Never Too Old for New Year’s Start-Overs

Ideas to re-boot and review the care for your elder in the New Year. How to get a boost in the care giving routine. by francy Dickinson

Adding Mobility in the New Year

Dear Francy; My dad has had a hard holiday caring for my mother. He feels like his life is fading as fast as my mother’s life. He is worn out and simply feels frustrated with the doctors and medications that have been given to mother. I have asked him to get a new doctor, but he says it’s best not to rock the boat. How do you feel about changing doctors in mid-stream for a Parkinson’s patient?

I feel like you all deserve the best care you can get. If the family doctor is no longer making head way with your mother…then it’s time for a change. If you do not have a neurologist you need to do some research and get one. Get your mother in the door and ask for a review of her symtoms and a re-assestment of all her medications.

The world changes so fast and every year there are new medications. As a patient moves forward in their care they may need to change their general health medications or limit them down. Neurologists are like the geeks of the care world. They love to research the different meds and do an in-depth review of all the chemical compounds in the medications.

Let’s take another step; let’s get your dad thinking positive about his health and his own future. As a care-giver; the emotions of the spouse do make a difference in the quality of care. Depression is very real for those facing the onslaught of a constant down swing in the health of their life-long partners. Here are a few tips I use:

  1. Get his own health check-up. Many times women are the ones that keep their husband’s health on track. If she is no longer able to do that sort of thing…it is up to him to make an appointment and get a full check-up in the New Year. Knowing his body is strong, or if a problem is beginning for him….he can add medication or a proceedure to deal with it and give him a feeling of well-being.
  2. Depression is not a light issue. I talk about it so often because so many care-givers suffer with depression in silence. The family is concentrating on the care of the sick spouse and the other spouse just seems to slip under the radar. Pay attention to him and make sure he is taking his own medications, that he is eating well and he gets breaks from the 24/7 of care.
  3. Freshen up the surroundings. If a home becomes a care place, it often gets very disorganized. That clutter of pills containers, bills, pillows, and care giving things can really get over whelming. Try to help him calm the place down. Many elders use their dining table as a place to put bills…get them into a spot that is sorted and easy to review. Get a spiral notebook so your mother’s care and notes can be kept in one place, not on little pieces of paper. Get the dining table free to be clean and tidy, get the living areas calmed down so the care giving and the patient can feel comforted not distracted.
  4. Do phone checks. If you have other siblings have them call in the morning and you call at night. That constant check-in for just a couple of minutes will keep your dad feeling he is not alone and you can judge if he is in a good place day by day.
  5.  Get your dad into watching a TV show, or radio program each day. Many times if one has a focus on something simple but distracting it can really lift spirits. It might take you to do a search to find a sports show, and interview show or a game show that your dad would get a kick out of viewing or listening to on a continued basis. This repetitive action gives the days a basis. When you are care giving around the clock…you tend to lose your daily clock. If you can replace that with something enjoyed by your dad…he will look forward to it each day.
  6. Exercise for them both. No matter what stage your mother is in her journey, she needs to move. If she can still walk…she needs to do so, if she can only do transfers she can do hand and feet circles and lift small weights. Your dad can take a walk in the back yard for 10 minutes while your mother is napping. That way he is close, but still feels the fresh air and moves his body back and forth. I do this on a daily basis. It may not be a fancy walk in the woods, but it gets me moving, breathing and rests my mind with the quiet of the outdoors in my own backyard.
  7. Have your dad change his daily drinking of coffee to one cup a day and then switch to tea. Most older men have problems with prostate issues. They do not understand the way that coffee pulls on their body and if they make this change it will help them. Running back and forth to the bathroom is very exhausting when you are busy giving care. Keeping an eye on this issue is important there are medications that can help and it should be talked about.
  8. Watching skin care. Lots of elders tend to stop bathing as much as they used to. It means that the skin can break down and so they need to set a ritual. I have an every other day shower rule for my Georgie. He gets his shower and his legs and arms get a good moisturizer so the skin stays healthy. Then he has the next day off.  Take note of the bathing in the home. If your dad has trouble with bathing your mom…get a ‘Bath-lady’. This in home service is worth its weight in gold, they will come once or twice a week and bath your mother. They are trained to bath and check for any sore spots on the skin. They interact with the elder and do their hair and moisture treatments. They are a great choice of added ‘in-home’ care.
  9. Ask family to give your dad an afternoon or evening off each week. Make sure he has plans. No staying home; kick him out the door to go to the store, have coffee, visit a friend or do a hobby. This simple rest from the care giving can save the mental, emotional and physical health of a spouse giving care.
  10. Make sure your dad is wearing comfortable, clean and new clothes. Lots of elders tend to stop shopping for new things. All of our minds need to have new things in our lives to keep us feeling good about our self. We need to get our hair done, our face and teeth clean and our clothes looking good. Just because they are in their home most of the time, does not mean they get to ignore their personal appearance. Men often do this and it will affect their emotions.

I think that the beginning of the year is a perfect time for anyone to review what has been working in the past and what has not been working. To share it with family and the health care team they work with and make changes. Your mother deserves quality care; new medications, new supplements, new food intake, more water and other fluids and movement…could change the stage of her health.

Your dad deserves some space to be his own person. Encouraging him to do a hobby or see friends is just as important as his giving care to your mom. He needs to keep his own life pattern so when your mother passes…he will have a reason to live on in peace.

It’s never too late and no one is ever too old to make decisions to empower and improve their lives. Encourage your dad to make some changes this month. Often, the thought of change itself; is hard for someone in the middle of giving care. Help him with your spirit and love…it will make a difference for both of your parents.

Blessings on all you do for your mom and dad…thank you for your care, francy

Francy with her Bichon, Missy

PS My new book on senior care is coming out this winter…I’m excited to start sharing it with you and help with more care giving tips.

Oh, please do me a favor and click on the “Sign-up” button on the right hand side of the webpage…you will be notified when I post a new blog. And please do share my work with anyone that is giving care to their family or loved one.

I am on twitter @SeniorCareTips

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Worried About Grandma Back Home?

Help for seniors that are left alone in cities without family to care for them. Ideas and tips by francy Dickinson

Keep Seniors safe at home

Living Safe and Living Long

Dear Francy; My Grandmother and Aunt live in my old home town- two states away from me. I have a family of my own and very little time or money to spend on their care. They do not live together but they talk each day. I am getting very worried about their welfare. Their homes need help, their gardens need help and they need help. Both are in their early 80’s and are able to be on their own, but they need an extra eye to look over them. Ideas?

YES! This is a subject that I am asked so often. It’s so hard on family these days with all the travel we do, the jobs and families that we have established away from our old home towns. I understand the worry, I understand your fears and I have a few ideas to help.

  1. Try to plan a trip back home once a year or every other year. Do not go home at holiday time…do it in the spring or fall, when life is not so busy. That will allow you to really spend a few days with your older relatives and get a feeling for their health and ability for self-care.
  2. If you can not go than ask a relative or old friend from your home town to do a security check. You can reconnect with a highschool chum that would stop in once a month and you send her a thank you note with a Starbucks card inside. Be creative; older folks tend to say; “I’m just fine” when they are not just fine.
  3. Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way right from the get go. You need a power of attorney for health issues and they can have each of their names on the POA as back up. That way if they’re in trouble you can call long distance to the hospital and get information. The world and laws have changed, privacy means, NO information will be given out without permission of the patient. If the patient is unable to give permission…you are stuck.
  4. Make sure even if you are far away you can call and talk without worry. Add a MagicJack to your computer. That will give you unlimited long distance through the Internet for $25 a year. That way there is no worry about multi calls each day or long calls to them or others in the town to make appointments.
  5. Add them both to your family cell phone plan. They will not use many minutes and its a safe way for them to call 911. If you are all on the same cell phone company then your calls to each other are usually free. So they can talk to each other and to you and no minutes show on your billing. Call your service and ask them what a good plan would be for all of you, then make the change. Keep updating your cell services, some companies have special senior plans and it really helps to have that phone in their pocket ( or in their bra- LOL) all day long so they are secure in case of a fall.
  6. Think like you would if you were close. Call their doctor and make appointments, they do not care where you live. You make the appointments and keep up with the information as it comes up. If you have lived well into your 80’s and you have low health issues, then keeping life simple and having check ups is the way to keep your seniors living on their own for an extended time. Every year they need to see eye, skin, family doctor, and any specialist that they need for their extra care. Don’t forget teeth, they will start to eat less if they have teeth that are missing or hurt. 
  7. If they begin to have health issues; ask them if they would consider living together. They could both sell their homes and put the money in a fund. Then move in together in a retirement situation that would provide care as they age. They would have a community around them and be more involved in their lives – instead of alone.
  8. If they want to be where they are for as long as they can….start to set up a group of people who will help them. Get a listing of repair people from the community colleges and tech schools that are inexpensive and help seniors. Get yard people from garden clubs or faith organizations that do a yearly clean up for free.
  9. Add on a care service or hire an occasional cleaning person. Even once a month, or every other month. Add a bath person once a week this is really a good way to check their health. The bath person is trained to see if they are losing weight, have bruises from falls, or other medical complaints. I think this should be #1 on your list.
  10.  Connect with someone who will pick them up once a week and take them both to the grocery store, get their hair done, and get a pedicure (every 5 wks). They can visit together get a lunch after the shopping and have an enjoyable day. Someone from a faith center will do the job if you simply give a gift to the program. Be creative.
  11. Food, if they need help with food then do the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ they will send out food for the week and little treats can be purchased on the side. Do not allow them to go one day without a protein drink. This drink can be covered on their health program if you ask the doctor to give them a prescription for it. Boost and other protein drinks give them vitamins and protein that they may not get each day with small or unbalanced meals.
  12. Call the local Senior Center and get them on their mailing list…get them involved with day trips to local sites, card days, lite exercise, movie nites. Senior Centers have lots of extra services and so do the YMCA’s in the area. Tech college that are training in-home care givers also can send students for safety checks and so can the local Red Cross and Senior Care Services.
  13. Professional in home services can be done by the hour and you can get a review of what is needed when you call a Senior Care Service in the area. I always find them online and check out the references. These services are varied like bath people, cleaning, food prep, care giving and nursing. You can figure out the amount of money you have in the budget and use them each week or only on occasion. Its good just to talk to them and have an evaluation so they are ready to go when you are in need. Remember Medicare will pay for one month of in-home care after a patient has been in hospital for three days or more. Or Medicare will provide a 30 day stay in a care center to recover from a hospital stay before the senior returns to their own home. Your insurance and local senior services will review what your area covers for in-home care so call and get the idea in your mind and written down, in case you need it.
  14. If you feel they are in need of help financially..with food or other things you need a social worker. The best place to begin is with a  trained person that is there for you…you can call the local hospital that is close to them. Ask for the senior social worker and start with that person. They are always in the know and it is a hospital community outreach to help the public.

It will require you to make calls and get your lists ready to go, but once you do. It will be like you are living right next door. Do not depend on relatives, they often say they will do things and then do not follow through. It’s better to have a service help you, pay for it if your seniors have money and/or search for local charity services if you don’t have funds. Once again, the key word is being creative. Think about how you can ask others to help you to give your seniors the best care…even if you are not able to be there for hands on help.

Thank you for being so kind to your seniors. Many elders find their lives closed in to just their own home. They lose their spouses, friends pass, children are out-of-town and who do they have to help them? So good to know that you care enough to be on the other end of the phone. Blessings, francy

Living Long, Easy – Living Well, Takes Work

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

Uncle Bill & Mom 100+ Yrs of Living

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

  1.  Do they move around during the day? Keeping their legs working and their balance in place is really a hot point.Make sure they move around to go to the bathroom…make them walk around the house or up and down the hall twice each time they go to the bathroom. Their commode goes over the toilet during the day to help them up and down on the toilet seat. Then at night move the commode into their bedroom for ease of use when they are trying not to fall at night. NO Should I ?….this is a must and do not let the senior make decisions that effect their balance and possible fall at nite!
  2. 

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

I thank you for all you are doing..francy   Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the November issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. It’s a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  a lot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

Second Spouse – Now Care Giver

by francy Dickinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Mom Just Now Needs More Care at Home-Great Ideas-

by francy Dickinson                     www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: After realizing that mom needed more care than a phone call each day things have changed. We just got through cleaning Mom’s home after years of her ignoring the mess. She had not hoarded she just did not clean. So rooms were filled with old things and now the family has cleaned it out and we are starting fresh. We had every room painted and the bath faucets updated and the kitchen got a new smaller stove and new microwave. We took your advice and got it ready for care givers. One of the bedrooms is now ready for an overnight guest or caregiver, the closets of old clothes in each room are clean too. Now it looks empty and mom is really feeling a cross between happy to have it clean and making it her own again. She is recovering from her stroke but I live two hours away and can only do so much with my weekly visits.

Well, lets start at the beginning, what a great job you and your three brothers did on the house. And how smart of you to clean and paint and ready the house for a sale if that has to happen in the near future. Since your mom is doing so much better and only needs her meals and a daily care visit of two hours, I think you have a great program going. The job now is to keep your mom busy and that might take some thinking.

Lets talk about depression its much more common than you can imagine. Strokes often effect the brain with sadness and so does the recovery from other health issues and of course the loss of a spouse. This whole house cleaning could also set off sadness in her daily routine. Even though your dad passed years ago, she is now just facing her own older and less able to do things lifestyles. I’m sure she thought that your dad would be there to help her at this time of life and the grieving can resurface. It can be treated with drugs that help so much, but so does therapy. Even though your mom is older it would not hurt to have her do a 4 session therapy round to give her a chance to express her personal feelings to someone other than family. She may smile when you are there but she may be very sad or teary on her own, so check this out. That way she can really close some personal issues and adjust to her new life of being less mobile and more home bound. It is not easy to make that change. So even though you are there for her and your love and support is strong…your mom needs some time talking things through and getting her new lifestyle started with healthy thoughts. What you dont want is for her to be upset or confused or just feeling lonely and no one really knowing about it because she is keeping quiet.

So, lets remake the home area that has been so well cleaned and updated.  Start with an area for her to write down things she needs on a listing by her chair. If she thinks of something she writes it down and when you come on Tuesdays she can give the list to you. You can review and try to handle what ever is on the list in a wise manner. That will keep her feeling that her inability to leave the house and drive is not stopping her from getting things and items in order in her life.

Put together a plan to decorate in a lovely way for each season so she can enjoy her home or any room she lives in as time passes.  Take older pictures of family and choose one or two and have them enlarged and put up on the wall like large art pieces. This removes the clutter of fifty small family frames, into a just a couple of stellar photos that reflect years ago and the current family picture. The older pictures can be scanned and put on a nice mp3 frame that will show a slide show when you touch the screen. Always put your father’s picture in a nice frame and have it where she can enjoy it..maybe one with them both as a couple but do not over do. Memories are to be cherished not overwhelming.

Add a little color with throw pillows and a good lap throw so she has color around her without changing wall color. If there is some money, recover  her better furniture It will be familiar but updated to a current nice color that reflects her personality. Add a grandchild corner with a big basket of toys for the visiting little ones. That way the kids enjoy the visit and she has a reminder of her lovely little ones around her. The house will remain clean, safe to walk around and yet feel updated with things that are currently special to her. Not things that have been there and forgotten for 30 years.   

Remember that when any person pulls their world back down into their own home or care center, their universe is smaller and therefore becomes more intense. So do not be alarmed if she gets upset with things that you feel are small and silly. The room temperature  may bother her to distraction, the way she feels sitting in her chair may be uncomfortable. What used to be a minor issue among many daily tasks is now the only issue. Deal with them as they come up and just allow her to vent until you arrive each week.

Here are some changes that you will have when your Senior is home bound:

  1. The TV may not be right for her. It becomes a big part of her life, so a new set that she can see and use the remote. Adding Dish or Comcast will give her more channels and a constant reminder of how to use the channels and the remote will be required for quite a while tell she understands the process. You might also try moving an old set in a closer position or get her headphones that plug into the TV so she hears without a high volume. History, sports and Military channel for the guys and food, home, mystery channels for the ladies…it makes a huge difference. Set the TV with text to run on the bottom of the screen if your senior is hard of hearing so they really enjoy the viewing time.
  2. Get her into a senior center and drop her off once a week to involve her with other seniors for as long as she can do this with her health issues. This can be cards, bingo, special exercise classes, lectures, lunches, food gifting, crafts and outings. You will find that the first visit needs you by her side and then they get drawn in and really enjoy this time. It will fill their mind with things during their week and help their emotional stability. It is worth having a care giver or senior in neighborhood driving them to and from and that could be a $10-$20 investment well made for the transportation. There are vans for seniors and you can try that too.
  3. Plan events in their homes for your active family members. OK so Thanksgiving is coming up. Did you know that around the holiday many local grocery stores do full turkey dinners? You can order one for a week before Thanksgiving. They will cook the whole meal and it only needs to be picked up, warmed and served. Then invite some family and old friends over for and early Thanksgiving. This will be a full month of getting ready and making plans without the worry over the cooking and lots of left overs to give away. Then the actual holiday comes and your senior can attend the family dinner or stay home without sadness because they had their own nice celebration the week before. Works well for many.
  4. Each visit you need to open the refrigerator and make sure the senior is eating food that is being delivered and prepared. Just because food is in the house does not mean the senior is eating it. So look through the refrigerator. If the senior gets into a special diet of potatoes or just canned chili or other items dont worry, it will work itself out. Just make sure they are eating and add a Boost dietary drink so they get plenty of protein. Tell dr about the eating if it gets bad and he will prescribe meds that increase the hunger issue.
  5. On your visit ck the cleanliness of the kitchen that is a care giver job and you want to make sure the staff you hire for your senior is doing their job. Clean counters, floors, and appliances are a must…check. If it is not clean, report the caregiver to the service and ask for another care giver or more time each week for a good cleaning.
  6. Check on the bathroom for the senior, it should be very clean, the caregiver also is responsible for that area. The bathchair should be in the tub the handheld shower should work and be clean. The towels should be in order. If your senior has old towels remove them. You will need four good bath towels and a stack of hand clothes to make sure your senior is able to get good care. I am sure you know that the most important person you can hire to care for your senior is a bath lady. They are well trained to do a great job and will report injuries, sickness, dizziness and any other problem with your senior. You always find professional at a “In home care service” they provide a variety of care people to hit the needs you might have. They are licensed and bonded but once you use them…all expensive jewelry and family things should be given away or put into the bank box…you dont want great grandma’s brooch to be lost to the family because you did not follow through with this.
  7. How is the mail box at your senior’s home. Is it on the porch and easy for them to use, or across the street? Maybe you need to buy a new one that is larger and easier to use. Or have the mail all forwarded to the home of the person caring for your seniors finances. Getting mail each day, can be a dangerous task for those that do not walk well. If they still want their daily mail, put the pick up on the care givers to do list. Or ask a long time neighbor to drop it off and put a box on the front porch for them to do so. Then  make sure you thank the neighbor often with cookies or a box of candy so they know they are appreciated. This daily ck in by a neighbor can save a life one day.
  8. Watch the charge cards of seniors, they tend to build up if they sit and order items from TV or the phone. You can stop unwanted calls by removing their names on phone lists. You can get a special service added to the phone that will filter calls from anyone but approved family and friends. You can also get a good easy to hear phone with special features for hearing disabled. You can add a cell phone to your own family plan and have your senior wear it on a holder around their neck or in a belt. Teach them how to call for help and call you…you can also add a home protection service that is a button for the senior to push if they are hurt or need help.
  9. If the senior looks out into the yard from their family or living area…get the grass cut and the bushes trimmed and load up the beds with bark. You dont have to make gardening a hobby at your mother’s place, but keeping it looking in order will relax her and help the home to re-sell in the near future. If you have teens in the family ask them to make the garden and grass their task and pay them a small amount. Taking care of the home and keeping it safe will allow your senior to relax and enjoy their life. Instead of them worrying over uncut grass and the house slowing breaking down around them.
  10. Make rules for your time…if your siblings want to visit great…but remember your mother is a part of your family…just a part. Make her needs work into your life with your calendar days not her’s. She is at home each day you are working and keeping another home. So be kind, but be strong about saying I will come down on Tuesdays and get what ever I can done that afternoon and evening…the rest will have to wait till my next visit. She will soon learn the routine and she will be happier knowing you give time to her but still have time for you and your own life.
  11. Care starts small…a day here, an hour there and soon it becomes overwhelming. Remember when you make any decision have an idea of what will happen in time to come. That way each step your mother takes in her recovery and her advancement with her declining health issues- is a step that fulfills her life but is in line with her future care. What I mean is do not spend a lot of her money on things for a home that will not repay, her money is limited and will be needed for care giving in the future. If she wants fancy clothes but she can not go out the door, try to adjust her thinking to clothing that is fresh and easy for at home comfort. It takes a mind change for you both…and that is what you now must make a change and realization that your mom is older and is declining in health.But her today and tomorrow can be happy and fun and filled with hope.

I appreciate your email and that my ideas have already helped you make solid decisions on your mom’s care. You are doing a great job and thank you for your care. Please do visit my web site and remember I have written a book on Senior Care Workbook 101 that really helps with all the decisions and care that will be happening as time goes on. You will find the workbook on my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Blessings, francy

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.