End of Care Days thoughts…from francy

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End of life thoughts by francy Dickinson

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George was quiet with his Kirbee by his side – let your anipals be near

Dear Francy; Dad has been quiet and sleeping most of the time now. He is on oxygen, high pain meds and just moves through the care giving without much interaction. I know he is getting close to passing, what should I be doing now?

The care giving in the final days of your elder are always difficult. For some the fuss of the advanced pain and  more care givers to help you is overwhelming. Some days are so quiet you are worried how to know when someone has actually passed.

Here are some ideas for you:

  1. Just be sure to talk around the person, even if they seem asleep or in a coma. Use your voice to tell them what is happening to them. “Dad, I’m turning you over now.”
    “Mother, I am going to give you a face wash and put on your moisturizer.” Just be you, speak in a normal tone, speak slowly and loud enough for them to hear you. If nothing else; it will give them a sense of calm.
  2. If you are worried about something ASK. Call the care giver line for your care giver team, it has an RN in charge of it and ask for them to call you back. Write down some questions and they will kindly let you know how to handle them.
  3. Say, “I love you.” Often. Right to the end talk and say you love them. I always tell them how much they have done for me and I appreciate all they have done. I say it often and with honesty.
  4. If there is a “wake up day” enjoy it. Many times people will be quiet for a few days and then all of a sudden they rebound and become talkative. I always know that is towards the end. Many times they will be awake longer and talk about memories and things very easily. Just know this is normal and enjoy the moments and the quality of their conversation. Often they will pass just the next day or two.
  5. Ask when medications can be removed. This allows the pill taking to be easier. Palliative care is when only the “comfort medications are given.” You can ask your care team for guidance, but this is a good thing. Not a bad thing. The senior does not have to try to swallow a lot of pills.
  6. Give them easy to swallow and tasty foods. The end of life is no time for a diet, if they want cocoa…get them cocoa.
  7. Make sure family members know things are going down. Even if you have members of family that you personally do not enjoy…let them know. Everyone is to be given a goodbye time…you just remove yourself during their visit and they say what they say. It’s all part of the passing. No regrets, be kind.
  8. Remember to honor their faith or no faith…its not you…its your senior that you honor. If you are into a faith and the senior is not…be kind. Have the minister visit you, then say “HI” to them…not spend loads of time with them when they do not practice your faith. And visa versa, being kind is the key to end of life loving care.
  9. Don’t be afraid to leave them and get some sleep. Passing comes when the senior is ready…allow yourself to eat, bath and sleep. You are a caring person, you deserve to care for yourself.
  10. Try not to worry so…I know I was a mess. But try…this is part of life…yes, its sad and hard, but don’t spend hours crying in the senior’s room before they pass. It does go through to their mind and makes them uncomfortable. They will not rest as easy…energy is the key. Keep your energy calm like you would for a young child that was unwell. Just allow the time with them to ride, have some low music on, read a book out loud, take calls from friends next to their bed and chat on. That is what comes through…an everyday tide of ups and downs.
  11. Take pictures to remember. Write a journal to process your own feelings and drink and eat to keep yourself well.
  12. Allow them to go. Tell them its OK for them to leave. That everyone loves them and if they need to leave, you will be alright. This permission to pass is more important that you can imagine.

Remember your love and care has given your senior a safe and calm life down their path. You have allowed them to feel loved and kept them from feeling alone. You live on, in their honor and you are able to know you gave them your love.

I want to thank you, for your hours, days, months and years….of loving support. May you and your senior find peace in the end. Blessings, francy

Staying Alert Means NO Silver Alert / Protecting Elders

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Protecting Elders by francy Dickinson

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Mom kept me safe…then, I kept her safe – f.

Dear Francy: This is my own family story. In the 1970’s my Aunt was baby-sitting her two grandchildren. They stayed overnight and she made them lunches and drove them to their elementary school, the next morning. She was never seen alive again. One year later her car was found off an old logging road and her remains found deep in the woods. She had somehow gotten confused and lost. How could that happen? Did her children miss seeing that she was getting older and more stressful and having children over-night was just a step too far? Or did she have a sudden attack of dementia? Did no one notice any warning signs? We were all heart sick. She was a dear lady and did not deserve that life-ending no matter what had happened.

8 TIPS TO HELP KEEP YOUR SENIOR ~SAFE

  1. Take note of sudden change in personality. Example; if a person was shy and they now just push their needs onto everyone. Or, if they were chatty and now are very quiet. Change in personal moods are important and you need to write a few notes of examples and give it to the doctor’s office check-in person and ask them to “attach your letter” to the chart. That way the doctor will read it and take note of its significance.
  2. Constant anger over small things. If you are losing power in your body or mind it is frightening. You want to be in charge of your mind…so you automatically push yourself to be right. You make your point, you debate, you push and push until others do what you feel is right. That is what “taking power back” is all about. But this is also a sign that there is something going on in that mind and needs to be checked. A memory test, a talk about early signs of dementia or other mental issues. Ask your health care team to schedule a memory test for the elder and make sure you are all on the same page.
  3. Your elder has slight memory problems but they speak well and still drive. They do chores around the house and they “seem” OK. Yes, they are slowing down and Yes, their projects take longer to finish than they used to…but you do not see any danger in them staying independent. Next thing you know; your dad is taking a left turn. His driving timing is off and he turns right into my car, while I was driving in the opposite direction. Head on crash.
    I was really hurt, when that happened to me. The lady that did that to me had Parkinson’s. She told me she was on medication…as I limped around and checked on a young man with children in the other car she had hit…she was shaking and very upset. Now, I was kind to her…but it upset me that her husband (that came to the scene to bring her home) just protected her. He was telling her not to worry, they had another car at home for her to drive!!! Hello, do not tell yourself lies. If someone is suffering from high pressure of life changes, taking medications that are strong or are mentally confused…they cannot drive. You can write a letter to the driver’s department and tell them to demand that she takes another test to keep her driver’s license. Or, you can make sure no car is available for them to use. Period, subject closed. It is not fair to others and I could have lost my life. My injuries were very upsetting, because I had my Georgie at home, to care for at that time.
  4. Post Alerts in the house. If you worry about dad out in the garage, or mom walking out the front door…take note of new helper tools. There are cameras that can be put on the door bell or inside of the house. There are alarms that ring loudly when a door opens so you can dash to the door and way-lay the elder back to the living room. There are so many things that are new and exciting that I ask you to simply talk to the techie in your family to help you find just what you need.
  5. Can someone help your elder if they are upset or confused? OK, so George would have a drop in mental ability when he was under pressure so I knew I had to get him an ID bracelet early on. Just in case he was to walk away from me in a store or while I was gardening. If someone stopped him…would he know my phone number or my name under pressure? So, I looked and the ID’s were so expensive. Now that has changed. You can get a locator on their own cell phone…or on their fit watch. Tech stuff has really done well for all of us seniors…look it up on the Internet.  I got a simple RoadIDTag that was very inexpensive and has room for their name, your name and phone number – plus I ordered a health tag and added dementia to a line. Go, take a look…get one for yourself, this stuff is important!
  6. When you send your elder to another member of the family…tell them the rules. This happened to me: George had his kids in California. They sent him a plane ticket to come and visit and although he had early dementia, he had showed no signs of getting lost. So, off he went. While there he borrowed a truck to drive while his son was off at work. He drove the truck into town and then got lost. He was clear enough to call his daughter and she came right away to get him and have him follow her home. But it was an eye opener for me, when I had lost my Aunt so long ago. And he was so upset he never drove again.
    I then made sure where ever George went with friends or family…I gave them the “keep him close” talk. Then off he went with two old friends to a Mariner’s game. They had a great time, then he went to the bathroom and never came back. They went into a panic and took most of the ballgame to search for him in the huge ballpark facility. So, that was the end of going away without me telling the person about the need to keep him close. Not to mention; it was really me deciding he could only go if I was with him…because I’m a ninny. But it never happened again. That was long before Silver Alert system…and tech locators. Be smart…be ready…plan ahead. There are so many choices available now…go do home work to be prepared.
  7. Stress can really take a toll on anyone, with or without dementia. So if your elder is under stress keep an extra strong eye on their behavior. Do they have to move? Have they lost a dear friend or loving anipal? Have they taken a fall? Have they started a new medication? Have they had a small procedure like cataract removal, or colon cleaning? If so, be sure you spend time with them. Call them a few times a day, bring them into your home for a short stay…allow them to calm down and get their normal daily routine back into place. If you ignore it all…if you think, its no big deal – YOU ARE WRONG. Stress will pull many elders into a semi-dementia state or a lightly confused state. They could take a fall, take medication incorrectly, get very depressed and send them into other health issues. You have to do some planning and take note of the changes. Share change with health care team and let them inform you of things to look for to give them protected caring.
    I went through a horrible time after I moved from my long time home. Dear friends took me into their home and kept me safe while I calmed down, got feeling stronger, recovered from my grief and was ready to go forward. I was blessed with their kindness. So age is not a barrier from high emotional stress. I needed to be cared for…does your senior need that extra care?
  8. A big fall, a bad burn, the flu, heavy cough, bad allergy season, over doing resulting in sore limbs or excitement over a positive or negative event or visit. All of this can actually take brain cells away from a person. You have a stress kill of brain cells and it takes time to build it all back. Now as a young person, you recover from stress or injury quite fast…but as we all age and then go into advanced age we take longer for those brain cells to reproduce. The doctor told me that George would have six months of extra confusion until his brain could grow the cell structure back and perform at a high level with his dementia. He had had pneumonia and was acting strange. The doctor was so right. George’s over-all brain abilities dipped strongly and I was so worried he would not come back…but he did. Just a few months later he was showing signs of recovery in his abilities. If you know something has happened to your elder…then take note. Maybe extra visits to check on them…or bring them into your house on the weekends, or phone checks more often. You might even want your teen to stay with Grandma for a couple of months and check on her. Think it over…be protective and share it with your health care team.

What is a Silver Alert?

A silver alert is a public notification system in the United States to broadcast information about missing persons – especially senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other mental disabilities in order to aid in their being found. You can call your local police department and report your senior missing and they decide to issue the Alert. It will go out to cell phones, highway signs, radio and TV station alerts and your senior will able to be quickly located.

Be Honest with yourself and your family and long time neighbors. When George was diagnosed we had our private time to grieve and then we took action. He wrote a beautiful letter to his dear friends thanking them for their friendship and telling them he was slowly going to slide. He talked to his kids and tried to let them understand it might take years, but he would be different from that time forward. I went around our neighborhood and told them that if they saw George walking alone in front of their home to please go out and get him to come home. Face it…you have to be honest to be safe. George lasted a long time in his slide…we knew what was coming. But we celebrated life as much as we could and I kept him safe. Its pointless to be private with dementia…it is not to be ashamed of…its to be honored, as with the elder’s life’s accomplishments.

Thank you for all you do for your senior. You are a blessing in their life and even if no one else is saying “thank you” – hear it from me. You are walking the walk with an elder so they are not alone in their journey…that is a loving act. Blessings, francy

Give Cheer in the New Year to Elders

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How to help your senior feel positive about their future- even in stress. by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; I went over to my Great Aunt’s and put away her Christmas decor. She was happy to see me, gave me Christmas cookies and tea. But she was quiet and showed signs of depression. The house was not clean as it usually was and she had not gone to the store, she was still working on all the leftovers people had dropped off over the holidays. I didn’t know what to do..I did not want to push on her privacy.

Bright colors to denote visits, dr visits, birthdays for senior to see!

Bright colors to denote visits, dr visits, birthdays for senior to see!

It was so kind of you to go over and give her a hand. Sounds like she needs a few more visits to keep her spirits up. I would suggest you push a visit calendar. I devised these for clients. I would sit down at the first of the month with a calendar on my desk and call the elder’s family members and schedule them for visits that month. Every week one or two people would show up for a 20 minute visit. They could bring a treat, a gift or just come and enjoy! I would actually guilt them into the visit. They would put the visit on their monthly calendar and then I would weekly call and remind those on the calendar for the upcoming week. I would remind them how much my client has been looking forward to their visit. At first, everyone felt my busy-body attitude. But after the second month, they knew the routine, they knew no one wanted them to buy a gift or spend time cleaning the house…it was just a friendly visit. It does take a cheerleader to head the routine…are you up for it?

One day, years ago, when I was caring for my own Georgie; he called me “his cheerleader”. My feelings were hurt over the comment. I said nothing about it, but I thought about it. I did not want to be a cheerleader, I wanted to just be me and to be his wife. The care giving was getting overwhelming and I was tired to the bone. But the cheerleader idea went through my mind all that day.

He needed a cheerleader. He was facing serious health issues and dementia, he was trying to keep his life glued together day by day and I was his only touch to the world around him. By that evening, I spent a little time in prayer and told myself…that if I was unable to be the “old wife and lover” that being “a cheerleader” was OK by me. I still loved him dearly and I wanted him to live each day in joy. A close friend had told me one day…”What ever George wants…just let him have it – life is too short for him to be in want.”

It may sound junior high but honestly; from that day forward I was his cheerleader. I tried to think of ways to make him laugh through the rough times. I brought him meals he enjoyed on trays that looked like a fancy restaurant prepared them. I kept him clean and smelling good, with new clothes that were comfy and not looking like old man clothes. I would make TV specials, like going to the movies…with popcorn. Color was important to our surroundings so I would keep bright pillows and napkins in use. The air was kept clean and clear from the medicine and food smells. I also exercised him on a daily basis with kidding and fun music and I made him treats on a weekly basis.

I know the world is not filled with happiness rainbows when you are old and fighting health issues. But, it can be filled with people that make you laugh, kid you about silly things and bring you small or large gifts or surprises that make you smile.

Anyone can call Grandma and tell her something special is on the TV and wait till she changes the channel and then call her back and chat about the show when its over. Anyone can stop by and bring a Starbucks to a Grandpa and sit and talk about the weather. Anyone can go over to Auntie’s twice a month, in the summer and mow a lawn…anyone, even teenage kids that want to be anywhere else in the world. Teaching sharing, caring and loving hearts is what the world is about. You can gift to your charity or faith group, but gifting should always start at home within your family or your neighborhood seniors or the close unit of friends you have gathered over the years.

Fun Bulbs on the Entry or patio

Fun Bulbs on the Entry or patio

Now my tip…for my own upbeat New Year’s beginning? I always go out the door in the beginning of January and go to the store and get a few bulbs that are just poking their heads out of the ground…I plant them by the front door. That way I am able to see the movement, growth and beauty of those plants as the winter swirls around me. I can connect the bulbs with the spring that is coming and the longer days and easier times ahead. Its a small gift to give an elder. But I suggest a bowl of Paperwhite bulbs sitting on the dinning room table will give your elder a feeling of HOPE…its magic!

Simple early bulbs called Paperwhites are in stores now...they herald in Spring!

Simple early bulbs called Paperwhites are in stores now…they herald in Spring!

Thank you for your gift of love to your Auntie…never be afraid of being pushy when you know it will bring a smile from your senior. Blessings, francy

10 Gift Ideas for Grandma or Elder Neighbors

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Senior gift ideas by Francy Dickinson

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Hard to believe, my nephews, Dan n Jeff have grown families of their own and have helped me so much this last year as I moved out of our family home

Dear Francy; OK so what I wanted to help you with is ideas for gifts for Elders at Xmas…So here it goes…F.

SENIORS AT HOME

Neighbors need your attention. I am sure you have a few “live alone” neighbors your way. Please do not forget them, even if they are younger…they need to know that others care about them and Holiday time is so hard for those alone.

A small bag filled with a card and sweets is the easy thing…hang on the door knob and leave. You do not have to spend time with them if you do not want to. You can just gift your kindness. Tuck in a little candy, or a few cookies in a Ziplock, a bar of pretty soap, a $5 gift card to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Whatever you do for your gifting of thanks…do it for those that are on their own.

We just lost a gentleman in the neighborhood due to suicide. He had kept care of his wife with Alzheimer’s for years and when she died, he was exhausted and just retreated into his empty life. I did not know him…so I was not aware of any of this and it still hurts my heart. Sometimes, a small chat with a neighbor gives them comfort. So, a gift bag surprise could change a person’s personal outlook on the world…to one of “someone cares about me” or “I belong here”  or even more important “I feel safe here”. Gift your kindness. Even a gift card for some lawn cutting in the summer would be a fun one. Be creative and think about those around you. Gifting to others in formal charities is wonderful, this time of year…but those that are close and alone…they are the perfect place to begin.

GRANDMA & GRANDPA GIFTS

Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Always saying; “I don’t need anything.” Is really the truth when you start to age. But getting a gift at holiday time, no matter how small, is a fun thing that everyone enjoys. Here are some senior ideas.

  1. Small bag with card and treats. Sweet tooth’s never die. Seniors love sweets. So a few candy treats, or homemade cookies are perfect. But, your own grocery store has wonderful bakeries that have individual cakes, pies and cheese cakes that come in plastic, easy to gift, containers. They are all decorated and look pretty and give the senior a feeling of being special.
  2. Fruits: Fruits that are special like grapes, berries, cut pineapple, small winter sweet oranges, apples dipped in caramel. These are things that seniors like to “piece on”. Easy for you and a lasting treat that many seniors do not spend money on for their own enjoyment. Obviously, cheeses, deli meats and crackers or specialty holiday breads are also a fun surprise. OH and an old fashion one ~ is dates…nice California dates that are sweet and other dried fruits.
  3. Things for personal: nice soaps that you find in the bath department, something that is handmade is so special for a senior, instead of the usual Dial soap. You could also add new shower mat and a nice big bath towel that’s a great one. Seniors tend to keep their towels and bed linen for years and new ones add a freshness to their lives.
  4. I love gifting hand cream that is special. Goat milk hand cream or healing hand creams. It just is something everyone enjoys using but seldom buy. On that; a new tube of toothpaste and a battery toothbrush. Lots of elders have never tried a battery toothbrush and you can get it all ready and talk about it a bit to take away any worry over its use. That will doll up their day!
  5. A large read-out Atomic clock. George loved his and he had an auto outside temperature read-out on it too. You get the clock and place it where it’s easy to see. You put in the battery and that is that. If you add the outside temp you get a small battery run remote to hang outside your back door. The senior does not have to change or set the clock, it is all done automatically for them each night via the Oregon lab and seniors love it. (No WiFi needed)
  6. Handy tools for the kitchen or the handyman. Now what I mean is this; many older people stop buying kitchen utensils or small tools for their quick repairs. All of these things, have been updated the last few years. A plug-in lite that goes on if the power goes off, it has LED lights and is really bright. A light weight screwdriver that is battery-electric with a few heads or a can opener that is easy for the older hand to use. A plug-in hot water pot, so there is never a forgotten pot left on the stove. These are the thoughtful things that will change the ability for a senior to stay alone in their home or apartment. Maybe a return-again visit and go through and clean out their junk drawer with dividers so they can open it up and find anything they need for quick use. (How many rubber bands can a guy have in a junk drawer? J
  7. New front and back welcome mats. This is a simple fix, but mats that take away the dirt, and keep the wet from coming into the house on the carpet…it’s a big deal. Bet your senior has not changed theirs’ in years.
  8. Plastic glides for under chairs or heavy furniture. If the senior has a favorite chair, can they even move it? Probably not; it’s now too heavy for them. These simple chair glides will help them move around the big table or chairs they use often. (Ace Hardware has them)
  9. A holder for their cell phone. Seniors tend to lose their cell phones even in small spaces. I little holder for the cell phone is perfect. Taking time to add new phone numbers or make sure their smart phones are organized and not confusing is also so helpful. Don’t forget Jitterbug makes phones for seniors that are easy to see as well as use.
  10. Led and long lasting light bulbs. This is a really, great thing. Seniors often have trouble with changing lights. How about you bring over a few of the newer long life lights and do a few replacements of lights that are needed and used the most. Front porch, kitchen lights, light by their TV chair, bathroom lights…this is a very thoughtful gift and will be appreciated for years to come. Even if it is a simple one, its important. Keeping seniors off step ladders is a must, so this is a life-savor too!

Seniors do not need fancy things, expensive things or another sweater. They need things that they use every day and that need updating. I once brought over a shower curtain liner and put it up for my mom with a new bath tub mat. She could have never done the shower curtain it was too much for her to stretch. She called me and thanked me for weeks after. She said that she did not realize how dingy her old ones had gotten and how she enjoyed the new ones so much. Simple shower curtain liner…hello, who knew that would make me her favorite daughter? (OK, it didn’t my sister Merrilee was her favorite, but it gave me points!

Gift Holiday cheer and love to your loved ones and neighbors…and thank you for care giving your time to others. It’s a very kind gift to give your love, time for a chat and tea together with a senior. Just picking up a Starbucks coffee and bringing to the senior and spending a half hour in chat is a gift that lasts.

Blessings on your holidays…f.

Grieving at Christmas

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Handling grief at holiday time by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going through my second holiday without my husband and its tough. I have a few friends that are going through similar feelings and I thought I would share some feelings with you. f.

Memory Snap Shot

Memory Snap Shot

There is no time frame to grief. I have known and listened to stories of spouses remarrying within a few months of a loss and then those that never find another mate. My mother was without her husband for forty-eight years. There is simply no rule to the time of healing and adjusting to loss; a tough divorce, moving away, loss of a job or home and of course; death of a dear and close loved one or partner. The rules go out the window. So, each of us have to try to make it through the woods on our own. Creating our own healing time-frame and finding small and large ways to restructure our life patterns to form a new life for our own self. That is why I share with others that their loss and my loss are totally different. Therefore, no comparison is available. But the pain, the loneliness and the unsettling in each of our lives is certainly a bridge of understanding and its shared by all of us walking through those woods.

George's Memory Tree

George’s Memory Tree

This is my second Christmas without my Georgie. Last year, I was in our family home and did the decorating as usual. I used George as my theme…and printed up pictures of him at different times in his life and decorated the tree with a sense of love and joy. I had friends over for holiday dinner and used my china and made my special recipes. I love to bake; so I did my usual baking of Biscotti and gifting it to friends and family. I missed my guy with all of my heart but I went through the motion of festivities because it gave me a sense of security to stick to the plan.

This year; I am not in my home that I shared for so many years with Georgie. I am living with friends for a while and they are too busy to decorate for Christmas. They are not into baking or into any of the many traditions that George and I had taken on to express our love of the holiday season. So, its quiet here. I have time to think back on lots of holidays and reflect on what I want to do in the forward motion of my life. I have time to rest and not do the crazy run around for gifts, food and parties. Its something different for me, not bad, just different. But my heart aches for my guy and our old ways.

I have a dear friend that lost her husband around the time I lost Georgie. She too has moved out of her long time home. She is settling into an apartment lifestyle and is in the process of adjustment, as I am. We share our memories of years of fun and love with our mates and I think it helps both of us…to talk about things…work through things in our minds by sharing.

I would say that having a friend that shares a similar loss in their life to talk to, is very helpful. If that is not something you have in your life; try to find a support group that would fit your own needs. When you can talk about yourself and then help others through their hard time, it really does makes your own pain feel controllable. When you keep all your thoughts and feelings inside and only have an on-going personal discussion with yourself…the pain can and will overwhelm you. Why try to pretend you are not sad or lonely for the sake of friends or family…it hurts only you. I am not saying that you escape the pain, but support and comfort from others allows you to express the sadness and more or less flush it out. Instead of getting stuck in thoughts that circle around and around again.

Safety, is what I think I miss. Somehow I felt safe with my Georgie around. Even when he was extremely ill and could not have really saved me from anything or anyone…just his presence allowed me to feel, safe. Therefore, if you were asking me what is the hardest thing about his loss? It would be my feeling of safety is missing. I can not put the feeling into words. But on a daily basis I am faced with actions, decisions, and schedules that are presented to me and there is no one behind me to support my own decisions. I suppose they would be the same decisions with or without George there…but his energy and love always gave me a feeling of confidence, that I was free to make a good choice. Now, I fuss over things and worry over my choices.

When I talk to my friends that are going through the same situations of loss over their spouse. I find it comforting to know they too have similar feelings. So, in a strange way, it helps me. Not to change my choices or my life decisions…but to know that its a stage that we are all going through, not just me. Those stages of grief that are printed and talked about…just so you know. They are just a suggestion of a progression through pain of loss. You do not have to go through those stages in order, or timely. You may skip feelings and then hover on other feelings. Its OK, we are not all cupie dolls walking through the same experience. So, do not be worried over the death experts…just allow yourself to feel and be as you go. No rules, no guilt. Maybe you feel nothing, maybe your relationship is tucked in perfectly. Maybe your personal beliefs have you and your loved one on a very accepted path and you are able to let your sadness go. Each of us, have our our walk through the woods. There is no rule…so do not stress. If you have an after-life belief go with it. But if you don’t…there is plenty of time to build your own.

I used to wake in the morning with George beside me in our big bed. Just as the sun was coming in the window, the room was so quiet and George still asleep. The two dogs and two cats all curled up between us and sleeping. I would look over and see them all and will myself to take a mental snap-shot of the scene. I knew it would change…so I wanted to hold on to it as long as I could.

Now, when I wake I often close my eyes again and recreate that snap-shot. Listening to the breathing of George and our little ones and feeling them all close. George is gone, so is one of our dogs and one of our cats. The scene is no longer there…but in my mind’s eye I still hold that early morning feeling of love. I still remember how I wanted that scene never to end and I take comfort in reviewing it in my mind.

I have no answers to my own future. I wish comfort and love for me as the time moves on. But I try to live each day. I don’t stay in bed…I get up and move. I try to eat well, I try to sleep well. I give my little dog and cat my love and keep them on a daily routine. I write each day, I call family, friends and clients each day. I shop for good food and remembrance gifts and cards. I have a journal that I share my fears and joys in and it helps keep me on track. Even if I am down, I try to reach out and chat with friends and family. I guess I am trying to just keep in motion. So the positive life changes for my future can happen from any direction.

My walk in the woods has just begun. Maybe yours has not even started yet…but know that when you get to the woods, they do not have to be dark and scary. The woods are filled with tall quiet trees that reach out and support you. The woods has ferns and plants that give it a carpet and sounds of birds and small animals that send you energy along the way. It is not a bad or end of the world walk, its just a stroll. Each of us has to take it. If you reach out and talk to a friend that understands or join a group that supports you…the walk will be lighter. I wish that for both of us.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

What ever you choose to do on your holiday, make time to do for others. That is how we heal; by turning around and giving a hand-up to another.

Thank you for your gift of care giving your loved one. Blessings, on your holiday. francy

Ten Tips to Make Your Senior’s Holiday Perfect!

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My Georgie w guests at our table -Nice Times

My Georgie w guests at our table -Nice Times

Dear Francy; I have personally been under the weather lately with a nasty cold. I am usually on my own so when I visited a home with children I was exposed to a cold bug. It has taken me down and I have had to really fight to get well. So, take note and remember that seniors do not have the resistance to fight off “kid bugs”. Do not bring little ones to Grandma’s if you even think, they are getting a bug. I wanted to share how to handle holidays with your seniors…its easier than ever with the help of the Internet.  So here is a review of the things to keep in mind. Blessings on all of us who give care to our family members…its a big task to take on, but it represents the kindness and love you share with others…Thank YOU! f.

GREAT TIPS FOR SENIORS AT HOLIDAY TIME

  1. If your senior is out of town. Call today and order a Thanksgiving dinner to be delivered. Then let the senior know it’s coming; so they can invite a friend to join them. The dinners come in 2-4-6 and more so just pick a portion size that would give them a dinner with left-overs for great turkey sandwiches.
    Go online and look up “Turkey Dinners Delivered, Home Town” and up will pop, a few grocery stores, cafes, senior centers and such and you can choose. If your senior wants to go “out” to dinner. Find a senior center that will be serving and then call a cab company and make arrangements for a home pick-up. If the area is too small. Call the local community church and ask the pastor to guide you. The pastor will know what is available and tell him if he would arrange it, you would kindly send a

    Pies Ready for holiday dinner

    Pies Ready for holiday dinner

    gift to the church as a thank you. There is always a way…be creative. A dear friend of mine sent me a Christmas dinner box; when I was in the middle of caring for George one year. It meant the world to me. All I had to do was warm it up and we enjoyed it. No muss – no fuss. DO IT!

  2. Don’t give seniors a long day. If you are bringing the seniors to your place for dinner, limit the visit time. Pick-up should be an hour before dinner, then figure, dinner and one to two hours after dinner. Then take them home. For a senior that is not used to interacting with lots of people, they can only take so much time and use so much of their energy before they go downhill. They will wilt on the vine, if you don’t make their time easy, fun and fast…so they are home with a turkey sandwich in their hand for later and an extra piece of pie. They will rest and recall the lovely day you have gifted them.
  3. If you are visiting and bringing the senior dinner. Take over the teens and make sure they are healthy and just stay about 45 minutes. Long enough to get their dinner in place, chat with them about family things and then leave. Seniors do not have the energy to handle long visits with multiple people. But they love them….so be kind, make it fast but enjoyable for them. (I always use a glass pie plate to put the dinner in. It’s deep and holds a lot of food and can either be heating in the oven or microwave.)
  4. Leaving town? Make the holiday dinner before or after your return. Even if it is a dinner out. Let the senior know you love them by making your own holiday. Just because you go away for fun… they do not. Don’t leave them without a holiday meal and family memories.
  5. Live out of town? Then be sure your senior knows how to use SKYPE. I have a neighbor and dear friend with an elderly sister in New Zealand…well at least that is what they tell me. Because every time I go over…the phone rings and the sister is calling on SKYPE. The two sisters just chat away and enjoy their time together and they feel close and happy. Its like they are living two blocks away from each other. Its very sweet to watch. Gift that closeness to your senior. Either you or someone you know, goes over to the senior’s and sets-up the older computer on a phone and you just keep it for SKYPE. It will be so appreciated and fun for the senior. Don’t let them say they are afraid of the computer, make it work and let them practice over and over so you and your senior can be close even if there are thousands of miles between you. PS Lots of retirement centers now have SKYPE set up for their guests too.
  6. Holidays are family and family is tradition. So, take dad with you to get your Christmas tree…call mom and ask her, for the 100th time, how she makes her stuffing. Include your senior in the actual planning of the holiday and it will mean more to you and to them.
  7. Record the stories. It’s the stories you miss when an elder passes away. Stories
    1960's holiday w Grandma Mary n her GGGrandkids!

    1960’s holiday w Grandma Mary n her GGGrandkids!

    of people long gone and stories of how the world was many years before. Stories that young family members need to hear and to know. That way we all keep our web of history and we have our own feeling of belonging to our family, town and country. Record the stories at the dinner table. Make it a habit to put a phone out on the table with the record button on. Set it close to the elder in the family and then push the conversation around the table about Thanksgivings long ago. When other grandparents were alive, when the children were tiny and when life was different is what you want to hear. Those recordings can be saved on Ancestry.com and listened to for years and generations to come. It’s your own family treasure.

  8. Ask Grandpa to “help” you carve the turkey. Ask Grandma to “watch” you make the gravy. When you are older, people tend to do for you. You lose the feeling that you know something or can do something. Let your elder know; they have the ability to help you. My Grandma would come the day before the dinner and she would polish the silver and set the table. She really enjoyed it. She could sit and do it the silver. She could take her time doing the table, but when it was done, it was her’s. My mother was always grateful. They could talk while they worked and mom got out of polishing silver! What could your elder do?
  9. Food is a bridge to history in the family. Maybe your family is into a different diet than your elders, but still put something out that they remember. The good old fashioned green bean casserole with mushroom soup, or sweet potatoes with marshmallows topping may be off your list. But it could make your grandma’s dinner special. Remember traditions and honor the elders with a bit of extra work to present to them so the dinner is comforting.
  10. Keep the drinking, smoking, weed or whatever until the elders are taken home. No one will drop over if they wait until grandpa is taken home before they light up. It’s a kindness that families must adjust to when habits change. Interactions with family members can be heightened when people are using substances, so keep it calm and easy so the elder goes home happy…not upset and worried for the week to come. Be kind…it may be the last holiday you have with your senior. Take pictures, do hugs, sing songs, be silly…. life is too short not to do family things that bring everyone a smile.
Sister, Merrilee making her famous turkey gravy...Yumm!

Sister, Merrilee making her famous turkey gravy…Yumm!

Happy Holidays everyone…thank you for all the care giving you have gifted to your loved ones this year. We are all grateful you are there…francy

 

Tips for Moving Grandma into Smaller Digs

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How to move a senior into smaller housing and keep them happy…francy

 Dear Francy; I moved my Grandma into an assisted living. She had been in her family home for forty-two years. The change was hard and she argued with us all through the move.She is now in her new studio apartment. She is unhappy, lonely and her health is going down hill. How can I help her with the transition? 

New Surroundings for a Senior are Hard to Handle

First, you can just allow her to be calm and adjust. It will not happen in a week or a month, it will take a while for her to get into the swing of not having her things around her and giving up her privacy. Make sure you,or someone you appoint, goes to visit her each week. Make a plan of action before you go and bring a little something to brighten the senior’s space and fits into the season. Let her feel your sincerity and forget the hurt feelings…they will happen. The point is; you go forward and you keep the dialog open — your Grandmother can not change her situation and you have to respect her upset and continue your support of her.

Make Plans before the Move

Almost all seniors eventually have to move from their family home. Yes, if they are well to do and have a good income they can stay there longer…but most senior men and woman face this change, at a hard time in their lives. So, have your “open ears” on as you visit and care for them. Listen to what they love and and ask about different things in the house. Is there a special family picture they feel closer to than others?. A picture of a time in life that they want to remember forever. Is there a special chair or table they have had for years and enjoy? What do they do each day that they enjoy? Does your Dad still go out to the garage where his tools are, maybe just to stand there in comfort? Does your Grandma still enjoy making cookies or fixing coffee for you when you arrive? Does your Grandpa read about the war years and have books around him? Does your Mom water her houseplants and talks about missing her big garden? Take notice–write your self a few notes for the future.

Ideas for the Change

If you don’t really know your senior well…talk to a friend or older family member and ask them. “What do you think that Grandma would really want to see on the wall or have around her everyday when she moves?” Get input. I have a case that the senior was a hoarder and her two sons took her out of her small home to rescue her and place her into a clean and safe assisted living. But they did not bring anything of hers…no pictures no chair, not even clothes. Now, I get the frustration of that special situation but you have to keep the comfort of the senior in your mind.They are making the last move of their lives…they need things to ease them into that situation. The opposite can happen if you try to crowd a studio apartment with too much stuff….so just take time to think it over.

  1. Take pictures of the old house. Inside and out. If the senior is home sick you can bring your laptop over and show her a nice slide show of her home and her rooms. Close up of pictures on the wall of all the family and inside closet shots of things the senior may miss. You do not have to rub their noses in their past life…but you can have it ready for them, if they need it.
  2. Just because they leave their old bedroom behind for a hospital bed in a small room…does not mean you can not take their bed spread, quilt or favorite pillow or throw. Comfort for an elder is sleeping, so having things on their bed that reminds them of safety and their old home is very helpful.
  3. Sort over clothes by season. Only take clothes that are clean and in good shape. Divide them into large air compression bags or nice see through storage boxes. Keep them in your garage and each season take their clothes over to them…take out the winter items from their closet and take them home to launder and put dryer sheets in the box to keep them smelling fresh. Add a few new pieces of clothing like fresh undies and shoes for the season. That way they have changing wardrobe in a small closet.
  4. Take a favorite family photo and one of just their spouse and have them blown up. You can do this on the net or at a local copy shop. Blowing up photos to good size posters keeps the room feeling clear but filled with memories…it will allow them to see the photo well and have something sweet to remember their children, grand children and spouse.
  5. Get nice new sheets and then towels for the bathroom and keep a hanging kit for their shaving things or their make-up. Yes, even elders want to feel fresh and look good when they go down to the group dinner table.
  6. Bring their favorite chair or side table from home. If they are having problems with standing; you can get them a mechanical recliner that raises and lowers with a push button, but you can keep their old tapestry pillow for their back and a throw from the house for their lap. Make sure a small chair for guests is there too.
  7. If ladies miss cooking a safe toaster for them to make toast or warm up pop-ups at least gives them a feeling of cooking. A nice mug or tea cup from home and thermos or tea pot…those things mean a lot to a senior.
  8. A tall table to put a plant on and bring in a long time loved orchard or houseplant in a special pot gives gardeners a feeling of green. Don’t forget a small measuring cup to water the plant.
  9. Nothing wrong with a small work bag filled with small tools for dad…there may be an emergency and he would need a wrench…or it might just make him feel safe to have it close by.
  10. Donate old books to the library at the senior facility so your senior can still visit and enjoy their books.
  11. magnifier“Ott lites” give high power light to those that love to do handiwork like knitting or crochet…and higher power readers or jeweler’s magnifier are great so they can still enjoy an long time hobby.  The new craze of adult coloring books are also a fun treat. Its easy to find a lap desk that goes over the chair arms so they have their things right in place for comfort.
  12. Bring a basket from home for all of their “little” things. Nail files, lip balm, pens and small notebooks, address book, small scissors and flashlight, etc. This goes on the table by their comfort chair. Remember the key is to keep the room looking clean and clear so the senior and cleaning staff have a calm vision. But inside the basket can be a collection of items that we all need to have on hand.
  13. drawersDon’t forget a small drawer unit for emergency storage of personal things. Like band-aids, itch cream, Vaseline, Bengay, and simple relief meds like gas pills, diarrhea pills etc. These are personal things…if you mark the drawer with vitamins, creams, first aid…the senior can store little tubes of this and that needed with privacy. These are found in box stores by Sterilites small 3-drawers.I use them for my own things and love their size and ease of use.
  14. Jewelry and expensive art can be stolen in public housing…so make sure there are ways to note that your Grandma has her wedding ring on and your Grandpa has his silver golf award on his table. Just ask the staff how to handle that sort of thing so the senior can be safe and still enjoy something they cherish.
  15. There are never any rules that you can not put your own web-cam in the room to check out your senior’s care when you are not there. Small nanny cams are available and allow you to see the seniors room from afar. This is a great way for family from out of town…can rest assured that their senior is safe and receiving good care.
  16. Teach your senior about their cell phone and how to use it. So they can have a camera and face to face talks with their kids and grand kids. They need to know how to charge it and how to take it with them. In a special lanyard holder around their neck so they can walk with their walker and not leave their phone behind…or in a cross body bag…or on a special holder that recharges and keeps the phone at hand by their comfort chair. Seniors can use gadgets…they just need reminders and patience in teaching them how to use them and find enjoyment…not fear over making mistakes with them.
  17. Get to know the staff and help the senior make friends and become involved in gentle ways with the social side of the assisted living. Maybe they will not attend all the events…but choosing a few things that will hit their interest button may mean you coming over and taking them to the meeting the first time. Easing them into a new life-style takes time and patience…reach down and find it within yourself so the senior can feel your strength and love.

I know you can do this…it’s just a hard time and hard decisions have to be made. But making those decisions so they are for the best of the senior is key. This helps keep it in perspective and makes it smoother for all of you. Giving love to a senior that has now lost friends, dear family members, possibly a spouse and or children…their end of life issues are raw…so your patience and understanding is a big deal. You always there smiling, always there even in quiet…is a gift. I thank you for your giving…as I have experienced my own losses lately…having friends and family to just talk and walk me through scary times…feels like you are surrounded by angels.

Thank you for your care giving…francy