Seniors Can Have Their Steak and Eat It, TOO!

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How to keep seniors eating the food they enjoy even if they have eating, swallowing, chewing or strength issues with recipes for shut-ins.  by francy Dickinson

My Georgie at the Cafe

My Georgie at the Cafe

Dear Francy; My George had cabin fever and kept asking to go out with me. That is not possible when I am running around…so I planned a simple meal at a local cafe for Sunday Brunch. It takes 2 hrs. to prepare George for leaving the house. Then the wheelchair, car, drive and unload the wheelchair and get him safely inside to a table. Then he often does not know how to make a choice with a multi-dish menu. So, I suggested the PrimeRib and did not even give him the menu. He agreed. When it arrived…he began to dig in…and I was shocked to see he was unable to cut his meat. Wow, his abilites with the combo of Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s are really going away. I cut his meat…and then he was happy and made his way through the meal with horseradish, au jus and stuffed baked potato…YUMM. But a little bit of me was sad that he had made such a big change in his eating abilities.  

HOW TO KEEP OUR SENIORS EATING WELL…
WHEN THEY HAVE TEETH, SWALLOWING OR STRENGTH ISSUES

When mother was living with us (from 95 yrs -100 yrs old) she came with really bad teeth. I don’t know why she had let her teeth go so badly. But they were just a mess…so we had them pulled and got her dentures. During the process of healing and before the dentures…she would tell me how she was so looking forward to having a “real steak or pork chops”. I understood…she was raised and then later cooked through the meat and potato time of home cooking…so she longed for her old flavors. The day that she got her dentures…I had a pork chop with Rice a Roni and asparagus for her dinner and she was a very happy camper. Life changes are hard for all of us…going up a size in your clothes or going down in your abilities to eat food you have always enjoyed.

I understand that many folks are eating more chicken, turkey and fish along with a vegetarian diet…but most seniors still enjoy their beef. So here are a few tips to help you through the process of feeding your senior beef. Even if you are not eating it along with them…make sure that they get a good beef dinner every other week. That will keep them happy and give them the protein they need.

If you are lucky and can afford fancy cuts of meat…I bless you. I am not. I have to shop for beef and find it within my budget. I do have a couple of tips. One is to buy lesser cuts and then prepare them so they have tenderness and flavor. I also look for un-advertised “manager or in-store” specials. Those specials will have a sign on them for a fast sell..the meat is getting to the end of it’s “sell by” date and so even good cuts can be cut in price. Sometimes it will be less then half the original price. I find these cuts usually are on the shelf in the morning hours before noon…and so I try to hit the stores early so I can take advantage of being first in line. Then there are steaks that are large and the cuts may even be thin…but if it is a good price…I buy them. Usually a good price means a good family size package, but I never worry about that…I am a freezer girl.

Deny Tenderizer

Deny Tenderizer

I just bought a kitchen tool that is simply the bee’s knees of tenderizing. It has many steel needles that you use to prick the steak and it cuts through the meat and leaves it tender. Then you sprinkle your favorite steak spice mix over the top and it sinks down into the meat. You let the meat sit in the fridge for a couple of hours and then put it out to come to room temperature and it will grill up so easy. It makes the meat easy to cut, easy to chew and easy to cook in an even pattern. I often cook more than we will eat…then I slice the left overs to put on top of a salad the next day…YUMM

Mother was the Queen of Budgets and she had a trick with less than stellar meat. She would marinate it for 3 to 5 days in a freezer ziplock bag. The meat would come out so tender and tasty you would never know it was not a top/prime cut. So here is the recipe…I know you will enjoy it. Please give it a try.

TOOT’S STEAK 3 – 5 Day MARINADE RECIPE

Heavy ZipLock type bag for 3-5 day Marinade

Heavy ZipLock type bag for 3-5 day Marinade

1/3 cup olive oil poured right into the gallon size Ziplock bag.
1/8 cup soy sauce (low sodium is what I use)   *  1/8 cup wine (left over red or white…or wine vinegar–or rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley  *  1 Tbsp minced garlic (I buy a jar of it pre-minced in the veggie department to have handy)  *  1 Tbsp dry minced onion  * cracked pepper -Do not add salt, use that when the marinade is finished and you are ready to cook the meat.
Mix it all in the bag and place the meat in and take out the air and zip close the bag carefully so your meat tray does not get wet. I always mark the day that I want to use it..usually on the third day…so I don’t get busy and forget the process. Then I put it in the bottom of the fridge in the meat drawer and every day, I turn it over to really keep all the meat covered with the sauce. (Yes, I do use the Deny tenderizer blades but that is a new step, mother never had one…and the marinade always turned out fabulous!)

Now if the senior has trouble cutting their food. You can put the meat in the freezer for about 15 minutes before you put it in the marinade. Then take it out and easily cut the meat into strips…marinate it like that. When you are ready to prepare the meat you can then cut it further or it will be soft enough for the senior to cut on their own.

RECIPE for preparing the meat once it is marinaded.

Fast Stir Fry Recipe

Stir Fry the meat strips (or cut into smaller bite size)  with a great mix of veggies from your own veggie drawer or buy a frozen Stir Fry Veggie Mix…they even have a fresh Stir Fry Mix all made up for you in the fresh veggie isle. You will use a bit of sesame seeds in olive oil and heat it..then quickly fry the meat strips on both sides keeping the mixture moving in the pan and then add in the veggies. Toss the veggies around so they mingle with the meat. When the veggies are getting a little soft…you use a couple of Tbsp of the marinade as the juice for the stir fry and cover the pan…lower the heat for a couple of minutes and you will have a great dinner in under 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Old Fashioned Meat and Potatoes Fry Recipe

Once again you can use strips or smaller bite size cuts of the 3-5 day marinade meat. First heat up the pan with veg/corn oil and get it hot. Slice a medium sweet onion and separate the rings and put into the hot oil…keep on top of this…you want your onion to slowly caramelize and it will smell so good while you stir it around the pan. Then when the onion has taken on that wonderful caramel color add in your meat and stir it all till the meat is browned. Do not over cook it…because the marinade meat cooks fast. Then add in sliced fresh mushrooms and cook till they are tender. You will want to add a small pat of butter and 1 tsp of the minced garlic while you are stirring the mushrooms.

Swanson's Beef Flavor Boost Packets

Swanson’s Beef Flavor Boost Packets

In another small pan or in the microwave…make up a pre-packaged brown gravy mix…or mushroom gravy mix. I like to use my favorite Swanson’s Beef Boost Seasoning Packets with a little water in a pan and stir in Wonder Flour and it will thicken up in no time. YUMM…love a quick nice gravy.
Now pour the gravy into the meat and mushroom pan and stir it around and serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice. Old fashioned meal, with a quick and easy twist. Hello…tell me when you make this, I really do want to be there for dinner 😉

Blessings on all you do for your senior. Because of you, your senior has the love and care that will keep them safe and comforted on their journey. Please click on the “sign-up” button so you get my updated blogs. Because Georgie is getting more advanced in his need for care…I have less time to spend on blogs. But I am always here for you if you have issues or questions on care giving….Thank you for sharing the site with your friends and family…I really appreciate it. francy

High Protein Breakfast for Shut-in Seniors

Dear Francy writes about high protein breakfast and recipes with ideas for care. Francy Dickinson

Up out of bed senior eats breakfast at table

Getting George out of bed and feeding him breakfast at the table

Dear Francy; My dad refuses to eat anything but fruit loop cereal every day. I know this is not enough for him, what can I do?

Many seniors get into a daily eating pattern. Cereal is a common easy repeat, so is toast, care givers have to learn how to tweek it so the daily habit is healthy. First, do not try to remove their favorite food. Just make a change in a slow way.

Almond milk can be added to the diet in place of regular cow’s milk. Many older seniors grew up with milk and simply love it. They want it at each of their meals, but many seniors find that milk starts to be a problem with their medications, or causing a build-up of mucus. Adding almond milk to the mix is a great way to move them into a different direction. If you have not tried Vanilla Almond Milk…do it! It has a great flavor that is low in carbs and really a wonderful addition to the shut-in diet.

My mother got into Pillsbury, Toaster Strudels. She wanted them for every meal. So what do you do? I said that she could have them for breakfast every other day. She was fine with that. I also gave her strudels, if she was feeling unwell, as a comfort food. She was in her late nineties when I cared for her, so to me, her wishes and likes were always honored. At the same time, I had to make sure she had more protein in her diet.  I would put protein drinks or powder in everything I made for her.

My husband George (who is now fighting Alzheimer’s) loves his bagels with apple butter topping. So, once again, I allow him the bagel, but only twice a week. That way I can get his protein breakfasts in the door and keep his sugar levels on a study stream. **Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients need to keep a higher sugar level to help their emotions. Just the opposite of the diabetes senior that needs to watch their in-take of sugar and of carbs.  NOTE: Carbs, like breads and such, change into sugar as the body absorbs them.

I will use your senior’s favorite as Breakfast A – It does not matter what it is…it’s going to be on our list as B-A: or substatute with a Fruit smoothie for a change of pace.

Your Weekly Breakfast Menu:

Monday Breakfast:
B-A or a Fruit Smoothie (You will find a great recipe on my food/recipe site CLICK HERE)

Tuesday Breakfast:
Hot cereal – with 2tsp of brown sugar or honey in the cooking water/ Sprinkle the –top with flax flakes or Metamucil powder – top it with Vanilla almond milk, or vanilla protein shake.

–>This means the hot cereal is packed with the daily needs of a senior for their bowel functions. Then it is adding in a boost of protein with a topping of the almond or protein milk. If the senior needs to watch their sugar in-take use a sugar substitute.
–>Some Seniors really like oatmeal, others like cream of wheat, then you have the troops that like their regular cereal mixed with hot milk. You judge and serve what feels right and adds nutrients.

Wednesday Breakfast: B-A or a Fruit Smoothie

Thursday Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs n Yogurt
–>Adding in 2 tbp of protein drink or Vanilla almond milk, sprinkle in the flax flakes or Metamucil power, salt n pepper with a drop of Tabasco Sauce. Mix this with a blender, or a whip and really make it fluffy. Pour into your preheated pan (Pam spray if needed) and either stir for scrambled or let heat through for an omelet. Serve with a great flavored yogurt.

–>Ok so this is a great way to get more into eggs, then just eggs. You can always use your Eggbeaters (or egg whites) with this just make sure you whip it so it’s foamy. This makes great eggs and you have everything in the mix to add the bulk and the sugar and the drop of Tabasco…why? Seniors lose their ability to taste. It makes eating so bland and so boring they start to pull away from their food. You do NOT want to add to much spice, it can really upset a stomach…but just a drop (and I mean a tiny drop) will just add to the taste along with the salt and pepper. The yogurt will calm down any heat that it causes in the tummy and add even more protein and helpful things for the intestines. I know I keep harping on bowels. But just trust me; when you are older and in trouble with your health, your bowels go wacky. You need to help seniors keep steady and adding daily Metamucil helps. If their problems are in the opposite direction, you can add a stool softener to their daily morning pills.

Friday Breakfast: B-A or Fruit Smoothie

Saturday Breakfast: Protein from the refrigerator.
This is a Danish treat, an open-face sandwich served for breakfast with different things on top from the left-overs in your refrigerator.  This makes for a change of pace and perks the senior up to see what is on the sandwich.

–>What you want to make sure is that the only bread you buy for a senior is loaded with brans, whole-wheat, seeds and such. It makes great sandwiches and good toast. Take one piece of bread and toast it.
–>Then you will use something to spread on the top. It could be cream cheese, (I like the soft kind with flavors that you can buy in a tub and lasts longer than the brick.) yogurt, apple sauce or apple butter. It’s now time to sprinkle your bran, flax or Metamucil over the spread.
–>Look in the fridge and pull out bits and pieces. Chicken or meats from last night’s dinner are perfect. Paper-thin cut the meat and layer it on the toast that you covered with cream cheese. Add a sprinkle of sliced tomato or cooked veggies from the dinner. Sprinkle it with Mrs.Dash to give it more of a kick and serve. You can serve it as it is, or put it back into the toaster oven and toast the top for a minute or two…either way, its Yummy!  You might want to serve it with V-8 juice; now available in veggie and fruit mixes.

Sunday Breakfast: You have more time today; let’s make it a day for pancakes for the whole family.
–>You can make a larger batch for the gang.  If you are cooking just for your senior, make the batch and then layer the unused cooked pancakes with wax paper and place in a freezer bag. That way you can reach in the freezer and get a couple of pancakes anytime the senior is in need of a calming meal.

–>The only difference with these pancakes would be instead of using the water to mix into the pancake pre-mixture — you add in your protein drink with the same measurement. If the senior is the only one eating the cakes, go ahead and add in the bran, flax or Metamucil in the batter. Cook them like you normally do, the only difference will be that you added more protein to the batter, it will not show in the taste.
–>I like to serve these with fruits and a dollop of yogurt on top. It is so easy to buy frozen berries in the market. They last for ages and you can open them and use a ½ cup for a recipe anytime you like. Perfect to add to a smoothie or other toppings. Not to mention, the yogurt is not just a treat to eat in the whole cup, you can open it and use it, a dollop at a time, during the day in different ways which will sneak-in the added protein.

Cooking for seniors in care is always a challenge.
I try to keep in mind what the nutrition rules are and how I can make things taste good, yet, always add-in good nutrients to their meals. Simple foods? Yes. But, even everyday breakfast can make the day start with a mind that is healthy and food on a tummy that will absorb the many medications that your senior will have to take.

As always, check those medications. You may find one has to be taken “before food” if it does, you want to take that pill to the senior with water as you wake them up or get them going in their morning toilet. You can then go and prepare their meal while the medication dissolves into their system.

Because everyone asks about food, recipes and meal ideas; I am going to try to add more tips in this direction and I have started to put ideas down for a care giving cookbook. In the meantime…good news, my care guides are almost out the door. They will be ready in March…yeah.

Blessings on your care giving…you make a huge difference with the time and love you give to your senior, thank you. francy

New senior care book will be out in March - YEAH! That's mother "Toots" and me with loads of good ideas for care.

One Dish Thanksgiving Dinners for Seniors

by francy Dickinson          www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Hard to get Mom and Dad to join us now they are both more comfortable at home. They both have limited eating, dont chew well and don’t do sugar well. So the full turkey dinner doesnt work any more, but I want them to enjoy the day and a special dinner. Last year my leftovers were left in the refrigerator for days and it was just a waste of my time to have gone over with them in the first place…suggestions?

Yes…here you are this works great for me. These ideas come from your kitchen after you have cooked your dinner, you use your own left overs and then take the dishes to the elder/senior family member’s home to reheat. It tastes great and I have done it many times and the senior is left with a good dinner and no mess or fuss.

  1. One Dish Thanksgiving Dinner for Elder As you are picking up your holiday dinner grease a glass square baking dish and put some stuffing in it, then add in some cranberries, a small dollop of mashed potatoes, a big scoop of green bean casserole,  some cut up turkey both white and dark, and stir in some of your gravy. Stir and spread out. Now top it with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. This is their dinner, its a casserole with all the goodies in it already. It can be heated in the oven or microwave and give them a great dinner….add in a separate container of gravy to put on top of it and U have an easy pick up and two nites of yum.
  2. Toasted Turkey Sandwich & More: Slice left over turkey and put into zip lock and make a good loaf of bread in your bread maker or buy a nice loaf at the bakery. This bread is like an oatmeal type that is dark and crusty. Slice bread and put mayo on each side. Break up the turkey with your fingers so it is easy to chew and cover one side of the bread with turkey…on the other side of the bread put a tbsp of gravy and spread over the bread like U did the mayo. Keep it open face and put into broiler or toaster oven and heat through…I like to toast it so both sides of bread are heated and toasted. Remove and before you close it up to serve spread some cranberry sauce (the jelly type) thinly over the hot turkey. Cut and serve this marvelous hot turkey sandwich
  3. Pasta Dish for Picky Eaters: Take over some gravy and turkey left overs, small amount of green bean casserole and stuffing. Prep a small amount of pasta in boiling water. In another pan stir fry the cut up turkey and small amount of green bean casserole and a couple of tbsp of stuffing. When it’s heated, add in some gravy like you would any sauce. Drain the pasta and put the stir fry and sauce over the top and you have a nice pasta dish with the great taste of Thanksgiving that is easy to eat and nice as left overs.
  4.   No Crust Pumpkin Pie: This is nothing fancy…it is the pumpkin can recipe that makes such a nice pumpkin pie – dont forget using Splenda instead of sugar is just as good and you can not taste the difference. The different twist is that you do not use a crust. You butter the pie plate and then put in 1/4 cup of corn meal…over the sink you roll the pie plate till it is dusted with the corn meal and shake out the rest in sink. Then you pour in your regular filling and cook it as you would any pumpkin pie. This is all you need, it is easier to eat, faster to make and can be cut and served warm or cold…with whip cream…Total yum here so know I have made this for years and it works every time…I am just a Libby pumpkin pie girl and proud of it.

I take over the dinner ingred and make it right there. I start with the pie and it is cooking as I do the dinner. Buy the time they are done eating the meal the pie is hot out of oven and I cut a tiny piece and top with whip cream…they get to have a little smell of Thanksgiving in their house too. If they have no kitchen then you take it over all pre-done and ready to hit in microwave or stove top. Seniors do not have smell or taste as they get older so a little more salt is a must so they can taste the food. Obviously you can do this the day after the holiday or in the evening of the holiday. I have found my sisters and I like to take a break and make the trip to moms to visit and enjoy some time with her. Plus, it gave us another excuse for a second piece of pie!

Happy Holidays….francy

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

Spouse Giving Care 24/7

by francy Dickinson                           www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

A Talk with Francy; I have this picture in my mind of spouse care. I remember it from almost thirty years ago when my elder uncle cared for his wife with Parkinson’s. He had been a cared for man of leisure all his life because she had worked hard with her own interior design company in Seattle. She had worked long days all week, staying in a small apartment in the city. She would come home to Lakewood on the weekends to care for her husband who never worked a day of their 48 year marriage. She would take him to dinner, entertain with friends, leave him with a clean home, food for the week and bills paid. She worked into her mid- eighties when the Parkinson’s took her abilities away…she sold her business and came home. My uncle started to care for her in his own way. That way was not good. He was a man spoiled with his own life style and she was left alone most of the time.  When you would visit, their home got messy, dirty and then horrid. Her care got lax and her food was awful.  As she laid on the couch unable to move on her own, the room she was in was filled with trash. I worried about that the most; a woman who had filled her life with tranquil beauty was dying with trash everywhere she could see. I would bring dinner once a week and mother, in her mid eighties, would visit every month only to worry the rest of the month. We were unable to make changes, or move her to a care facility or do anything really. There were not the laws that we have now for seniors in care. So we just watched her care go down hill and wondered how my uncle could live his life in this manner. It wounded me and I have carried that frustration with me for all these years.

After my mother passed and I was then free from giving her care – I turned around and found my own husband suffering from dementia. It is a story that millions of people face but when it happens to someone you love so much, it just sends chills down your spine.

I am twenty years his junior and so at first I had a hard time telling the difference from him getting older and the dementia. But what I knew was the man that had given me a life of love and care, was not able to do most of things he had done in the past. So along with dealing with him, I had to change my own life and adjust to his needs. I remembered my uncle and vowed to give my husband solid good care.

Being a care giving spouse is a very odd roll. Part of you is still in the mind set of husband or wife loving your spouse…the other part goes into a roll of care giving mom that has to learn new talents to keep your spouse as well and strong as you can. It is not easy and it gets extremely lonely.

I suppose it’s the confusion that hits you with dementia. It not only consumes my husband’ mind, but it reflects off onto me. After a day of him asking my opinion over and over again, telling me he is going to do a task but never gets to the task- I often forget what he was suppose to do myself. Total confusion, spreads just like the flu. He will head out to the garage for a tool and stay there for half an hour. My worry buzzer will go off in my mind and I will go out to find him cleaning out the garbage can or sorting through the garden tools. He is off in his own world and nothing will bring him back. He is determined to accomplish some unknown task. So, I have to change his mind, I have to interject a new thought in his brain. “George would you come and help me I think the faucet is leaking and the water is going off everywhere?” Back he comes from the garage now re focused on a must do task. When he gets into the kitchen the faucet looks good and I say how good it is he fixed it. He will stand and look at it and wonder about it and I make him a cup of coffee or a sandwich and he moves on to that task. It’s a constant movement to keep him safe, calm and in a zone of happy thoughts.

At the same time, I have to make money. I can not leave the house and just leave him alone for any long period of time. But George is not in any way ready for a full time care facility. I do not make enough money to gift him a care giver each day or pay for a day center to leave him. So, I have to think of ways to make money from home with quick, less then two hour meetings with senior clients helping them find placement in care facilities. I do the research and find the facilities that fit their needs. They meet me at two facilities that I have chosen as the best and walk through them with the family and help them make the decisions. When I do not have a client I write and sell senior care help books and other how to ebooks and do my blog and tips on twitter @seniorcaretips

Once, I arrived back home to find my above stove microwave pulled apart and in a million pieces and my husband trying to fix it. I then had to step in and get him re settled with a new movie on TV…put the parts back as well as I can and then went to the store and bought a new microwave. The worry over him getting harmed or walking away while I’m gone is very strong. But as a working spouse care giver I have to try as hard as I can to keep him safe and still make a living.

I often bring George along with me to keep him busy and even then I worry he will get too stressed to make it through a long meeting with a client. I had a session with a lawyer last week and George just melted in the office, we had to get him outside to walk around and sit him in the car for me to continue and sign papers that were needed. I drove him over to a restaurant and after eating and talking he returned to his calm self and I was able to drive the 25 minutes home without worry.

Each day has its surprises. Some days are calm some are horrid. Some calm days can change in a second with anger and some awful days drive me to the edge. Where I have to take a deep breath and become creative to find a way to solve the current care giving problem. Problems can be solved, they just need the spouse to stay calm within and be creative about how to re focus or find where to ask for help.

My nights are filled with worries and sleep often eludes me. But I try hard to take naps, take breaks with time to meditate and do a lot of deep breathing through out my days. I eat good food and I take supplements that I am more than convinced keep me stronger than not.

I cook healthy food, not heat up frozen and I clean my home, but not with dedication. I talk to a select few that understand I need to vent and I need to laugh. I use my twitter group to release my tension and give to others to sooth my mind. I try to interact with George in a loving way even if I am on edge from an arguing session. I get him to waltz me around the living room, pour me a glass of wine, make my tea or rub my back so he remembers the pleasure of giving and caring for others. I have a good list of things for both of us to do each day…so we stay on a daily routine and I always tell myself that I’m a good and loving person even when I’m mad, as hell, at life.

The part that bothers me is the 24/7. There are no days off…only hours away. There are no – lets take a break weekends away when George gets so confused in his own home, let alone a new place. There are no go and visit your kids or sister when he has to be watched and one slip might mean him getting lost or getting so upset he gets sick. I have no escape, no way out. So, I have to remove that from my mind. I have to give myself a feeling of escape. By reading or watching TV in another room. By working in the garden while he takes a nap. By going out to the grocery store and giving myself time at a coffee shop or the library to read magazines. I have to make sure that he has a friend visit so I can just take a nap or go for a walk. Maybe take him to an exercise place so I can just listen to music or a book on my MP3 player, in the car.

His dementia/Alzheimer’s gets worse everyday…but in very slow and tiny ways. The doctor says he is progressing very slowly and that is good for George. But it is not good for me. I have to pay attention to his food and pills. I have to know when his episodes of anger and gait change are over the limit and we need to go to the doctor to get his meds changed. I have to make decisions for his regular health on a daily basis and it is a continual hardship to care that closely for another person. But I keep in my mind that I am giving a gift, not doing chores. I try to make his forgeting to take pills that I leave by his side at his TV chair- a joke and if they are not taken I remind him, tease him about it and watch him take them.

There are loney times. When I want to just talk to him, as my best friend and tell him about my day or my thoughts for the future. I want to have help with the taxes and the financal problems we have, I want him to surround me with his arms and just hug the world away. I want our close friendship of over 30 years to be there for me when I am doing the hardest job I have ever done, but it isn’t – my friend is already gone. I now stand alone, I stand next to him – but I am alone. Others that come and visit us see us together still – but we are not, he is gone in little ways and the gap grows each day.

I wish I could say, this story has a happy ending, but it does not. I am sitting in the living room typing while he is upset in the bedroom. Mad that he has to get up and dressed at almost three in the afternoon. I can be a difficult mom to him and he hates that part of our life. But what I know is that when they said through thick and thin when we married…I said those words and I meant those words and I am living those words with as much joy and love as I can each day. When the time comes that George is in a care facility I will continue to care for his daily needs in my own way…but just having him near is soothing to me. Someday, he will be gone and I will have all the time in world to do my nails and take lunch with my girl friends. Today, I choose to be next to him and I choose it day by day knowing that I make the choice to love and support him in my own way.

I don’t believe in caring for another until you drop over yourself. That is pointless, every spouse has to make the decision as to what degree they can give and help their loved one. We are all so different, some can care a long time, others can not give hands on care for any time at all…no one is better than the next, it is just who we are. But what I know is that we have to talk and reach out to others for help. We have to not allow ourselves to be all alone and scared, we have to tend to our own needs. If we do not stay strong, our spouse will fall faster and harder.

My tips from the heart? Eat, drink plenty of water, take good deep breaths, talk to your family and friends, kiss your spouse, argue with your mind not your mouth and laugh as much as you can. Joy is being a part of something and I suggest you join me on twitter, or any other support group in person or online. You get so many great ideas to help you through the care giving steps. I have a workbook on my site that gives all the basics in home care giving, take a visit and look, I think it will help you.

But most of all laugh as much as you can at the crazy things around you. Because when you stand back and look at your life it is a bit funny don’t you think?

Blessings, francy

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

by francy Dickinson              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

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

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

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

Tips on dealing with anger;

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

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

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.

I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy

PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.

Dear Francy Recipe for Seniors: Yum Bran Muffins

by francy Dickinson       www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: I am just giving up on food for my dad. He get stuck on one thing and that is that, now it’s canned chili and I do not think he even heats it up. That is it – all he will eat. He has been on his own for a few years and he has refused to develop any cooking skills. Now he won’t even eat the dinners I make for him and deliver. Ideas?

Yes, I had an Uncle just like your dad he was into baked beans for a few years with toast on the side, nothing else but milk. So know that this is really something that lots of seniors – that are on their own and tired of cooking – do. But how about giving him something that has more fibre and still has sweetness to it? I am talking about a Bran Muffin that you make in a very large batch and then freeze and you can take over a few at a time. Just take a few at a time, you do not want him eating more than a couple a day.

” I never bake!” You will now, this is very easy and does not require skills just a very large bowl and muffin pans. “Cream together”means that you start by mixing together the oil, molasses and the sugar until it is incorporated -you can do this in a food processor, with a hand beater or just with a large wooden spoon.

My mother had this recipe for so many years. She and I made it and shared it with so many people. My hubby and mom both loved the muffins. My husband would grab one in the morning and take off to work. It was an easy and yummy treat and I think you might enjoy the fact that you make it and then it’s in such a large amount that you’re not baking every week. I have seen good bran muffins for sale in bakery counters for $4 a piece, so you will really enjoy the saving, plus, I have never tasted a bran muffin as rich and good as this recipe.

You can substitute anything you like in this muffin, but it’s filled with fibre and good stuff and I think you will understand the sugar seems like a lot but the recipe makes a large batch. Raisins can be changed or added for other favorite dried fruit (my mother loved chopped dried apricots) so you can take this and get creative or stick to the basic batch. This is an easy recipe and I always use paper cupcake liners so you can get them out of the pan and freeze them with ease.

TOOT’S BRAN MUFFINS

Heat your oven to 375. Get a large bowl to mix the ingredients and use paper cupcake liners for your muffin tins. You will need at least two muffin tins and this will be repeated with additional batches or the mix will store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Your choice – take time to bake them up one evening and freeze or bake them as you need them for a fresh smell and warm treat. These heat in the microwave very fast and are just great for a quick out the door breakfast or snack. They will be a perfect meal substitute for a senior with a Boost type of drink.

4 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups Nabisco 100% Bran cereal
2 cups raisins
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup dark molasses
1 quart buttermilk
4 eggs
5 cups flour
5 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp cinnamon

Pour boiling water over cereals and raisins- set aside to cool. Cream oil, molasses and sugar. Add the buttermilk and eggs. Add flour with baking soda and then add to oil – stir in the softened & cooled bran mixture.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, cool on rack, eat warm, reheat in microwave, freeze muffins or the batter can be stored for 3 weeks in refrigerator. Yield: 6-8 dozen depending on how much you put into the muffin cups. I use just over 1/2 batter in each cup. These are heavy and do not puff up high. Please note if you want nuts chop them small and add in to the batter before you bake.

There is always a way to get seniors off the dime and make changes, sometimes it takes more than a nice please and moves into creative interaction. But I know you can do it, don’t give up – he was a guy blessed with a long time marriage to a lady that cooked up a storm. He is still grieving that loss through his food. When you look at like that the behavior seems more understandable. Bet you’ll be just as stubborn when you get older and are on your own – like father, like daugher they say. How kind it is for you to take so much time to bring him great meals, that is a very loving act.

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.

Alzheimer’s Confused with Too Much Change

francy Dickinson                             www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy;My husband is starting to forget who I am, he seems to be able to do tasks and is comfortable, but occasionally he asks me if I come in every day? We are leaving for a week to our cabin and I am hoping some rest away from the house will calm him and help.

I can understand your hurt feelings with your husband’s confusion. There is nothing as frightening as the stage of Dementia/ Alzheimer’s that moves the mind into forgetting close loved ones. I do also understand that one day he may be confused to the max and the next day he may be clear and able to function quite well. You are on track with knowing that keeping him calm and rested can help – but the change of pace to the cabin is not the answer.

Here are some tips to keep Dementia/Alzheimer’s at their maximum clear and calm:

  1. Clear your home of clutter. Your mind can view a room and see the couch, the chair and the front door. But a mind that is confused with dementia sees all the little things on the same level or as just as important as the big things in the room.  Like the foot stool, the table, the papers on the floor, the coffee cup and dessert plate on the table are all on par with the favorite chair and the TV. It’s a different view of the same room. Your job- pare down your clutter around the house. So when a dementia senior is sitting in the room their mind can rest, not be constantly moving from item to item.
  2. Clean up kitchen cabinets, make the cabinet for glasses and cups just that – glasses and cups. It is easier for them to remember what is in the cupboard and then when they open the cupboard what they were looking for is right there. A bottle of aspirin or cup filled with toothpicks will take the dementia mind off of their need for a glass and they will often close the cupboard and forget their task.
  3. Remove anything that could harm the dementia senior. Extra medications- get them out of the easy to find area. If you have been storing your pills in the bathroom cabinet, remove them. You do not want your senior to take your pills in a moment of confusion. Just like you protect toddlers from medications or anything that could harm them, you need to protect the dementia senior, too.
  4. Remove things from the kitchen table, it’s a place to eat, not store bills and papers. Once again, the dementia mind can take one task or chore at a time. To keep their mind active and working well keep the table a place to rest the mind, eat and talk. Not a place filled with boxes, papers and confusion. Clean the area and the mind will rest and see the table as a relaxing place, not a place for them to be distracted with other tasks and not want to eat.
  5. 1-2 days out a week. It depends on how advanced the dementia is for your senior, but going out and about is fine for a day or two a week. It is not good on a daily basis. Take a few days at home, then a day out. Make the day out simple tasks and low people contact. Dementia mind can get tired very easily, what the senior could do last year, is not what they can do today. Keep them down to a short trip with familiar sights. Would you take a toddler out for four hours of running around and then to a big birthday party? NO, it would be way to much for them to handle, that is now the same way your dementia senior is thinking.
  6. Trips to the cabin, to visit family in another city, sightseeing, new places, new people they are all very confusing. Dementia does best with people, places and things that are repeated each day and feel safe. My husband has a sister in Oregon and children in California, he often says he wants to go and visit. On his last visit he got lost and he took about three weeks to calm down and be able to sleep and have good days on his return. Our days of travel are over; his daily routine and happiness are far more important to me than trips to say hi that pull him out of his security zone. I know that retirement means visiting and travel, but dementia means that the mind functions better with familiar and safe surroundings.
  7. Limit the people contact to friends, family and neighbors. George does so well in his daily life, then last month I took him to a family memorial for my cousin. He walked into a church he had never been, surrounded by people he rarely saw and he just blanked out. He was confused, upset, did not know immedite family members and was a fish out of water. We left as soon as possible and did not go to the family home event. I took him out to a quiet lunch, changed the subject to talk about something we do everyday and we went home. I got him calm and in his chair and listening to a new audio-book on his MP3 player. I made an error in judgement, I did not think about his comfort zone and he suffered for it. I should have gone to the memorial by myself and so I have learned a lesson. My life with my husband by my side has now changed and I have to understand and learn to accept that fact, not with joy, but with inner strength.
  8. Keep like with like. If the drawer is for knives, keep it knives, if the pot is for pens and pencils keep it that way. No mixing, no putting off items in with other items. They will be forever lost to you and your dementia senior. Repeat over and over again. Cell phones charges by the entry door. Keys go in the bowl on the counter. One day George will not remember any of those details, but for now while he is in mid stage Alzheimer’s he is comforted by repeated tasks and repeated placement of items he uses often like his cell phone and MP3 player. George lost his garage door opener and we have not found it, I know it is tucked away in an odd place somewhere, but where? I have become quite the cleaning girl now, but it has paid off for me to get rid of items that have not been used in ages and are of no meaning to George.
  9. Doctor told me his dementia patients do better longer when the senior keeps their weight in a healthy range. Alzheimer’s medications often have a side effect of reducing the appetite and the senior starts to not remember or want to eat. So, I have added a routine of 3 meals around the same time each day. I have added desserts back into our life, so there is homemade cookies, pies and cakes ready for his snacks. Yogurt, applesauce and puddings for taking pills. Ensure and Boost for adding protein when he has not eaten lunch. I keep him on schedule and he responds with better eating and better days. If I am busy, out of the house, not feeling well myself – then he goes off his schedule, he forgets to eat and his pills are left on the counter. That is a lot of pressure for me, but I try my best and move on if the day has not worked out well. Life is not perfect and I have to live too.
  10. George needs rest, some days he rests all day, some days he is up and ready for life early. A man made for schedules -is no longer on schedule, I just know I give him his meds and food no later than 9AM so they go to work to help him feel calm and comforted during his day. If he stays in bed after the meal, fine – I will then continue my day and the next day he is up and at um. I ride with life, but I try to stick to the schedule and routine so George feels the days in order and is able to adjust his mind easily to an important day. Because dementia means that each day is important, the next day may be of less abilities and less memory, so today is the day to tackle and enjoy.

I think the fact of the spouse or family of a dementia/Alzheimer’s senior has the ability to give the senior a full and rich life – is a big thing. On certain days it overwhelms me. I try to keep my mind focused on today, to deal with whatever today brings my way. I try to make little jokes about forgetting where George’s coffee cup is ( it has become a continual struggle to find it during the day.) I tell him how much I love him, all day long. If he forgets, I remind him- he is loved. I tell him how nice he looks, how well he did a task and how great it is he finished his meal and brought me the plate. I make a point to touch him and dance with him around the kitchen. I even squeeze his hand or kiss him in public – just to keep him connected. Lately, I stop on a dime and ask him to give me a hug or a kiss, he does it with love – but not without my request. I give him constant reassurance I am here for him and I am not leaving. Each month our life changes, his mind changes and we have to readjust to his new challenges. I get frightened of the changes ahead, so I try hard to deal with the daily change and stay on a pattern and routine that brings my own feeling of safety and comfort as well as George’s.

I know you are feeling very similar things, and I know that tears and heartache are close to the surface of your daily life. But we can do it, we can escort our loved ones on this journey and still be a functioning person at the end. We can find honor and love in our senior even on their worst days and we can find peace and calm in our own hearts in midst of total chaos around us. We are stronger than we ever knew and I am proud of myself and of 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.

Senior Home from Hospital, I Need Help!

by francy Dickinson                 www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: Mother is home from a 8 day hospital stay – then she was in the care facility for 20 days. She was still too weak to go to her home so I have her here in our guest bedroom. I am not a nurse, I’m a crossing guard at our local school and I have no idea what to do now?

Well you have just joined the club of many children and spouses that are suddenly faced with care giving and no prior experience to guide them. First, try to stay calm and just know that a lot of things will hit you at once so you need to really stay organized and write things down as you go to make it easier. Keep a spiral notebook for your mom’s care and that will be your bible in the days ahead. I have written a how to book that will help you with the care giving but here is a list of things to do just to get started:

AFTER HOSPITAL CARE TIPS:

  1. Ask questions, the care facility will help you. Ask them if medicare will send in a home care nurse? This in home help is so wonderful. It will be someone to ask questions and to follow their lead with care ideas. Most cities have a few care companies that you can call and ask them if their services are covered with medicare and your mom’s insurance. Ask them what services they have for you and then pick what ever you can afford. Min. have a bath lady once a week, that gives you a break and keeps your mom clean. Your mom will be weak and hard to bath at first- so you will appreciate this service more than you know.
  2. Call the doctor’s office and “make” them talk to you. Ask them what state your mother is in? Ask them to review her needs and how long it will take to get her back to independence, or if she ever will be able to live on her own again? You need to know this. If you are going to take care of her for a month or for years, you need to know. You do not want to have your mother’s things in an apartment for months with rent being paid, if she will never return to the apartment. That money could be used with you to care for her.
  3. Get your mom’s health care directive and power of attorney in place so you can help her make decisions on her health. Plus you can pay her bills and care for her money in her time of confusion. You can get her home ready for sale or her apartment contract adjusted if she has to leave her residence permanently. You can then make a decision for her to be in a long term care facility, retirement community, etc. This is the legal part that has to be done so do not put it off. It may seem like caring for her is just nursing stuff, but it is not…it is all the business of her life that will need help. I have all of the business info in my workbook for you.
  4. Ask for help, if your mom does not have any money and you have very little yourself, get the state to come in and give you advice on how they could help her. She may be able to go on state care or Veterans care and get home help. That way she could return home sooner, or you could take a class and become the legal caregiver and the state would pay you to care for her. You will not know until you call Human Services for Elders and find out what is what in your local area.
  5. Make things easy for yourself; keep her room easy to walk around, remove small rugs and extra furniture. That way you’re able to move around with wheelchairs and walkers. You can set up a commode and a table for her medications and other care items.
  6. Get your mother tucked in when you leave the house. Get her a cell phone added onto your account and have her practice pressing a button that will call you. Make sure she goes to the toilet, is fed and has her meds before you leave the house. Leave her with a small lunch cooler with a protein drink, yogurt and water inside for her to have by her chair. Move her commode into the sitting room she will be using so her movements are limited.
  7. Ask family or neighbors to come and check on her when you are gone. Think in your mind about what could happen while you are gone and then cover all the basis. If you take time off from work, then know for how long. Maybe your mom will only need a good two weeks of care before she is up and moving around on her own. But if it is longer, then what will you do? No matter how hard it is, you have to have a couple of plans of actions so you are not losing your job and income just to help your mother. Make calls, get a couple of plans in place and find people to help you.
  8. Home nursing may not be your experience but it is a lot like caring for a young child. Keep things easy, very clean, and be solid on giving her medications and good food on time. She will have to move to be independent, so she needs to be walking with your help. Exercise, eating, medications on time…that is what will start to build her up again.
  9. Keep kids and long visits out of your mother’s life while she is trying to heal. You do not want her to get a cold or be so tired she gets weaker. Be strong with visits; no kids – 20 minutes- no smoking -only lite conversation-no one sick.  Keep it light and happy or no visits at all!
  10. Keep yourself eating and sleep even if it’s naps in the afternoon. Running to care for someone and adding that to your already busy life is very hard. So, say NO to everything else but the basics in your life and stick to it. Take one of those protein drinks and have it at lunch time for yourself, as well as your mother. Keep yourself strong – you will be living for two people for a while.
  11. Baby monitor, intercom, or remote door bell system, they will all serve you well so you know when your mother needs immediate care.
  12. Your mother may have a special diet to follow, but if not think easy. Think easy to chew, swallow, and digest with her food. Make soups in your crockpot & scrambled eggs before you leave for work. Give her jello, yogurt, puddings and fruit with cottage cheese. Soft foods and easy to digest foods. Her bowels will be off with all the medications and odd foods she has been having. If she has a strange food craving say NO if you feel it will be unwise, or give her a very small amount. No raw veggies or salads those are hard for her to process. Good fruit juices and smoothies are the ticket at first. Watch the dairy products do not over do those and if she is a coffee girl, get her some decaf and keep it an afternoon treat – once a day. She has to have water, so put a little fruit juice in her water so she will drink more than a few sips.
  13. Know and understand her drugs. What is this for, is it for long term or just for her recovery? Ask how to add stool softeners or yogurt for help with the side effects of antibiotics. Go over to the drug store with her medications and they will review them for you and you can write it down and get a weekly pill container that has morning and nite pills. This will make pill time easier.
  14. Remember that open wounds mean extra care, it could turn into a disaster MRSA probem. So, learn how to stay so clean you are squeaky. Wash your hands each time you enter and leave your mother’s care area. Use bleach wipes to go over all surfaces in care area. Keep the care products on a very clean surface so everything stays sterile. Keep the bathroom she is going to use clean to the point of exhaustion. Use a good cleaning solution like a bleach mixture and wipe off counters, toilets, bath, floor and keep it clean, clean, clean.
  15. Wash her clothing separately and in hot water with oxygen cleaner as well as soap. Do not throw her clothing on the floor, put the soiled clothes in a hamper or plastic bag to ready for wash. Do her wash at least twice a week – even if it’s a small wash. Make sure your things and her’s do not touch. You are now Miss Klean
  16. If she is not walking get her up. She can hold on to her walker and you can follow with the wheelchair behind her. Or you can get a waist band that helps the senior stand and walk by you putting it around their waste and then holding on to it, to give them extra steady help. Have her do the PBS- Sit and Stretch. It’s an easy exercise program that will help anyone recover muscles. You can get the program’s DVD’s at your local library.
  17. Swallowing, talking, transition, walking problems? Those need a physical therapy person trained in that area. Ask the doctor and he will write an Rx and those folks can come in to the home or you go to them. It will make a huge difference. They will show you how to help your mom. Good stuff, therapy sessions!
  18. If your mom is really weak and unable to stand without help. You need to learn how to transfer her from sitting to standing, to walking position. Ask for help, a nurse or therapist will instruct you how to do that without hurting your back. It is amazing how easy it can be if you know how. If your mother takes a fall, do not try to pick her up. Call 911 and tell them you need assistance with a fall and the fire department will send EMS services to transfer her and check to make sure she does not need hospital services.
  19. Are you ready if your mother is at the end of her life? Have you talked about her wishes and her health care wishes, and her funeral wishes? Can you sit down and have that talk? If not, ask a chaplain to come and ask her for you. Get it done, if she recovers you can file the information away for a future time.
  20. If you understand what is happening with your mother, what is wrong with her, what part of her mind or body is effected by her condition – you will be able to do research on the Internet and ask the doctor questions to get help with good care. Be strong with your voice and your questions. Understanding what your mother needs is number one, from there you, your family, your friends, your care giving professional can all work together to help put humpty dumpty back together again. If you do not ask, or demand answers you will suffer as much if not more than your mother during the recovery. Giving care is not hard, if you know what to expect – it is the unknown that bothers all of us, so ask questions and learn as much as you can when you are around any professional.

You are doing a service of love, thank you. Most of us will be there at one time or another. It is lonely and I would like to be here for you as you move through the care of your senior. Sharing your fears, frustrations, and hurt feelings will allow you to recover and give your mother good care and positive energy with your love.

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.

It’s Not a Food Bargain if it Moves!

by francy Dickinson                                www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy; Dad and I got back from the $ store with lots of bargains. I fixed his dried soup for lunch and before I got it in front of him, I noticed it was moving! Yuck!

Yes, that is a nasty thought and here we are all so proud of our ideas to save money for our seniors. So, I have a few tips on how to save and still be safe for seniors and care givers, too!

  1. Get a small magnifier. I have one that I wear around my neck when I shop. Those food packages have very small print and you need to see what you are buying. Check for out of date and out of country labels.
  2. I do not buy dollar toothpaste if it comes from China. It has been reviewed very badly in the news. The toothpaste has normal well known labeling, but has ingrediants that might be strange. So, keep eyes and ears open for those “shopping bewares” in the news.
  3. $ store is such a great place to shop, but you need to remember that a $ for a can of fruit is not a deal. You can find it cheaper on sale at the grocery store. So, know your prices. A $ for a sealed bag of cookies, is a good deal. A $ for spices that can be $5+ is a good deal. Really shop and learn the different $ stores in your area. I love them, but I read, read, read when I shop. I just got a bag of coffee filters that saved me $4 – too fun!
  4. Shopping can really tire anyone out. So I have a once a month $ store run, not every week. I get my greeting cards there and put them away for the month’s birthdays. I buy a few food items that I have checked out and make my regular. I buy personal items like soap and deodorant. I get small gifts for grand kids and party items if I need them. Then I am out of there for the rest of the month.
  5. I love using box stores. But once again, I get tired- walking with my bad back- so I go to them on a limited basis. Our Wal Mart does not have a grocery store, but it has a few basic food items that I love to buy and save big. Like cereal, eggs, milk and some canned items on special. I get my Rx list there with the low generic prices and then I always buy my paper products and house cleaning items. Once a month means I need to shop with a list.
  6. A list, if you do not list your needs, you are much smarter than I am. I can not keep my personal needs and the needs of my senior in my mind. I make a list at home. I have a big $ next to items to buy at the $ store, a W for my box store items, a star next to coupon items and then I write down my needs for the month.
  7. I have a basic 14 day plan for meals for my family and my senior’s family. If I work in two places, I need to be organized and it saves me money. At least 2 times a week my own dinners are used as the senior’s dinner. I just make a good quanity of soup, stews, slow cooker meals, etc and then share them with my senior. That cuts their budget and the saving on the double cooking  time makes me happy.
  8. Coupons are a great way to save. Some folks love them – some don’t. Even if you do not dedicate yourself  to coupons, be sure you look at the store flier before you shop. They post them on the wall of the store. It will point out items you will want to buy on sale.
  9. I have long made coupons a senior project. I get the newspapers and fliers in the mail and my seniors do the viewing and cutting out and then we file them together and talk about the meal planning. Some times you get a double saving and lots of times you can buy foods that you rarely buy because it is on such a good bargain. Look for new food items, they often give those away to get you to try them. Online coupon sites can really help you learn more about coupon use.
  10. I always take my senior to a coffee shop or lunch when we do the food shopping. It means we get time together, they are out of the house and we both rest after the walk around those huge grocery stores. I have a couple chain restaurants that I get online coupons from to help us in our lunch budget. Shari’s is a favorite for us, they have a special Honor Card that gives you a free meal after you gather enough points. They also have online coupons for free pie, or 2 for 1 lunch and dinners. Makes eating out more fun when you save!
  11. Ask and look for senior discounts, just know it only makes sense to offer all of us a savings. Seniors have a good income to spend, even if we are on budgets we are a big part of sales income for the business world. We are loyal buyers and they know that, so they offer us coupons or senior specials to keep our loyality. That will help us save at least $10-$30 dollars a month. Hardware stores, lower gas rates and free coffee with your meals – all of those are just for the asking if they have a “senior discount”
  12. Senior Center meals. Each area has a senior center and often they offer free or discount meals. When you arrive they often have something free to hand out to you. From bread products to coffee samples, it makes it fun to have a free treat basket, so check it out in your area.
  13. Bakery outlets, do you have one close to you? Or maybe a canned goods store. Some of the larger areas have outlets to sell their items that have been cleared from the grocery store shelves or are what is called “end items” These are great places for deals, but not for the senior to visit without a friend to be with them. They are often hard to move around the store and they can really confuse and tire you. So, this is a once a month or every few months trip. The savings is not worth it if you have to rest for two days after your shopping.
  14. Odd places have surprise savings. Our small local hardware store has flowers and garden items for a great price. So, I always do a planted pot for my seniors. It is not a big garden, but a welcome note at their door step or off their patio door.
  15. Local fruit markets. If you are able to wander around your local farmers market is a great outdoor escape in the summer. They have fresh from garden produce and good prices, plus they support local growers. Good stuff to go there and think of it as a trip out, not just shopping.
  16. Nothing is a bargain if you over buy. Large containers of food, or dozens of something is great for a big, growing family…not a senior on a buget. Buy what you need for a couple of weeks, not for a year.
  17. Rule: before you go shopping clean out your cupboards and refrigerator. Get rid of that old and unused food. Does your senior still bake? No? Clear out the baking goods that are old. Does your senior eat ice cream not that they are on a low sugar diet? Throw away those old frozen items- If your senior is not good with left overs, throw them out. Food that is not eaten on time is dangerous. You have to have a void to fill it- so clean and clear before you shop.

Well I hope some of these ideas help on your trip to getting more on your already smaller budget. Buy wise, make lists, remember senior discounts and coupons, buy what you really eat and use. Happy Shopping!

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.