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


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


New Year, Old You? NOT

by francy Dickinson                     www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; It’s a new year but I am having a hard time convincing mother that she has a fresh start a head of her. How can I change her outlook and give her something to look forward to each day?

Yahoo, good for you. So few care givers think ahead enough to worry about tomorrow when they are so involved with dealing with the challenges of today. But you care enough to give your mother a fully involved life and I appreciate that in you. Good Job.

Here are some tips that will get you kick starting the new season;

  1. First review the holiday. Sit and talk about the nice time you had and the different people who came to visit and just let the memories of the family time be appreciated. Then ask your senior if they could have changed anything what would they have changed? Take notes, keep them on a positive track. Maybe the senior will say they did not see any Christmas lights, or they had so many people around on Christmas it was overwhelming or they felt left out. It’s a good way to take notes for next year. And yes, there is always a next year even when the senior has health challenges, next year will roll around and you will be ready with a different way to celebrate.
  2. Love the idea of grandchildren decorating the windows with easy to do snow flakes. You remember those from your childhood when you fold and fold the paper and then cut out little designs and upfold for a surprise treat. Put them up on the windows in your senior’s room and keep them until February.
  3. Buy a few bulbs and bring them in the house with new small pots and a small bag of soil. Cover the table with a big plastic bag and plant the bulbs. Then water them well and just let them sit in the window and force them into bloom early…it is so much fun do to this and the project is so good for anyone home bound. Or go out and cut some branches off the fruit trees and put them in warm water in the room…as the days go by the buds will grow and pop open early. Nothing prettier than flowering apple blossoms!
  4. How about a new cell phone or home phone for the senior. You know you can upgrade even the simple and easy to use cell phones this time of year. You can also find a great deal for hearing assisted phones that are easy to see and use for the senior.
  5. New pajamas or robes are a perfect way for you to put a great start for the cold weather in January and February. Add in a new blanket or electric blanket, linens are always on sale in January. So a great set of heavy plush towels would be a great addition too!
  6. Soups and stew are perfect in the slow cooker for this time of year. Warm and yummy, easy for a busy family and stick to the ribs – meals for seniors.
  7. A formal family photo. Holidays are busy, but after the holiday most photo places have sales and your senior can get dressed up with some blush and lipstick and take a nice photo with you. So you both can enjoy the memory.
  8. How about a class or lecture series. If your senior is able to get out of the house once a week – join them at a large local University, art museum, senior center, or upscale retirement center for “Senior University” classes. You will get great entertainment and lectures from folks that are stars in their fields and the classes are usually free. You are never to old to learn and enjoy new thoughts.
  9. Take a month off from doctor appointments. Call and make all the first of the year appointments in February so January will be a break from the usual doctor check ups. It makes a big difference when the senior can relax and not be worried about their next appointment time.
  10. How about a good old fashion massage or foot pedicure/manicure? Boy what a nice way to relax and enjoy the pampering.
  11. Say NO to desserts for a couple of weeks and let the senior feel the difference in their sugar intake and have them do a little more walking or exercises from their chair. We all need a boost of change this month and a small baby step to better food intake is good for seniors as well as all of the rest us.
  12. New Calendar for upcoming birthdays, Valentine Day Dinner or tea out, Chinese New Years and all too soon the spring. Lots of things to have on the calendar.
  13. Good month to have the carpets cleaned and have the senior’s chair moved and decide if they need a new seat cushion or adding a gel cushion. Maybe even a clean of the walls or quick paint update.

New – the year, the projects, the food, the exercise, the thought patterns. We all need to hit a new beat on the first of the year and the senior is just the same. If you are planning to clean then have the chimneys and air vents cleaned, the furnace checked and cleaned. The water heater drained and the dryer vents cleaned. Get things in order and ready for spring, by making this month – your month of change.

Thank you so much for your caring of your mom. I know how difficult it will be when a senior gets into a mood that their life is not worth a new season. But just simply doing the new chores, the new cleaning, the new foods, the new calendars, the celebration of today- not of yesterday – is what you have to keep doing. Fighting light depression in the dark winter months is very normal. But I said, fighting it, don’t give in. They will catch up with you and join in the fun.

 Lots of other ideas in my Senior Care Workbook 101 to help you with the everyday issues of in-home care for elders by family members and spouses. Blessings to you all this year!

Elders Need Cheer Sessions

by francy Dickinson                      www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My mother seems to be going into a deeper depression. She seems to be recovering physically well from her last small stroke, but she is just not herself. She feels down and not involved with everyday life. I am having a problem with her paying attention to what the day is or what food she wants to eat. How can I bring her around?

I am sure you have spoken with the doctor about her depression, that is a part of the brain that is also effected by the stroke and special medications can be prescribed to help her with her mental state. As the brain repairs it has to be exercised just like you are doing with her body. So you will have to make sure you participate in her emotional wellness as well as how well she walks or talks as she recovers. Even if you are talking to her over the phone each day, or in person, you will be doing a few things that will involve her mind and emotions so she gets back into life with her body and mind.

Here are some tips:

  1. Your interaction with a recovering stroke victim is in the morning or in the afternoon after food and a nap. So you get them fresh, it will be up to you to arrange your own schedule around that time frame.
  2. When speaking to the senior, use an up tone in your voice so they can see a difference in an everyday conversation, and an animated conversation. As you would a very young child of two or three, use words and facial expressions that include smiles, laugh, questions, and surprise.
  3. Prepare yourself with a list of things to talk about and always start with the day of the week. Endless days mean losing interest. “Hi Mom how is your Tuesday morning going?” That is a good way to begin, not to challenge her with a question that she can fail at the answer like “What day is today?” – Start with a positive statement that will inform her. Then go over what you know to be her usual Tuesday tasks. “I know you will be doing your wash this morning do you have it in the washer already? NO, well you can do that when we hang up and today is your day to see your friends for cards. What are you going to wear? –who is going to pick you up? OK, good well you’re going to have a busy day. I will let you go so you can finish your washing and getting dressed for the girls. I will call you this afternoon, when do you think you will be back home again?”
  4. Taking information you have and making sure it is restated and then adding questions that are easy for her to answer is how you begin. When you call back in the afternoon, you will ask about her food for that evening and suggest a TV show that is coming on that you want to watch and you will call her just before it begins to remind her so she doesn’t miss it. Ask if her wash is in the dryer and how the card party was with the girls, stretch her mind with asking about what she ate and who won at cards. Ask over anything new with the girls. Get her to talk about things that are up front in her brain. Bring out more than yes or no answers, with an upbeat voice again, ask about what the girls were wearing or where they went for lunch. Push her brain, push it in the direction that she has always had interest in, but know when to be calm and listen.
  5. When she does something more the normal daily tasks, make a big deal out of it. Let her know you are proud of her. “Wow, mom you did the wash this morning, had lunch out with the girls and then you came home and went over the floor in the kitchen? You are really on a roll, good job” – “You have gotten so much done and I have just been here at work all day, I’m impressed.”
  6. When you go over to visit and you see the house in a mess…remember her mind has to learn how to organize again. So roll up your sleeves and get one room done at a time. Find small clear plastic boxes that are easy to carry and fill them up with like items and then use a large print label maker to mark them. Just like you did for your toddlers when they had so many small toys, cars, crayons remember? Now it is your mother’s time to organize, vacuum bags, filters or parts in one box. Candles and matches in another. So when she is missing something and in a huff looking for it, she can open a cupboard and read the box. It helps her mind relearn how to stay organized and find things instead of being stuck inside a swirl of a mess.
  7. When the mind is healing from a stroke or other trauma, or in the middle of dementia the home needs to be clear and clean around the senior. If the front room or kitchen was covered with small items art or otherwise, pack them away for a while. Tell the senior you are clearing it to prepare for the room to be painted and we will go through the box and get things back in place after the painting. Then remove the box to a place  in the garage or storage area. Look around the room and see it with an eye that could get distracted. Look again, what needs to be in the room and what is just extra clutter for the brain?
  8. Example; lots of seniors have a full wall of photos of grandchildren and family members right by their TV chair so they can see it. If you look again at that wall, it becomes a maze of endless photos that have been added to over the years. So, how about picking out three or four pictures that the senior loves. Take down the older pictures, fill the holes in the wall and repaint and then put up the four larger photos in a row…so it is easy on the mind’s eye to focus on the pictures not to just see a jumble of frames. It will calm the senior’s eye and make it easier for them to rest while they are in their favorite chair.
  9. Asking your mom to help you, is a great way to help her recover her old self. What did you two always do together, maybe you cooked together, or sorted clothes in the kids room, played golf, walked, or painted walls, pictures, or worked in the yard together. Plan in your mind a task that is no longer than two hours and ask your senior to help you. Have the task all planned out so the beginning and end can happen in a short time. Together you work and together you get it done. You can stand back and admire the great result together, you can talk to others about how your mother helped you finish the task when you are so short on time. You become her cheer leader over a simple task, but it gives her such a feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Let go anything that no longer brings her pleasure. The brain in trauma, stroke recovery or dementia is simply changing, so if at one time your mother loved to bake cookies and now it is a chore. Let that part of your mother drop away. She will fill the void with a new enjoyment she has changed and changing is what we all do. This change was just more sudden than others.
  11. Anger is an emotion that will come to you and to your mother on her recovery. My husband has his dementia moments and out of those comes so much personal doubt that anger is his way to express the confusion of his brain not responding as he wants. Often stroke patients Even those with TIA’s or baby strokes- can find words are lost to them, actions are lost, rituals are no longer there, lifetimes of interest on certain subjects have faded…it will take your own personal patience to deal with this. You can see if you can easily move them back to the once loved interest or change it into a smaller and less stressful experience. My husband used to love WWII books and would read them endlessly, now he is unable to remember enough to read, so I have gotten him into the Military Channel on the TV. It’s the same information it just comes to him in a way he can absorb and enjoy it easier than reading.
  12. Even in days or times of anger…you have to stay calm. You have to back away and give them time to defuse and then re-enter and change the mood or the thought pattern so the day can go forward with joy, not stuck in anger. It takes a lot of creative thought on your part, but being there to cheer them on, will allow them to heal in a positive way instead of simply retreat on a daily basis.

I know you have had to do a lot to care for your mother. Stokes can happen in clusters, just as your mother gets well, she could be hit again. So make sure her meds, supplements and her food keeps her as protected and even in body chemistry as possible. You are the person that will give her life a guidance to calm and joy…you are giving her a gift of more than care, you are gifting her with true love. Thank you.

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’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.

I’m Helping Him but He’s Mad-Senior Anger

by francy Dickinson              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My Dad is in his early sixties, he has been divorced and on his own for years. He is now going through a stage that he calls and needs me to do all sorts of things for him. I’m trying to be there for him, I go over when ever he calls, but I’m busy with my own family. When I do go over he’s angry with me. I am his only child and I sadly dread the visits, what can I do?

I understand and I am sorry about this it’s a way with older folks, many times men especially, will display anger when they have frustrations in their life. So, lets begin with his age of sixty plus, that is young he should live into his eighties or nineties, so think of him as a person that needs to be healed and treated, not just old. Get your ducks in a row with the Health Care Directive signed and in place with your name as his partner in health. That is important so you can work with him on his health issues in years to come. Then schedule a good review of his health with a doctor. Write a letter to the doctor and drop it off or send it ahead of his appointment so you can tell him this issue of sudden needs and anger. The doctor needs to know to address emotional issues that might not surface in the exam if he is not notified.

There is a great issue of depression in men on their own. Not that depression does not effect women but men are especially hit with it and they rarely have the ability to talk it through. If he is newly retired, that is often a problem. He looked forward to many projects and kept busy until they were all in place and suddenly, he is faced with years of retirement and no where to go. There is also a problem after a spouse has passed, a year or so later, the realization that life is ahead with loneliness and no reason to be happy- hits. All of these things happen to many people single or in a relationship, that is why we have them checked and go to a support group, senior center or stay active with family to keep their emotional health up. If there is an on going problem, they will need medication and or counseling to get them healthy again. So you have to be pushy about getting a doctor’s opinion. Write down a few of the episodes of anger, so the doctor can see what stemmed the anger and if it might be body or emotional based. Once you have that diagnoses then you can help him with the treatment and go forward.

Tips on dealing with anger;

  1. You are the pivot point to anger – as the caregiver it is you that can start or end an angry session. So arrive up-  in energy and remove your emotions and just do what is needed and leave. It is very hard to do this, because you will think that the person hates you or you have done something wrong. But emotional anger has a base in the person not with you…so pivot that anger by being in charge of your own emotions.
  2. I deal with my husbands dementia all the time and I have learned to refocus him into a different project, idea, talking point or action. This will remove his frustration of the moment and get him thinking in a different direction. It takes practice, but I have learned how to avoid a lot of arguments by keeping him off a subject and onto another. I do this by interrupting a conversation and interject a whole new thought pattern.
    Example:George was up in arms about trimming our trees, had spent hours getting saws out in his work space and trying to do this task. I went out and told him my back was bothering me – could he come and help me move something in my office? He followed me into the house and the anger and frustration of his project was over the pattern broken. After he helps me, I praise him and get him a piece of pie and he then releases his day long project and returns to his TV or reading and the anger and frustration is over.
  3. If your dad has had a history of being involved in faith center or events, or if he has long ago given up a hobby –this is the time to reintroduce him to those events. Doing something he knows is easier for a senior than starting something new.
  4. Interaction with others. No one can be on their own for days at a time and stay happy. Little things start to become big things and small problems become a big mess. So, break this pattern by making sure he is doing a few weekly outings. Senior centers have card days or bowling teams, or any hobby he likes. Local libraries need volunteers as do teen centers and soup kitchens. Senior Universities are all over the place with weekly classes and lectures on fun subjects. These classes are just an evening or afternoon of information and it becomes an enjoyable routine. Your own family has weekly outings he could join, sports events, teen pick up from classes and school, school performances, bi monthly family picnics or dinners. There are ways for him to move into the world again and keep him with a weekly calendar of events that will fill his mind and spirit.
  5. Exercise is a great way to bring a senior back into good health. Joining you for a walk twice a week, or getting him into a senior bike program or golf game can improve his mind and his outlook.
  6. Talking to a support group or hobby group is great for a man’s interaction. You will find that Twitter and online support groups also provide a non evasive way to express feelings and interests. Woman usually have women to talk to, but if not, they too need to be attached to a group that will help them express their feelings among friends that understand.
  7. Eating well, can be a huge thing for men or women living alone. Days of empty food and no supplements can make a big difference in any ones life. So adding food from you or a service could be a big boost. He may have a neighbor that’s a senior and would be willing to provide 2-3 dinners a week, for a small charge. You then know that good food is on his plate and helping him feel well. Being creative with care is never easy, but it can make a big difference in his lifestyle and emotional wellbeing.
  8. Moving; many seniors try to keep their home forever. Nice if they can do it, but over burdened with yard, house, money or repairs is not a pretty picture for anyone. So, if he needs to relax and get yard or house cleaning help get that done. If he is not able to really do the work, then suggest a few visits to local townhouses where yard work is provided or retirement communities where everything is at hand for easy living. Moving early means a life of comfort in retirement, not worry over a huge move sometime in the future, usually when the senior is unwell. Keep them close to you, but find a place to tuck them in with a smile. The retirment communities are so diverse now, that you can find all price ranges in your search.
  9. Get him a pet to protect and care for at the local humane society. Often a furry pal will totally change a person. Instead of having a day ahead with nothing to do, you suddenly have to feed and walk the dog or change the cat box. It’s just this small chore, that keeps a senior busy and thinking of something other than their own problems.   
  10. Ask him to help you – what do you have around your home to fix or do? Men love to be of service, figure out different chores and ask him to come over and do them and then give him a good dinner and movie to share. Example: I would ask my mother to come over and make pie crusts. Then we would freeze them. She loved to make pie crusts, mine have always been horrid, so it was a nice way for her to do for me and I would get her talking and give her a nice day and dinner. Now that she is gone, I buy the frozen crusts which do not come close to the ones she made for me as well as miss our times together.
  11. Do not be a child, sit down and talk about anger issues. Tell him you are here to love him and have a nice visit to help him, but this anger is out of bounds. If there is something that bothers him about you, get it out and see if you can talk it through and leave the issue behind. Let him know, you will not be abused with words, they are hurtful and you do not want to have them in your life. Do not involve yourself with anger, this is a grown up talk between two adults, not a shouting match. But, remember, this conversation only works if he is not drinking, or in a depression or any altered state, those situations change the playing field and are why you need to have him checked out medically so you know what is what from the get go.
  12. Interaction during your day. Call him and ask if he is watching a news alert, or if he is going to watch a special program that night. Make things to talk about so you have more of a give and take talk during your week. Get your teen to teach him how to text message to them even if he does it on the computer. Set up a Twitter or Facebook account and get him used to it so he can enjoy it. This stuff is a perfect thing to do with grandchildren. Add an MP3 player with his favorite music and downloaded books from the library, a new digital camera or video for the kid’s sports events. Those are things that grandchildren will enjoy doing for him and give a boost to connections within the family.
  13. Don’t forget the geneology part of life, it can be very involved and fun to learn about heritage. To express an interest in wanting your kids to know about their past family history and ask if the family pictures could be organized for them. This is a project that can involve your dad, you,your kids and many other groups that do geneolgy in person or on the Internet.
  14. Know that as people age, the progress of health and mental health is not in stone. Dementia can set in early or late in life. Heart health can hit you in your thirties as well as in your sixties. Aches with arthitus can zap your energy and a simple addition of joint supplements can make a huge difference in pain control. So just take it step at a time, and read and learn because helping someone age means that you are helping yourself age well in the future.
  15. Reality is that most women are the organizers of events, food, doctor appointments and family for men. That is how our society works. So, if your dad does not have a gal in his life…you are the it girl. So, try to just let this sink in and add him to your list of boys to care for in your life…once you get this in place in your own mind, you can move your dad into a lifestyle that is good for him and for you. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but I have found very few in my care giving years.

I know that your creative mind will come up with other ideas. Once you get your mind in a direction to solve problems it becomes so much easier. Just remember anger does not mean they do not love and appreicate you. Seniors just have troublem expressing their feelings and dealing with their body changes. So be a sleuth and find out what is at the base of the anger, not what is on top of it.

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.

Calming Fear when Seniors Hear Bad News

Dear Francy; My Aunt is in her late 70’s and her husband has recently died. She is so fearful, of the house, the news, her money, her health, being alone. I am finding it quite a challenge to be around her- she is so negative about her life and the fear is just eating her up. Ideas?

Yes, I know you are not living with her, but a daily call pattern could help her a great deal. If you lived with her you would set the tone for the day when you walked in the door to greet her each morning, instead do it with your phone calls. This is never an easy thing to do because it requires you to be strong and not fall into her pool of depression and fear. You simply make a plan before you call her each day. Call around 10ish your time, when you can take a five minute break from your daily job or life pattern. Have in mind what to say.

If mother was still with us, I would be concerned about all the repeated news about the Swine Flu. Mother lost relatives and her sister was sick with the Spanish Flu after the First World War, so this news would have chilled her to the bone. Being upbeat, informing but refocusing her onto other ideas, days events etc is the key.

As you walk into a care area, you always take a moment for a quick deep breath. That brings oxygen to your brain and pulls the focus into the now. It allows you to remove the thoughts you have had with other patients, family or personal thing before this moment in time. The same goes on the phone, just before you pick up that receiver you take a quick deep breath and there you are, stronger and ready for action.

Have in mind the day at hand. Here we are at the end of April, so we start to think May. May 1st was always May Day and daisy chains and May Day baskets; Mother’s Day coming up and spring time. It’s horse races at the Derby, it’s Opening Day for Boating here in the Puget Sound. There are lots to talk about and lots of ideas to share with your senior at this time of year- that can divert them away from the constant worry about bad news.

Smiling goes a long way with care for seniors, even if it’s on the phone-people “feel” smiles. You’ll be very surprised at the tone of your voice when you smile, compared to when you don’t. You can begin by using your everyday cheery voice as you plow through the verbal garbage that might be thrown your way.

You say; “Good morning hope today is finding you well. How are you feeling today?” – Keep them on course, if they say that the flu has been on the news and people are dying, no problem- you stay calm. ” I know, I have been following that information. I am very sorry so many people are worried over it. Luckily we are safe here, I have gone over all of the surfaces with cleaner and that makes it safe for us today. But how are you feeling, have you had your breakfast and morning pills?”

Address the positive not the negative. Do a chore in the room, or ask them more personal health questions on the phone. Let them vent if you wish, but let them vent for a limited time. Then turn yourself back on again. “It is almost May Day…I remember filling up baskets of flowers and then sneaking around the neighborhood and making deliveries to neighbors, ringing the bell and running away so they only found the basket on the front porch when they came to the door. That was so much fun, did you ever do that?”

Encourage the TV to be turned onto a channel that is fitting for their days viewing; food, PBS, game shows. Or get them involved with a task for the day, bring them laundry to fold, or take them outside for a short walk or sunshine. Come up with a few ideas and ask them which they are going to do. Taking their mind off the fear and onto a task, chore, or new thought pattern should be the plan.

If they are fearful of living alone, then get a good alarm system for them. Or add a lifeline or cell phone service so they can call for help at any time. After a six month wait, suggest a new home to be around others of the same age that will keep them going and happy. If they have had years of caring for a spouse, suggest a transition to helping others in a local charity situation. Volunteering at a pet shelter, or food bank – keep your mind creative and see what suggestions hits the mark. You may have to take them to a senior center for the first time, but they will learn to have new friends and start to “refocus” on friends and activities.

Money is money, you cannot make it go away…so making sure they have a good firm grip on their money – you can introduce them to a 3rd party person that could explain investments, income, bills and help make plans to cut the budget down. If the house has to be sold to give a better life without stress, then that thought pattern has to be planted and let it grow over time. Time to think things through is so important when you are dealing with anyone of maturity.

I always make sure I give attention to fears. “I’m sorry you feel so worried over that, but let’s work together to think of ways to make it easier for you.” That way they know you are listening to them, but just not falling into the fear pool with them. Asking professionals to come in and give advice is so helpful. A good family counselor can help with grief or a free grief support group can do the same thing. A few classes in changing insurance companies for car and health at the senior center will inform them of how costs can be cut and still have good coverage. There are always ways of handling fear.

*Bringing the fear out in the open to discuss but not give it power.

*You can bring in ideas to divert their thoughts of fear with ideas of current events and friends that can bring them companionship.

*You will be able to bring thinking and patience into play for them.


That’s why senior, family and spouse care givers are so valuable- they can change an ordinary life into a life of quality. I thank you for all you do for your senior. It can be a hard road and very lonely. Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and click on the daily blog called Dear Francy for more tips, I have a click for on demand radio show that I do each week, and my special free service called Loving Memories serving you and your family to help find just the right care facility for your senior when those needs are required. If you are just starting to give care I have written a how to called Care Giving 101 Workbook that can really give you a lot of ideas of how to give care. I am also on Twitter @seniorcaretips

Thank you, francy

Trees a way to calm and heal

by Francy Dickinson                              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; I am going to share a little about my self today because trees came up again this weekend. We live in the northwest and our trees are deep green and tall, we have lots of Douglas Firs, cedar and pine so we have a green mantle around us all the time. You may have a small tree in your back yard or a park close by, take a walk – watch a tree – see what happens.

My people are Tree people:

In the middle of the summer of 1969 I was living in New York City, dancing with a ballet company. I had a curvature of the spine and as I danced professionally it effected the muscles. The pain would come and go, the muscles would act up now and then, but that summer – I was in very bad shape. I simply had to take a break and calm down the muscles and I flew back home for rest. I went from the busy high rise city to the quiet tree filled lanes of my home town.

Home was in Tacoma, Washington where my parents had a lovely turn of the century Queen Anne home in the North end. When I arrived I was shocked at the advancement of my father’s cancer. He had been fighting throat cancer for a few years with only radiation to help keep it at bay, in those days. He was now at home, no longer working, no longer walking well, no longer able to eat food- he had a feeding tube. Mother was working at the college as a cook and she got up very early to do the breakfast shift and came home in the afternoon. So she would put dad in the living room facing the large bay window and arrange all that he needed before she went off to work. He had a commode, water, pre-mixed food for him to administer through his feeding tube, Kleenex, and a book. She then hurried off to work and worried about him all through her working shift. Around 9am a nurse from the neighboring nursing home would arrive and let herself in and give him a morphine shot, she would check up on him and give him anything he needed and then leave. Mother knew the owner of the nursing home and as a neighbor, he sent one of his nursing staff over to help with daddy as a kindness. 

That was what greeted me on my arrival and the all too quiet house. A big house that had always been filled with noise from four daughters and now their grand children. But Dad was way to ill, no one was visiting Dad. He sat alone, quiet all day, unable to talk because of his throat cancer surgery. Dad was a man that was exceptionally bright and gifted as an artist. He made furniture and upholstered for a life long living, he had been one of the first home decorators in our city creating things all his life…now he just sat, quiet.

I took over the routine of caregiver, I was 19 that summer. I had to put aside the embarrassment of the commode and learned how to assist him out of his wing chair that he sat in all day long. I learned the recipe for his food mixture and knew how to clean out his trachea tube, it was not pleasant, but when you have someone you love that is sick – the details of care, simply go away and you concentrate on making them comfortable and giving them ways to find happiness – even if it’s in small moments.

It was a few days before we both settled into a routine and I soon would sit by him reading and writing letters to my NYC friends. I had the radio on some times, but most of the time it was quiet. Dad wrote notes all day…funny notes, sad notes, mad notes, help notes…it was an odd way of communicating. Just recently I found a box filled with his notes that mother had kept for over forty years – I have not read them, I just closed the top to the box and remembered how sad that time was for all of us.

I was feeding him one day when I first saw the trees. You see his eyes were that wonderful light grey-blue color that can reflect like a mirror. As I stood by his side holding up the feeder tube, he was looking outside as he always did and I saw the trees reflected in his eyes. I finished the feeding and cleaned the area and when I returned to sit back down I stared outside and saw the large trees across the street. Horse chestnut is what we called them, they were swaying in the wind and had a quite a rhythm going as I watched them. I looked over at Dad and he was still just involved with the trees. It was his meditation point. I asked him about it and he wrote a small note back to me, “I live with them, when I’m gone I will be with them.” He smiled and I excused myself to go and cry in the back yard.

I was there all that summer and into the fall as the tree’s leaves started to turn. It was the 19th of September that he passed that year. Every few years I drive by that house and look at the trees, they’re still beautiful, I think Dad is taking very good care of them.

I was forty when my sister found out she had cancer. It was a strange thing, she had called me on the phone and told me she was going to the doctor and there was something odd about her voice. I asked her if she wanted me to join her and we could have coffee afterwards, she said a reluctant OK and came and picked me up. After her appointment she returned to the reception area and sat next to me waiting for the doctor to instruct her on her next appointment and he came out and stood in front of us. In the middle of other patients he simply said; “You have cancer” and walked away. We bothjust sat there, not able to speak, not knowing what to do, not even feeling really- just like a scene in a movie we sat quietly together. Until I broke the silence and told her we needed to leave and we walked out the door to her car. I drove her home and we sat in her beautiful backyard and drank tea. No tears, no words- just shock. It was a horrible time for us both. She was alone with no one to care for her, I was married and worked with my husband. She needed someone to help her through the massive operation and home care…and the only person that could do it without paying for it, was me. It was the second time I gave care to someone who was terminal. It was such a sad time, she had so many needs and I had to learn so many skills to keep her comfortable. I tried so hard to make her laugh, I tried to think of funny things about the meds and the procedures and we tried to laugh all the time. But it got harder to laugh as you saw her go down in her body’s ability to function. One day I brought her a plate of crackers and cheese and put it on the table next to her. She was sitting in a favorite chair of hers and looking out the window into the back yard. I glanced at her eyes to give her a smile and there they were…the trees reflecting in her light grey-blue eyes that were so much like my father’s – all those years before. I asked her about the trees, “Do they make you feel good?” She smiled and told me that when she looked at the trees it was like they drew her in to them. She could just sit for a moment and they called to her and she instantly felt relaxed and had less pain. They made her feel comforted and left her feeling “not so alone”.

I remember going into the kitchen and crying again. The trees; they were pulling her in – that seemed to mean that we were all connected to each other. You hear about connection to all things on earth, but it’s a concept so hard to really grasp until you actually feel a kinship withsomething like a tree. My sister lasted from day of discovery of cancer to her death only five months. So much of her time in those months were in pain. There she sat, in the quiet watching the trees in her back yard, her face relaxed and eyes reflecting the leaves and branches. I came to understand the connection and respect it.

It was not until 2006 that I saw the trees reflected in my mother’s eyes. She had been living with me for a few years as I gave her full time care. She had had a series of little strokes. Her mind was still strong but her body just slowly failed her. I had taken two bedrooms in my home and given her one for her sleeping room and one for her sitting room. It was in that sitting room that mother would sit in her automatic lounger and stare out the window. Our home looks out into a ravine that was filled with Douglas firs. We see the upperparts of the trees so the view is wonderful. They’re filled with birds and the swinging of the branches in the breeze. Mother started to stare out the window about two months before she passed. She would forgo her favorite TV shows and her books and just stare out the window at the trees for hours at a time.

Mother’s eyes are like mine, green and yet the sea of green branches swinging in the wind reflected just as well in those eyes than it did in the grey-blue eyes of my dad and sister. I knew she was leaving me. I suppose it should have made me sad, angry or afraid that she was spending time with thetrees, but it didn’t. I knew she was finding calm and quiet thoughts with the trees. I knew she was sharing things that are hard to put into words and I just let her float there during the day. She passed just shy of her 100 birthday, but in her 100thyear. I was ready when it happened and both my husband and myself were by her side. The trees swooped down and took her away like in a book of fairy tales- off to be with Dad and my sister…

I use the trees myself now, I sit up on roof top deck and I just relax into the trees around me. It calms me and I feel it allows my mind to be more creative and at times I feel close to my family that has passed.

My husband, Georgie is now fighting Alzheimer’s. If he has a day that is filled with confusion, I take him up to my deck and we just sit and watch the trees. He calms down and starts to hold my hand and I feel the Georgie inside of him coming to the top again. I guess we are all Tree People…we just take time to know it.

I encourage you to spend some quiet time with trees to find a calm and safe place to go when you are in need. I wish you well and hope you will visit my web site and see the other services I offer www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thank you, francy