Where to Go When You Need a Hospital for Dad?

Featured

How to choose hospitals that fit the needs of your senior in care. by francy Dickinson

HospitalDear Francy; We just got through with a horrible experience at our local hospital. We live in a bedroom community and my dad had been having trouble with pain in his stomach area. He had trouble going to the bathroom and his back hurt. So, we finally took him to the ER at our larger local hospital. We have two hospitals in the area; one is smaller and other is a big trauma hospital with a big ER. We went to the larger hospital thinking they would have a better ER to treat him. When we arrived the ER was packed and we had to wait and wait.  Then when he was in the ER room…there was no room for him! So he was on a gurney in the outer area while a police officer was patrolling the ER. There had been gang trouble and they were trying to keep two rival gang members separated while they treated them. Poor dad, was confused, in pain and totally unable to process why the police were there. It was a nightmare. Why do they let seniors take back seats to these horrible gang people?

I can understand your distress and I assure you they did not take the gang members over your dad. They do Triage and the gang members were in more high risk condition, than your dad so they went first. The problem was that the hospital itself is a haven for high stress when it is a trauma center. So, lets talk about hospitals and get the idea of how to choose them in your mind. Next time when an emergency comes up…you will be prepared and be able to guide the ambulance driver to the right place for your special care.

Triage Means:
noun(in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or  casualties. verb to assign degrees of urgency to (wounded or ill patients)

I will assume your dad had prostate or blocked bowel, correct? Those are conditions that older men have and they are very painful. Elders often do not talk about their private bathroom problems with their care givers or family…until the situation gets painful. I understand that and I’m sorry you all had to go through that sad emergency experience. But lets roll back the clock and see how it could have gone differently.

Both elder men and women need to have a verbal check each day. Care giving is part immediate and part prevention. So everyday( I usually do it while I am picking up their breakfast tray) talk to them. “Dad how was breakfast, I see you did not eat very much of your cereal. How is your stomach feeling?” Dad says; “Oh, fine, I was just not very hungry.” You say; “Oh, well lets talk about it. Are you feeling OK..when did you last go to the bathroom?”

Then you go down the list; are you in pain…if so 1-10 how does the pain feel? When did you have your last bowel movement, or – you are going to the bathroom more often..why is that?” It may not be a hit parade topic for a father-daughter subject…but it pays off. You do this day after day and then he will get used to it. The conversation and your voice tone stay quiet and you sound calm…so your senior feels the conversation is normal. Pretty soon, you learn to take note of changes and you can make a quick doctor or nurse practitioner appointment. When you do that, remember to write down the symptoms your senior has been showing or talking about. As you arrive to the appointment, hand the paper over to the office person checking you in and ask them to attach it to the file for the doctor’s review. It will make the appointment go faster and easier for everyone.

As one older, very experienced in-home nurse said to me…”Francy, stay out of the ER as much as you can. It will usually mean more trouble than it is worth for an elder senior.” So, I try hard to catch problems before they get out of hand…but falls and extreme illness do happen and we all have to face them and learn to use the hospital system and keep as informed as we can.

Now, what I found after years of hospital visits is how to choose a hospital in advance to a problem. The smaller hospitals are perfect for ER visits when you have non heart related issues. So, if the senior falls, or has bowel or urinary problems, even stomach pains…that is something a small hospital does best. ERs are always busy…but less stressful in smaller hospitals because the “trauma'” issues are brought to bigger specially designed Trauma Centers…so car accidents, gun violence or heart problems that require loads of equipment and team efforts to solve a problem are their specialty. This huge effort for big care issues is much different then the smaller hospital ERs. Not that smaller hospitals do not carry heart issue equipment, but its nothing like the big Trauma Centers.

Heart issues are always brought to the larger hospital centers that have special heart teams on staff, at all times. So, you know if you have a senior with any heart, stroke or related issues with blood thinning medications…you have a clear path to that large Trauma Hospital. When you get all of this in your mind ahead of time…when the emergency hits…you are prepared.

Share your choices with anyone that will be caring for your senior …so this is all figured out and runs smooth. Every emergency is stressful…so to know the direction to go for help is really a step toward faster care.

Now if your senior is having small elective surgery…you want to once again take on that smaller hospital. But here is where that changes. If your senior is in a questionable situation…or diagnosed with something complicated…you want to find a “teaching or specialty hospital”. Yes, this could mean a drive to a larger city…but the specialty hospitals are simply a godsend when you have a complicated diagnosis from a doctor. When you face a long-term battle like cancer…having a full service cancer center to go to is a super smart way to treat the issue.

So the example would be this. Your senior goes to the smaller local hospital ER and is treated for a blocked prostate. They come back and say that the prostate is showing cancer, what to do?

There are a lot of decisions to be made in case of a complicated diagnosis. Prostate has many different treatment options. My young niece was just diagnosed with leukemia. That was a two-week ride of trying to figure out what kind of leukemia she had, so they could treat it well. If she was in a small town, with a small hospital – I would have asked them to transfer her to a children’s hospital in a larger city. That specialty hospital is trained in children issues, has specialists that deal with leukemia on a daily basis..not every once in a while. She was lucky because she had a children’s hospital close. She is safe and getting a complicated treatment schedule that the “Hospitalists” are well-trained for and she is getting stronger.

Something to know: Hospitality are now the treating physicians in the hospitals. You   will be using a general Hospital, not your own regular doctor  when your senior goes into the hospital. This is what I found for meaning: A Hospitality is a doctor who basically does nothing except take care of in-hospital patients. They do not have private    practices, they strictly do hospital work.

A senior with the prostate blockage and possible cancer would be best at a large hospital with a specialty of cancer or a teaching hospital. That way all the newer treatments are available for the senior and they can give you a full understanding of your choices in treatments. What I have found is that town doctors may be specialists, but in emergencies they stick to what they have done for years. They stay close to treatments and drugs that are comfortable within their experience. I do not want a complicated situation to be handled in an out of date or common way. I want a complicated issue to be handled with a group of specialists that are on the cutting edge and will use different services to make you and the senior informed of the options of care. I also like the idea that a “group” of doctors will be reviewing the situation and debating treatment for your senior patient.

If you are reading this and say…WOW, my dad is older and does not want to have fancy extended care. He wants to pass naturally and easily.

 That is called Palliative Care. Here is what I found on the meaning: With palliative  care, there is a focus on relieving pain and other troubling  symptoms and meeting your emotional, spiritual, and practical needs. In short, this new medical specialty aims  to improve your senior's quality of life -- however you define that for yourself.

What I feel is that the word Palliative Care is an important word for you and your elder/senior in care need to talk about. That is why everyone needs a Living Will/Medical Care Directive. As you make out this form, you will go through the different options of care giving with the senior. You will then know how to make a decision in the middle of a medical emergency. Do they want to be on long-term care? Do they want to have CPR…there are many different questions on the form and the senior will be able to design their own life care. If those decisions mean that they do not want to extend their lives you need to talk to a doctor and get a special paper that says “NO MEDICAL LIFE SAVING SERVICES”. This paper will be signed by the doctor and the senior. So when you call for help and the EMT team arrives they know the rule and the paper is posted and they then do not have to do “any or all to save a life”. This is important to have when your senior is in the last journey of their life. Lots of families do not understand this rule and do not take that extra step. When the EMT or ER people respond to the senior’s needs they can not…just let the senior go…they are legally bound to treat the senior. But if you have the paper that the doctor and senior have signed (its different – in different states) you can show it and the medical team can relax and make the passing comfortable.

Inform yourself on the forms to keep your senior from extreme life saving treatments. Its a form here is what I have found on it: What are “Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (MOLST)?
The MOLST form is a standardized document containing valid medical orders about life-sustaining treatment. It stays with the patient and is honored by health professionals across all health care settings.

My mother had the MOLST paper posted…but when she started to bleed from her mouth..I still took her into the hospital and they found she had an ulcer from her medications. They did a small procedure to stop the bleeding and changed her meds. I did not think we should have let her life go, under the situation. It was a small mend and she lived on another two years. You see I knew how to make that decision because we had talked about her care when we did her care directive and I got my name on the paper as her Power of Attorney for Medical issues. I know it sounds complicated…but I assure you…during the care process for a senior these issues will come up. Life is not always “passing away in your sleep”. It can get very complicated. So with my mother…she did not want any fancy testing or complicated or major procedures to extend her life. I knew that and my choices for her care were easier for me because of our talking over her wishes.

To download your state’s health care directive forms FREE click here. 

I have put the hospital phone numbers of my city on my cell phone. I have also thought about when I drive or when I call 911 for help. When my husband George had pneumonia I called a friend to come and help me drive him to the hospital. When he had symptoms of a heart attack I called 911 for immediate help. If you take a few minutes to think over the idea of when to call for help or when to do take action on your own…you will find that you are prepared in your mind…when and if an emergency pops up.

I also have just done a review of how to make sure that you are prepared for the ER hospital trip and possible stay. Here is a link to that blog so you can pack and have your Emergency Kit all ready to go.

George on a rare out and about with me ;)

George on a rare out and about with me 😉

I want to take time to thank you for the care giving you are doing for your senior. I know what a struggle it is to be a care giver and I appreciate all you are doing. Would you do me a favor and click on the “sign up” button on the right side of your screen. I am so busy with care giving for my Georgie (with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) that my blogs are random…this way you will get an email with my new blog info. Blessings, francy

PS Thank you to all of you that are constantly supporting me during my care giving for George. He is getting much weaker with his Parkinson’s issues. So the care giving is more complicated and extended. But we did get out for dinner on Good Friday…to celebrate Easter. We met George’s son and his wife at a local restaurant and had a nice dinner. I picked a place that I could park and walk in on one level. George just wheeled up to the table and I did the running around the buffet to fill his plate. He had such a good time, but it took about three days for him to recover from the extended activity from the out and about. I think of our journey as “creative problem solving’ on a daily basis. I want George’s life to be as joy filled as possible. So, we make most quiet days into little celebrations of current events. He is happy and the care giving needed, is still within my range. Thanks again, francy

Keep Seniors Eating with Healthy, Easy Snacks!

The importance of healthy snacks or small meals for seniors and elders in care. by francy Dickinson

healthy fast snacks for seniors in care

Apple Pie Always a Senior Favorite

Dear Francy; My mother is not eating…I am not kidding. She has always been thin, but now, she has no appetite. I have tried every dinner I can think of but nothing works. What can I do to spark her taste buds? Anne

When you get older, and many times when you are on certain medications, you lose your taste buds. The taste of food no longer pulls you in…nor does the smell. So, the best thing to start is to really spice up the meal with low-salt herbal spice mixes like Mrs. Dash. My secret is to simply tell the senior they do not have to eat a meal…just snack. That might sound easy but it means you have to make sure that snacks are easy to grab and easy to chew and swallow. So, this is a little extra work on the family member that over-sees your mom’s care.

Every 2-3 hours the senior needs to have a snack…a protein drink, a piece of cheese ( I love cheese sticks), a slice of good deli meat, veggies with dip, fruit with dip, a piece of chicken, a slice of steak, a baked potato. Keeping that energy level and blood sugar on an even keel is the true key to strength in mind and body. How can you help them with smaller eating all day long? Here are some tips to help them on their way.

It means you have to prepare food ahead and have it ready to go…so I will list ideas that will keep you involved and keep her eating:

Senior Snacks:

  1. Chicken is so good….so you have all sorts of ways to serve it in small pieces. Bake or buy a roasted chicken and have it sitting in the fridge for snacks, or pre cut it into small pieces and have it in a zip lock…even easier. OR — buy the large family size chicken thighs and legs and put them into the oven – spice well, put BBQ sauce on a few and bake them all. After they bake and cool…divide them into small zip locks – freeze a few bags and keep a couple in the fridge for easy snacks.
  2. Apples are so easy to use…you can peel, cut and slice and put some lemon on them and tuck it into a ziplock for easy grab snack. Serve it with a sweet dip, caramel..or some sour cream mixed with honey and cinnamon. Adding protein, calories is the point. If they dip, its more calories and that is a good thing
  3. Another soft dip sauce that is easy is peanut butter with honey and nutmeg…it makes a great dip for fruits and celery –always adding in calories and protein to everything that the senior eats
  4. Buy full seed and bran breads and crackers so when they choose to eat, it’s filled with good grains
  5. OK-Mok crackers are high in fiber, so are wheat thins – they’re best if you put them into a glass container on the counter – so the senior is tempted to grab a few when they walk by.
  6. Visual is so important…so make sure their cupboard is filled with containers not boxes. Buy see- through containers that will keep snacks fresh but let the senior see and grab easily. Do not pile on loads of food, best to do small amounts. If they live alone; buy a box of crackers, put 1/2 box in the container and take the rest home to your own family to enjoy. That way the crackers and snacks stay fresh for grandma and they change types often.
  7. Get soft cream cheese that is flavored with something they enjoy…the strawberry cream cheese is delish. I enjoy the salmon one myself. Good things are available in the dairy isle…take a look. They are pre making all sorts of things, including puddings. Remember buy small containers so they do not spoil so fast.
  8. Yogurt is great, but many elders do not like it. So introduce them to the Greek style yogurt that is richer and the new trend is putting loads of goodies into the yogurt. You will find it easy for the senior to have a small treat that tastes so rich.
  9. Every week, take over another fruit that is fresh. Strawberries; hull them and have them ready to reach in and take a bite. Do not put them into the salad drawer…keep them right out on the shelf so when the fridge door opens they “look” good and ready to eat. Always prep the fruit so the senior will eat it. Pineapple is so good, but only if the senior can take a bite size piece…otherwise it looks like too much for them and they pass over it. Bananas are great…and show grandma she can cut it in half and eat it…then eat the other half the next day. Often seniors say; I can not eat a whole banana…so let them know it’s OK to only eat half
  10. Veggies; many elders do not eat raw veggies. It was not popular when they were cooking or growing up. So, entice them with cutting veggies into small pieces and buy the tiny carrots and tomatoes. I buy a larger Rubbermaid container that has a green top. It’s a “fresh” container. If you get the larger one, you can fill it with a mix of little veggies that the senior can grab. It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks and then you can add a few different veggies to the mix. You gotta have “Ranch dip” for the veggies…and a secret? You can add in 2 scoops of vanilla protein mix folded into the ranch dressing. Each time they reach for it…they have more protein with each scoop. Watch the due dates on things and be prepared ‘throw away’ things. Try not to fuss over the waste…its better to have good food available for the senior than force them to eat left overs for days.
  11. Soup- I make my soups, cool and put a serving into a small ziplock. I then take it over to the senior. That way they get homemade split pea soup, German potato soup, chicken and broccoli soup– without buying a can and its the family recipe they probably cooked on their own for years. I freeze the soups and always write what it is on the ziplock in permanent ink. They can grab and go with soups in the freezer to the microwave or bag into the boiling water for heating.
  12.  Steak is often not eaten by elders with problem teeth. So, I buy small steaks, I slice them into small long slices. I then marinate them for 3 days and put the juice and the steaks in smaller ziplock. This way they can fry the steak in just a few minutes and have thin small size to eat as a snack or dinner. (Easy Marinate:. 1 bottle of Italian dressing into a large ziplock and put in the steak pieces. Place it in the bottom of the cool meat drawer, in fridge and turn it over every day. ) Once again, transfer the meat once it has soaked for three days and put small amounts into ziplocks so Grandma can grab them easy and fry up with an egg for breakfast or a baked potato for dinner.
  13. Pies are a perfect meal if you make them with fresh ingredients. A good apple pie can be breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack or dinner.Seniors do not have to think of fresh fruit pies as dessert…they can be just everyday eating. So when you bake or buy a good fresh fruit pie…cut it up and put it into Ziplocks.( I know I use a lot of them and I do buy the off brand of zip bags in bulk.) This way a couple of pieces are in the fridge and a couple more in the freezer. The senior needs smaller pieces and almost everyone loves the taste of fruit pies. They need to place them on the plate and hit them in the microwave for 1 min to warm and that brings out the flavor again
  14. Apple sauce and apple butter…both great stuff to have handy. The apple sauce comes in flavors and is in single serve containers…how easy is that one? Apple butter makes a good yummy toast treat on top of a rich grain and nut bread.
  15. Old fashioned but yummy: Quick coffee cakes and small one egg cakes work great for seniors. Once again; you leave out a small about; 2 small pieces and then they can add ice cream and have a filling treat. You can buy them at the store and cut it…or make easy cakes on your own.
    Here is my recipe for the one egg cake   http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/
  16. Soft cheeses make for good dips and cracker toppings – I like the cheese with herbs and garlic…OH boy YUMM
  17. Popcorn may seem like a good snack but seniors can not eat it well, so go to Trader Joe’s and look over their selection of chips and snacks. They even have sweet potato chips, pretzels with peanut butter inside – be creative, it will pay off…the senior will love the new tastes
  18. Heritage…this is my trick. I think of the senior and what they ate when they grew up. What recipes were popular in the 1920’s or 30’s? What country is their heritage or are they Jewish or Latino? That means they have flavors that are in-grained in their mind about food. Once you get a feeling for the spices and treats that they enjoyed when they were younger and raising their own children…cooking, entertaining — those are the tastes and smells you want to bring back to them
  19. Many seniors love candy…sugar can really boost their brains as well as energy. Old fashioned hard candy like lemon drops, licorice that’s in small pieces and fresh so they can chew it. Do not bother with peanut brittle or taffy…their teeth will not do well with it. Keep a candy dish by them with spice drops, MnMs — It looks festive and tastes so good
  20. Add drinks with protein. You have to get your senior into protein drinks. If you have to buy a few and get the taste going…do it. I always chill the drinks, they taste better…there are many chocolate ones and the taste is vastly different between the companies. You can always do a vanilla flavor and ask them to drop in two strawberries and do a quick blend each morning. Work on it, your time will pay off with added intake of calories and protein. Most seniors have one each day and often two or three if they are not eating well

I hope the ideas have helped you thinking in a different direction. For us eating is so easy, we can even do a drive through to get a quick burger. Seniors living alone and elders in care are limited to what is in the house and how easy is it to prepared and eat. That is the key…easy.

Good luck, and thank you for all you do for the seniors in your family. Care giving can be a time-consuming and lonely time, thank you for your gift of love.

Blessings, francy

Would you do me a favor and click the LIKE button and write a comment so I know how to give you some tips to help your life be a little easier…OH, and click the JOIN button and they will send you a notice when I have a new blog for you.

*For all that want to know about George…he is due for this summer memory appointment. I will report back with how it went and what the doctor says about his medications. He is now on a cocktail of Alzheimer’s drugs…to boost his brain…Thank you for your prayers, I always feel them. f.

Loving through Pressure and Stress

How to cope with care giving in the middle of high stress…by francy Dickinson

OK so some days the stress and anger simply hit the screen of life and I have had one of those lately!

  1. Pressure building was my husband fighting Alzheimer’s and having more problems with personal accidents and the clean-up that involves
  2. Then I added on a nasty fight with spring allergies. My eyes have been swollen shut most of the last two weeks. The itch and worry over my eyes has not made me a happy camper.
  3. Worry over money has been a big problem for me and all seniors living on small budgets. Its a daily worry and now that George has lost his ability to understand that problem, it is getting worse. He forgets we can not spend money and often asks for things that are not in our budget and its hard on me to tell him, NO
  4. Then the car stopped working in the middle of the road while my friend, Cheryl was driving. She was suck in the middle of traffic and called all worried
  5. I was feeling panic over-coming me…I sat down and tried to take the issues into mind and be calm
  6. I called AAA car club and renewed our membership so the tow would be covered
  7. I called Cheryl and told her help was on the way.
  8. I called the car repair place and told them my car was on the way and I would have to OK repairs because of money restrictions
  9. I called my sister and asked if she would help me with the repair cost and I would pay her back
  10. I called Cheryl again and made sure she was OK…she said that the tow truck was there
  11. I called a dear friend and asked her to go and pickup Cheryl and bring her home

All during this problem, my eyes are swollen and I can barely see the screen of the phone to make the calls. George is in the living room yelling at me and telling me how stupid I am and how I should listen to him and let him make the decisions. Bad language is flying in the living room and the people on the phone could certainly hear it. What to do? The stress building and building?

  • I took a deep breath and went in to George and told him to calm down and he was not going to speak to me in that way
  • I was angry and I expressed my anger…I told him to be quiet while I tried to figure out how to handle all the problems- I kept my voice in a calm tone so I would not push him into any more anger
  • I removed myself from the living room…closed the doors to the kitchen to block the noise and I fixed George tea and a sugar treat
  • This sugar treat would serve to raise his level of energy and give his brain a boost and usually cools down the anger
  • His inability to “fix the problem” was giving him a power problem – he wanted to be the answer man, but could only be angry
  • Returning to him with a time out and telling him Cheryl was fine and on her way home and car would be fixed
  • George was too angry to accept it as the end of the situation he kept up the ranting for over two hours
  • George was then too tired to even walk to the bathroom and had to call for my help
  • I put him into bed after the bathroom and turned on the TV with a military channel to take his mind in another direction
  • I closed the door and called my sister again to talk about the money and the repair shop to get the news that the fuel pump had died and would need to order the part
  • I fixed myself a cup of tea…I went out the front door and walked around my house…even thou I was avoiding pollen, I needed the air
  • I came back in to another call from the repair shop that there may be more repairs to come
  • I fixed myself some lunch and drank water with an Emergen-cee package of 1,000 vit C
  • I took the dogs out to the back yard and swept the walk
  • I came back in and cleaned up the kitchen and checked on George, who was now asleep
  • High Event was over and George would forget the entire argument when he woke up- but I wouldn’t

No I was not OK….

Yes, it was a nasty ‘Event’

Yes, I kept my mind working on life instead of focused on not having money, or  car problems and care giving problems

I can not change my income at this point in my life…but I can still change my overall thinking process. George is to unwell with Alzheimer’s to correct his outbursts….but I can keep myself from jumping into his anger pool.

I know that the job of a spouse to care for their loved one is a hard job. But I think the anger issue and the lack of the one being cared-for to appreciate the care that is given– is the hardest issue I have at this time. Yes, I often feel badly that I am angry at the way George reacts and his lack of appreciation…but NO, I can not change his frame of mind. I can only do things to give myself – my own feeling of appreciation.

  • I made a few calls to friends to hear them say I was OK…and I was a good person, I needed that
  • I took a long shower and tried to tend to my face and eyes to relieve the discomfort
  • I put on spring clothing so I had brighter colors around me
  • I did not go off my diet, I am on a low carb diet and I simply had a special chocolate drink that was low in carbs
  • I moved around the house…getting myself filled with movement and listening to music helping my stress dissolve
  • I played with my dogs…giving them care and their kisses brought me happiness
  • I stayed away from George so my mind was kept calm
  • I sat down before I went to bed and wrote out my worries and upset in a journal so my feelings would be honored, but not haunt me all night
  • I allowed myself to cry out the upset and I was able to sleep

We may not be able to make life less stressful..but we can face the stress and work through it. I did not fix myself a drink, or take a sleeping pill. I knew that would be an unwise way to escape the pain. I wanted to face the pain and change it…not run from it. Because I am a strong woman that can calm myself down, think through my problems and ask friends to help me come up with answers.

I wanted to share this Event with you…because I know if I’m having a hard time….so are you. Giving care to others is not an easy or fun thing to do. Pretending that spouses giving care is no big deal is a lie. Life hits and family members need to be cared for no matter what is going on in your daily life. I understand the pain you feel, the fear that takes over your heart and the uncertainty of your own future.

Try hard to remember there are thousands of us going through this experience and there is a tomorrow, there will be a happier time ahead and you can catch moments of joy even on days filled with ‘Events’.

Being honest and open with our friends, family and our own self…is the most important action we can take. Just hold on, because I am sending you all prayers of strength…we can do this,we really can and we will rise again to a life that is filled with memories of good times, not bad. Memories of giving our loved ones our love and our all….and knowing their lives were filled with our loving care all through their end of life journey.

Blessings…francy

Waffles for Family Brunch w Seniors

Family time with seniors and how to keep the senior in their own home. by francy Dickinson

Sourdough Waffles for Brunch!

Spring time is a perfect time to visit your seniors and take the makings for a meal. I always think that food breaks down the gap in a diverse family. My favorite meal on Sunday is waffles. I do it the  easy way, with Bisquick, and then I like to add in my sourdough from the crock. The waffles smell so good and are so rich. I always get a special syrup – in our house- its boysenberries. Then I do a quick egg for those that love them and keep it simple for those that just want the yumm of the waffle. If I think ahead I get a basket of strawberries and use those on top of the waffles too! YUMM.

It is usually easier to just take food over to Grandma’s house. The TV can go on and the NASCAR races, basketball or football can be entertaining the family. That leaves you to spend time with Grandma and get her kitchen cleaned as you prepare the waffles. The interaction with your elders on a fun basis, allows you to check out the condition of their kitchen and food pantry. When elders are living on their own- they need to be checked by the family to make sure they are eating well and keeping the house clean.

I always had the breakfast planned the day before, then we would go over to mom’s around 11:30AM so we could sleep in on Sunday. The family would say NO…but when we were all in the car the mood changed and the day was reprogrammed for helping Grandma.

As I cooked, the youngsters would be in the living room with the TV on. They would dust the area and run the vacuum. I would have my husband set the table in the dinning room, so mother could use her sweet china. It made a simple breakfast into a special meal.

I would be clearing out the fridge making sure the dates on the products were current or I would throw them and make a shopping list. I would go over the counters. Older eyes have problems seeing details in the kitchen….so a good counter top clean is easy and helpful. I would use a hot cloth to clean the shelves of the refrigerator and wipe off the stove top.

Making sure her dry pantry was not loaded with products that were ages old. When elders stop cooking or just cut it down to cooking for one…the pantry tends to age. You do not need old flour, cake mixes or canned food. It really takes a very short period of time to review it and clear it out. Once again writing down what should be replaced on the shopping list.

Keeping the conversation uplifted and involving the senior with your projects you will find the few hours you visit go fast and loads gets done.

While the table is being cleared and dishes done. My husband or the younger kids…would go around the house to do Grandma’s “to fix list” . The back yard might need mowing or the lightbulbs changing…what ever it is…you make a quick run through the house to make sure its safe and secure.

Don’t forget to change batteries on the fire alarms, change the filter on her furnace and clear the back porch so she can escape in an emergency.

Once a month, brunch at Grandma’s brings you all a good meal and a feeling of family. This is how we can keep our seniors in their homes. By helping them with the little things that get out of kilter…the things that need to be fixed, replaced and added to the mix to make their aging home stay clean, efficient and safe. Start your monthly visit for the whole family…your youngsters will learn how to gift their time and enjoy the love that their grandparents have for them, too!

HEY…would you click on your right and sign up button. You will then be notified when I share a new blog. And yes my senior care books are coming out…I am very excited about them.

UPDATE: on my Georgie..he has had a very tough month with his Alzheimer’s he is in a very emotional place. He had his meds upated and that helped. It has taken a lot out of me too. As you know the care giver is so involved with the spouse that a bad day for George is a bad day for me. But sharing what I do and how I have learned to cope, helps me get over the humps. Wishing you all a wonderful Spring…Here in Seattle we have had rainy weather day after day…so I am looking forward to the warmth and time in the yard again.

Blessings on you all…francy

Care-Givers Giving Care on a Budget

Estimated 30 million families from all over are quietly caring for their seniors without funding from anyone. Finding ways to care within a budget of time and money. by francy Dickinson

Family helping family with loving care

Dear Francy; My parents are fighting my mother’s dementia. They are on a very small budget. Dad has Social Security and $250 in a small pension. Mother has only social security, which is half of dad’s. Dad is so afraid of the future. How can he keep giving her the care she needs, with no money for professionals to help him?

First he needs guidance. The best place to find it is through the Aging Department in their local social services. He needs to go with you and just visit the offices and get a case worker to talk to him. She will guide him to what the state can do and what the local agencies can do. You will be surprised at the many people who are trying to help elders with care. Doing this is never negative, it is real and you will have a good idea of the steps that will need to be taken as the time moves on.

Now, here are some ideas of how to help your parents:

  1. If they have a home that is paid in full they can go and get money from the government in a reverse loan. This will give them the house value cash and leave the home for your dad to live in until he is no longer able to do so without a monthly payment.  Yes, some don’t like these loans but they are legal and using a company that you find with good BBB reviews on it, is the ticket. Then your dad would have money for a care giver occasionally. Always ask a professional their advice before you sign the papers, but get someone to come and talk to you about the process. You need to inform yourself as much as you can.
  2. If their home has an extra bedroom, they rent it out. But instead of money, the person will give care-giving time.  This is perfect for a college or technical student. This means you need to set rules for the person using the room. They have to have reference letters or names to check and full list of duties has to be in print for them to sign. Kicking them out will happen if they over-step the agreed upon rules.
  3. This will give your dad a little free time, even a few hours a day. To get out of the house and let him calm down.
  4. He will hire a bath lady. That is a first step in any in-home care. These ladies are trained to be upbeat and caring and will do a bath in no time and have your mom powder fresh and back in her favorite chair with tea in her hand and a smile on her face. To me they are miracle workers.
  5. Next your dad will either get his own circle of friends or re-join one. He needs to go out once a week to have coffee with them, or play poker, or golf or whatever is his pleasure. He will either have a family member, his border, or a paid in home worker watch your mom. This will give your dad a mental release and time to vent to others.
  6. Keeping your dad well with trips to his doctor so his stress does not affect his heart. Keeping him well feed and involved in the family, not feeling alone.
  7. You read and you read about dementia…get your mom into a neurologist so she can get any meds that might help her. Then stop all other doctor visits, its pointless to keep her body healthy when her brain is dying. I know this is hard, but it is what has to be done. Get yourself on a dementia support group online. So you can vent and keep your mind as clear as you can.
  8. Ask your family to cover for your dad…make merry. Keep the visits and the home as upbeat as you can. Play calming music, use smiles and keep your mom in a bubble of safety.
  9. Feed your mother good food, with sugar treats throughout the day. Keeping the energy and sugar level high can help to keep her calm. Don’t be afraid to ask for sleeping pills for her so your dad can get a good sleep, too.
  10. Always ask for help; ask your doctors, your local faith center, your city services, your community center, your senior center, your welfare office. Do not be too proud to get help
Blessings on all that you are doing, I know how hard it is to be one of millions of family members that care for their elders. The amount of seniors tucked away trying to care for loved ones all alone without funding is unbelievable in our country. You simply have to be brave and ask others to guide and help you. You will honor both of your parents by being strong and giving as much as you can and still keeping yourself and your family healthy and safe.
Thank you, for all that you are doing…you are a caring person and if no one has told you lately…. You make a huge difference in this world…your parents are lucky to have you caring for them. Blessings francy
PS Take note that my Senior Care Book is in the editing phase and will be out the door soon…so please click on the right and sign-up and you will be notified of all updated blogs and my book release ….Yeah, I’m excited…it has loads of care giving tips!!

HELP – Senior Parents Need Part-Time Care

How to juggle care giving and your own family life for senior parent care…by francy Dickinson

George carefully stepping down into our living room

Dear Francy; My mom and dad have hit the age that they both need care. Dad is younger than mom but he took a fall and has a very bad back. Mother is suffering from heart condition that really limits her ability to do around the house and go out. She is on oxygen most of the time and is so tired she is unable to care for dad. I have been trying to do things for them, but I have 3 teens at home and I am almost sick from exhaustion. What can I do now?

Well the secret is always in the money isn’t it? If you have money to hire in help or even a limited amount you would be wise to get a house cleaner. At least the house itself would be tidy and you would not have to do that part yourself. Alternatives are getting family members to come and clean for less. We have a young mother with her baby that cleans for my sister. She is her grand-daughter so she pays her a little bit and the cleaning and visiting with grandma is all done together. If your parents have a faith-based life with a community attached, call and see if they have a retired lady or young mother that would be willing to clean each week for a small amount that you can afford. Just remember; it has to be clean. So when you get someone in…tell them what you want them to do. Make a check off list and make sure it is done to your liking. If not explain and see if they can improve or get rid of them. You can not afford to pay someone to sit and talk and have a sandwich instead of washing down the shower and tub. Be strong on any help you bring into your parent’s home.

The next thing, that makes all the difference in the world, is a bath lady. Every single senior will get ticked-off at the thought of having one. But when they come; they will spend hours telling you how wonderful the bath lady is – I can not explain it. But I have seen it so many times. If they come and help your mom with a shower it is done so fast that its like a miracle. The heart patients are so receptive to this because it is exhausting; showering on their own. You find well trained bath ladies at a professional in-home care service. They will come and do a free review of the home and needs…and talk to you about their services. You can use as many services as often as you can afford; but even if you are low on funds…make a bath lady a priority she will add quality to the care being given. (PS she also reports any mark or problem with your parent’s body as she washes them. It helps to know if they have a bad skin spot where they are sitting…or a bruise or an open wound.)

Walk through their home with a good friend of yours. Tell your friend, it has to be a safe and practical for your parents. As you

Putting up handles anywhere that a fall may happen

walk through the family home…think of how to add handles to places that need support if they have to bend down or step up. Take away throw rugs or things on the floor. Remove clutter of newspapers and stacked books or hobby things. Clean it up, make it safe. How are they getting out of bed? Do they need a shower bench or handles in the bathroom? Does their kitchen need to be sorted so the everyday things are at a closer reach. Be strong…make good, wise changes and let your friend use her eyes that are not clouded by years of loving the home and it being ‘your parents’ place’.

Talk to your own family and tell them you need help. What could they do each week? Could they all come over on a Friday after school and get the yard cleaned, the garbage out, the wash carried up or down stairs, the bed changed….you know if you figure out that every Friday…you have a storm of duties and you all work. In two hours you will be free as a bird for the weekend.

Go and fix meals for the week in one night ! Don’t tell me this can not be done, I do it all the time. It just takes planning and saves you so much energy. Stay there for dinner that night and have the family over for dinner. Make it easier for you to be in one place, at one time. Then buy nice Rubbermaid dinner containers and store the dinners for the week. You can freeze a few left over dinners. This way your parents just microwave the meals and eat good home cooking each night. A big soup, a nice slow cooker meal, pasta, a pre-cooked roasted chicken for a couple of meals. Come on, you can do it! They add their fruit and salads, cookies and treats. You get it all done in a swoop of one evening. It may take some thinking, but you will see it is doable and easier than coming over every day.

No matter how smart and bright and gifted your parents are at this time. Take over the care of their medications. This one item could extend their lives. You simply have to gather up all their meds and find out what they are and why they are taking them. You write it all down and take it to the pharmacy where they will explain the medications. Then you list what is needed every day for each. IMPORTANT:  You then add in the supplements that they should both be taking, Vit D – 1,ooo units per day / Multi-vit for seniors / Vit C – 1,ooo units / Joint compound 1-2 pills per day, per person. Ask the pharmacy when you ask about their meds if those supplements are OK to add. Now, once a week you fill up their daily pill containers. They never again worry about what pill when. You handle it all and simply leave the container there for them. Remove their pill bottles to a large bag in the storage room. You will now make the call each month to order the pills and try to buy them for a 90 day amount. Use a pharmacy that has a computer and call back system. Give them your cell phone, they should be able to call you once a month and tell you when they are ready for pick-up. Picking up pills and the worry of doctor OK’ing the Rx is a nasty chore, so make sure the pharmacy is up to date. (I use Walgreens and like their price and their computer program.)  This is a key issue to care for seniors…medications are understood and given on time, every day. Make sure you mark the weekly pill containers with their names (I use nail polish or stickers) This way; medication is given to keep the pain away and keep their body functions going without the ups and downs of missing medications —-bodies feel and act much stronger. If they have to take food with their meds, make sure you get them into the habit of having a yogurt or small apple sauce container before they take their pills.

Don’t be afraid to change oxygen delivery companies. One of the biggest problems with oxygen is poor service or delivery. If your mother needs to use her portable containers…she needs them. For her to wait for them is not acceptable. Make sure the oxygen machine is one that moves up to 10 and adds a little moisture so she keeps feeling strong as long as possible. Medicare pays for this service so make sure the money is spent on a company that is reliable.

To review:

  • General cleaning of the house; like kitchen and bath is done weekly or twice a month by another person. Family, friend or professional.
  • Bath lady is hired min. once a week to give your mom a good comforting bath.
  • A clutter free area for a walker and ease of use is made by you and a friend as you clear up the house. Adding safety touches anywhere that a problem may arise.
  • You enlist your own family to help on a weekly basis. You give out chores and they all go to work in a flurry of activity. The yard, the garage, the garbage, the wash, the big items that need repair are all handled and you can relax.
  • You choose a day during the week to come and make dinners. You will be shopping for the food, have a menu plan at hand and then hit the kitchen. To make it easier you have your husband and kids join you that evening for dinner at the grandparent’s home. This is the slow cooker meal or the big pasta dinner. Leftovers and other meals are placed into nice storage containers that freeze and chill well. Salad mix, fruit, cookies, nuts, pies whatever their favorite treats are left behind. DONE = a week of meals for them to choose and microwave. Yeah.
  • You take over their medications. You know and understand what they are and how they work and what time of day to give them. You buy new and load up the big pill containers for the week and your parents are now safe and snug as bugs in a rug.
  • Check the service companies that are providing the oxygen, medications, bladder control or diabetes equipment. Make sure they bill properly to medicare and that they are easy to use. Do not be afraid to change. You may have to have the doctor re-write prescriptions, but this is just done once and then the ease of using a business that is good with their customer care is essential as your parents move into more and more use of medical equipment.
Most of all, caring for parents in their home is done with your schedule not theirs. It is a hard thing to do, but you have to say…here is my time. I am here with you two days a week and an additional evening. I will call you each morning when I get to the office and each evening before dinner. You set the rules, you call and stay on the phone for less than five minutes. Your day is yours, your time is yours to set. Your parents? They adjust and begin to enjoy life without the worry that they are over burdening you.
Blessings on all that you do for your parents. Care giving is not a fun ride, but it just how loving people live their life and honor those in their family.
Thank you…now, do me a favor please. Would you please click the ‘Sign-up’ button and you will receive a notice when I have updated my site…and join me on twitter at @SeniorCareTips I try to add tips and help those that have questions on a daily basis.
Blessings, francy

Worried About Grandma Back Home?

Help for seniors that are left alone in cities without family to care for them. Ideas and tips by francy Dickinson

Keep Seniors safe at home

Living Safe and Living Long

Dear Francy; My Grandmother and Aunt live in my old home town- two states away from me. I have a family of my own and very little time or money to spend on their care. They do not live together but they talk each day. I am getting very worried about their welfare. Their homes need help, their gardens need help and they need help. Both are in their early 80’s and are able to be on their own, but they need an extra eye to look over them. Ideas?

YES! This is a subject that I am asked so often. It’s so hard on family these days with all the travel we do, the jobs and families that we have established away from our old home towns. I understand the worry, I understand your fears and I have a few ideas to help.

  1. Try to plan a trip back home once a year or every other year. Do not go home at holiday time…do it in the spring or fall, when life is not so busy. That will allow you to really spend a few days with your older relatives and get a feeling for their health and ability for self-care.
  2. If you can not go than ask a relative or old friend from your home town to do a security check. You can reconnect with a highschool chum that would stop in once a month and you send her a thank you note with a Starbucks card inside. Be creative; older folks tend to say; “I’m just fine” when they are not just fine.
  3. Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way right from the get go. You need a power of attorney for health issues and they can have each of their names on the POA as back up. That way if they’re in trouble you can call long distance to the hospital and get information. The world and laws have changed, privacy means, NO information will be given out without permission of the patient. If the patient is unable to give permission…you are stuck.
  4. Make sure even if you are far away you can call and talk without worry. Add a MagicJack to your computer. That will give you unlimited long distance through the Internet for $25 a year. That way there is no worry about multi calls each day or long calls to them or others in the town to make appointments.
  5. Add them both to your family cell phone plan. They will not use many minutes and its a safe way for them to call 911. If you are all on the same cell phone company then your calls to each other are usually free. So they can talk to each other and to you and no minutes show on your billing. Call your service and ask them what a good plan would be for all of you, then make the change. Keep updating your cell services, some companies have special senior plans and it really helps to have that phone in their pocket ( or in their bra- LOL) all day long so they are secure in case of a fall.
  6. Think like you would if you were close. Call their doctor and make appointments, they do not care where you live. You make the appointments and keep up with the information as it comes up. If you have lived well into your 80’s and you have low health issues, then keeping life simple and having check ups is the way to keep your seniors living on their own for an extended time. Every year they need to see eye, skin, family doctor, and any specialist that they need for their extra care. Don’t forget teeth, they will start to eat less if they have teeth that are missing or hurt. 
  7. If they begin to have health issues; ask them if they would consider living together. They could both sell their homes and put the money in a fund. Then move in together in a retirement situation that would provide care as they age. They would have a community around them and be more involved in their lives – instead of alone.
  8. If they want to be where they are for as long as they can….start to set up a group of people who will help them. Get a listing of repair people from the community colleges and tech schools that are inexpensive and help seniors. Get yard people from garden clubs or faith organizations that do a yearly clean up for free.
  9. Add on a care service or hire an occasional cleaning person. Even once a month, or every other month. Add a bath person once a week this is really a good way to check their health. The bath person is trained to see if they are losing weight, have bruises from falls, or other medical complaints. I think this should be #1 on your list.
  10.  Connect with someone who will pick them up once a week and take them both to the grocery store, get their hair done, and get a pedicure (every 5 wks). They can visit together get a lunch after the shopping and have an enjoyable day. Someone from a faith center will do the job if you simply give a gift to the program. Be creative.
  11. Food, if they need help with food then do the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ they will send out food for the week and little treats can be purchased on the side. Do not allow them to go one day without a protein drink. This drink can be covered on their health program if you ask the doctor to give them a prescription for it. Boost and other protein drinks give them vitamins and protein that they may not get each day with small or unbalanced meals.
  12. Call the local Senior Center and get them on their mailing list…get them involved with day trips to local sites, card days, lite exercise, movie nites. Senior Centers have lots of extra services and so do the YMCA’s in the area. Tech college that are training in-home care givers also can send students for safety checks and so can the local Red Cross and Senior Care Services.
  13. Professional in home services can be done by the hour and you can get a review of what is needed when you call a Senior Care Service in the area. I always find them online and check out the references. These services are varied like bath people, cleaning, food prep, care giving and nursing. You can figure out the amount of money you have in the budget and use them each week or only on occasion. Its good just to talk to them and have an evaluation so they are ready to go when you are in need. Remember Medicare will pay for one month of in-home care after a patient has been in hospital for three days or more. Or Medicare will provide a 30 day stay in a care center to recover from a hospital stay before the senior returns to their own home. Your insurance and local senior services will review what your area covers for in-home care so call and get the idea in your mind and written down, in case you need it.
  14. If you feel they are in need of help financially..with food or other things you need a social worker. The best place to begin is with a  trained person that is there for you…you can call the local hospital that is close to them. Ask for the senior social worker and start with that person. They are always in the know and it is a hospital community outreach to help the public.

It will require you to make calls and get your lists ready to go, but once you do. It will be like you are living right next door. Do not depend on relatives, they often say they will do things and then do not follow through. It’s better to have a service help you, pay for it if your seniors have money and/or search for local charity services if you don’t have funds. Once again, the key word is being creative. Think about how you can ask others to help you to give your seniors the best care…even if you are not able to be there for hands on help.

Thank you for being so kind to your seniors. Many elders find their lives closed in to just their own home. They lose their spouses, friends pass, children are out-of-town and who do they have to help them? So good to know that you care enough to be on the other end of the phone. Blessings, francy