Mom’s House is a Mess- Help!

Mother, Toots, me on the left and my sis Merrilee on the right

by francy Dickinson   www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

Dear Francy: My mother’s home is such a mess. I go over to care for her and it is just a nasty experience. I just do not even want to be there let alone be there often to care for her. She still is on her own, she hates anything I do for her and its her home. I mean what can I do?  

Make changes…you know the sad news about getting older is that if you need help from others the rules change. What did you do when you became an adult and you were still living in your parent’s home? You wanted to have your own things, you wanted more freedom and you wanted your own time frame. But your parents had home rules and you had to live within them so YOU moved out. That is how the world moves. But now its the opposite. Your mom wants to be in her home and yet she needs you or someone to care for her. She has to change, she can get mad and she can yell and say hurtful things all she wants. But the truth is, her home needs to change. Since you are the girl in charge…you have to make those changes.   

Ask family members or lifelong friends to ease your work by talking to her or becoming a team member and helping you with logical changes to keep your mother safe and well inside her home. Keep her own tastes and habits in mind, but work around them, so she will be safe and able to stay in her home as long as possible. Without change; she will have to go into a care facility and leave her beloved home. There is not a lot of wiggle room for her anymore…so a combined front of family, friends and you…will make the change more productive. Start small but keep pecking away till the job is done.  If your mom has problems with the changes, get her help. There are people that specialize in senior issues and doctors that will medicate so she can relax and not be so upset over change. So here are some ideas of how to begin.  

Check off the ideas you can use and DO IT:

  1. Make a list: get a notebook and walk around the house and take notes on what would have to be done to sell your mother’s home. Remember your mother will have to sell that home to go into a retirement, care facility or when she passes. So this is your way to get the project in your mind and begin the process. Go from room to room and treat them like they do on the TV…decide how to update them for a small investment and faster sale. This is your “private list” to work off of as you go along. I just think that the changes have to be made, so why not make them so your mom can enjoy the fresh paint and clean area while she is living in her home. Why wait till she moves to make changes that she could have enjoyed while she lived there?
  2. Start with the rooms that your mother uses each day. Her bedroom, her sitting room, her kitchen and her bath. Only think of the rooms that make up her day, not the full home. It will be a small start, but will make a big impact. Start in the bedroom. Take note of this as the main focus for a week or two. Start with sorting the closet. Tell your mom, that you are going to sort through her clothes with her and put the summer and winter ones in two different places so she has more room. Then start the project slowly…do it in a room where she is not involved and take out all clothes that are really unusable. The ones that need care or cleaning and put them into black plastic lawn bags and remove them to the garage or your car. Get rid of them. Then ask her to help you go through each drawer and the closet and slowly tell her the off-season goes into big plastic bins to be brought out when the time is right. Then remove the bins to storage and sort them for old clothes and get rid of those to the charity of your choice. This can be done slowly so each of your visits you do a drawer or two, or you can schedule a weekend to stay with her and just get it done. Now that you have the closet clean and the clothes in order. You do the chest of drawers. Step by step until you have pared down her wardrobe and removed things that simply will never to be used again. That done…go out and buy some new sheets and bedding, possible new pillows and drapes. Then have a family member or another person come in and paint the room. It has to be done in one day…so you need to start as soon as she rises for the day. Think of the future sale and make the room look updated with a neutral paint color and new “bed in a bag” for the bedroom. You will now have one room cleaned and ready to show for a future sale. Your mother will have clean and painted walls, fresh linen and feel good, even if she complains.
  3. Go on and do the bathroom…make that an ongoing project over a week of your visits. Go through the drawers and clean them and put fresh Rubermaid drawer liners in them. Buy a few small plastic trays that will fit in the drawers and shelves to keep her make up and personal things handy. This is so important. It will clean the area and make the ease of use for your mother so much easier. Older people forget where they put this or that. When you have cleaned down the many years of bathroom stuff and old pill bottles and tubes of unknown creams and tackled bits and pieces– you will have a room that is now easy to use and ready for the update. Once again, paint the room…change out the vanity light to give it an update look and if you can afford it match new faucets with the light fixture. Get a new shower curtain and put on a hand-held shower spray with a bath chair for your mothers’ use. Go out and buy two large bath towels, four hand towels and a package of white face-clothes (12). Put the face-clothes in a small basket easy for her to reach. Get her a new hand cream and hand soap and allow her to feel and use the two new rooms. Dont forget to place a plastic bin for dirty clothes in the bedroom or bath…clothes are not to be put on the floor for cleanliness with elder care giving.
  4. Now that you have hit the two rooms that have the least emotional problems…you are ready to go on to the living room area. She will have seen your work, felt the fun of the result with the paint and update and she will be easier to handle. I think it should take about two days to do the living room. But first look at it closely. Figure out who can help you remove the newspapers and magazines and ask them to come with boxes and be ready to remove them completely. Figure out if you need to add a new sitting chair that is easier for her to use. Get the chore and its steps in your mind and then ask a family or friend to take her out for a day or over the weekend. Clear the room in one day and then paint the room in the next day. Remember, think of how the house will be for sale. Remove all the trivial build-up that has taken place over 20-40 years. Then make what she needs even better. Choose a paint color that will go along with the rest of the house. Replace the many grand children’s pictures with a new family shot that you have blown up big and put in a nice frame. Get new lamp shades to update the lamps and have the floors or carpet cleaned. Add new throw pillows, drapes or blinds. Change out the knickknacks for a few nice collectables. Now the front room should be re-arranged so your mother can easily see the TV and the view out a window as well as get in and out of her chair and walk to the kitchen and bath with ease. The room is ready for her and is ready for the future sale.
  5. Now you go on to the kitchen. This is what you do from room to room…so in your mind, it makes the home special for your mother. In the back of your mind you have the future sale all ready to go. You will see that this will mean that your mom is in a cleaner atmosphere and she feels happy about the new paint and cushions and towels and bedding. Its like you trade her anger and possessive behavior for a feeling that she has a new surroundings that are pretty, fresh and still filled with her special things that mean a great deal to her.
  6. Just do it: This job is not easy I know. But if you do it right, it will pay off over and over again as you go down the line with your mother’s care. As she gets less able to do things, it will be easier for you to keep it clean and for her to use it without a trip or fall. She will feel refreshed and you will have a home that will easily show well for a future sale.
  7. Dont forget to keep up the outside. The street view of the house is the sales point. So ask family to help you cut down the overgrown plants and keep the lawn trimmed and watered. If the house is in need of a cleaning outside or a painting in order to sell it, is best done while your mother is able to write the check for the work. A new coat of exterior paint, even just in the front of the home or the porch area cleaned can make a huge difference in the amount brought in with a sale.
  8. Always ask a third-party to be on your side. A friend of your mother’s, another family member, a neighbor. Ask them to back up your actions for your mother and allow her to complain to them. Facing the loss of independence or the end of life…can be huge reasons for anger and the inability to make changes. By showing her you want to change small things to freshen it up for her use – it will calm her down. She does not have to hear you are doing it for the future sale. Reality is important for the care giver, but protecting the senior from unwarranted worry is the kindest way to deal with the situation.
  9. The child inside? I find that elders usually respond just like your young children used to do. No they did not want to give away any of their own toys. But when the toys were sorted and cleaned and put aside in a bin and placed in the garage. The end of the month the toys were forgotten and the joy of the new paint, bedding, towels and the place of honor to the new toys – always won out. Your mother will be the same.
  10. This simply has to be done. It is much easier when you have a Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive in place. That way you can write a letter to her doctor and ask for help with her emotional issues. This will then be considered and the doctor can add in an Rx that will keep her calm and not so worried over the little things in her life. As always, if you are doing something for your mother’s best care, you are doing it right. But if you over use her funds, or throw out valuables because you don’t like them…that is not care giving, that is acting in your own self-interest and is not acceptable. If you don’t have time to do all of this, then it is time for your mother to go into a retirement care facility where her needs can be met by professionals. The choice is on the table and it will take both of you to make the decision.

Hope you find this helpful. It is so hard to be the care-giver to parents that have had control over their lives and still see you- as a child. But this is a job that has to be done. So putting it off is simply pointless. You will spend more time on this project than you think…but once it’s done…you can relax and know that the future is handled. You and your mother can enjoy a kitchen with a working stove and a new faucet and see the TV without the clutter. It pays off…and your mother will appreciate your time, even if she does not say so. Being a care giver is a very special gift, I thank you for all you are doing.  

Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the August issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. Its a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  alot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

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

by francy Dickinson                     www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: After realizing that mom needed more care than a phone call each day things have changed. We just got through cleaning Mom’s home after years of her ignoring the mess. She had not hoarded she just did not clean. So rooms were filled with old things and now the family has cleaned it out and we are starting fresh. We had every room painted and the bath faucets updated and the kitchen got a new smaller stove and new microwave. We took your advice and got it ready for care givers. One of the bedrooms is now ready for an overnight guest or caregiver, the closets of old clothes in each room are clean too. Now it looks empty and mom is really feeling a cross between happy to have it clean and making it her own again. She is recovering from her stroke but I live two hours away and can only do so much with my weekly visits.

Well, lets start at the beginning, what a great job you and your three brothers did on the house. And how smart of you to clean and paint and ready the house for a sale if that has to happen in the near future. Since your mom is doing so much better and only needs her meals and a daily care visit of two hours, I think you have a great program going. The job now is to keep your mom busy and that might take some thinking.

Lets talk about depression its much more common than you can imagine. Strokes often effect the brain with sadness and so does the recovery from other health issues and of course the loss of a spouse. This whole house cleaning could also set off sadness in her daily routine. Even though your dad passed years ago, she is now just facing her own older and less able to do things lifestyles. I’m sure she thought that your dad would be there to help her at this time of life and the grieving can resurface. It can be treated with drugs that help so much, but so does therapy. Even though your mom is older it would not hurt to have her do a 4 session therapy round to give her a chance to express her personal feelings to someone other than family. She may smile when you are there but she may be very sad or teary on her own, so check this out. That way she can really close some personal issues and adjust to her new life of being less mobile and more home bound. It is not easy to make that change. So even though you are there for her and your love and support is strong…your mom needs some time talking things through and getting her new lifestyle started with healthy thoughts. What you dont want is for her to be upset or confused or just feeling lonely and no one really knowing about it because she is keeping quiet.

So, lets remake the home area that has been so well cleaned and updated.  Start with an area for her to write down things she needs on a listing by her chair. If she thinks of something she writes it down and when you come on Tuesdays she can give the list to you. You can review and try to handle what ever is on the list in a wise manner. That will keep her feeling that her inability to leave the house and drive is not stopping her from getting things and items in order in her life.

Put together a plan to decorate in a lovely way for each season so she can enjoy her home or any room she lives in as time passes.  Take older pictures of family and choose one or two and have them enlarged and put up on the wall like large art pieces. This removes the clutter of fifty small family frames, into a just a couple of stellar photos that reflect years ago and the current family picture. The older pictures can be scanned and put on a nice mp3 frame that will show a slide show when you touch the screen. Always put your father’s picture in a nice frame and have it where she can enjoy it..maybe one with them both as a couple but do not over do. Memories are to be cherished not overwhelming.

Add a little color with throw pillows and a good lap throw so she has color around her without changing wall color. If there is some money, recover  her better furniture It will be familiar but updated to a current nice color that reflects her personality. Add a grandchild corner with a big basket of toys for the visiting little ones. That way the kids enjoy the visit and she has a reminder of her lovely little ones around her. The house will remain clean, safe to walk around and yet feel updated with things that are currently special to her. Not things that have been there and forgotten for 30 years.   

Remember that when any person pulls their world back down into their own home or care center, their universe is smaller and therefore becomes more intense. So do not be alarmed if she gets upset with things that you feel are small and silly. The room temperature  may bother her to distraction, the way she feels sitting in her chair may be uncomfortable. What used to be a minor issue among many daily tasks is now the only issue. Deal with them as they come up and just allow her to vent until you arrive each week.

Here are some changes that you will have when your Senior is home bound:

  1. The TV may not be right for her. It becomes a big part of her life, so a new set that she can see and use the remote. Adding Dish or Comcast will give her more channels and a constant reminder of how to use the channels and the remote will be required for quite a while tell she understands the process. You might also try moving an old set in a closer position or get her headphones that plug into the TV so she hears without a high volume. History, sports and Military channel for the guys and food, home, mystery channels for the ladies…it makes a huge difference. Set the TV with text to run on the bottom of the screen if your senior is hard of hearing so they really enjoy the viewing time.
  2. Get her into a senior center and drop her off once a week to involve her with other seniors for as long as she can do this with her health issues. This can be cards, bingo, special exercise classes, lectures, lunches, food gifting, crafts and outings. You will find that the first visit needs you by her side and then they get drawn in and really enjoy this time. It will fill their mind with things during their week and help their emotional stability. It is worth having a care giver or senior in neighborhood driving them to and from and that could be a $10-$20 investment well made for the transportation. There are vans for seniors and you can try that too.
  3. Plan events in their homes for your active family members. OK so Thanksgiving is coming up. Did you know that around the holiday many local grocery stores do full turkey dinners? You can order one for a week before Thanksgiving. They will cook the whole meal and it only needs to be picked up, warmed and served. Then invite some family and old friends over for and early Thanksgiving. This will be a full month of getting ready and making plans without the worry over the cooking and lots of left overs to give away. Then the actual holiday comes and your senior can attend the family dinner or stay home without sadness because they had their own nice celebration the week before. Works well for many.
  4. Each visit you need to open the refrigerator and make sure the senior is eating food that is being delivered and prepared. Just because food is in the house does not mean the senior is eating it. So look through the refrigerator. If the senior gets into a special diet of potatoes or just canned chili or other items dont worry, it will work itself out. Just make sure they are eating and add a Boost dietary drink so they get plenty of protein. Tell dr about the eating if it gets bad and he will prescribe meds that increase the hunger issue.
  5. On your visit ck the cleanliness of the kitchen that is a care giver job and you want to make sure the staff you hire for your senior is doing their job. Clean counters, floors, and appliances are a must…check. If it is not clean, report the caregiver to the service and ask for another care giver or more time each week for a good cleaning.
  6. Check on the bathroom for the senior, it should be very clean, the caregiver also is responsible for that area. The bathchair should be in the tub the handheld shower should work and be clean. The towels should be in order. If your senior has old towels remove them. You will need four good bath towels and a stack of hand clothes to make sure your senior is able to get good care. I am sure you know that the most important person you can hire to care for your senior is a bath lady. They are well trained to do a great job and will report injuries, sickness, dizziness and any other problem with your senior. You always find professional at a “In home care service” they provide a variety of care people to hit the needs you might have. They are licensed and bonded but once you use them…all expensive jewelry and family things should be given away or put into the bank box…you dont want great grandma’s brooch to be lost to the family because you did not follow through with this.
  7. How is the mail box at your senior’s home. Is it on the porch and easy for them to use, or across the street? Maybe you need to buy a new one that is larger and easier to use. Or have the mail all forwarded to the home of the person caring for your seniors finances. Getting mail each day, can be a dangerous task for those that do not walk well. If they still want their daily mail, put the pick up on the care givers to do list. Or ask a long time neighbor to drop it off and put a box on the front porch for them to do so. Then  make sure you thank the neighbor often with cookies or a box of candy so they know they are appreciated. This daily ck in by a neighbor can save a life one day.
  8. Watch the charge cards of seniors, they tend to build up if they sit and order items from TV or the phone. You can stop unwanted calls by removing their names on phone lists. You can get a special service added to the phone that will filter calls from anyone but approved family and friends. You can also get a good easy to hear phone with special features for hearing disabled. You can add a cell phone to your own family plan and have your senior wear it on a holder around their neck or in a belt. Teach them how to call for help and call you…you can also add a home protection service that is a button for the senior to push if they are hurt or need help.
  9. If the senior looks out into the yard from their family or living area…get the grass cut and the bushes trimmed and load up the beds with bark. You dont have to make gardening a hobby at your mother’s place, but keeping it looking in order will relax her and help the home to re-sell in the near future. If you have teens in the family ask them to make the garden and grass their task and pay them a small amount. Taking care of the home and keeping it safe will allow your senior to relax and enjoy their life. Instead of them worrying over uncut grass and the house slowing breaking down around them.
  10. Make rules for your time…if your siblings want to visit great…but remember your mother is a part of your family…just a part. Make her needs work into your life with your calendar days not her’s. She is at home each day you are working and keeping another home. So be kind, but be strong about saying I will come down on Tuesdays and get what ever I can done that afternoon and evening…the rest will have to wait till my next visit. She will soon learn the routine and she will be happier knowing you give time to her but still have time for you and your own life.
  11. Care starts small…a day here, an hour there and soon it becomes overwhelming. Remember when you make any decision have an idea of what will happen in time to come. That way each step your mother takes in her recovery and her advancement with her declining health issues- is a step that fulfills her life but is in line with her future care. What I mean is do not spend a lot of her money on things for a home that will not repay, her money is limited and will be needed for care giving in the future. If she wants fancy clothes but she can not go out the door, try to adjust her thinking to clothing that is fresh and easy for at home comfort. It takes a mind change for you both…and that is what you now must make a change and realization that your mom is older and is declining in health.But her today and tomorrow can be happy and fun and filled with hope.

I appreciate your email and that my ideas have already helped you make solid decisions on your mom’s care. You are doing a great job and thank you for your care. Please do visit my web site and remember I have written a book on Senior Care Workbook 101 that really helps with all the decisions and care that will be happening as time goes on. You will find the workbook on my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Blessings, francy

Elders Need Cheer Sessions

by francy Dickinson                      www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My mother seems to be going into a deeper depression. She seems to be recovering physically well from her last small stroke, but she is just not herself. She feels down and not involved with everyday life. I am having a problem with her paying attention to what the day is or what food she wants to eat. How can I bring her around?

I am sure you have spoken with the doctor about her depression, that is a part of the brain that is also effected by the stroke and special medications can be prescribed to help her with her mental state. As the brain repairs it has to be exercised just like you are doing with her body. So you will have to make sure you participate in her emotional wellness as well as how well she walks or talks as she recovers. Even if you are talking to her over the phone each day, or in person, you will be doing a few things that will involve her mind and emotions so she gets back into life with her body and mind.

Here are some tips:

  1. Your interaction with a recovering stroke victim is in the morning or in the afternoon after food and a nap. So you get them fresh, it will be up to you to arrange your own schedule around that time frame.
  2. When speaking to the senior, use an up tone in your voice so they can see a difference in an everyday conversation, and an animated conversation. As you would a very young child of two or three, use words and facial expressions that include smiles, laugh, questions, and surprise.
  3. Prepare yourself with a list of things to talk about and always start with the day of the week. Endless days mean losing interest. “Hi Mom how is your Tuesday morning going?” That is a good way to begin, not to challenge her with a question that she can fail at the answer like “What day is today?” – Start with a positive statement that will inform her. Then go over what you know to be her usual Tuesday tasks. “I know you will be doing your wash this morning do you have it in the washer already? NO, well you can do that when we hang up and today is your day to see your friends for cards. What are you going to wear? –who is going to pick you up? OK, good well you’re going to have a busy day. I will let you go so you can finish your washing and getting dressed for the girls. I will call you this afternoon, when do you think you will be back home again?”
  4. Taking information you have and making sure it is restated and then adding questions that are easy for her to answer is how you begin. When you call back in the afternoon, you will ask about her food for that evening and suggest a TV show that is coming on that you want to watch and you will call her just before it begins to remind her so she doesn’t miss it. Ask if her wash is in the dryer and how the card party was with the girls, stretch her mind with asking about what she ate and who won at cards. Ask over anything new with the girls. Get her to talk about things that are up front in her brain. Bring out more than yes or no answers, with an upbeat voice again, ask about what the girls were wearing or where they went for lunch. Push her brain, push it in the direction that she has always had interest in, but know when to be calm and listen.
  5. When she does something more the normal daily tasks, make a big deal out of it. Let her know you are proud of her. “Wow, mom you did the wash this morning, had lunch out with the girls and then you came home and went over the floor in the kitchen? You are really on a roll, good job” – “You have gotten so much done and I have just been here at work all day, I’m impressed.”
  6. When you go over to visit and you see the house in a mess…remember her mind has to learn how to organize again. So roll up your sleeves and get one room done at a time. Find small clear plastic boxes that are easy to carry and fill them up with like items and then use a large print label maker to mark them. Just like you did for your toddlers when they had so many small toys, cars, crayons remember? Now it is your mother’s time to organize, vacuum bags, filters or parts in one box. Candles and matches in another. So when she is missing something and in a huff looking for it, she can open a cupboard and read the box. It helps her mind relearn how to stay organized and find things instead of being stuck inside a swirl of a mess.
  7. When the mind is healing from a stroke or other trauma, or in the middle of dementia the home needs to be clear and clean around the senior. If the front room or kitchen was covered with small items art or otherwise, pack them away for a while. Tell the senior you are clearing it to prepare for the room to be painted and we will go through the box and get things back in place after the painting. Then remove the box to a place  in the garage or storage area. Look around the room and see it with an eye that could get distracted. Look again, what needs to be in the room and what is just extra clutter for the brain?
  8. Example; lots of seniors have a full wall of photos of grandchildren and family members right by their TV chair so they can see it. If you look again at that wall, it becomes a maze of endless photos that have been added to over the years. So, how about picking out three or four pictures that the senior loves. Take down the older pictures, fill the holes in the wall and repaint and then put up the four larger photos in a row…so it is easy on the mind’s eye to focus on the pictures not to just see a jumble of frames. It will calm the senior’s eye and make it easier for them to rest while they are in their favorite chair.
  9. Asking your mom to help you, is a great way to help her recover her old self. What did you two always do together, maybe you cooked together, or sorted clothes in the kids room, played golf, walked, or painted walls, pictures, or worked in the yard together. Plan in your mind a task that is no longer than two hours and ask your senior to help you. Have the task all planned out so the beginning and end can happen in a short time. Together you work and together you get it done. You can stand back and admire the great result together, you can talk to others about how your mother helped you finish the task when you are so short on time. You become her cheer leader over a simple task, but it gives her such a feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Let go anything that no longer brings her pleasure. The brain in trauma, stroke recovery or dementia is simply changing, so if at one time your mother loved to bake cookies and now it is a chore. Let that part of your mother drop away. She will fill the void with a new enjoyment she has changed and changing is what we all do. This change was just more sudden than others.
  11. Anger is an emotion that will come to you and to your mother on her recovery. My husband has his dementia moments and out of those comes so much personal doubt that anger is his way to express the confusion of his brain not responding as he wants. Often stroke patients Even those with TIA’s or baby strokes- can find words are lost to them, actions are lost, rituals are no longer there, lifetimes of interest on certain subjects have faded…it will take your own personal patience to deal with this. You can see if you can easily move them back to the once loved interest or change it into a smaller and less stressful experience. My husband used to love WWII books and would read them endlessly, now he is unable to remember enough to read, so I have gotten him into the Military Channel on the TV. It’s the same information it just comes to him in a way he can absorb and enjoy it easier than reading.
  12. Even in days or times of anger…you have to stay calm. You have to back away and give them time to defuse and then re-enter and change the mood or the thought pattern so the day can go forward with joy, not stuck in anger. It takes a lot of creative thought on your part, but being there to cheer them on, will allow them to heal in a positive way instead of simply retreat on a daily basis.

I know you have had to do a lot to care for your mother. Stokes can happen in clusters, just as your mother gets well, she could be hit again. So make sure her meds, supplements and her food keeps her as protected and even in body chemistry as possible. You are the person that will give her life a guidance to calm and joy…you are giving her a gift of more than care, you are gifting her with true love. Thank you.

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

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

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

How to Bring Grandma Into Your Home

by francy Dickinson                         www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: I have decided that Mom just can not keep living on her own and in a state of worry each day. Her health is not ready for nursing care but I know she needs to be looked after more than a drop by each day. How do I tell my husband and kids and where will I put her? I live on a thin budget and I am worried.

Now this is a problem that I can help you with because I did the same thing and I have helped so many others do the transition smoothly. Here are my ideas and tips:

Moving Elders into Your Home Tips:

  1. After discussing it with your spouse and getting their approval, you call a family meeting. You will not be asking their approval, but informing them of the situation and letting them know a new arrival means there will be changes that might not be the most enjoyable. Depending on the age of your kids, let them live in the elders shoes, explain why the change, why the elder is no longer safe in their own home that way the family has a base of understanding that this decision is how we treat and care for family. You make room for children when they are born into the family, you make room for elders when they retire into advanced family care.
  2. Make it clear to your family and to YOU that this is a change that is not going to just go away or get old. This is a commitment on your part and your elders that life will be together through thick or thin. If money gets low, or someone gets unwell in the family, or a move has to be made- the elder is now a part of your family and will be with you for good or bad family times. That is life making room for an elder is a serious decision that once made is made, not changed because of an argument. You do not throw out babies or elders because they are extra work or a pain to live with…so think this step out very carefully and inform all; that this is a commitment of heart and honor on both sides.
  3. Set up some rules of the house so every one can work within a fair basis of comfort living. Kids do not invite friends for an overnight if Grandma is using the living area for her bedroom. Things will change, but the changes do not have to be huge, just considerate on all sides.
  4. Plan your elder’s living area. They need their own room, even if your children have to share a room, that is better than an elder sharing a child’s room. If no extra bedroom is there, then take an area that can be shared like the dining room. Put the big table in the kitchen, living area, or storage. Put up a day bed that can be used as a sitting area during the day. Always give privacy from public areas, you can hang a curtain or a bamboo shade to enclose the privacy for the senior.
  5. Try to bring the senior’s favorite things with them. A good sitting chair, a side table for bed and chair, a little desk or bookcase, favorite books, family memory photos, jewelry, special mementoes and art that can be incorporated into your home. This is the time for them to distribute family things to their children and grand children, not at their death. Do not rent a storage unit. If your elder is going to move in with you and it does not work, they will be in a care facility with little space, so there is no going back to an apartment living for the elder, this is a life change, not a try out.
  6. Paint the area to match the elder if you can. If your home is high energy color reflecting an action family….lower the tones for the elder so they can relax and rest in their space.
  7. Decide on the bathroom the elder will use. You might have them use a half bath and just take a weekly bath or shower in the kid’s bath. Always make room for their personal products.  A basket with their bathroom items tucked on a shelf makes their things private. Young kids do not understand false teeth or Depends. Make sure your family respects the privacy of the elder and no teasing takes place, bathroom humor is not appreciated by a person making a big change in their life.
  8. Keep elder drugs in a place in the kitchen or laundry area. That way it is away from the kids and in a place that can be sorted and the weekly pill try can be filled as well as meds reordered correctly.
  9. Use a closet in the hall or a rack in the laundry room for elder’s clothes, plastic drawers can be purchased for clothing. Sort over elders things and take clothes that fit the lifestyle they have now, not the clothes they wore ten years ago when they were active or working.
  10. Keep the elder with their friends as much as you can. If they go to a faith center away from you, take them back to the faith center once a month to connect. If they have a favorite Senior Center or exercise group try to keep them there or let them visit and replace those activities close to your home. Elders need to know their life has just moved, not changed or gotten lost. Emotional problems often stem from elders losing their friends, spouse, home and all connections…so work on keeping them as connected to their long established lifestyle.
  11. If your elder is into gardening and you are not, let them at it, get them started redoing your front yard and enjoy that the elder is giving back to the family. If the elder loves to cook, let them do a dinner during the week or make the lunches for everyone each day. Figure out how to use their talents with your needs and make room for change on your part as well as theirs.
  12. Hearing impaired does not mean shouting or loud TV. It means getting them a headphone remote for the TV so they can hear it, or putting on the text feature to run text on the bottom of the TV screen. It means turning down music to a normal range and take time to talk facing the elder not on the run.
  13. Careful walking with elders that may trip means removing scatter rugs and use double side carpet tape on larger rugs. It means making sure there are lights to see well in the public rooms and dogs that are trained to love not jump up on people. Think safety. If your kids are older you may have left those safety thoughts behind a long time ago, now get your mind going again on what your elder needs to be safe walking around the house.
  14. If the elder wants to make alot of calls, get them a cell phone and let them  learn how to use it. Then they can call on their own phone without worry about family phone time. Get them their own TV if they need it and a radio or MP3 player with a head phone for music and talk radio listening.
  15. Do not be afraid to ask the senior for money to add to the family income. They can give you a couple hundred dollars a month for food and utilities, even if they are on a small social security income. They can pay for their own personal needs and medication products, specialty foods and clothing, too. Just be fair, do not take all their money and think they will not reflect emotionally to it.
  16. If your senior is part of your family…then you can take them off as a tax deduction. Ask your tax person how to do this before you take that action, but it can help you financially to do this. You can also get help with their house sales investment of money, or reducing their bills. Get help so you do not have to worry about funds for their care, talk to senior care consultants and let them help you with the legal part of your relationship. Remember their home sales will have to pay for their care for a long time, so be wise with the money. It is hard when you are limited on funds to care for an elder, but it can be done with advise.
  17. If the senior is unable to pay for their own medications ask the DR for help with pharmacy company programs. If you need to put the senior on state medical do so, they will pay for the medications and pay you to care for your parent if they are in need of more than just light care. Get a review, be in the know, so the money you spend on your elder is wisely spent.
  18. Make sure your senior has someone to talk to about you and your family living. A faith center person, a neighbor or other family member, that is a third party, should make a monthly visit. Get the elder to talk about their life. They may be afraid to say what upsets them, or they may be filled with upset and anger and need to vent it to make their life easier with you. Emotional health is often not understood until you live with someone, a doctor can also medicate to calm an elder, if you explain your concerns in a letter to him before your elder’s next appointment.
  19. Everyone has odd behaviors even you…so learn to live and let live, small things you have always done may need to change, that is not the end of any one’s world, it is just a change to make life easier for all parties. That is what makes living as a family work, you all have to adjust and talk and love and make changes to make sure each of you can enjoy life together. But elders find change upseting and hard and younger folks can adjust to change much easier, so that should set the tone when making family decisions.

Perfection is not the goal with a senior living with their family. But kindness on both sides is a must. Do not be afraid to have someone come in and talk to the family about problems, questions, ideas or concerns. Talking things out helps everyone. There is your way or the highway is not the way with a multi-generation family. Every one has to make way for privacy and for kindness for each other. Often the experience of grand parents living with children changes the child into a more understanding and caring adult in years to come. That means when it is your turn to need help, your own children will be more open to giving you loving care in your own older age.

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

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

blessings. francy

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

Senior Home from Hospital, I Need Help!

by francy Dickinson                 www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

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

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

AFTER HOSPITAL CARE TIPS:

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

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

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

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

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

Seniors in Care Facilities – Tips for Visits and Safety

By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: Mom in-law is in care facility and we’re visiting twice a week. It’s clean and she seems well fed but angry. Her dementia is still raging and she took a fall out of her bed and hit her head two days ago. How can I help keep her safe and sound in the care facility?

Here are a few tips:

  • Visiting twice a week is very good. Change your days and your times, so you’re there, but not on a routine. That way you can see the progression of the daily care staff, as the weeks go by.
  • Check the facility for being clean, the patient room, the eating facility and the public rooms are easy to see. But a walk down the hall will show you how the storage closets are kept orderly, the shower area clean, how the kitchen is run and the pill dispensing cart is being used. You just observe, even if you know nothing about care giving – you will see that organization is the key to good care, and cleanliness is right behind. If you have a question – ask the management about the staff, not the staff. It keeps the resentment from the questioning from reflecting on your senior’s care.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for a review of a fall. It should be logged in and reviewed by the staff. If it’s a staff problem you need them to make adjustments to the procedures in the facility and make sure they adjust the monthly payment to reflect any incident that caused harm to the patient. If it’s the patient that is being unwise in their movements or manners, then review how the care staff can make changes to avoid a repeat of the problem.
  • Take treats into the staff. This is open to what you like to do yourself. But once a month, I would bake brownies or cookies, or stop off at a special candy store and gather together some treats. You could buy some expensive coffee beans for the lounge or bring root beer and ice cream for a treat in the summer. Be creative, but be smart. Drop them off at the nursing lounge with a thank you card that has the patient’s name and your name. This goes along way for the staff to know you care about them and in turn they will care about you and your senior patient.
  • If the patient has dementia/Alzheimer’s let the staff know the real patient as you do. Take in pictures of the patient when they were young and first married, have a little label with names of spouse and family in the picture. Make a copy of a college degree or service certificate, so others visiting for the first time see that a very valuable person is inside of that patient. Honoring who a person is, inside, makes the current situation more understandable to strangers.
  • See if you can surround the senior with things that bring a feeling of home. A favored piece of art on the wall and a small shelf with bits and bobs from their collection. A throw that was crocheted by the senior or a book that has always been a favorite. Things from the past will surround a person and give them a feeling of safety. Ask about the rules of the facility and then make the creative side of you bring just the right stuff in to the room to perk it up!
  • Always ask the senior what they did yesterday?? Have them tell you what ever they remember. It’s important to take note. If they are abused or do not like things, it will come up in one of these conversations if you keep asking. You can hear what is bubbling inside of them, what bothers them or makes them happy. You do not need to worry about the details; just the feelings you get from the senior.
  • Food treats for seniors. If a senior does not have a food restriction, then do bring along something special for them. They may love some chocolate, cracker jacks, or a dinner of food from your family heritage. Heritage food is lost in care centers and still is so important to the senior.
  • A small covered jar of wrapped hard candy for visitors or care staff is always a nice lure to get them into the room to check up on the senior
  • Take a container of those cleaning wipes and each time you visit. Take them out and go over public surfaces around the senior’s room. A double protection against germs is always good.
  • Make sure the senior has a way to call home. If you need to put a large printed sign with your phone number taped to their room phone, do it. If they want a cell phone and are able to use it wisely, do it. They need to have a way to feel connected, not dumped. If that is hard to do, then make a quiet evening time call each night. Set a time that is good for you both and just make it an evening call each evening. The repeat of the calls is what the senior will feel – they can count on you is what they will think. Those are good things.
  • Check the senior for signs of red marks on their skin and ask each week if any skin irradiation has shown itself during the week. That is a very important point. Hot spots on older skin are hard to heal, if you catch them before they happen it makes life easier. The skin will show if the staff is not moving the patient around, bathing them carefully, or changing their bladder control products on time. Each time they do a bath, they will make note of the skin problems, you can ask to see that chart and take note that there are none. If they have them, then ask how they are being treated and stay on top of it until it is healed. If it repeats often, there is a care giving problem to be addressed.
  • Bladder infections or UTI’s are very common in seniors in care. You want to make sure they have cranberry pills added to their daily intake and you want to know that the infection is being treated, but the cause is researched and addressed.
  • Just because the senior is in care, does not mean they cannot add supplements. You can talk to their doctor and supply the supplements for daily dispensing. Turmeric is very popular for dementia and infection treatment…our doctor just added it to the OK list and mom was able to enjoy the supplement each day.
  • Remember, the facility wants to have you in charge and up to date, they want you to be involved, so do speak up. Read about your senior’s care and bring up the ideas you gather during the family meetings at the care center. You can have a monthly meeting at the care center if you like. I love them, you keep up with their ideas and how things are going – good stuff.

Hope these ideas help you with your care for your senior in a care center. It is always a hard choice to make when you place them in care. I have a free service for families called Loving Memories it helps family place seniors in good care facilities. We review the senior and their needs and then find a care facility that meets those needs. I also have care tips, workbooks, on demand talk show information and just all around good stuff on my website. Please do visit www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thanks, francy

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