Are You Ready to Take Your Senior to ER?

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How to be ready for emergencies so you and your senior can get to the hospital and be comfortable while you deal with the Emergency Room or extended stay. by francy Dickinson

GrabnGo ER Kit 4 You!

Grab n Go Ready ER Kit – Just 4 You!

Dear Francy; I live in a small community and my dad lives with us. He had issues last week, his heart was in a race and he was fainting…on the floor…I was in a panic. I called the doctor, because dad was on a lot of heart meds and they said take him to hospital. A neighbor helped me get him in the car and off we went for a 28 minute drive to the hospital. Once there…they took over…but I just lost my head. I had none of his information with me, we start in ER and then were there for two more days while his drugs were adjusted and watched.  I was exhausted, worried and still dressed for work. It was an all around horrible situation. I remembered you talking about being prepared…I failed on that end…would you review the ideas for stress and emergency room trips. Thanks..Cindy, New Mexico

Thank you Cindy…don’t feel bad…I’ve been there too. You sit in that hospital and are uncomfortable…and can not just race home to change or get your things….so what I suggest is that if you are caring for a senior….YOU NEED A BAG FOR THE ER!

I have heard the stories for years…a spouse, family member or dear friend goes into a serious backward spiral and you know that you have to call 911 or take them to the hospital yourself. You are caught up in the moment of panic, worry and actual action of caring for the senior. Out the door you fly…to drive behind the ambulance or drive to the emergency care place yourself. The last thing on your mind is comfort..your mind is racing and your heart is in a high state of worry. But once at the hospital…everyone starts to ask you questions…social security numbers, health card information, does the senior have allergies, what are the medications that they are taking…you stand there in stunned silence…just wanting to be in the ER with your spouse or parent…and there you are – stuck with answering questions that you are not prepared to answer. After that nasty 15-20 minutes…you try to find your senior and they have started treatments. They are telling you things and you wish you could write them down…new ideas for treatment, interactions of medications and you are just trying to breath and tell your senior that they are OK…just hang in there. Then the ER puts the senior in a side area and they have to wait…wait for tests, wait for doctors to arrive, wait for ER or CAT scans…and the minutes stretch into hours and hours…then they say they will put the senior in a room for a couple of days…they want to keep them on close watch. Close watch? That means you don’t leave your senior’s side.

You are tired…your phone is on the last few minutes of energy…you have no phone numbers with you to use the hospital room line. You need to drink some water, have a snack but its the middle of the night and the cafeteria is not open yet and no change for the snack machines. You have now been at the hospital for 4-6 hours and you are looking at an over-night stay…sitting in a chair in the room. Nasty….and all of us…have gone through all of this and there is no reason to do that to ourselves….we do enough just loving and caring for our seniors. We need to be prepared for these fast, unscheduled emergencies….so we all need to put a kit together for our own use.

“ER Grab n Go Bag” 

If you have not experienced this yet, please believe me…it happens…your senior can fall or become unwell in an instant…and you will be faced with all this drama…and wind up feeling like a fool that you did not plan ahead to make the trip so much easier for your self. REMEMBER: the hospital is going to give full care to the senior in the emergency…YOU are the one that is not going to be cared for…you are simply in their way…so you stay quiet and try to stay close to your senior so you can give them calm and love. BE PREPARED!

ER Info Kit for your Senior

ER Info Kit for your Senior

START WITH ER INFO KIT FOR YOUR SENIOR

I keep an ER info Kit for George in my handbag…and one in the kitchen. I have given one to my sister and his kids know where I keep another copy. I have all the info that the ER entry office person is going to ask me. There is a good copy of all his cards, front and back. There is a review of what he is allergic to and his personal needs for check-in. There is a very detailed medical prescription and doctor listing and there is Power Of Attorney or a letter signed…that allows you to give and get medical information. I also tuck in the driving instructions so if I get too nervous or stressed…I can still get to the hospital. This is a must…and you have to take time to type it up and make copies…and then you are set to go. I update my medication listing…and you will find a whole blog on the details on April 21, 2010 called “If your senior goes to ER, are you ready” Please put that in the search bar on the top of the page and read over that blog…it has all the details for the paperwork to get you in the out of the check-in process of hospital or doctor visits. I can not tell you how many health care professionals tell me how they love my kit…you will too.

Just remember this information is all of the personal ID on the senior and it has to be kept private and safe…so keep it protected...I use a plastic envelope and I also have a whole booklet that I use for his medical information. If you do put together the “Grab n Go Ready Kit” you will also have a spiral notebook n pen to take notes. Trust me…I have given care to my mum and my husband for over 10 years now…you need these items when you go to the doctor and the hospital. I know you may think they have all the patient’s information in their computer system…but you are wrong…info is rarely updated and they often lose the patient in the computer files. Be ready to give them any thing they need to help the senior get well in the middle of a crisis. Do not count on your mind…even ss# can be forgotten or mis-stated when you see someone you love in peril! (NOTE: What I remember is wasting time at the check-in window when I wanted so badly to be with my frightened 95 yr old mother in the ER room…to keep her calm. I did all of this so I would never have to repeat that.) The next time we were at the ER…the check in lady…just took my paperwork and told me she would enter it all and bring it to me in the ER…it was perfect. I have been thanked by nurses, doctors and admin-people for having the information so well-organized and it only took the time for me to enter it into the computer the first time. I update the info every six months or on medication changes. Easy -peasy for no stress check-in’s.

 NOW LETS TALK YOU…HOW ARE YOU GOING TO COPE WITH HOURS IN THE ER– IF NOT DAYS IN THE HOSPITAL? JUST LIKE SCOUTS….”BE PREPARED”

hospital sleeping chair

Well this is the chair you get to live in for a couple of days. As you can see it is not pretty, but it does recline and you can stay in the senior’s room…by their side and be part of their healing team. Even a First lady, does not get anything better than a sleeping chair in most hospitals. But trust me…its a lonely place if you don’t have anything with you.

So, out comes your ER GRAB n GO READY BAG…and you have a few things to make yourself feel comforted and rest as you help your senior do the same.

  1. Comfort and Warmth; I put an old pair of sweats and a warm top in the bag…with cozy warm slipper socks…that way my clothes are presentable to the public…but totally comfortable for me to sit and sleep. I also have a throw…or you could put in a hoodie so at night you can be extra warm…the hospital rooms are always cold to me. They often give you a blanket…but its never enough for me. As you see the chair it does have a lift so your feet will be up and the back will tilt. I have a pillow collar that I can tuck under my head or put on my lower back to ease the comfort level. You can get blow up neck pillows in the travel department. They are honestly the best gift to yourself in this situation. (I would rather use my things instead of hospital things…its a germ thing with me…my things make me feel safe, not worried about catching something)
  2. A small water bottle is in my bag…you can refill it in the hall with the drinking fountains. This is just a must…I don’t want to be buying soda all day…and swell up…the hospital can have dry air…so stay hydrated. I also have a couple of snack bars…to get me through. Usually the emergency is through the night and when I am able to take a few minutes to eat…the cafeteria is not open and you are faced with only snack machines. So, I have my snack bars and I tuck a few dollars in an envelope and keep in my bag. Often times, I am out of cash in my purse so this makes it easy to get anything I want out of the machines…and then I can also go to the cafeteria for a sandwich or soup during the day. I also tuck in a few tea bags and sweeteners…you can always get hot water from the nurse’s station…and it tastes so good to relax and calm yourself with tea. You can also ask them if there is a snack fridge for family….the VA has a nice area for us to go and get hot coffee, yogurt, or pudding etc – any time, when we are with our loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask…it maybe there for you, just steps away from the room.
  3.  Keep clean…wash your hands until you drop when you are in the hospital…and I have a small hand cleaner in my bag with Kleenex if I get snuffy. Plus…you will never find me wo/ my Advil. I have a bad back and I tend to get pressure headaches…so my little package of Advil that I got at the Dollar Store is heaven-sent when I’m in need. If I was taking medications…I would have a couple of ziplock baggies with a couple of days of those in my Ready Bag too. Nothing worse than going without your bladder or blood pressure med for a day or two…add in the stress and your body will really complain.
  4. Bored? Remember…people that are unwell…sleep. The hospital will give them drugs to keep them calm…but what about you? I bring a book to read. I use a Kindle but you don’t want to depend on remembering that….as you run out the door. A good old fashion paperback book and a pair of readers can be tucked in and ready for you to dive into and remove your stress in a good story. An older Mp3 player is also a great tuck in…yes, TV’s are in the rooms…but often they are on a channel that you don’t like or you can not hear them…so I make sure I have my own things to keep me calm. If you are a knitter…just tuck in an old project you have never finished…in a zip lock bag and its there for you. Think what it is that you enjoy…and make that happen in your Ready Kit.
  5. Calling the family? You need to have a re-charger in your bag…buy one that will recharge all your devises and if you tuck in your reader or tablet as you run out the door…you will be able to keep them going with your charger. Your mobile phone is your lifeline to the family…but many times the hospitals…block the cell phone signals. What then? You have to walk all the way to the front of the building and make your calls…not an easy thing to do. I had that happen to me and it was exhausting. So, write down a few of the key family phone numbers to keep posted. You can always ask them to send the information out to others. This way you can use the in-room telephone for local calling. I have my number in the front of my spiral notebook and I’m ready to go.
  6. Pets left behind…what about the mail? After a long stay in the ER and then you find out you maybe in the hospital for a day or two longer….have a neighbor or friend that has a key to your home and will take care of your pets. They can also pick up the mail and put it in the kitchen for you and just keep the lights out and everything in order while you are gone. I always put a key ring with my name on it…so the neighbor can keep it and knows who it belongs to — it could be a couple of years before the call could come for them to help….once you have this info in place…you can relax and know that all is well without you leaving your loved one to run home.
  7. A Ziplock baggie with little things that mean something to you…to keep you calm. Maybe you need cough drops…or lip balm. A new toothbrush and small toothpaste. Hand cream and face cream…Glasses and a glass cleaning cloth. Maybe you are a person that needs a few peanuts to keep you going or hand wipes to feel clean. If you are in need…you can tuck in a few Poise/Depend pads. Think comfort. NO the bag does not have to be a huge case…its just a big tote…but keep it full of things that bring you comfort…so when you are stressed and worried…you can keep yourself calm.
  8. If you forget your tote…then you call a friend to retrieve it from your hall closet and everything is in the tote..instead of the friend wandering around your home for a “few things”.

I suppose you read this and think…Oh, I will get on this pretty soon….please do not do that. Go right now and just put a few things in a bag and tuck it in the hall closet. You can make it fancy or expanded later..but get the ER senior’s information kit, in order and a few things in your own Ready Kit–RIGHT NOW. Its like giving yourself a gift…and you will rejoice in it if and when the day comes that an emergency hits your home…and you can just open a door grab your Ready Kit and walk out the door caring for your senior in need.

I always want to thank you for caring for your senior. Would you do me a favor and “sign up” up for the blog. That way it will come to you via the email and you will not miss any of the tips…and if you know someone that is a care giver…please share my blog with them…thank you.

As a spouse of a Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s senior…I find the care giving can be so overwhelming and it represents such love. The gift of care is the dearest thing you can give to a person that has become unwell, unsteady or confused.

My Georgie has been declining a great deal lately. Falls and safety issues are a daily challenge for me to handle now. I am not blogging as much as I would like…but know I’m here for you to send me a message if you have a question or need help.

I am pleased to say I have a dear friend that helps me with my care giving….and I want to thank you for just “being there” for me in this journey I am taking with George….Friends are the best. I hope you feel I am on your friend list and you will feel free to ask questions that you may have at any time….Blessings…francy

Me with my friend Cheryl who is always helping me with George and supporting me as a loving friend...Thank you Cheryl!

Me with my friend Cheryl who is always helping me with George and supporting me as a loving friend…Thank you Cheryl!

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

If Your Senior Goes to ER – Are YOU Ready?

by francy Dickinson

Mother in Hospital visit by her Pup

There I was standing in mother’s room in our home and she was not doing well. It was time to take her to the hospital. I had been through this before and I was running around her room trying to pack a bag. All of her meds in a plastic ziplock, slippers, her hearing aid case, her eye-glass case, her robe, on and on as I am zipping from one side of the room – pulling open drawers and grabbing what ever my mind said to grab, then darting back to check on her. My husband is coming in the room, getting her up and into her wheelchair and I am covering her with blankets so we can wrap her warm for the drive to the hospital.

Once there she is taken into the ER and I’m asked to fill out papers. I can hear her calling my name. Mother could not hear and she was frightened and needed me but I was filling out paperwork. It was horrible. I vowed not to repeat this mess again with any of us.
I put together a small plastic envelop filled with information that would answer all the questions that the hospital needed and allow me a quick in and out of the check-in with really just a signature. So I could be by the side of my loved one, not answering questions and pushing a pen around. Check and done…I know you will find this helpful. My mother passed at 100 yrs of age. But now my self, my friend Cheryl and my husband Georgie all have info packets that stay in the small desk in our kitchen. We are all ready for the ER and no matter how upset or scattered we are when we leave the house for the Emergency Room…we will now have all the required information in our hip pockets or in our purse.
YOUR EMERGENCY ROOM INFORMATION PACKET:
  1. First, I sat down with the bag of mother’s daily medications and read them over and divided them into morning, noon and night. I wrote down the name of the medication, the dose, the amount of daily dose pills, the time to take them and why she was taking them. If I did not know, I called the pharmacy and had them explain it for me. I would ask if it should be taken with food, or before food. Most medications absorb better on a stomach with at least a yogurt or apple sauce taken first, now it was on the paper for me to see and remember.
  2. Once they were all written down, I bought a new pill container that fit her schedule and was large enough for all of her meds and supplements. Yes, Mom took supplements. I studied what would help her, then asked the pharmacy person to make sure it would be OK with her prescriptions. Then I separated the supplements to compliment her medications throughout the day. I added the supplements to my listing of pills and the amount in the supplement.
    Example for you:  
    Vit D3 – 500 units -1 pill- morning – w/food  – (energy and emotional support)
  3. OK, I was now ready. I brought the paper to my computer and started to enter her list of pills and supplements. The top of the page had mothers full name and our phone number. The computer would put down the update date so I could keep it current and correct. I used the outline I had started and did the full listing. As we added or removed medications in times to come, I would just enter the new info into the computer and update the listing. It made the entry easy and fast from that point forward. Trust me so worth the effort when you consider you have to bring the big bag of pills to every doctor appt and now the listing on the paper is updated and easy for the doctor’s staff and you to read and understand. It’s a great thing. Not to mention perfect for travel even if the travel is to visit a close relative for an over night or weekend. 
  4. Now I started to think of the questions they asked at ER check in. Does she have allergies to medications? So I typed in the title and put down a list of medication and food allergies. She had no medication allergies, but she did have allergies to peanuts and rose oil. Believe me, even if it seems pointless to state this, you never know what is in medications, or lotions used for back rubs or veggie stir fry in peanut oil…this is big deal.
  5. They will ask about history: I put down a short history, 4 children, no miscarriages, eye operation to uncross her eyes, and cataract removal, no other medical history of hospital stays. No history of diabetes, blood pressure or confusion. Then I added the medical history of her family: Mother and dad passed with heart ailments, brother with cancer, brother with stroke, sister with Alzheimer’s. There you go – a quick and easy review for any new doctor to take a glance and see that there was clear relationship to her own heart problems.
  6. Now the emotional: Mother is clear of thought, reads even at her advanced age, watches TV and interacts with the news of the day. She does get very upset with her own frail abilities and can get angry in the late afternoons. See? It is stated matter of fact but you get the issues easy and so will the attending physician.
  7. Now her abilities: Mother does not hear well and her left ear is her best and has a hearing aid. Right ear is lost with no hearing aid. Her teeth are false and she has uppers and lower bridge. She walks with a walker at all times or she will fall. She has limited strength in her legs. NOTE: In order for mother to live with us she has to be mobile so she works hard to get around with her walker. She uses a bath chair and commode by her bed at night. She rings for me to come and assist her in transitions during the nite. But does them on her own in the day time.
  8. Food and Drink; Mother is not on any special diet, she eats well and prefers light food. She drinks one coffee per day and is not able to drink water, so juice mixed with water is her liquid for the day.
  9. Her TV habits are easy to understand news with captions or food shows that she can lightly watch and understand.

    Can you see the idea?  All the information that the ER needs, the nurse stations need, the new doctors that are assigned to her called “Hospitalists” need to know……in one place. Easy to read and understand

When I first presented this to the ER hospital check in person she took in a breath and said. “Wow, this is great, thanks I will make a copy and I think everything seems to be here.” KAZZZAMMMM – It worked!

NEXT PAGE: The next page is a listing of doctor and insurance information. I started by going to the copy shop and making a one page filed with mom’s driver lic, her social security, her medicare card and AARP supplement card. It was all there on one page. She could keep her ID in her wallet and I had it in my trusty ER Info Kit.

I then listed her doctors, their speciality, their office phone and fax numbers. I had a small explanation under them:

Dr Anna Kline, General Practice  o/555-222-1234  f/555-233-5678
Mother has been with Dr. Kline for three years and Dr. over sees and does all mother’s prescriptions. We use 90 day Rx and generics when ever possible. Dr. Kline works well with mother and is easy for her to hear and understand.  (Last seen June of 2009)

AT the end of the page: I put a — 

NOTE: I placed my name, relationship and emergency cell phone and stated my place as her Power of Attorney. Her medical information is to be discussed with me before any major change in medication or procedure given.

All of this is in my computer under Mother’s name. I updated it each doctor appointment and it’s printed and ready to go in a clear plastic envelop that I keep in the kitchen. I put a copy of the Power of Attorney in with the above information. That needs to always be presented at the check in for the doctor appointment or the hospital check in.

PLEASE NOTE: Power of Attorney can be done on your own computer. You can buy a great program called Family Lawyer or do a search and the information will be on the Internet. You can buy the paperwork at an office supply store. But the software is really nice to use. Then you sit next to your senior and together answer all the questions that will walk you through the Power of Attorney for Health. (You can also do full Power of Attorney) But the hospital needs this to include you in the informational and decision process for your senior or family member or close friend. By the way the Power of Attorney has to be notary stamped. You can do that free at most banks or real estate offices. This will also require two witnesses. So, I have done it and had mom sign and I wait for two people “unrelated” to come to the house or ask a neighbor. This is a no nothing thing that takes very little time and will pay off as your senior ages and their health diminishes and you are really needed to make decisions in their name. Just as you will need it for a spouse, friend or child. This is an important step in your family health, so taking the time to get this done will rest your mind and be appreciated greatly in times of crisis.

There you go…how cool is that…your packet is done:

 

Emergency Info Kit:

  • List of medications and the details of each and supplements
  • List of the person information
  • List of insurance and ID cards with contact  numbers
  • List of doctors and their contact information and how you use the doctors
  • Your Power of attorney (copy only needed)
  • Name of patient on each page and current date on material that could be unusable if out dated

All of the above are gathered folded and put into your plastic envelop. I used one that had come with an old insurance plan. It worked so handy I looked and found others like it. I slipped in business cards of the hospitals so I would have the call in phone numbers of the nurse’s station. That is it….Gold in an envelop.

OK… so it takes a little while to do the project, but once done you are in order and planned for any emergency. No matter what their age your family members will sooner or later need to go to the doctor or have an emergency. So, do this project and be prepared.You have the information for trips, and everyday crisis that do arise. Your Packet will relieve all the running around when you are in a state of high stress.

Would you like to have other tips to keep your life flowing a little easier? I have a step by step practical home care work book that is perfect for any family. It goes over all the things you ask yourself and wonder about when you’re caring for those that are unwell or elders that need assistance at their home or in yours. I have had such great feed back with my “Senior Care Workbook 101”  that I can say with confidence you will use it with ease.

Thanks for all you do for others…francy

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

Panic-Dad has a cold and not able to walk!

by francy Dickinson                       www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Dad has had a cold for a week and today he is so weak he is unable to walk. He refuses to go to the hospital. I am unable to lift him and I have called a cousin that will take an over night flight to come and help me. What should I do?

OK, first Panic is not a word to use that does not get attached to calling his doctor for help and/or taking him into the ER. So remember, if you are that scared you need to be calm and take care of the situation with a call to a medical adviser and get him help.

Now, the options: One he has a mecial directive that says no hospital or resusitation. This is your honor to protect, but a cold never says I am dying to me- (it says; I’m sick, tired and weak – I need some meds to make me better. I may need some fluids and I may need some physical therapy to recover my legs)but I think that dying is low on the list of what will happen with a cold unless you ignor it and it goes into pneumonia. So, if I were in the house, I would call the doctor’s office. (who would probably just tell me to send him to ER)

I would take him to ER and they would give him fluids, check his vitals, and put him on a program to recover his legs again.  The least I would do is call the local Fire Department and have the medics check him out. I would not wait by the door for a relative, I would take action now. You are the care giver, your dad is too sick to make calls or decisions. So, use your intuition and react in a safe and appropriate way to give him care.

After that has been addressed; I want to assure you that many older seniors with different health challenges have problems with their legs and the slightest infection can take their energy down fast and that will keep them from walking. As they get fluids and meds and recover, they get their legs back again. So, do not immediately think he is off his feet for any permanent time period. It may just be a passing side effect of the body fighting an infection or other conditions in the body.

DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO STAY IN BED WITHOUT WALKING FOR MORE THAN A DAY! If someone is on doctor’s orders to be in bed and the doctor understands they are in the bed full time and can not get up – that is the exception. If they are simply unable to walk or stand without falling, they need to be treated by a physician and not you. They need to address what ever is bothering the senior that has produced this weakness.

Let’s go forward. Your dad has gotten some meds and has gotten his fluids and oxygen levels up. He has his sugar level in order, he has seen a doctor or nurse practitioner and he is back home. But he is still really unsteady and needs you to help him move around. You have a bad back or are very tiny and you are worried about caring for him in this state. Then you have to have him placed in a care center until he gets strong enough to meet the standards of your own home care. It maybe a week or a month in the care center but the doctor will write a prescription for it, just like a medication so the insurance can cover the cost. The care center will give him Physical Therapy to walk, monitor his vitals and get him strong again. If they can not do that, then he has moved into a new stage of care and you have to decide on the next step.

If the doctor or nurse has him back home and he is simply wobbly and can stand but not without you next to him, walk but not more than a few steps. This would mean that he has been examined and is on medication to take down his infection or handle his health challenge and he is on the mend. You will be asked to help him stand up and move him to the commode that will be placed in his room. You will have to help him up from the commode and get him back in his chair. An in-home nurse can be sent via the doctor to help you learn how to do the assisting so it will not harm you. Very small people, can handle larger bodies if they are taught how to move them.

He will have to do all the exercises that the Physical Therapy person has given to you. They usually have a sheet with the exercises printed on it. You and your Father will have to do those exercises a couple of times a day for his legs to get strong again. Older people lose muscle strength really fast and they need to re-gain it right away so it is not a permanent situation. Even if he is very ill with heart problems or cancer, he needs to move for as long as he can. So he will have to do the exercises that the professional PT person designs for him. You will have to assist him until he gets strong enough to be on his own.

If he falls on the ground – do not even try to pick him up. Call 911 and the fire department will come and lift him to his chair or bed and check him out. If they think he has injured his body they will transport him to the hospital. If you do not want him transported or given resuscitation you have to have a piece of paper posted on the wall that releases the medics from their duty of rescuing the patient and doing all they can to save him. This paper is called A Do Not Resuscitate Order/Agreement (or DNRO form). This is not his living will, it is a special piece of paper that has to be from his doctor. It would be signed by the patient, or his Power of Attorney and the primary doctor that you use for his care. It’s usually a green piece of paper and I posted mother’s in her bathroom door, so I could easily show it to a medic crew. If mother went into the hospital I took it with me in my hospital pack. (You will find my hospital emergency workbook package on the products page of my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com  it is a beauty and will really help you go step by step through Emergency Room visits.)

If your dad knows he is facing a life transition it is time to call Hospice. That is a terrific service that will come into your home and help you as well as your dad through the process of dying. It is used in the last six months of someones life and is paid for via medicare and all you have to do is ask your doctor or look up Hospice in the phone book. They will come and do an assessment of your dad and then give you an outline of all the things they can do for you. So you can be released from some of the stress and just be his daughter, instead of a care giver.

Remember, older people get weak. But they also recover. So be really clear on what your dad needs to do around the house for you to give care. I told mother she just had to walk, I could not lift her for any length of time. So, she was very good about walking after each of her little strokes and illnesses. She knew I could help her for a few days, but not on a permanent basis, so she responded with lots of exercise to keep her legs working.

Thank you for all you do for your dad, I hope you will go to my website and read about my Care-Givers Workbook 101, it has helped so many family members give top notch care to their seniors. Thanks francy

Say NO to MRSA and the ER!

by francy Dickinson         www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My Dad is 78 with no major health challenge and yet he was in the ER three times in the last two months. Should I be worried?

YES – ER rooms and hospitals in general are ripe with bacteria and all other infections like staph and MRSA…everyone is exposed. If you walk in the door with a low immune system, infections out of range or exhaustion, you are open to all the bugs that float around the high care area. The goal of a care giver is to lessen the reason to go to the ER or hospital. If your dad is living alone, it’s time to go over to his place and have a talk with him about his health and his home. If he’s with you or in a care center then prevention is the key. You do not want to turn small symptoms into large problems. You have to learn how to put on your care giver antenna and be on a constant look out for small early clues to health problems.

One of our dear, male friends, in his mid fifties – ignored a skin condition and tried to self treat it without a doctor’s visit.  It got infected, he then had to go to the ER and was exposed to MRSA. This is what we all have to avoid.

My mother was home from a four day stay in the hospital over a blocked bowel and I was worried about her home care. I asked the doctor for an in-home nurse to help me. You’re allowed the service from Medicare plans. The nurse that came to help us was simply the best. She had been an in-home nurse for years caring for seniors and knew all the tricks of her trade. The amazing thing was she was open to sharing information on care with me. Her twice weekly visits during that month, helped me in giving care to mother for years.

Her secret ? Stay away from the ER at all costs. Yes, major health issues have to be addressed and the ER is there for emergency. But it is not there for back up to ignoring symptoms and not visiting doctors. What she wanted was for me to keep mother on a calm line of care and not experience her health as up and downs – just center line calm.

Some ideas to toss around in your care of anyone, including yourself;

  • Nasty as it seems to many new caregivers – older folks have problems with their bowels. So, instead of fighting those problems you learn to deal with them instead. Many side effects of medications like antibiotics can cause constipation or diarrhea. The tip is to discuss a stool softener with your senior’s doctor. This is taken each day to simply soften the stool to make it pass easier. The doctor will suggest the proper amount to be given and this is an over the counter pill that is inexpensive but very helpful. On the other side; the slightest sign of loose stool should be combated with Imodium (Loperamide) pills, designed to stop diarrhea. This has to be done soon so the senior does not get worn down and sick over the condition.
  • The best thing to do is what I did – just talk it out. I sat down with mother and said; “Mom I know that your bowels are your business, but I have to know how you feel each day in order to help you keep on a even keel. So, everyday I’m going to ask you if you had a movement and if it was unusual in any way.” We just talked over how important keeping this function was to keeping her out of the hospital and she was willing to work with me. I always moved the conversation with her health into a team concept. Together we can figure this out and fix it. Both of us talked about this team issue and it worked for us.
  • Many remember care of young children that repeatedly had ear infections or asthma attacks in the middle of the night. A frightening thing for any parent. Learning from those long nights of waiting in the ER parents soon found ways to avoid it. They would adjust their child’s food intake, add good rest time, immune system boosts and general preventative care . Soon, with those combinations and the doctor’s care ideas the ER room visits went down to a minimum or stopped. Senior care is very similar.
  • Boost the immune system. Add a nutritional drink each day for anyone with a high stress situation or advanced years and health issues that might bring down the ability to fight small infections off.
  • NOTE: Let the family know that visiting grand parents means everyone is feeling well and not bring germs into their home or room area. I put up a reminder sign on mother’s door, ” If you feel like you have a cold coming on – do not enter!”
  • Do online research for extra Vitamin C – E and supplements like the wonderful Emergen-C drinks. Remember to give it to them in the morning so they do not disrupt their night-time sleep.
  • Add 100%  real- squeezed fruit drinks (individual size) that you can find in the refrigerator section of the market or health food store. Orange juice with pulp (not from concentrate) squeezed fresh – apple juice, carrot juice with celery and some of the anti oxidant drinks like blueberry etc. Buy them and serve them every other day to help build up the senior’s system so they’re able to fight off the bugs.
  • Rest is not just naps while watching TV. I had mother start to take formal naps in the afternoon. After about a year of her telling me she never took naps – and yet each time I went into her room she was asleep in her chair. I put my foot down and told her a one hour nap in bed where she could really rest her body – was on the list. She adjusted so well to this she looked forward to her afternoon nap. She was then able to enjoy the rest of her evening and still get a good night’s sleep.
  • Consistent food. If your dad is living on his own…is he really eating? They say they are, but are they? Does he still cook, if so what does he cook? Check out his refrigerator for left overs. Do you need to have a meals on wheels type of program in place? If he’s with you or in a care center, is he eating protein or just toast and desserts? Find out and adjust his intake of food to good food that keeps him strong. High in protein and veggies and low in fat and sugar.
  • Is he keeping clean? Have you cleaned his home and gotten those germs off the counters and faucet in the kitchen and the bathroom? Is his area around his favorite TV chair clean and not harboring old food stuffs? Get it vacuumed & change the vacuum bag so you are dealing with clean all the way around.  Use those pop-up bleach clothes to go over the surfaces that he touches each day.
  • Give him hand sanitizer for his chair side table and remind him to use it. Yes, he will hate your pushy behavior…get over it. You’re a team and often one team member has to push the other to make the right actions to keep them well.
  • If his resistance to casual flu and colds is really down – ask about how to boost his immune system on his next doctor’s visit. If you do not normally go with him to the doctor, now is the time to start. Tell the doctor you’re concerned and you would appreciate knowing more about flu shots, shingle and pneumonia preventative shots. Take the doctor’s input and then read about it on the net and then you can make an informed decision on which way to go with this. He may have other health issues that are causing the sag in his immune system and the doctor can do tests to make sure the senior’s system is not fighting against him.
  • Shingles is a nasty way to find out you are under too much stress and your immune system is out of whack. The age for this condition is getting younger and younger…and no one wants the pain of shingles. Look it up on the net and find out what to look for in symptoms. That way if your father says he has a rash, you need to get on it right away and get him into the doctor. Let your dad know what to look for, so he can be prepared if anything appears different on his body.
  • The in-home nurse shared with me weakness in seniors means they develop bad bathroom habits and that can lead to urinary infections. I know, this is another unpleasant thought – but this is reality for all of us as we age. So, remember, if the senior starts to display strange behavior or says things that seem out of character for the senior – take note. This infection often comes on without pain and is not noticed until the infection fills the system and the senior has to be hospitalized. Read about it on the net and understand what to look for so a doctor’s visit can be scheduled instead of a trip to the ER.

I know, there is so much to go over. I have written a good Care-Giving Workbook 101 to address lots of other care issues. You can find it on the Products page of my website. It’s available in spiral workbook style to mail to you or E-book PDF format emailed to you so you can read and print it on your own. I know you’ll find lots of tips in the material I’ve gathered. Please visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and click on Products.

Thanks for all you are doing for your dad- francy