Help My Parents Can Not Take Care of Each Other

by francy Dickinson                

Dear Francy; My dad is 82 with mild dementia and osteoporosis and my mother is 80 with heart problems and weakness. They simply can no longer care for their own needs without my help. I have increased my time with them up to 2 hrs a day but I am at the end of my ability to care for them. We have no money for a retirement home and I do not know what to do? I have three siblings, all male and unable to give care and so I am on my own here.

OK, if there is simply no money (I understand they are in a smaller and older home) Here are some steps to help you out:

  1. Make sure you have your name on the Health Care Directive for both of them. This is a form that is filled out and it then goes to the notary so you can make decisions legally for your parents.
  2. Remove your attachment to your parent’s home and look at it with an eye if you were going to sell the home tomorrow. Walk through the house and mark down what has to be done to ready for sale. Heavy cleaning with older folks living there unable to see dirt or move furniture or refrigerators to get things cleaned. Walls need paint, wall paper needs to be removed, bathrooms need painting and new faucets, updating and kitchen needs declutter? Write it all down in a notebook. Edit down their things no longer used as much as you can and still keep your parents feeling safe and cozy in their home. Changes are hard for elders so make them with ease and in a quiet manner.
  3. Now, think about getting a reverse mortgage, that’s a way a lot of families are dealing with monthly income. Call a reverse mortgage place and have them come and look at the home and explain all the benefits and downfalls. That is what they will do. They will make a flat fee for doing the paperwork on the mortgage and it is done through the government, so you can feel free to take their time and ask questions. It means it is a way for your parents to get the money they have invested in their home out each month. Then when they pass the home is sold and if there is anything left it goes to their heirs on their will.
  4. Call a local real estate person and ask them to simply come and view the home and evaluate it for you. They will do this with the hope that you will use them as an agent when you choose to see the home. Also ask them if the home is rentable as an income instead of selling, they will know the area and give you guidance.
  5. Call the Veterans Association, if one of your parents has served in the military and see where they are on the health care coverage. You will find it’s a sliding scale according to the time and type of service they served. If the Vets will help with care you can enjoy their services and save some money on care.
  6. Call their Medicare supplement insurance company and tell them you need them to send you a booklet on the outline of what care their plans are providing. Then you know where you stand with money for services for your parents. Twice a year you can change Medicare supplement insurance companies, you may find that now that your parents are in a higher need of care, there is other insurance policies that will cover more of the costs. Make some calls and study the Internet on this issue, it can make a big difference in money spent.
  7. If they have attended a faith center call and ask what type of community care they provide. Often large faith centers have seniors that will give you an hour or two a week, a dinner program, or in home visiting program. It all helps.
  8. Ask about Meals on Wheels in your parent’s area, this program is delightful for seniors that no longer cook. You can supplement the extra pie or cookies, take them extras on the bigger meals you cook at home and still have the meals in the freezer for your parents to microwave. If they no longer can cook or reheat, then that option will not be there for you.
  9. Call the state welfare and ask for a booklet on what type of care they provide for seniors with small incomes and they will send you information on that form of help. This is really important, because once you know what money you have to work with you can then move on and hire help accordingly. Lets say the state will only give you food coupons, that means a couple hundred a month on their income that can be spent on care givers not food. It is a good thing to ask for help, it is there for elders and it has been paid for by your parents in their taxes for years. The state may also pay you to care for your parents so your own time with them could be increased with an income or other care services could be added.

Now that you know about their money income it is time to add to your in home care assistance or to a more traditional adult care home, or assisted living facility.

  1. It is not easy to keep a couple together in assisted living if they have different types of care required. Dementia has a staff trained to handle emotional problems and health side problems. Health care for mom takes care givers that are trained for challenging medications- those are two different care giving situations and it may take time and extra looking to find a facility or home that will fulfill both care issues. So start to call today, if you think your parents will need a spot to go to in the next few months. There are waiting lists in many facilities and you want to be prepared not stunned when the time comes to take that step. Even if you think it will be another year, talk and get on waiting lists.( This is what I do for my income, I help families find those facilities and make their senior’s transition into them. I do not charge the family a fee.)
  2. If you are going to be staying on as their care giver you have to know it will be a more time consuming effort than what you are giving now. You will sit down with your brothers and have a talk. It is no joke, this has to be an adult conversation about your parents, without your parents in the room. So you can be free to speak of their health challenges and let them all know that things are heating up and growing out of control for you personally to care for them. Many family members respond to money rather than time. So explain it will take a min of $10 up to $25 dollars an hour for in home care. If they need only 4-5 hrs a day that is $100 a day…that can add up fast and then show them your parent’s income. This is how people look at problems. To sit down and say, I need help is not enough —  show them, the needs, the time,and the money needed — that is what will shake them into understanding the problem.
  3. Tell them your options, you have now done your home work so show them the different ways that care can be given and afforded. Then ask for their support, not their help. If they have not helped in the past, they will not help now. But ask them to support you with additional money each month, even if they give you $35 a month that could buy the Ensure that your parents drink everyday, or the Depends they use, or help with a bath lady each week. Every small amount is appreciated and the commitment has to be long term. The bath lady has to be paid each week if they give the money or not. Make decisions on reality not promises.
  4. If the house is going to be sold to pay for your parents care, then you ask the family to help you ready it for sale. You may not be able to remodel or update, but you can clean. Just take one room at a time, clean out closets, give things to family and good will, do not put yourself through big yard sales, they are to hard on you. Giving time and care is overwhelming, do it with thought about your own health.
  5. Paint as many rooms as you can to give it a low key color update. Use colors that are popular in your area. Update little things like lite fixtures in the bathroom and new faucets in the kitchen. Use the inexpensive vinyl tiles that you can easily put down over old vinyl floors, remove carpets if the house has wood floors and polish the floors. If you plan your actions over the next two months with help from your brothers on room by room, the house will look fresh and clean and update the yard to make it have nothing junky outside and just a clean lawn and some bark on the flower beds. Then you will be able to get the most for the house without remodel prices.
  6. You will need to keep your parents calm while you are doing this so if the project is big ask a brother to take one or both of your parents for a weekend so you can do the work without them worrying over it all.
  7. If you are not going to sell the home right away, still do as much of work as you can as you go along. The day of selling the home will be close in the future and work has to be done now or then.
  8. You will need to call an in home health care service. They have trained nurses, PT, OT, nutrition and bath ladies. They also handle the care giving with light housekeeping, cooking and tending care givers. All trained, bonded and ready to help you with chores for your parents. What you can not do, they fill in. This is easiest way to get help. You can add a few hours a week at first, a bath lady is my favorite pick and then increase as the need and finances are there for extra help. They are also ready to be your back up if you are unwell and unable to attend to your parents needs. They will come to your home and do a review and then you set up a plan of needs.
  9. If you choose to directly hire someone to cover for you each day, make sure you do a background check and call the references, you want a quality person to care for people you love. Horror stories can be avoided with doing a good check on the person’s prior job abilities and people skills. No smoking, drinking or drugs are allowed by any care giver so let them know that from the get go. Ask your Tax Person how to make the payment to the person you hire on your own. A service takes care of all taxes and pays your caregiver for you. I you hire a person on your own, payment for the person is up to you. Remember to ask if the care givers are a tax deduction for your parent’s taxes too. Remember if your parent or parents are in your home, they can be your own tax deduction for their care.

Now, I have a workbook that was designed for family members to read and use if they have never had any training in caring for a seniors. You will find my book under Products page of my website Its called Care Giving 101 Workbook and you can download it as an E-book or as a printed workbook sent to you via mail. That will detail the basic care giving needs and how to handle them for you as time goes on. I have both health and Alzheimer’s tips in the workbook. Its been a great help for many who are facing giving care to parents and or spouses.

Hope this all helped you – you can find me on Twitter @seniorcaretips and this wordpress site has many older blog entries that you will find helpful as you add giving care to an already busy life with your own family and job. I also have a talk radio site that is fun to give a listen – its an easy click from my website…thank you for your time and blessings on your giving care.

Please do send me emails if you have a question on care, I am happy to help. francy


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

by francy Dickinson    

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

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

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

Tips on dealing with anger;

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Tips for Just Retired Seniors

By francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I just retired and my kids want me to babysit my granddaughters, my husband wants to by an RV and I just want to rest for a while. What do your seniors say?

They say, “None of the above!”

After talking to so many seniors about their early retirement; lots have told me that’s where they made some errors in judgment, just because of the reasons you stated. Everyone else has ideas for you and you have to be the one to make the decisions about your own life path. All these years you have done things for a work, home, family, children, spouse – now it’s YOU time.

So here are some tips to follow and see where they lead you:

  • Do not make a big move in your first 6mos -1yr of retirement. Just let the dust settle. If you really have a move in mind, spend that time sorting your old life and selling things from the house and getting your mind in a place that you can walk away without regret.
  • If you do move keep one foot on your home base. Lots of seniors run down to sunny climates and begin their play time. Nothing wrong with that, but if you become unwell, lose a spouse or just age to the point you need assistance (we all do you know) then what? Will your children or family be able to care for you miles and miles away? So, the idea is maybe keep a small home, condo or even some things you do not want to move in a storage unit. That way you can rent them out to make the payments and then have a place (or things) that are easy to return to if you need to make that change in the future.
  • If you do go on an RV trip, keep your home. I have talked to dozens of RV’rs that love their life. But they have been so upset making a complete cut from their things back home. It sounds great to just hit the road, but in time, you will want to settle in somewhere. If you keep your things in storage you can retrieve them at will. If you need to settle into an RV park most find a trailer is easier for long term living than a motor home. If you have plenty of money, no worries, but those that I talked to were on a very strict budget and it was hard for them to change their mind in mid-stream.
  • Think things through for a 5-10-20 year plan. You may think that a good ten years of retirement is what you will get in life. But the world is changing more and more folks live into their 100’s. You need to sit down with family and have a plan:
    Example: 5yr/stay in family home and travel in RV – 10 yr/Purchase a home that is long term retiree – 20yr/know that you may need assistance to stay in your home, or move to a retirement center, small apartment or live with your children. Think about your choices and what you want will be able to afford.
  • Prepare your future first: Get your will, your health care directive and insurance papers all in order, copied and give to your children for reference. Get a good inventory program (this one is free ) and take pictures of your things from room to room. Use this for insurance and your will gifting or remembrance. Take time to mark your things for family and friends add that listing into your will papers. Talk about your wishes for funerals and get the expenses figured out or prepaid. All of this can be done in the first few months of your retirement and then the nasty subjects of old age are behind you and you can run with the wind at your back.
  • Decide what you like to do and do it. Start to make a list for you and with your spouse of things you love to do but really never had time to do. Some call it a “bucket list” – I call it a fun guide of your retirement. Then when you start to hit the road to travel you have your favorite hobbies or interests right by your side to guide you. This should be done in a spiral notebook kept on the counter in the kitchen. Each partner should jot down things they enjoy as they think of them and then in a couple of months sit down and really look at it and see what each of you desires today and in the next few years.
  • Talk to your children and set rules about Grand Parents. What are you really willing to do? Maybe a once a week babysit or on sick days you go over and take care of the grand or great grand kids. Maybe one full weekend a month you take the grand children to give your kids a rest. But make the deal your deal. Make it a way to enhance your children’s lives, not make their life easy breezy at your expense. So many seniors work as day care for their kids, but then they get stuck. If you do take on the care giving, add the time frame. I will do this for three months, or every six months we will re-visit this and see how I feel about it.
  • Life is short, live it. My mother and dad spent their whole life talking about what they would do when they retired. They had little money and no time, so the future wishes were safe for them to make. The bump? Dad died at 62 and never got to retire. Mother told me she thought she would live just a few years more, but she lived 38 years after he passed. That is a lot of alone time. So, take advantage of retirement while you and your spouse or both well and together. Yes, grandchildren and family are important, but so is your time together.
  • Haven’t done anything with each other for a while? Take a class. I find this is the first thing that will bring an older couple together. Dance class, stained glass window class, how to fly fish class, boating safety class- whatever hits your buttons. Maybe each one of you choose and both of you attend both classes. Senior Universities are cropping up all over the country. They’re free classes given in retirement communities by retired professionals with a wide verity of backgrounds. They are fun, they are usually free or nominal and you can really enjoy the information and get a new outlook on life.
  • Computer working well for you? Got a Blackberry, know how to text? You might want to find a senior center in your area and join a FREE Computer Club. I worked with a PC Club for years giving free – how-to classes. It was fun for me and fun for my seniors to learn all about the Internet and the new gadgets and just enjoy life online, instead of barely using your computer – Worse yet, think you can live without one? If the world is over taken with computers and gadgets today – what will happen in 10-20 years? You will be older and more of life with revolve around new tech. Get on the band wagon, do not feel dumb, feel empowered with new information and enjoy the connections like Twitter. I am @seniorcaretips on Twitter and its filled with terrific people giving me powerful information about my life and business on a daily basis. Don’t be shy, join us!
  • Don’t be embarrassed about “senior” as your new title. So what? Life moves on and you are moving and grooving with it, right? Ask for those senior discounts they make a huge difference in your spendable income. We are using Shari’s web site and George gets his free pie coupons and I get a two for one dinner coupon and their Honor Points. You can find the info on their website Just one among many companies that know that senior power means money and they are willing to give discounts and free incentives. Coupons may have seemed below you when you worked and were so busyà now a little clipping for an extra $20-$40 dollar savings on your groceries means you can go out to dinner and still be on budget. Remember, always ask for the senior discount, when buying food, services or products – get in the habit and I will assure you 10-20% will be your min. savings overall. Kool!
  • Buying big ticket items turned out to be a no-no for seniors. They thought that a top of the line, new car, all paid for would be perfect for them for the rest of their retirement with less driving. But 10 years down the road they needed a new car. They bought a new RV vehicle instead of a good used one and it deprecated fast. You have to force yourself to think “long term” and live “long term”
  • Another problem, new retirees bought a smaller home that was modest for retirement, but did not plan for long term. 10-15-20 years later the roof, the carpet and other major repairs are needed and they do not have the money to make that happen. If you plan a retirement home, make it long term. One story, good flooring that will hold though the years, a safe and easy to use bathroom and shower, a yard that is not too big and a roof and siding that will last. Don’t forget enough bedrooms and baths so you can have a roommate or care giver in the future. Think down the line, when you are older and unable to pack up and make another move. Get your retirement home in place with the idea you may be there till you are in your mid 90’s. You may not have a spouse and be living there on your own. That gives you a different eye on things when you look for your new home.
  • Join AARP, they are the largest senior organization and they represent millions of older Americans. They offer lower fees on insurance, medical supplies, and traveling discounts. They have millions using their service so you get discounts that can really keep you aligned for future drops in your income.
  • Take a safe driver’s class. I have taught safe driving classes for the last four years. I love them, the seniors that take them get a discount on their insurance and it bubbles up the defensive driving techniques that we all know, but are stored way in the back of our brains. Good for everyone over 50! Don’t forget to add Road Side Service to your insurance listing. You do not want to be stuck on the side of the road and pay for a tow or tire change!
  • Seniors living with roommates. If you are in a larger home and do not want to move, maybe the idea of a roommate to help with the costs will be just right for you. George and I invited my dear friend into our home. We have a full downstairs with bedrooms and bath. She was on her own and could not afford a lot of rent and with G’s Alzheimer’s we could use the extra income. We now are living as a family and it has been very rewarding for us all. Think on this, it might make a big difference if you are single and want to keep that family home for a few more years!
  • Think medical care, do you have long term insurance, do you have your doctors in order and your list of Rx all ready to take with you on the road? Think of things that may not affect you today, but might mean your whole quality of life in a few years. Example: using a nationwide drug store chain for your Rx means you can fill it in any city you visit, instead of trying to have the pills mailed.
  • Change your habits over to email and text with a cell phone that will inform you of incoming messages. That way you will stay in touch with people where ever you are located. You could be on a trip to Reno or in your backyard and you will know how to call for help and receive family updates. Buy a GPS Garmin type of gadget that shows you the way home from anywhere in the world. That way you never have to use a map or hear, “Where are we?” again.
  • Watch your food intake. Staying at home, by the kitchen, can mean your weight goes up with the amount of easy snacks or boredom. Take up a new walking routine, join the senior center or Y and have fun with a senior exercise program 2-3 times a week. Those things are so good for you and your spouse plus they add new friends to your new way of life.
  • Dedicate yourself to having good check-ups. You have been too busy for doctor visits in the past, now that is behind you. Do not be afraid to face your body and what it holds. Living long and living well are two things that need to go together. Get your breast, your heart, your prostate, your colon, your blood pressure checks and figure out how to eat, exercise, and add supplements and medication to keep you as well as you can be. Have a calendar with doctor appointments firmly made ahead of time. So if you travel you can still stay well. Find out if your health insurance covers you in other states and how to use it if you are out of your home area. You may be able to visit other clinics or doctors in cities that will keep you from shortening your travel plans. Get extra travel insurance for health, if you’re going out of country.

Whatever you decide to do, do not sit down and watch TV all day. Get up, keep a daily planner just like you always did and have your days filled with events. Walking, talking, driving – keep that mind working. Volunteer, I mean the kind of volunteer work that really uses your talents, do it with your friend or spouse and do it often. Do it if you travel, every town has needs for a few hours of volunteer work. Retirement is simply leaving your place of employment, not retiring from life. Keep busy, join, help, love, dance, play and write. You are just starting the rest of your life. Mother used to say that you will have time to do anything you want when you retire. She lived forty years of retirement and she traveled, took classes, learned to paint, learned to make dolls, gardened, knitted, baked hundreds of dozens of cookies, played cards with gal pals and still had time to spend with me. At 100 years she passed with a library book half read on her bed side table. Life goes on longer and better than you ever imagined!

Happiness on your new adventure, please do go to my website and enjoy the information for seniors I have my Dear Francy blog information that goes back a long way with loads of tips. I have written a “How to Give Seniors Care- Care giving 101 Workbook” that is designed to help spouses and family care givers with basic home nursing and care information. And I have added a new venture called Loving Memories that is a FREE service that finds just the right senior care facility for your family member.

Thanks for reading and join me with my on demand talk show at – I have a new one scheduled on this topic and you can read about it and join me live, call in or listen at your leisure on demand. Thanks francy

“Change” the Word sends a Chill!

by francy Dickinson                 

Dear Francy: My mother is not coping well with any little change. It’s getting so bad, that I simply do things now without telling her. Can I help her through this?

Change, some of us will climb a steep mountain instead of facing change – I do understand but what I have been doing for a long time is trying to divert the senior’s thought pattern to the outcome of change, not the actual change itself.


  • If you’re feeling that a doctor you are using is simply not working for you and you want to change. Then you put on your change hat and say; “Mom, I have found this great doctor that’s really close to us and has a wonderful referral list. I talked to a friend about him and he gives him five stars, I made an appointment and we can see how we like him.”  No mention of the other doctor, if she asks, you just say we need someone for a back up just in case. Keep it calm and keep it safe.
  • You know your mom has to stop driving and you are trying to ease her into the idea and she kicking her way out of it. You then put on the change hat, “Mom I was thinking that when you decide to stop driving it would be fun to give your car to one of your grand daughters. Like Shelley, she is taking that bus to work everyday and it will be ages before she can save for a car, think how special it would be for her to drive your car and keep it in the family?”
  • Your dad knows that he has to stick to his diabetic diet, but he is making the change a nightmare. Off comes the son/daughter hat and on goes the change hat, “Dad, I just bought a new cookbook on diabetic cooking and it features desserts. I’m going to make you a different dessert each week. I want to start with this great pie they have on the cover.” When you get to the house with pie in hand, make sure you leave with all the cookies, candy and goodies he has stashed away. Replace them with no sugar treats and remember carbs are like sugar, so the bread needs to be wheat instead of white. But make the change out well worth the fuss!
  • Your senior is really unhappy in their retirement place. A change of living is going to take place and that is a worst change of all. Change hat ready? ” Mom, I walked through a care center right by my place the other day. It is such a close drive and we could have lunch together if you were over there. I love the way they do the colors in the rooms and their food was so nice, the people are so kind and I loved it. I want you to be happy again so we can spend more time together. Let’s go over and walk through together.”

See what I mea? Always talk about a cheery outcome, not the change. Make the change, yes…but make it with a feeling of positive movement instead of leaving something good behind. Think forward and dangle a carrot. If you want a young child to eat veggies, you always dangle a carrot, like dessert in front of him/her. So do it now. When you move we will have to get you some new pillows or a couple new comfortable robes or slippers, or go over and have lunch with her each Friday and see if you can get your siblings to join you. Those are the payoffs and that is how change is done without so much fuss.

If there is a lot of fuss. The truth is, you are the caregiver and you make the decisions. Making sure they are kind and just – the decisions are on you and you have to be the “mom” here and there with no guilt attached. Just as you said no to your kids- this is a – we will do this change – to your senior. It’s the hard part of giving care. Sometimes loving care does not make you popular.

Please do go to my website and click on my new BlogTalk Radio Show icon  and have a listen to my radio shows. I cover, Senior Care Tips, Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits and Moving Mom out of the Family Home….it’s fun listening, I know you’ll enjoy it! The shows are on demand so you listen when ever you want to and you just click on the PLAY button…easy breezy-

Thanks for all you do for your mother…francy

Senior Refuses to Eat Real Food – Getting Weak

by francy Dickinson              

Dear Francy; My dad is just not eating. He will make an occasional piece of toast and he will eat if I am in front of him and the meal is fresh. He refuses frozen food, left overs, and canned food and I am watching him get thin and weak in the body and emotionally. What can I do?

There are lots of things to review and many of them will take professionals to help you. Doctor, counselor, additional help with in-home care…let’s see what we have for you:

  • Questions: Is he depressed and missing his wife and just not eating because of those memories? If you know this, a primary care physician can help with meds to bring his emotional level up and help him handle the grieving. If you do not know, then a trip to a family counselor to have him talk over his problems about his grief and his eating might be even more helpful – before he sees his doctor.
  • Does he just have nothing in his life and his days are melding into weeks and months? That can really effect a person that has always had someone to keep him company and keep him busy. If so then you can take steps and get him into a senior center once a week. Have him volunteer once a week to use his talents. If he tinkers- then a Boys & Girls club with all the equipment and repairs that are needed all the time is good. Just use your creative thoughts on this and find a place that can fill his needs. Even if he does not like it, make him do it. If he will not go out to others have him come in to you. A day or two at your place on the weekend when he is surrounded by family and have him working on your yard, porch, paint, or fix the leaks in the faucets. You can think of things to do for him, he needs to be busy in his mind and helping you at the same time is “a feel good for him”. If he can not do it alone, you will just have to give him a gentle, but consistent push.
  • Make sure your dad is included in a monthly family outing. That’s a trip to a movie, a museum, a community event like a street fair, a car trip to a larger city, or family birthday celebration. These are the things that give a life structure- when there’s an event on the calendar other than a doctor’s appointment!
  • He likes your food, how about finding someone in the neighborhood that is older and will share dinners with him. You can pay them $20-$50 a week for food and they can send over a dinner to him each night. Perfect for a retired lady in the neighborhood, gives her food to cook and an extra income. Plus, he gets a visit, or a walk each evening. If nothing in the neighborhood, ask around to friends – you will find so many single ladies all alone that would love to be busy. This is not looking for love for your dad…we are talking good food here. He helps her she helps him, healthy business.
  • Can he afford an assisted living?  This is where he has a place that is an apartment type of residence and they go out to the main hall for dining three times a day. They have other people there for companionship and many different events to keep them all busy. If he misses people and is retreating, this might be his answer. He could sell the house and leave those memories in place and then move into a new life. I know it means money, but that is why he has invested in a home all of these years, to give him security and care now that he is older.
  • Could he afford an in-home care person? You just call a care service and ask them for an assessment and they will tell you what is needed and then you tell them what your budget is and together you come up with a care plan. A care giver will be in his home each day for a few hours that can make the meals and keep him up to date on meds and his exercise. You come and visit on the weekend or in between what you can afford to pay for care givers. You work less, your dad gets more care…it’s a nice fit. Plus, everyone is nicer to an outside of the family care giver. It is just the way of life. So, if he does not eat for you, he will eat for the care giver.
  • Can you make a deal with a family member to come over once or twice a week and then you come over the same and he is covered most days? I know this is hard, but you know, your sibling, his sister, or a niece might do it, or a close family friend and they will just come and give him a couple of hours. Now, they will not be cleaning or doing chores, they will visit and do his food. But if money is really low, you need help, you need to ask the family to give time. Most of the family can commit to a day of a couple of hours. Do the math, two family members and you makes a good care plan.
  • Can he come and spend weekends with you? Even if you both do not want to live together, you might find that the weekends of living together will give him good food, interaction and raise up his emotional level to help him through the week. You send home meals for the rest of the week. Buy good plastic covered dinner containers and as you cook just make one more portion, that way he has food that is not frozen and tastes like family cooked it!
  • This all sounds great but your dad is a stubborn and does not respond to anything? Well, here is the truth, life is never perfect and he has to know that is the case. So if he feels this way and will not respond, then you get together with your husband or other siblings and go and sit down and have a talk with him. Circle around him and tell him, this is the way life is going to be. You can not sit here and do harm to yourself. You are not dying you are well and you are doing very bad job of taking care of yourself. We as a family are going to have to make some decisions on your care. If you want to help us, then here are three choices you can make, otherwise, we will have to make the decisions for you. If you need to have a third party with you then you  hire a Senior Care Consultant, that is what I do. I help them with family meetings and get the ball rolling. There is no anger or childish behavior during the meeting, this is all for your dad. You decide.

I hope that you have already gotten his power of attorney for health reasons. If you do, then the decisions that you need to make for your dad are all in your hands. If not, get that done. I have the information in earlier blogs and in my Senior Care 101 Workbook –  

I always try to put my mind into the senior that I am caring for at the time. Have they suffered a loss of a wife, child, job, health, strength, or are in dementia? Those things make their lives so much more complicated. Try to remember that when you are treating the body, that the mind and heart are all in the mix together. So proper medication, clean surroundings, good companionship, a few laughs, busy days, events on their calendar, and good food all go together to make a senior have a life that feels worth living.

You have been so good to your dad, like my mother, he does not even see you standing there. I know it’s frustrating when you’re trying to help him and he does not respond, but you just have to force yourself not to take it personally, he does love you. As a matter of fact; he is probably mad at the fact that you have to bother over him. My mother told the care givers that she just wanted to go and let me live my life – That made me feel so sad that she was that upset about having to “need care”. There is no way out as we go into advanced age and need help, we need help. And there you are – standing next to your dad giving him love, that is a very good thing.

I know you can be creative with all of this – you have already done so much for your dad. Keep it up- the times you spend with him right now, in the middle of all this care giving, will enrich the rest of your life. Thank you, francy

Have You Read Your Crystal Ball Lately?

by francy Dickinson             

Dear Francy; My dad passed five years ago and I gave mother my word I would be there to care for her and she would be OK. But in the last couple of years I have had arthritis come into my life. I am really getting crippled up and I know I will not be able to care for mother as I had promised. My heart feels heavy, but I think I have to tell her to make other plans.

When I read your email I just see the love you have and the honorable person you are and I am so sorry you’re facing such a nasty condition with your arthritis. But you know that’s why we have Plans B and C and D and E – because life changes. We may know about and appreciate those that can read crystal balls and see the future, but rarely are we lucky enough to have that knowledge when we make our own plans and promises. 

You are not alone. All too many couples will retire and hit the road in an RV. They sell their home, their things and they take off for the sunshine states. They are so happy that no one will dare try to talk them down. Once there they enjoy the life of leisure with new friends and all seems fun until they hit a bump. One of them has health challenges, both of them miss their family and friends, the driving is to hard for them, the RV setup and break out is to much for them. Something happens and then what? Then they have a trailer or RV that has depreciated in value, no home to go back to and no things to set up a household. What do they do- life changes, money and income have lowered since they retired and they are really in a pickle.

My mother sold her large family home and went together with my sister to remodel and build a second story for her to live in over my sisters home. The full amount of money that mother had from her house sale went into the remodel. The deal was my sister would have mother there for the rest of her life, living without charge and that my sister would provide care for mother so she would not have to move into a nursing home unless she was really unwell. For ten years mom and my sister had a ball together. They did hobbies, gardened and shopped together. They had dinners and parties together. They went on small trips together. Good times for both of them until, my sister became unwell and passed very quickly of cancer. Then life hit the windshield when mother found out their agreement of a life-long place for her to live and have care had…turned into my sister’s will of leaving the full house to both of her sons, no provisions for my mother. It was a mistake that cost my mother her peace of mind for the rest of her life. She did stay in the home without further payments because her grandson moved in, but the care part was out the window. It became a daily need of myself or other family to care for her. Until she was unable to live alone and then I had her move in with me. This was no ones fault, just a mistake in the legal agreement and who is ever thinking that they would outlive their daughter? 

One of my mother’s best friends had a son just my age. We grew up together really and when his mother started to age she bought him a home right next door to hers so he could be close to care for her.  But, he began to drink and do drugs heavily and soon he just wanted money from her. More and more money. He would tell her to write him a  check or he would not do the shopping or the whatever it was she needed. She was in lots of trouble with him – welding his power over her. As her only child, he had her power of attorney and her life soon became a prison. We were all heart broken over the situation, yet no one could do anything about it and she soon died of a stroke. Had she known, she would have had a dear cousin take care of her legal side of life, but she loved her son and never thought he would treat her that way. She did not have that crystal ball and it made for a sad ending to a lovely lady.

I have watched these and other sad stories so much that I preach Plan A, B and C all the time. If you can not care for your mom, be honest. It’s certainly not because you do not care for her, you simply are not able to do it. So, make plans. Have her sell her home and move into a retirement apartment that has care provided for it’s residents. Have her hire a young person to come over for two hours a day to do things for her. Be creative with different choices and you will see that its not that bad to change directions in the middle of the path. But if you let it slip and she becomes unwell and all of the changes have to happen when she is not able to deal with them, that is not fair. You may have to make plans for your own personal future as well. Maybe you two will find a place that has assisted living help together! Just know that your decisions and your life path may make changes and as long as you can discuss them, ask others for input and help and know when to call for help instead of ignoring the situation….that is the way loving families handle bumps in life…talking, sharing and taking actions that are well thought out. Plan A has to change to Plan B and later it may move on into Plan C. But without that crystal ball, those plans have to be in place, so the future is as good as it get. Not a sad note to a dear life.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and please do go and visit my website and get more tips on senior issues and care giving at

Thanks, francy


WHAT do I do with Mother’s Stuff?

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; My mother has lived with me for four years and now she is moving into a care center. I have paid over $200 month to keep her things in storage for her and now, I know she will never be on her own again, what do I do?

Well, it is not the best time to attack the storage unit with her new change of pace into a care center. Wait until she is settled first and then you can decide what to do. But something does have to happen, there is no purpose to keep things in a storage unit that could be given a new life out and about. Here are some ideas that I have used.

Storage Unit or Family Home you are going to be the referee for this process, so take off your daughter hat and put on a neutral hat and be kind to all involved.  

  • First, you want to take an inventory (photo inventory). This is not a fun thing to do, but it has to be done. So plan for a weekend and get a gal pal to help or your teen and above children. You take your trusty digital camera and have it all charged up and ready for loads of pictures. Have a few boxes in your car and a permanent marker at hand. You will need a box cutter and then more of the packing tape to re-tape the boxes.
  • Now I have a sorting tool called, I just know what is not going to go to anyone I know – family or otherwise. That knowing means that I have a few large trash bags at the ready and they are going to be your dump bags.
  • Then there will be the bags that will be give away to charity bags & boxes.
  • Then you will have a few boxes for family.
  • I put the family boxes out and put names on them. I included the boys, too. Because some day they will have wives and a household.
  • Line up all the boxes of what I will call your mother’s grand children, grand nieces, great grand children. Then put the boxes out that have your mother’s children’s names and you just start to sort. Then put one box aside for Family& Friends.
  • I would think you would know enough of each of their tastes if they have homes and how they dress to know if they would like a vintage dress or coat. Maybe a handbag or evening bag, gloves and even a pair of very unused shoes. All the rest of that sort of thing goes to the give away pile. Your mother has all she needs to wear at this time, so you do not have to worry over older clothes. Do go through pockets, inside purses and such things –  valuables do get left behind and you do not want to send them to the charity without a check.
  • China and special things. Here you have a duty to share the wealth with the family. The best pieces go to the nearest in her heart. But do not bother giving china to people who do not cook or entertain. It’s best to give china to someone that does the family dinners. The rest of the things. The side dishes, the older generation dishes you need to divide up among the siblings. The little things like wine glasses, tea cups, salt and peppers, sugar, creamers they go into the grand and great grand children boxes. Just take turns and know you are spreading the memories around. 
  • Gifts; most of us know the different gifts that were given to our parents through the years. If you sister gave something to your mom, put that item into her box. If your dad gave something to your mom share those with all of you.
  • The special memories need a box. There will be lots of photos that can be gone through at another time. Put those into a large plastic bin. Old photos, pictures of your older grand parents, wedding certificates, hand written recipes, old family books and such – those go into the plastic bins. No worry over sorting, you can do that at another time. They will go to a person that enjoys older memories, there is always someone in the family that loves the stories and keeps the photos. Now days a simple computer program means it can all be scanned and then given a copy to every family member so you all get to have those special old photos and recipes and bible entries of years ago.
  • All the everyday things, like towels, stepping stools, things from her everyday life, they all go to charity or dump.
  • Her furniture – take a picture of the pieces and spread them around to anyone that wants it. Usually no one will really want her furniture unless you have a person with a new apartment or home.
  • Books should be sorted for money or notes tucked in their pages and then given away to chairty. The fine furniture take the pictures and ask her who she wants to have them. Usually family ask for things long before the parent goes into sickness so have your mother decide.
  • Once you have finished the sorting then you go back to the boxes. Find a small table and go to each box and lay out the contents of the box and take a picture of it and then put it back into the box wrapping it carefully this time. Repeat this process with all the boxes and then close them up and replace them in the storage unit and then lock it up.
  • Now, you need to go home and print up a small pictures of each of the boxes and contents. You put the name of the person on each and you go over to your mother and you review what you have there and what you have giving each person. This is when you ask if it looks OK and she will say yes or no. Then you ask about the heritage questions so you know where she got things and who gave them to her and how old they are and such. So each box will have a picture on top and then the description of the things inside. If your mom wants to give one thing to her and not to him, then take note of the change and do it. Remember to use your camcorder or voice recorder to put her information on the tape, it makes it easy for you to share and nice to have her voice talking about family history that you can use on a website or save on a disk.
  • I like to remember people that are close to your mother in the end of her life. Maybe a neighbor or a young person at church and so on, they could get a little candy dish, or pin that your mother always wore. Let your mother think about it, it will give her lots to do and you can spend a few visits working on the project.
  • Now, when the boxes are given out, there is no muss or fuss, your mother has viewed the contents, you have written down the history and they can know they get a little piece of family history with each box they open.
  • Jewelry is different. I always give jewelry to the siblings and not to the grandchildren. It is up to the siblings to know if their children will take care of the jewelry or expensive art. You can write notes on the things and let them know your mother wanted her grand daughter to have this for her wedding – type of thing. That’s special and it releases you from hurt feelings.
  • Now, you can see, if you take pictures, review it with your mother as much as she can do without getting too upset or tired. You become the person that is doing the work, but not the person that “controlled” the distribution. Even if your mother has passed, this way of taking photo’s is good. One person may say they wanted something special and you can show them that they got just as much as their sister and if they want that item to ask her now and make a trade of something in their own box.

I know it sounds nuts, but things mean a lot to people. Being fair and doing all that you can is all that is asked. Hurt feelings can last years. It can break up a family of siblings in no time. I tried hard to make it fair and as a matter of fact, I personally took very few things. I have no children and so I just had the things that mother had given me through the years while she was alive. I had no one ask me about anything that I separated for them. I was ready – I had the photos and I was ready to show them to anyone. I also did something that I think is important.

Long before mother was ill, I had her take special things and give them to her grandchildren or kids as we went through the holiday time or birthdays. I would keep her from sending money and asked her to give them a pin she loved, or a candle holder, etc. It was a nice way for her to share the stories for them to remember.

When you hand over the things you simply say.

“You know these things belong to Mother and they mean a lot to her. But they are really family pieces. If you do not want them any longer, or do not use them please give them back to any family member and we will hold them for one of the future family members to enjoy in years to come. We all understand that some things do not fit into some lives, but please think of these things as yours to enjoy but the family’s to pass down to in our line of heritage.”

You will never get a guarantee of this, but in the middle of a nasty divorce they can always say that you considered those items to belong to the family as a whole, not an individual to sell or give away to anyone outside of the family. I always think it’s so sad to go to antique shops and see lovely pictures of people with no names and no home or a family member. They are just a photo in a pretty frame hanging on a wall.  To keep that from happening, stories of who your family members were and where they lived bring them to life and they mean more to your neices and nephews than just a frame or an old sugar pot.

Lots of work ahead, but you have your family’s history in your hands and that’s a very important thing. Thank you for caring for your mother. I hope you will go to my website and get more tips on giving care and family issues at

Thank you, francy