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

by francy Dickinson           

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

Blessings, francy


10 Ideas to Help Senior Spouse Care Givers

by francy Dickinson          

Dear Francy; My husband came home last week from hospital. He had a stroke and is now recovering. He went into a care facility for only two days and hated it and demanded he be home again. I’m way over my head and heard about your blog- Help!
First, I’m very sorry you are both going through this health challenge. You will see in my many blogs that as a person who has spent many years as a full time care giver – now, caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s/dementia – I feel very strongly about being the lead in the Health Care Team between my husband, the doctor and me. I’m the care giver and I do most of the work and I am clear headed, therefore I get to make the rules and the rules have to include my own (as well as my senior’s) good health, energy and happiness. The senior in care comes first, but just like raising children – the mom/spouse care giver has to take charge and stay strong.

Here are some ideas just to begin your process.

  1. Get a formal Health Care Directive in place that shows that you can make health decisions for your spouse. It will also give you the ability to ask for his medical information. You do this by filling out a form (from office supply store or software called Family Lawyer) Have it notarized and then you make copies for Dr’s and hospitals, so you are able to be in charge as your spouse’s health team partner.
  2. Talk to the doctor about having a Physical Therapist helping you at home. In-home care of professionals and care givers is really important when you’re just “at the beginning stage” of a health challenge. You will be helped and you will learn from them. Don’t try to do it alone, even if your senior is demanding privacy. Stick up to your own needs, get a team in place. Therapists, care givers, bath people all of them are there for you to use. At least for the first few months while your senior is adjusting to his recovery.
  3. Emotional changes happen when a senior is recovering from a stroke. Their mind has been affected and it will show signs of change. Those changes may heal with time, but it takes loads of time. So if you feel your senior shows signs of anger issues, confusion issues, and speech or memory changes – share it with the health care professionals. Do not be afraid to share these changes with doctors and care givers, it’s not a private issue when you are on a health care team. It is reporting serious change that can be treated with therapy or medications.
  4. Keep a notebook with a daily log. Write down the pills that are given and the time, any response to the medication, the emotional and physical changes you notice.
    *Example: George was starting to shuffle in his walking with his dementia; I reported that to his neurologist on our next appointment. Dr changed his meds and 24 hours after the new meds were taken, George was walking normally again. You keep the running tab of things that seem out of place as well as things that go well. So you are prepared to talk to the medical professionals and get them to join your team and all of you will work towards your husband’s recovery.
  5. Sit down with your husband and go over rules of the road. Just like you would with any teen ager -there are house rules to establish. The medications have to be taken on time each and every day. Exercise will be done in the morning and evening, no matter what is going on. Visitors will only stay 30 minutes and then off they go so they do not wear down the senior. Getting dressed, using the walker, practicing their speaking, and eating good food is not a choice it is a requirement. It may sound dreadful to have to go over everything, but this is what has to be done to get him well.
    * Yes, you will find your relationship does take a change. But it is all for the betterment of your senior and to their good health. If you have been the passive person in the marriage/relationship then you will learn to be assertive, because that is what is required during this healing time.
  6. Go online and read about your spouse/senior’s condition. You will find so much information. There are chat rooms filled with folks walking in your footsteps, so join them. Twitter me at @seniorcaretips. Do not be alone. Do not be afraid. Sure life is great when both parties are well and happy, but real life comes with bumps. Just know that learning about how to give care and what is required of you means getting answers from those that have gone through a similar recovery. It will make you strong.
  7. Who is in charge?
    I had to change my own health care directive a few months ago. I removed my husband’s name and put down my sister as my Power of Attorney for health care. It was so hard to do. My hubby has treated me as a princess for over 30 years. But, he has dementia; he cannot make decisions for his own health now, let alone my health. So the change had to come.
    Change, it is always foreboding. Facing tough decisions with your spouse/senior is a very hard thing to do. But you will do it. There are no bad decisions in health care, there are just different choices. You’ll listen to your spouse/senior, listen to the health care people and your own inner voice and then you will decide on a treatment that makes sense to you.
  8. Family members are loving and want the best. But they are not there giving care-you are! You’re there giving care 24/7. You do not go home at night or take the day shift only. You are there day after day and you know how your spouse/senior is doing. You can see the changes for good and bad and you have to trust your own decisions. You will find that family will try to guide or lecture you. That is fine, hear them out, but remember you are in charge and you are going to make the decisions. To go against what you feel is right because a son, daughter or Uncle has forced their opinion on you – is not right. You have to be strong and have faith in your own choices. The health care team: You, your spouse and your doctor.
  9. Set up your home for recovery. A bed may have to be moved, a walker, bath chair and commode may have to be added and used. Just remember, that the old way of life is on hold while your spouse/senior recovers. Think care giver thoughts and keep things cleaner than normal, be more organized, and follow health care instructions to the tee. Do not allow the spouse/senior to make the rules, remember? Their recovery is going to take you to be strong and follow the health care professional’s suggestions, not his.
    * My husband’s good friend got a knee replacement and went to the therapist and did all the exercises- totally recovered with good speed. His second replacement- a few years later- he did not go to therapy, he thought he knew how to do it on his own. He has never recovered and limps. He told me he thought he only had a few years left to live, now ten years later, he’s very unhappy about the choices he made.
  10. You, you are the “it girl” now. The spouse that is well is left to be the spouse/senior in charge of the health care plan. It is not easy and can be very emotional. So, what does that mean? You need to reach out and talk. Talk to a support group online or in a group by your home, to your family or best friend. You need to eat well, drink water like a mad person, and sleep. If you do not sleep at night, then take naps. You have to stay strong, and that means you need to walk away every week. Walk out of the house for a walk around the block, a drive to meet a friend for coffee or shopping. Get out and get a fresh look at the world. Your strength is going to help your spouse/senior to gain strength again.
    *I always keep a diary to express myself. I write three things that made me happy today and three things that upset me today. After just a few days- you can look back and see the things that bother you or that bless you. After a couple of weeks you can even look back and say – “Hey, I have to stop letting that word, or person or action bother me. Or I have to order more chocolate ice cream because it always makes me happy.” It’s my own self help- and it has carried me through years of care giving.


    This is just the beginning. There is always more and please take time to read more of my blogs and join me with my on demand talk shows on all sorts of senior care issues at

    I have so much info to help you on your care giving adventure. I even wrote a Senior Care-Giver 101
    Workbook to make the check off lists of daily tasks and how to give care and home nursing techniques easy for you. The workbook is at
    click on Products.


    Thanks for all you do for your husband and for reading the post. Blessings, francy

Mom, Wife, Daughter, Friend Burn Out!

by francy Dickinson                   

Dear Francy; I have a teen with CP and a husband with early Alzheimer’s. I wish I could say that I’m giving them all I have, but lately, I’m angry at the way my life is today and I cannot get out of this hole.

Good because trying to be a goodie two shoes in the middle of chaos is pointless. Being tired is one thing, being pulled in fifteen directions at once is another. There are days when you think that going to the bathroom is selfish and days when trying to get out of bed is almost impossible. If you are exhausted, you have to face it and get help, if you have even mild depression that has carried on for more than a couple of weeks, you need help. Let’s talk about some tips for you, the care giver.

  • Depression does not mean you have to be all teary eyed and thinking down, down, down. It can mean you are anxious, get upset easily, are disorganized, feel inadequate, short tempered, use your nasty voice too many times a day, get headaches or muscle aches, or need a nap, just to carry on a conversation. Maybe you have not talked to a friend in weeks, dress down on a daily basis, do not do your hair or lipstick or nails.  Do you get the picture, are you in there somewhere?
  • Before you go to the doctor, write down some of your feelings so you’re able to verbalize at the appointment. Let the doctor know how you are feeling – overwhelmed and need a little help of something light that can give you a lift from stress. This is what he does, he will come up with a med for you to try. I say try, because if it does not work, go back and get another one, there are lots of options. Work with your doctor to find the right one. Also ask him to make it a generic so it is not to expensive for you to take.
  • If you need no meds then just make sure you are not doing the old – glass of wine with dinner and one before bed routine. Or the slight use of weed here or there. That is called self-medication and you have to know that it is NOT OK to do to yourself when you are under so much pressure. Go to the doctor and get some meds if you’re in need of relief and stay away from any drinking or drugs that are not prescribed. You need to be well for your own body and your family.
  • If you need rest desperatly that means a minimum of two days of doing nothing. It will take at least that long for your body to rest and get your mind back into a state of quiet. So, you have to schedule someone to come into your home and be there for the family, or go to a friend or family member for a long weekend and ask for a room alone to sleep. I know that many times these actions alone seem too much, but you have to force yourself to be well. You need to be the center of strength in order for the wheel to work. So, take time to plan your rest time in the next week and get it done. Then we will go from there.
  • Resting is hard to do. The rule is five full hours of sleep heals and regenerates your body and mind. If you get less, you need to nap during the day or evening. If you can not sleep, you can talk to the doctor and get pills to make that happen. But you can not take pills if you need to be on the alert of your husband doing odd things at night. To relieve that worry, get door alarms for the house, they can be very inexpensive and you put them on the top of the door and set them at night and they buzz if he opens your bedroom door or the outside doors. Then you can relax and know you will be alerted and you explain it to your family so they understand to respond to that noise not just ignore it.
  • If you work. Then come home from work and start dinner and then while it is cooking you take a nap. You set your alarm for 20-30 minutes and you go into your room and nap and the alarm should be by your side. Now this means you use the slow cooker or the microwave or oven. You can not leave food cooking on top of the stove. But this is a great way to refresh. You may feel groggy after the nap, but that fades fast and you get a resurgence in energy for the rest of your night.
  • Before you go to bed each night do a house check and pick up. If your kids are older, they do the same thing. Check the door locks and set the door alarms. Pick up the kitchen and living room area and turn off all the lights. That way when you’re ready for sleep you have a cleaned home around you to rest your mind.
  • Twice a week is laundry time. You do wash for you and your husband at the beginning of the week and the family and kitchen at the end of the week. The kids do the folding for their laundry and I would have them do it in the kitchen after dinner. They take turns folding for all of the family laundry and then they distribute it. You then only have your wash to fold and it makes a difference when you share chores.
  • Put up a wall calendar in the kitchen and have all the things that are going on -on that calendar. I have one that’s dry erase for three months at a time. I have my husbands Dr. appointments and my dates and the family dates. Each day I ask my husband to read the day and tell me what is happening for today and tomorrow. That way we are both in the loop. Now, many times he forgets the events right after he reads them because he has Alzheimer’s just like your husband. But we are both on the same day and that counts for me. If the day is going to be nuts, I make sure I have a slow cooker going. If the day is going to be over the top, that is the stop by and get burgers day. The rest of the time I plan my dinner and know how much time it will take. Eating well is hard to do when you are tired, but it has to be on the top of your list for all of your family’s health to stay strong.
  • Once a week, I do my meds for my husband. I have a great 2tdy/7dy med dispenser and I do it up and have it all behind me each week. If your son takes meds he will have his, too. I have mine with supplements that keep me going.  Get one and use it – it will help relieve that pressure of med taking.
  • Drop off your husband and your son at some sort of exercise or enjoyment place for one afternoon or morning a week. Your husband can go to the gym and do some walking or to a center that has cards and enjoy being with the guys. If he has friends to play poker, great they often understand his memory is bad but they love him enough to make him a part of their life. Or he can play pool, bowl or do golf. This is where you need to ask his family and friends to help you. You and he need a break. Be strong about this, it means your health! Your son can take a class in karate, art, or swimming…think of things they can do to leave you alone. Then do something for yourself in the time frame!
  • Time, you can spend time running around or make a plan and give yourself more YOU time. A plan means you drive around and get all the chores done in one day, not do them each day. It means that you have your husband walk around the grocery store after dinner one night when the store is quiet and you can think and he can push the cart! When you force yourself to look at a day planner before you go to bed at night, your life will be on a more even keel than just facing each day with all the bumps and no caution signs!
  • Buy yourself some new clothes for around the house. You need to wear clothes that are comfortable and yet stylish. You do not need to gain 50 pounds in sweats. You need to feel fresh and clean and comfortable, but stylish. Never go out of your morning bathroom without lipstick, it is mental and emotional must. It just says; “I am alive and ready for today!”
  • One more tip—-I have so many more. Get a support group, or a hobby group online. You will have such a kick to get all your gal pals on Facebook and just write a little note to them each day. You will see that they’ll do the same and once a day you get to read their lives unfold. No it will not be as fancy as the teens that spend their life online in social sites. But it will be a way for you to reach out and express your good or bad day or tell a joke on yourself or just read about your buds and get a laugh. No long telephone call, no lunch out, but little daily lines of life…can make a huge difference in your inner peace.

I know you’re in the middle of a nasty time. And I’m there with you. I think often that I will get in the car, all on my own, and just drive. I never have figured out where I would drive, but I just know I could just step on the gas and go, go, go. But I don’t; I pick myself up and go at it again. That’s what pioneer women did and we are daughters of those women and in our own ways fighting family health challenges is still in it’s pioneer days.

Blessings on you for all you do- would you go and visit my web site for other ideas and tips for care givers –

Thanks, francy