours of staring at the limbs swaying and leaves shimmering. Being with nature when you are tense and worried…is always a great calming effect. You get into the feelings of the day…the noise of the morning, afternoon and evening…and the quiet of the night. Some times…you just need to connect to that and I think its a good thing.

I know your son seems like a lifetime away. But one day he, his children or grandchildren will want to know about you. Its time to prepare for that. When you are fresh in the morning…start to pack a box for your son. Put everything in protective sleeves or ziplock bags and add notes to them. Example: Your wedding ring…tuck in a note about when you got it and how much you loved to wear it. I did this with my sister when she was passing with cancer…those little gifts and notes to family and a few friends…were held like gold when they received them.

Go to Ancestry.com and do a simple search and get your immediate family members in place. Then scan in a few pictures and things..so when someone does research on your family…they will find your smiling face and a small outline of your life. They will read a few things about your own father and mother and maybe you knew your grand parents. That is like a gift to your great, great grandchildren…please give it to them.

Call Hospice. They will come and talk to you and talk you through what has to be done to keep you safe and well and at home, if you choose to be at home… through your end days. They are trained for all sorts of situations…so you will be surprised at how much they will do for you. They will clean your home, help you with a pet, find a home for your gold fish…they do what you need to make a life transition without worry. Its a wonderful group and is free to all of us.

Ask someone you know, to be your health care directorship. Maybe it will be a friend at work, or the doctor you work with or anyone that you enjoy talking to and understands your true voice. When you fill out the paperwork, you will see it will ask you what you want to do about your decisions…like would you want to be on prolonged life support? Think on it and then answer. Do you want to be buried or cremated? These questions are not there to upset you…they are there for you to make the decisions before you get so ill that someone else makes those decisions for you.

Let people know you are on a limited time frame. My husband has long talked about an incident that happened in his life. He was married with children and his father was suffering with Parkinson’s. His dad went into the hospital and his mother called and gave him an upbeat talk about it and told him not to worry to come and visit the next day. My husband was going to do just that and he had in mind what he was going to bring to his dad and some special treats he was going to include in his gift.  Then early that morning a call came that his dad had passed. My husband was so upset that he never forgot about the missed chance to see his dad…and he has always been stuck on why his mother did that to him?
Give your son a call and let him know the situation. If he wants to come and see you…let him. If he is fine with it and just wants to chat and send you love over the phone…then you can deal with that too. But do not take away the choice of your son to express his feelings for you before you are no longer there. Gift him, the choice. Being brave and not wanting to rock a boat, is really being selfish and taking the power away from your loved ones – to give to you.

Ask what or how the end will come. A lot of people do not want to know this..but Hospice will explain to you what is ahead. When I have worked with them…I have found that this information takes the worry and fright out of what is happening to you when your body is weak and you are no longer able to understand or do for yourself.

Do what pleases you. If you like hamburgers eat them…if you like chocolate eat it, if you like to drink martinis ~ this is your moment. No diet is going to change your health when you are in the final stages of health decline. Be good to yourself…do as you please…if you want to take off your bra…or wear your hair on top of your head. Do it!

Do not spend energy on things that have no meaning. I try to explain to anyone in your place…that your body only has so much energy…so how you use it each day is very important. Think of your body as a laptop on a plane trip. You have an hour or two of battery time, before it has to be recharged…so what are you going to do with that laptop?

Say NO…if you are asked to do something that you do not want to do…you now say, NO.

Do not push away people. You know I have gone through a strange life of care giving. Not because I wanted to…I am not a nurse type person, but because I was in the right spot at the right time to help a few of my family members, friends and others. I could have said NO. I could have gotten someone else to do the care giving..but somehow I was put there to learn and to do. Its just how life unfolds. But from caring for my dad in his last days…he shared some stories and ideas with me, that I would never have known. Being with my sister in her last days gave me a clear appreciation for her helping my mother to raise me. When I took mom into our home, in her last days…showed me that I was strong and could keep my mind working even in crisis. All of those actions and care giving…now allowed me to be here for my dear Georgie, as I am now caring for him during his Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s journey. It has not been a bad thing, or a sad thing, but a journey and a gift that they gave to me. I always was a very self-centered person that only worried about my own life…I have now been shown how important it is to do for others and to give them your love when they really need it. I have learned that my sense of humor has as much power as my care giving…because nasty health issues are not fun…and if you can not laugh in the midst of chaos…there is a big problem in your world. The care giving was not a burden, but an awakening for me as a person. The care giving turned out to be how I was meant to give back and I am pleased that my family members gave me the chance to learn that…I am not mad about being ‘put out’ over the work. I am honored. So do not think that you are asking to much when you ask care givers to help you…they are there to be next to you during this time. Maybe something you say or do, will enrich their lives in a way that never would have happened without you.

If it is true that giving is blessed…then you have to remember than someone has to be the receiver in that process. So you have given all through your life…now, its time to be the receiver and let others be blessed on their kindness and giving to you.

Last…there is nothing to be afraid of — if the end of life has nothing. I mean if those that believe in an after life of some kind…are wrong…so what? Nothing is nothing, you don’t have to worry over nothing. But if we are right about the end of life being a beginning of another experience…then being prepared and thinking of what you would want in that new experience is worth your energy. Pushing through the fear…and knowing that you will be swept up into love…is so important.

There is no being with someone when you die. We are all going to be alone. Even if we have a big family around us…the experience is ours alone. All you have done will stand for its own value. Today, think and do what feels right. You said you like to do watercolor…so paint! Do not care what it looks like, if it’s shaky or the colors are not perfect…just open up and paint. Feel the inner you coming out and allow it to talk to you. Maybe it will be sad and dark…or maybe it will be beautiful and light colors, or maybe it will be joyous and just shine. .Allow that inside of you…to spill out. There are no more rules…you are on your own ride.

Know that you and your life had meaning as all lives do. I think of my sweet little wire haired fox terrier, Annie. She passed years ago. She gave me so much joy and love and I still think of her as being by my side. She is dead, she is gone…and yet I feel her close. I remember how she expressed her love to me and it still makes me feel special. She was with me only nine years, such a short time on earth and yet…she gave me a lasting feeling of love and being a good dog mom. Since I have not had any children of my own…those feelings of motherhood were expressed with her and she – in return, left her love behind.

You are loved…and I am honored to have met you and that you have shared your feelings with me. Blessings, francy

Elder Passing with Honor and Hospice

How Hospice gives such help and care, along with Firemen visiting a retiree– as he faces lung cancer’s last days. by francy Dickinson
Firestation 13s in Tacoma, WA

Firestation 13 visiting an old chum

It is hard to decide when to call for help when you are in the middle of care giving. My brother –in-law was moving downhill with his cancer and the veil of pain and fear were starting to blur. After years of fighting lung cancer, the fight seemed to kick into high gear fast. There was no day/date stamped on him anywhere to know when to call for that extra help that Hospice gives.

The idea of Hospice had taken over my sister and brother-in-law and they felt it was like saying; “the end”. It kept them from the call for help and they suffered alone as the daily tasks of living were beginning to close in around them. As his breathing got more and more difficult, his mind lowering in clarity from reduced oxygen – it was making days, night sleeping and common chores harder and harder to achieve.

Finally, the day came…when there was no ‘feeling better, tomorrow’.  The call was hard for them to make and the first visit of the home nurse was tentative. Did he want a special bed? ‘NO’ Did he need a walker? ‘NO’  Their conversation was rough, short and difficult for all concerned.  The Hospice nurse had been down this road before, she knew the signs and she just told them she was there…it was their choice and they would take baby steps together.

Within just a few days of that first visit; the situation had worsened and another call was made to Hospice. This time the services were really needed and they started to roll in the door. The cancer was making him feel so weak that he was unable to go into the bathroom alone. Walking was impossible and eating had long-lost its appeal. His oxygen levels were so low that he was unable to catch his breath.

The fear and worry that my sister felt, watching him suffer, was overwhelming. Hospice could hear it in her voice as she called them backed and asked how they could help her. This time the flood doors of care suddenly opened.  Out poured professional help that was organized and calming.

Hospital bed loaded down with memory foam mattress and adjustable controls moved into the front room. The home had a fabulous view of the Tacoma harbor and the sun filled every inch as they moved out furniture to make a place of honor for the bed. An ‘over the bed’ table was adjusted in place so it could be used to hold his basket of personal tools. Finally he could sleep in a bed instead of in his chair. His chair was honored with a gel cushion to give his thinning body comfort.

A commode was put into place by the bed during the night and over the toilet during the day to give arms – used to steady and help with standing back up. A wheelchair; small enough to go thru tight places and still hold his tall frame securely was delivered. A new oxygen machine that would dial-up to 10 PCI and add a little water to the mix to keep the nose moist while using the air was set up.

During the next week, a cleaner arrived to scrub down the shower and vacuum any dust away so my sister could concentrate on care of her husband, not the worry of keeping the house clean. The nurse arrived to take down the medications and adjust them for pain relief and put all the pills for the week into a larger daily pill container marked with four times a day. The pills that had once been on every table in the living area were now brought into order and ease of use. No more confusion or missed pain medications, it was all organized to remove the confusion. Very intricate information was written down in a simple and easy to read hand for my sister to administer the morphine at just the right time during the day. A list to write the timing and the result of the dose was established and put in a place that was easy to find and use. Common nursing tips and transfer training were also shared.

Food suggestions and how to’s were left so the small intake of food for my brother-in-law would be productive and comforting. Explanations of how to use ginger ale for stomach gas and calming was added into the mix.  Simple suggestions and easy to do things that made a huge step up in the care giving and comfort level were carefully explained and examples shown.  The change in comfort was immediate and the feeling of panic and worry began to be replaced with confidence.

The bath lady arrived…after first being rejected as a privacy issue…she was now welcomed and able to prove her skills in giving a bath to someone who could hardly move or breathe without great labor. The bath was finished in quick order and a light massage was given. My brother-in-law returned to his chair feeling clean, warm and relaxed.  A simple service that a trained professional gives can lift the spirit. Instead of the worry that their son had gone through when he had changed the shower head and added the support chair. Then he had added his dad and tried to help him with the shower, the discomfort was high and the experience was exhausting. Not now. Now the bath lady has the senior in and out of the shower with time to spare.

A Chaplain showed up on the doorstep; just to introduce herself. Not wanting to intrude on comfort or spiritual issues…she just shared time with my brother-in-law and took in the family dynamics around her.  As she met each family member, she chatted easily and yet expertly with them finding their point of pain and bringing it up into the light.

Each time another issue came to a head, my sister was now able to call and get an RN to return her call and assure her of steps to take to keep the care in a positive mode. As the care became more intense, the time of sleep began to dwindle and the help line to the support system grew.

When talking to my brother-in-law the Hospice team noticed that he was a long time retired fire fighter in the city and they asked what station he worked. One of the team stopped by the Firehouse 13 in the north end of the city. A couple of days later, the large fire truck pulled up in front of the house and out came the young men from his old firehouse. Entering the house and standing around my brother –in-law they gave him support and respect of service.  They chatting about old stories and thanked him again for all of his dedication to his duty ‘in his day’. The view of those young men surrounding my brother-in-law as he carefully worked for each breath of air was so over-powering. Honor; it is so important…emotions and love are so dramatic. My brother-in-law was empowered by the visit – his heart soared high that night.

His adult children that had all planned a weeklong camping trip before the Labor Day holiday now put it on hold. They all rallied to the side of my sister. One stayed over at night; (leaving her family of a husband and two young sons) then returning to her own home to care for family during the day. Then she drove over to her mother’s at night to fix dinner and sleep so she could help with nighttime care.  Their son came over every morning early to prepare a good breakfast, fix anything that needed attention and give his dad help with the daily challenges. The other daughter (with a young infant that was sent to the day care) spends time with her family during the day to keep her Dad’s spirit high as he struggled through the pain.

The journey to life’s end, when you’re fighting cancer,  is never a breeze no matter how brave and how the patient fights. But, it can be easier and calmer when you just reach out and ask for help. Hospice is not the ‘end’— it’s the beginning of care and attention that assists a family and patient through life. It is as important as the highly trained pediatric care team is for newborns. It is just a call away – please make that call. Don’t wait for fear and exhaustion to take over and make the journey even harder.

At this moment, we are all working through the end of life issues with my brother-in-law…but now we are all a part of team that belongs to him. Each of us bringing our skills and special love to his side to ease his days and fill his nights.

Honoring all that served…even if it was a long time ago…serving our country, community and family counts. We thank you for your service and embrace your life’s story.

Here is to Hospice…and here’s to a caring family that understands just giving their time and love makes a difference in the journey towards life’s end.

Thank you, 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

How to Deal with Elder Losing a Child or Pet

francy Dickinson                                  www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: I care for my Aunt. She is 87 and her two children live out of state. News has arrived that her daughter has died unexpectedly and I am wondering how to handle this when she is already so confused?

Thank you for sharing this question, I just had a similar event with a death of a daughter of a dear friend that had lost his wife within the last couple of years. This is always a hard emotional challenge and then you add age and health challenges and you are in a pickle trying to give support.

Here are some tips:

  1. Even if someone is in a coma, I tell them gently about sad news. I remember years ago a couple we knew were in a tragic auto accident and the husband died and wife was gravely wounded. Their son sat next to the mother while she was in a coma and told her that her husband has passed. He did it with such gentle words and asked her to just relax and know he was there by her side. Months later she told him, that she did not remember his words but she did know that her husband had died when she came to and she felt he had been with her as she went in and out of her unconscious state. Giving her the choice to deal with bad news while she was so ill is a scary thing, but keeping real life from someone that is alive is pointless.
  2. Be gentle with words, using a soft but consistent voice and keeping your emotions down is important. Everyone cues off of the person they are with so if you are upset, they will be upset.
  3. Get a picture of the person that has passed and take it with you when you speak of the death. Hold it up for them and let them absorb the feelings or memories that they have of the person. If they are suffering from dementia, take a childhood picture and an adult picture so the elder is able to grasp onto either memory.
  4. If memories are lost, then remind them. Tell them a little story about their life and include the person that passed>Like: “Auntie, when you were young you were married to a nice man and you had two children. One was a daughter Megan and she grew up to be very pretty, smart lady and loved you very much. I am sorry to tell you that your Megan is gone, she died today. She will not be coming to see you again. Do you understand? Do you have a question for me?” Let them express how they feel. They may remember and be upset or not connect at all. It will all flow, but to give them honor you do not hold back news of life.
  5. If they go into a very agitated state, then you want to call the doctor and tell the office what has happened and ask them for assistance. Many times doctors will prescribe just a few pills to help a person get through two or three days of extreme tension while they are processing their grief.
  6. If the person forgets about the death in times to come, that is fine. It is up to you to inform them, not remind them on a daily basis. Maybe their mind can not remember, or maybe they choose not to accept the loss. Both of those things are fine for an elder that is unwell.
  7. Let others in the family know the extent of grief the elder is feeling. They may not express their grief to a visiting friend or relative, but you as there care giver see the grief in their actions and response and you know that things have changed even if they are not expressing that change verbally. So, quietly inform the family or visitor before they engage in conversations.
  8. Many times elders want to talk about their own dealth when there is a passing of a friend or relative. This may upset the family but it is very normal and you need to let them talk it out. That is the key, let the elder set the tone of the conversation and you follow their lead. Guiding them to as much positive thought patterns as you can with your return conversation. Always leaving the conversation on an up note about the future of that day or an event that is coming up. Just do not rob them of feeling sad, nor rob them of feeling it is OK to look forward to another day or week of their own life.
  9. I remember my husband trying to comfort me when I lost my sister telling me her medical accident was for the best because she would have suffered with cancer and this had removed that future suffering. It was his way of being kind, but it upset me. A death is a death, it does not matter if it is an accident, a health concern, a suicide or an older age event. It is still the end of someone’s life and grief needs to honored. Do not try to make the death have a reason, just leave it as it is. A child lost, is lost, no matter what the cause. Honor and respect the sadness a parent will have and will carry for the rest of their life. Unhappy feelings have to be felt and it is good to know and let them just be.
  10. Allow the senior to grieve give them space and time. I always bring out a picture of the person or pet that has passed and place a candle in front of it and light it on the day of the death and then in the evening for a week or two. It is not meant to be a ritual of faith, it is just a ritual that allows the person to express their grief and remember and honor the passing.
  11. If the elder is very involved in their faith then notify a local chaplain and ask them to visit. Let them have time alone, even if they are in a place of confusion, let the faithful and long heard words of prayers be said for the elder. Let their mind absorb the ritual of faith and let it comfort them. No matter what their chosen faith a lifetime of prayer comes back when they hear old prayers or songs.
  12. Attending funerals, this is simply up to the family to judge. My mother had lost so many friends by the time she passed at 100 years that she was unable to go to memorials any longer. They were just to depressing for her. I actually went to the memorial of her last dear friend’s passing on her behalf. Mother was happy that we were represented and she was able to process the dealth on her own without the large crowd of strangers at the memorial. I filled her in on the service and gave her a picture of the flowers and the memory booklet that they gave to me. It was a good way for her to experience but not get herself so involved she became ill.
  13. Do not under estimate the feelings of an senior or elder with a pet. Often when they lose all of their family or spouse they turn their love and whole inner support to a pet. This make the pet like a family member and dear loved one to the senior. Honor the pet as you woud a person, for they are thought of like that by the elder.
  14. Life without my sister has never stopped being sad. She has been gone twenty years now and you would think I would have tucked it away. But often I find tears on odd occations over her memory. Mother was the same way. There is no time limit to grief, some process fast and well, some accept the loss because they have experienced so many losses in their long years of life. Some grieve a pet more than their spouse. There is no rule…there just is.

I want to thank you for your time with your Aunt and your tender concern over her well being at this time of loss. It is a gentle miracle that she has you there to be with her. Some times its just knowing that someone is there with you that cares that will make the difference in the healing a broken heart. You are there and you have given her that support and I honor you for your caring touch.

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’s 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 – 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.

Seniors Losing Long Time Friends

by francy Dickinson                            www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Dad just lost a long time friend. Today a few well known stars have passed. Dad is reacting saying he needs to stop his meds and just let the world go by without him. I am upset, his health is not extreme just managed with medications.

I understand, I went through a daily reminder of my mother’s loss of all of her old friends as she lived with us in her last five years of life. She would tell me how she missed them and how she could not share her memories with anyone. So, I have been there the only idea I had for her moods of sadness was to re-direct her to thinking in the now.

Here are a few tips:

    1. If there is a big dedication for well known personalities that have passed keep it down to a dull roar. Yes, watch an hour or so and get the information, then the channel gets changed.
    2. Get the senior out of the house, the world has sights that bring all of us back to calm. Going for a walk or drive will bring the neighborhood back into the mind of the senior, the coffee shop they love back to the forefront of their brain.
    3. Make sure you talk about passings of others but do it with humor. Remember old stories that bring smiles. Those that past should represent good memories, not sadness.
    4. Honor passings. Even if the friend that passes has not been around for a while, find a picture of them to put out and talk about the person and ask when the senior first met them and the most enjoyable time they had together? Let the senior remember and talk about the person to work through their grief.
    5. Ask if the senior wants to go to the memorial. Some times they do, some times not. When one of mother’s old card pals passed, she was to unwell to go to the memorial. So I went for her. I did not know the lady well, but I reported back to mother about the day. Signed her name, and mine, in the guest book and took a picture of the flowers and receptions table for her to view.
    6.  When she was sad I would ask her to tell me a story I had heard in the past about her family or friends and some funny thing that happened or family event. I did this often to keep the memory of those that passed around mother in a positive way. Not tucked away in the dark and sadness.
    7. When mother lost her small dog, I bought a balloon for both of us and we went outside and let them go. We talked about when the dog first came to mother and the thought of loss was honored.
    8. When mother’s brother was very ill and we thought he would pass, we make sure she visited him. She was weak and it was a hard thing to do, but she needed to see him and tell him she loved him. He got well but she would pass a month later. It was a good- good bye that she needed.
    9. When a singer passed that she used to listen to when she was young, I got a CD of his music at the library and played it for her and we talked about her and dad dancing the night away – one night long ago. We got silly and I pushed her wheelchair around the room with the dog in her lap!
    10. When her neice died I got a picture of her out of the memory book, had it enlarged at the copy shop and framed it. I put out the frame and a small voltive candle and had it burning each evening for a couple of weeks. She needed a way to work through her grief.
    11. Each time she complained about her old age and passing, I reminded her how much both my husband and I enjoyed having her with us. I would tell her about how much she helped me with this or that. I feel a senior just needs to feel wanted and needed. Like all of us, they need a purpose to keep life on the top of their plate, not start to think that that their death would not effect anyone. Once they get that reassurance, they perk up again.
    To Review: to honor a passing, but not dwell on it. To remember a friend’s passing by honoring the happy memories. To have a ritual that that helps to set the grieving process in motion. To remind the senior that they are still loved and needed, no matter who else is passing along the way.

I hope this has helped you with ideas. 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’s 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 – 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.