Are You Ready to Take Your Senior to ER?

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

GrabnGo ER Kit 4 You!

Grab n Go Ready ER Kit – Just 4 You!

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

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

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

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

“ER Grab n Go Bag” 

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

ER Info Kit for your Senior

ER Info Kit for your Senior

START WITH ER INFO KIT FOR YOUR SENIOR

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

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

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

hospital sleeping chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When You Say ‘Enough’ To Giving In Home Care

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How to make the decision to end the ‘in your home care’ of an elder. by francy Dickinson

Toots w Kathy, Merrilee n Francy at mother's downstairs area

Toots w Kathy, Merrilee n Francy at mother’s downstairs area in our home

Dear Francy: I don’t know what to do…I am in trouble and too tired to make a decision. My husband has MS and he is still functioning on his own. He is in a wheelchair but he has a good life at home, as a writer. We have three children ages 10-15 years and they are in the swirl of life. I have been a part-time cook at the local cafe. My husband’s aunt is all alone in the world and very dear to us. We have a mother-in-law outbuilding in our backyard and we have fixed it up and moved the Auntie in, to be close to us. She is a quiet and kind person that was doing for herself but she needed a lot of our help. It all seemed great for the first three months she was here. Then she got the flu and complications and she became more frail. Now, I have to care for her…running back and forth over the path to what the kids call “the cottage”. I am getting so tired and the house is beginning to feel the pressures. I don’t know what to do. Our Aunt has done nothing to upset us…she is just getting older and needs more care. Do you think this is just a bump? Or is this going to spiral down and take more of my time?

I can not tell you that, I am not a professional medical person. I am just a person that has years of giving in home care to my family and elders. So, what I will do is write down a list of things to help care givers with ‘in home care’ situations and you can pick and choose what might help you. Just remember there is no guilt when you try to give help and love to another…life changes and things often have to change. You are really in a situation that many others are…you are sandwiched in between job and family vs the care of a senior. Just the kindness of your heart, to make room for your beloved Aunt, is very dear to me. Thank you.

IDEAS OF HOW TO DECIDE, WHEN TO GIVE ELDER CARE IN YOUR HOME:

  1. YOU  have to save yourself first! My dear friend Cheryl, was a flight attendant for 25 years and they were taught to be the first to grab the oxygen when it dropped down! So they could stay clear headed and help others. Its a lesson for all of us to remember when we face situations that require so much of us as care givers.
  2. START SMALL. If you just take time to sit with your spouse and go over the needs list for your aunt and decide who will do what. Do not forget your children, they are all old enough to do little things and be in charge of this or that. Maybe they will take over more of the “in your house or yard chores” so you can go and take care of your Auntie. Be honest…this time can be an amazing learning lesson for your children and you. Giving up some of your own wants and doing for others…is what characters are built on. But this organization meeting will show you how much time you are spending. I don’t want to be out of place saying this…but a business meeting is like a “Come to Jesus”. You finally see what is in front of you.
  3. ASKING FOR HELP: If your Auntie has money then you have to be honest with her and get her to allow you to hire help. It could be a cleaning lady for both places that allows you to forget the little things a bit. The one help I insist on is a bath lady. I have said this a million times. They are worth their weight in gold and they should be the first on a sparse budget. They will take that pressure away and get the bath and hair all clean in a ‘faster than light’ action. Plus, they are another friendly face for the senior.  NO MONEY? Then you simply have to go down to the social services and get your Aunt signed up. They will do a review of her income and your care giving and they will provide help to make it easier for you. They will pay for her medications, they will provide food stamps for her food, they will pay – you – for care you are giving. (they do not pay for a spouse but they will pay for a family member or friend) Yes, in return they will make demands. You have to keep a clean area for the senior and do a few hours of nursing classes to teach you how to give healthy and wise care. But it was a life saver for me when mother’s care went into overdrive and I was not able to work any longer.
  4. BE HONEST: If you pretend life is fine, you are signing your own health decline order. This is not easy stuff…you simply have to say…I NEED REST. You can ask other family members to come one day a week, so you can ease your strain or simply sleep. You can ask your employer if you could just work two days instead of four days. Your income from the state should cover this change. You will find an increase in your expenses. Seniors require expensive food, protein drinks, Depends, extra electric bills with the increased clothes washing and heat bills. (seniors need heat all year round) Talk, the more you talk and ask for help…the more your family and community services will hear you and add you to their listing.
  5. COMMUNITY SERVICES AND FAITH BASED HELP: Even if you do not belong to a faith group, your local church, temple, etc is there for you. You are a part of their extended community and they will reach out to you. You may find that they have a list of retirees that are willing to come and just visit or sit with your senior so you can leave the house and shop. Or the senior can get a good laugh with a person of their own generation. You may find they have a food bank to help with extra items, they also have visiting lay-ministry people that will come and just talk with the senior. Do not get uppity about community help. Those services are made up of others that have gone through what you are going through and decided to put a group together to help others. Take advantage of their ideas and service time available.
  6. RELEASE ANGER: I have a list of families that are angry with their relatives because they did not help with giving care to their elder. If you can ask family to help you…to come and visit when you need to be at school for the kids…or to buy your elder a pair of slippers or new housecoat…then do it. But if they don’t…let it go. Just do not spend your already low energy on anyone that is not willing to reach out and give you a hug and help in your time of high stress. Those folks are not worth it. Let it be…
  7. GET A POWER OF ATTORNEY AND HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: I am afraid I often say this, so if you read my blog…its a repeat. But there is nothing, and I mean nothing more frustrating — than to give care to an elder on a daily basis and then have some punk realitive walk in the door and tell you that another anxiety medication is not really needed for your elder. Like they know! No one knows more than the “in home care giver” so you need to insist that you can make the decisions on the behalf of the elder. Then it will be your moral duty to make them in the best way you can, for the elder. Trust me, each time I talk about this…people think…OH my sister is better with forms and she will do it. NOT 
  8. GATHER A HEALTH TEAM: Add your senior’s family doctor, get a specialist to at least see the elder once and review things. Get a nurse to talk to or just get a nurse practitioner to be your main care giver reference. Now lets talk real. Doctors diagnose they do not treat you. A nurse or care giver treats. So you need to learn how to ask the doctor questions and understand the chemistry of the elder’s health problems. The better your questions are, the easier the care giving will be. Then you need to know what will happen at home…and what that means you will be doing about the care. If you go through a bump, ask the doctor for in home nurse care, he can order that and the nurse will show you how to treat the elder. Bring in a nurse contact or help line to help you decide how to care for the elder at home and a pharmacist to explain the medications needed. The doctor will give you drugs and what is called an Rx for things like physical therapy, wheelchairs, in home help of an occupational therapist, message, therapy sessions, supplements etc. This is important; anything your senior needs should be written as a prescription so the insurance and medicare will accept it and help pay for it. Always ask the doctor to prescribe something and to give you generic medications so you are not going down a big hole when free services and medications are available to you.
    YES> THIS MEANS YOU NEED TO BE ORGANIZED. So don’t be a baby…the more you write down, the more questions you ask, the more you get clarified…the easier the care giving will be.
    Remember; talk to a nurse about home care tips…read my blog and learn home care tips. Use the Internet for extra advise and read it all…then make your own decisions. Talk about supplements that will help the elder and special ways to use food and exercise to increase the abilities of any senior in any stage of decline. Understand bowel movement difficulty, side effects of medications, dizziness, avoiding falls, eating difficulties, hydration challenges. All these things will come up so you need to write them down and have doctor or nurse show you how to treat the problems at home. It is not scary if you understand and are prepared.
  9. NO< NO< NO: I just do not want to clean a bottom, or smell blood, give a shot, or lift the elder up out of a chair. OK…see, that is being honest with who you are. It does not make you a bad person. You need to draw a line in the sand and when you come to that line the elder is going to be placed in a care facility. Everyone has a line, yours maybe closer than mine…but that does not make me a better person. I have a disposition to give care. I never knew I did…I was never a girl that said I wanted to be Nurse Francy. Now I know, that I can turn off my mind and just give the care without getting sick or too involved in the immediate yucky situation. Some can, some cannot. Know yourself and draw your line. I have a line. I drew it with my mother and now it is firmly in place with my husband and his decline with Alzheimer’s. They have to walk or at least be transferable. I have a very bad back and I simply can not lift a huge person and walk around without a great deal of pain. What is your line in the sand? 
  10. HAVE A PLAN: Is there respite services you can use or senior day care services? Ask and find out how the local community is prepared to help you with rest. There needs to be a plan, where would you take your elder if they need to leave you? Some where close so you can visit and keep an eye on their care.  Have the place in your mind. Go and visit, tell them what you are doing and ask if they take medicare patients, if they have a long waiting list, if you could be on a secondary list of placement in case of emergency, etc. Once this is done, you will then be able to relax and know a quick transfer to a facility will not end up in you moving the senior again because the facility was not up to your standards of care. Call Hospice and ask them when you are to use their services…ask them how to judge the situation and they will walk you through a review of how to use them. So, if the senior is sinking down and wants to die at home…you can get help. Hospice also has facilities for end of life care…so find out the best way to use their services, now. Lastly, know what would happen if your elder passed in their sleep. Who do you call, is there money for a funeral, do they want a funeral. Do they want to be buried or cremated? Get it done early in the time you take the elder into your house. So as care accelerates you do not have to add another layer of upset to your own life. Get all this over and done. Then you can turn your attention to today…and making it a day of joy for you and your senior.

You may think no one cares about you being tired, upset and stressed over senior care. You may think that no one has ever been where you are today…but you are wrong. Generations have faced the same problems and found solutions that worked for them. One step at a time…give it time. A senior may have a big dip…and then in a week or two they will regroup, re energize and come back up in strength and life will go on again. Give it  all time. You take time to get over the flu…a senior takes more time. But encourage them to get well….keep them moving, drinking, eating and laughing. Let them know you want them to live…to the end of their life. Not just make it through to end. Keep your heart in the race and it will work out. Care giving is just a short part of your life time. The gift of your giving your heart…will come back to you in so many rich ways…year after year.

Blessings on all that you do for your family and your dear elder. francy

NOTE: Will you sign up to receive notice of my blogs please? You will find the button on the right side of the screen towards the top. I do not write as often now that my Georgie is in need of more and more of my own time. But I am here to do all I can to help. So send me an email if you need help. f.

How to Keep Your Senior Safe on Their Own

by francy Dickinson                www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Mom is 68 and living alone in Utah, I’m in California. She is well, doing fine, but how to do I know if she is fine- how can I care for her long distance?

My mother was on her own since she lost Dad- at 62. So my sisters and I started to check in with her on a daily basis from that time forward. Mother was strong and working until she was 70, she lived on her own until she was 95. But she needed to have assistance to be on her own all those years and it started out with the check-in phone calls. I think this is why she was so independent, because we all had our place in her life and did different things to keep her protected and engaged. So, let’s start at the top and just talk about the check-in calls.

Very few children understand that older people need to have a rutter to keep going in the right direction in their life. They do not need to have someone driving them crazy and telling them what to do, just someone checking in with them and keeping them on point. I think the best place to start is if you do not want to be checking in with your parents or senior friend or family member on a daily basis.

If you are someone that is really busy and does not want to be tied down to check in calls each day…then hire it done. Because some one has to do it.  If you live out of town or within driving distance you still need to have someone do a daily check in with your parent that is over 65. Now I am talking about a parent in good health, or bad – who lives alone. Find a person to do the check-in. You can find a senior neighbor, or a young mother who could use a little gas money while they try to stay at home to raise their children. You could use a care service if your senior needs a little more than a phone call. Find your check-in person in your seniors own neighborhood, or at the local church. Make sure it’s a person that is safe and would not harm your senior or steal from them. Then ask them to call each day, or stop by and take in their mail. That way the person is able to see how your senior is doing and report if there is anything out of order, or different about the senior.

Now, YOU…you can take 5 minutes out of your morning to check in with your parent or senior. You simply make a daily time to call. You can set up your watch to remind you and you call and make it short. This is not your usual chit chat call that you make a couple of times a week, this is a check in call and you have specific questions to ask the senior and then you hang up and get back to work.

Senior Check-In call:

  • Set a time each morning that is good for you both. Some seniors are early risers and some have sleeping problems and do not wake up until after 9:30AM so find out their pattern and work with their needs, not yours. What ever time it is – set it in your life like clock work. Set your watch or cell phone to a daily alarm to remind you where ever you are to call the senior. If you’re out of town, then check out the Magic Jack that is only $20 a year to call via your computer. Its easy to use and a terrific help with long distance calling.
  • When you call you are first going to listen for their voice tone. That is why you need to call when you know they are up and starting their day. Their tone should be strong, if it is weak or sounds like it comes from the back of their throat, there could be problems. Emotional problems are often first noticed with a strange lower than normal voice pitch. So just listen, how do they speak, they may take a few moments to warm up, but they should be alert in their speech patterns. If you hear slurring or mumbling or they sound strange, they you are alerted that something is going on that needs to be checked out by a person in their town (or you) that can drop by and see your parent and make sure everything is A-OK
  • Ask them the same questions each day; “Hi, mother, how is your morning?”  – “Have you eaten, yet? – what did you have” – “Did you take your meds this morning? If not, do it now while we are talking” – What’s your plan for today?” – “Good, well I have to get back to work, good to hear you’re busy and feeling well I’ll talk to you later.” That is it.
  • You want to know if they are up and moving, if they are sick, is it like a small cold or flu and they need some extra over the counter supplies to help them through it – or do they feel sick or weak in the morning and that may mean a doctor visit to schedule. Do they complain about a lot of pain? Then always ask them, “What number is your pain if you have 0 for none and 5 for going to the doctor?”
  • Do they remember the day? Remember they have an appointment they have been talking about for the last week? Do they have something in their day to do and already planned? Emotional health is someone with a plan, small or large- a plan for the day. Are they going out to work in the garden or do chores around the house, meeting friends for cards or lunch, watching a special show on news or their favorite morning TV shows? Something that shows they are keeping a life  in order and not  just sitting with nothing to do.
  • Are they physical? Are they doing a morning stretch and exercise, from a walk to a exercise with the TV’s  “Sit and Stretch” lady on PBS? Make sure you encourage them to MOVE…get up walk around and keep those legs working.
  • Are they eating? Make sure their breakfast is something that is healthy. Are they eating donuts or just a piece of toast, or fixing a good cereal with a fruit topping each day? Do they hate to cook? Then they should have a yogurt or an energy drink to start their day.  Common sense is what you are calling about and you need to nudge them into the common sense side of life in your morning calls.
  • Do they follow through with tasks? Did they say they were going to take out the garbage yesterday and now, today they are saying they are going to take it out again. This could show they are not following through with simple tasks. It may be a sign of loneliness, depression, or early dementia. These are the things you are looking for each day. Not that you can wave a wand and change their life, but if they have someone to talk to and to check-in with, they are more likely to finish tasks.
  • Are they going out? You can take note of where they’re going and just know that if they are going out you will want to make a quick call that afternoon or evening and check that they got back home safely, or ask them to call you back when they get in the door.
  • Do they have a cell phone on them at all times? Having a phone by their bed or chair does not help them if they get in trouble with a fall or sickness. A cell phone in their breast pocket so they can hear it, or around their neck in a holder or lanyard is what they need to do each day. If they fall or get in trouble, help is just a phone call away. I like cell phones but if they need one, then get them a medical alert system, either way…they need to know they have a way to call for help.
  • Are they bored and just want to talk? You have to get this taken care of right off the bat. The morning check-in means you just check in…as you learn to listen to their daily needs it will get shorter and shorter. You have to set the rules here, let them know you care about them, but you are at work and a quick call is all the time you can give them. If they need you for a problem to call you during the day – otherwise your chat calls are for after work.
  • Do they hate to have you call and resent it? Then sit down with them and tell them you are so busy that you do not have time to do an in person check in each day. So you need to do it on the phone each morning. You look forward to hearing their voice and knowing they are well and doing fun things for the day. Make it about you, not about them. Parents and seniors always respond better to doing things for others, then doing them for their own good.
  • What if they need you and you are at work or out of town? That is when you need to have a back up to your calls. A relative that you can call, a next door neighbor, a person that you have pre-set as a drop in back up to check on your senior – in person. I will tell you that a neighbor is usually the best bet. You will find other seniors in the area, a close friend or faith center friend, a card playing friend and so on that will drop by and make sure your parent is OK. If they are not they go to the doctor or the ER.

Living alone is a long line of days that are empty. It takes a while for anyone to adjust to life on their own again. If you parent is just newly widowed then it is part of your love to them, to check in each day and know that you need to suggest things to the parent to keep them a float. “Mom how about making that good soup you like to make this week and we can all come over on Thursday and have a quick dinner with you. We can not stay, just a drop by, have soup, hug you and off night, but it would be nice to give Joyce a night off from cooking and to see you at the same time- OK?” Give them something to do, something to look forward to, the transition to being alone is really difficult and a caring friend or relative can make a huge difference.

I have so much more on giving care in my Care-Givers Workbook 101, please come and visit my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and check out the book in both printed and eBook format to easily download. Thanks for all you do for your mom…francy

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

by francy Dickinson                       www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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