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.


7 Easy Meal Recipes for Shut-in Seniors

by Francy Dickinson                              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My Dad simply will not eat any of the food that they deliver to him. I have tried to buy him good frozen dinners -he hates them. How can I help him eat well at home?

I have a few ideas from my days going through the same thing with my mother. She loved to cook, but her last few of months living on her own left her to weak to cook. But some times it’s good just to know that a home cooked meal will arrive once or twice a week. If you’re alone or cook for a family a good dinner that’s made in the slow cooker or on Sunday when you have time – will go a long way. The key will be you making a week’s menu andputting it on the refrigerator. That way the senior knows what to eat each day. I used a piece of masking tape on the different microwave reheat containers with numbers and then put the numbers next to the menu days. If  they have to add something like fresh salad to his reheat dish, then just add it to the menu list. Be sure to put the re-heat microwave time next to the meal so he does not over cook. He will be involved but it will be easy and taste good to him.

If you are able to give him one day a week of a few hours you can pre-fix 7 easy meals. It will take time to shop and time to pre-cook. But the meals are designed to be fast prep and healthy. You’ll need a few good re-heat Rubbermaid type of containers so its easier for him to grab, nuke, add the salad sides and eat! I would do it at his place so he sees you cooking and appreciates your time and he can enjoy the smells from his kitchen. I have the shopping list at the end.

  • 1st dinner/ Buy a pre cooked roasted chicken – this is good for 2-3 meals. You prep them like this. Slice one breast and dark meat piece and heat with mashed potatoes and gravy from the deli section of the store (buy small container) If there are left overs store for lunch next day. Mark the menu for your dad to add in some carrot salad (or Jello salad) from the deli section (small container) after he has microwaved the dinner. Left overs can be a possible lunch
  • 2nd Dinner/Take the other chicken breast and slice it up and toss with Ranch Dressing. (This is for the inside of 2 torteas.) Add one chopped Roma tomato to the shredded chicken breast, sprinkle with shredded cheese – roll tight and store in wax paper. This makes a good dinner it goes into the microwave for 3 min to heat. He can add a side of his carrot or Jello salad.
  • 3rd Dinner/Dinner from your place/ One good weekly meal that you served your family and set aside a portion for the senior. It could be a nice soup, chile, stew or roast. This is the best dinner he will get so make sure it has gravy and plenty of spice to make it tickle his palette. You can find ideas on Slow Cooker Meals added to your IGoogle page/its an application for your home page. 1-2 servings
  • 4th Dinner/Fish – a small one meal piece of whte fish that’s easy to cook fast. Put in a covered micro container to steam. Be sure to add Ranch dressing, chopped green onion and squirt with lemon juice before you steam the fish. It will cook in about 3-4 minutes. Take out and cool then place on the reheat plate and add a side of Rice a Roni type of rice mix. Pick a fresh green veggie that you will steam for two dinners. You can use broccoli or asparagus. Steam it up in the microwave with plastic on top and a little water in the casserole dish. Add a sprinkle of flavored herb mix like Mrs. Dash on top and a dollop of butter or marg. This will be used for the fish and another dinner
  • 5th Dinner/Left over chicken pieces a leg, thigh and wing. Put on a micro dish and cover top with BBQ sauce to give the chicken a different flavor. Add a side of baked beans and another helping of green salad that you buy pre-mixed.
  • 6th Dinner/This meal is a fried meal. You can choose for him/1 hamburger steak or 2 pork chops. Either one is cooked the same; open the meat and let set while you’re doing the rest of the meals. Heat the oil and rub or dip meat into flour and then fry in oil. You will put salt, pepper, and always use paprika and a steak spice mix on them as they cook and you turn them over after they brown. Sprinkle spice/herbs on top of them as you turn them. If it’s pork chops; brown them and put some jam on the top or a squirt of maple syrup and add 1/2 cup of water – cover for 20 minutes on a low bubble. If it’s the hamburger steak than you want to dab a little BBQ sauce on the top and cover for an additional10 minutes on low. This meal is served with the rest of the Rice a Roni type of mix and the rest of the green veggies that you have pre-cooked.
  • 7th Dinner/Buy the fresh pasta(ravioli) and the Tomato Sauce in the deli section. They come in pre-pared containers. You can add the ravioli to the place and put the tomato sauce on top and add a sprinkle of Parmesanon top. You will put a side of Italian spice bread on the side. You can find the bread all pre-herbed with garlic and such in the frozen section.
  • Add in a good selection of fruits, yogurts, nutritional drinks and sweets for the in betweenfood. Make sure his morning is started with a good cereal served withVanilla Silk (soy-milk).  Have some pretzels, and some gummy bears for him to enjoy and snack. If you choose the better snacks he will have a better choice of good foods for his day.  

Your Shopping list:  You may have to shop for spices or condiments that you like to use when you cook- to put in his cupboard.

1 fully cooked chicken (the kind they roast at the grocery store)
1 hamburger steak or two pork chops
1 piece of white fish that is large enough to serve the senior
1 package of Rice A Roni (Chicken flavor type of rice mix)use for 2 dinners
1 small mashed potato container from deli section
1 small chicken gravy container from deli section
1 small carrot salad from deli section (2 dinners)
1 large pre-mixed green salad from the salad section so this will be a side for two dinners
1 BBQ Sauce – I like to use the honey BBQ
1 Ranch dressing
1 can of Baked Beans for one dinner – use rest for a lunch
1 bunch of broccoli or other green veggie to steam for 2 dinners
2 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of green onion
1 RealLemon – lemon juice to have in the senior’s refrigerator
1 serving of deli prepared ravioli
1 serving of tomato sauce from right next to the pastas in the deli section
1 container of Parmesan cheese
1 frozen package of pre-herbed and garlic bread that has individual pieces

These are meals that are easy to pre-pare, take very little cooking and just need you to be solid on getting it all done in one full swoop. Think fast and think easy. Buy most of the things pre-cooked or packaged and then the prep time is less. It’s never fun cooking in a strange kitchen, but take note of what he needs and just add it to the shopping list. As you’re in the kitchen go through the refrigerator and cupboards and throw the old spices and mixes, condiments and baking things that are no longer going to be used. You do not want out of date items on the senior’s shelves.

Please do come and visit my website www.seniorcareforseniors and get more information and tips for senior care. I have a great Care Giver 101 Workbookthat will really help to guide you in the care giving of your senior or spouse.

Thanks francy

Join me on Twitter @Seniorcaretips

Senior Refuses to Eat Real Food – Getting Weak

by francy Dickinson                        www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

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

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

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

I hope that you have already gotten his power of attorney for health reasons. If you do, then the decisions that you need to make for your dad are all in your hands. If not, get that done. I have the information in earlier blogs and in my Senior Care 101 Workbook – http://tinyurl.com/d6a5e5  

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

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

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

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

Senior Does Not Want to Take So Many Pills

by francy Dickinson     www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: My Dad is constantly telling me he has too many pills. I just do not know how to handle this, do I actually take some away?

I am right with you, my mother and my husband said the same thing. If you think about medications they do add up. Then you add in a supplement for joint pain, a small aspirin, stool softener and before you know it, you have a mess of pills to swallow.  So, here are some ideas.

* First I have all the medications on a listing on my computer. I put the pill type, the strength, the amount of pills per day, the doctor, what it’s for and then the time of day to take it and if it needs food. I am very good about keeping this listing up to date, so I can take it with me to any doctors office instead of a bag of pill bottles and present it at the hospital on emergency. It takes a little while to get it done the first time, but then it is just a simple update and you can save the file on your desktop to remind you.

* I have a morning and night – large pill container for my husband. But when I cared for my mother I had a huge container that I got through the hospital…she had 24 pills each day to take and I needed to give them to her four times a day. You will find these containers at the drug store or the pharmacy at your local hospital. They are a must!

* Once a week I go through my printed listing and check off the pills as I fill the container. I have to cut some of the pills and add supplements and such, but I do that once a week. Since most of my husband’s pills have to be taken with food, I make sure he has eaten before he takes the pills. I use yogurt, or pudding, applesauce, a bagel, or a cookie! Whatever works to get his stomach ready.

* Older people are generally not water drinking people. We all have so much water each day to flush our systems and we think everyone drinks a few glasses, not so! So, the best thing to do is to buy a juice like cranberry and put a small amount in the glass and then put in the water, so it gives it a bit of flavor.

* There are different ways to encourage people to swallow pills. You can have an Occupational Therapist  help you with this if you get to a point that swallowing is a problem. They are great at getting pills to slide down older throats!

* In our state laws (Washington) state a care giver can not put a pill in someones hand or mouth. They can only present the pill in a container and watch to make sure the patient takes it. But that rule does not pertain to a family member, so you do not have to worry about it. I personally take the pills from the pill sorter, twice a day and put them into a small bowl that I have and leave the lid of the pill sorter open. That way, if my husband forgets to take them or I forget if I gave them, I can see at a glance that I did hand out the “Tues Morning Pills” because of the lid. Then my husband takes them.

* My husband’s dementia means that he rarely remembers what pill is what and why he is taking them. So I printed out a copy of the pill listing I have done (see above) and I have it in a plastic cover. Each time he asks to stop taking some of his pills I hand the plastic sheet to him and say, read this and tell me which one you want to stop. Once he reads what each pill does, he says well I guess it’s OK. This happens a couple of times a week for us. Hopefully your Dad will only need one review of the listing to see each pill has a purpose.

*The argument my mother gave me in her advancing 90’s was…I am going to die of something, why take pills? I would show her the list and tell her. “If you stop taking your heart meds or blood thinner and you could have a stroke or heart attack, so be it. But, what if the result is not death but you are so weakened that it keeps you from talking – or your heart attack means you are in a high care nursing facility for months or years?” That always did it for her, she would then understand that the reason for the pills was not just to live, but to live with dignity.

* Now, when you get to a point that hospice takes over care for someone that is 6 months or so out from passing. They will lower the pills down to the ones that keep someone from pain and remove the ones that do all the background work. They do it with a doctor and they adjust the meds in a way that makes the patient comfortable and pain free. So that changes the goals of the medications, but it is done with a doctor overseeing the process.

* Mother’s doctors really did not know much about treating a person in their late 90’s. They were scheduling her for routine breast tests and bone density test, etc. I stopped that stuff. We did not have to run around the town to find out if she had problems with her body. Obviously problems happen when you are advancing towards 100. She did not want to go through surgery or extra treatment for anything at her age. So, the tests were out. That made the time at the doctor’s offices much easier for both of us. Those are things that a simple “health care directive” will guide you.

* If you do not have a Health Care Directive, get one. You need to be made aware of his wants on his care and his death. You can get very inexpensive “family law” software that has basic wills and power of attorney rights for your to fill out and print. (Or buy a form at the office store) Have this filled out with both of you, get it witnessed with two people that are not related and then get it notarized by a bank, insurance or reality office. This way you are legally able to make decisions for your dad if he is confused or unwell. It does not give you the right to work with his financial end…that would be a full power of attorney. That would be between you and your dad to decide.  Best to get this part of your relationship over and then you can concentrate on making medical and care decisions that you know he would want made on his behalf.

Good luck on the pills…hope this all helped and please visit my website to get more tips and information www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thank you, francy

Caregiver for Senior Exhausted-Family Still Needs Dinner!

by francy Dickinson                          www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; I have spent a whole week caring for my parents down with colds. They are determined to stay in their own home for a couple more years and I am exhausted. I drive home thinking I still have the family to feed, the kids to do homework with and a very understanding husband that could use a little attention, too. How do I keep this up?

You have to stay strong to be the one that saves the world, even Wonder Woman got sleep, ate properly and made it through chaos on a daily basis. So lets see if we can come up with a few things that make you at least “feel” like you have more power over your life.

Parents that live on their own have to know that they do not get full time care from their family. Make a plan in your mind and then share it with them.

–>On Monday; I will be at your place to get the house in order and do the shopping. We will eat light that day and I will only be with you for three hours. 
–>Tuesdays; I will come over and make a few dinners for the rest of the week and get the kitchen in order.
–>Wed; I’m staying home, if I have to run by to check on your meds I will not be there more than 20 minutes.
–>Thursday; is our appointment day and all outings will only happen on Thursdays with little to no exception. While we are out we will have lunch on the road to give you a treat and then back home. This may be a week with no appointments or one with a few appointments but we will work through and get this done. Dinner that night will be one of the pre-pared dinners that were done on Tuesday.
–>Friday; is a “just come over if there is a problem” or I will simply check medications. In and Out.
–>Saturday, is a family “comes with me day”. The kids and husband come with me and we all have things to do. The kids spend 30-60 minutes visiting with grandparents. The husband tackles a simple project from the senior’s “honey do list” and I do the med check and any left over small chores. We are out in 1 hour.
–>Sunday is a day for MY own family…if I have to check meds I do it fast and without delay. I do not even leave the house before 1PM because Sunday, is my sleep in day and day to have a slow cooker meal for the gang. Once back home, I have the day to just be mom and wife.

This is just an outline to give you an idea of how you can do most of your parents care giving on your terms. The terms you set, not theirs. If they have to get up early to have you there…do it. You can go and check meds and then come home for a nap while your own family is at work or in school. You change your pattern to include slow cooked meals, one night your husband cooks and if your kids are older – they do their own laundry and folding.

Things that have to be dropped are; no more outside chores for you. A garden crew has to do your parents home and yours. If you have a teen, that would be the teen, doing two houses in the summer months. It may mean money from an already tight budget, but you have to “live” through the care giving time…not come out of it so unwell it robs you of your own future health. If your parents can afford a weekly gal to do the hard cleaning – get one, if they do not want to spend the money – to bad. They will do it, if you sit down and be honest with your own family needs.

If you are a working person…then you have to simply limit your time to your parents to no more than 2 hours, early morning or each evening with two days a week that you only stay 1/2 hour. You have to be strong about food prep. If you can simply cook at your own home and add more food and get an expanded dinner that will include two more portions, do it. Doing cooking at two homes is nutty. The morning meals for your parents should be something they can fix in the toaster. There are lots of frozen toaster designed foods that will have to fill the bill and then add a boost with an energy drink. They may complain about food changes, but once again, fight for it. They have to know that their lives change too. You are all working together as a team, you are not their employee. Their afternoon lunch is something they can do with a sandwich and soup or left overs. Then you deliver their frozen entrees a couple of times a week that require them to simply take off the top and heat in the microwave. Buy the bagged salad greens and have other veggies pre-chopped in zip locks and their salads are easy for them to dump in a bowl, to go with the meals.

Laundry is hard to do in two places but a must. You can really keep that time down with newer appliances. If you can, get a dryer that will dry quick. Make sure the lint filter is clear inside the house and outside, to make the drying speedy and use smaller loads. Get one of those new Swifters (wet/dry) for the floor at your parents home. It’s easy to use and requires little fuss. If they have an old vacuum, put that on your list to replace, make clean up as easy for you, as you can.

If your kids are 11 and above have them come over once a week and “pay” them a small allowance to help you clean. One can do the the kitchen and go over the counters with those bleach wipes and do the floor. One can do the trash and scoot the vacuum around, while you do the bathroom and have a load of wash going. Everyone gets to learn and understand that supporting and giving care to family is simply what we do. It teaches young people to honor those that are older and in need and to give time as well as humor to their grand parents. If they are too small, they can spend a couple of hours doing homework at grammy’s kitchen table while you work…that way they get the whole family to surround them with love.

Your golden rule? “I come first.” Not an easy rule for mothers and wives, but one that has to be firmly in place for “all” of your family to survive these few years of total chaos. You get to eat what makes you feel healthy, not what your kids will like. You get to watch TV programs that relax you in your small amount of personal rest time. You get to take a nap and not be interruped. You need to stop and get yourself your own hamburger and then go home to prepare a regular dinner for your family. Why? Because doing little things for yourself will keep you going. Depression can set in at a the drop of a hat, you have to give yourself treats and time snipets. To keep you mentally up, means you get to set rules that will benefit your own needs. 

Best of all…you need to try hard to laugh at all the crazy things going on around you. Remind yourself, this is not “your” life, it’s just a time of extra care giving that has to be done. You have not done anything to deserve exhaustion…you simply have to force yourself to sleep and know that for a while you will be in this whirlwind. When the time comes that your parents are gone, you will take a deep breath and start your own life over. Maybe a mani/pedi day, maybe your hair done day, maybe a do nothing but sit in your own back yard and drink pink lemonade day. But for now, be strong on your limited time to give and be kind to your own personal needs. You come first!

Please go to my website and read more ideas to get you through the hard times of giving care www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thank you for your time that you give to your parents. I know that care givers can feel very lonely at times, so know I am supporting you from a far…francy

Mother will not eat…Senior Care

by Francy Dickinson                     www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Mother simply will not eat. She tries, she says she is hungry but I can not get her to eat, or finish her food. Suggestions?

I understand the “I’m not hungry”. I will tell you one of my stories. My mother had gone into the hospital for a short stay and on her arrival home she asked to have a private talk with me. I knew that was not going to be good. She had lived with my husband and I for about 2 years and mother was a quiet lady that did not relish talk.

I entered the room and she said she had enjoyed the use of the menu system for ordering her food at the hospital. She wanted me to set up a “menu system” for her use at home. I was stunned really, not knowing if it was for real – it was for real. Then I just laughed and told her that I remembered when I was little, that if we did not eat the food she prepared we went without food! So, I understand both your feelings of concern and your mom’s appetite problem.

First, add a nutrition drink today. Now, they’re not cheap, but they are one way to add protein no matter how much she eats. I thought I would save money and buy a high end protein powder to add to milk and juices. That did not work, mother did not absorb it into her system. So, I found a low sugar drink that was vanilla flavor and I would just add a little juice, fruit or another flavor to it each day. Key Tip – Keep it cold, it tastes better that way.

Then think back to what you were served when you were young. That old fashioned food may hit the spot for your mother. Remembering Hobo stew, potato soup, split pea soup, au gratin potatoes, casseroles, jello salads,grilled cheese sandwiches, home made biscuits, apple butter, butter milk, etc. Things that today’s cooks tend to not prepared because of high fat or sugar content, that what you want o re-introduce into your mother’s diet. You will find her helping you if you ask her about her favorite meals when you were young. That palette of hers was developed when she was a young person, so take her back to those times with a weekly placement of the older menu of foods. Does not have to be daily, just weekly will do just fine.

Make sure you use plenty of salt and spices. Older people tend to lose their sense of smell and taste. So put a salt shaker on her tray or on her table where she eats, that will help her make things “taste” right.

Don’t be afraid of sugar. Most older people get sugar cravings. My mother wanted her candy and I kept it in a covered candy dish for her at all times. She would have a little in the evenings and I encouraged it. It made her happy, gave her a lift and cost very little to keep her satisfied.

Mom would have a craving, KFC or maybe Chinese food when that happened I would make sure she had those on her table. We did not join her, we just went out and got a nice chicken dinner for her as a treat and she loved it! Mom had to have her hamburgers and my husband would bring them home about once a week for her. He always bought a small fry and she would eat the fry first while it was warm and then have her burger. She would be sooo happy. One less meal for me to make and one happy camper = nice evening.

Change her meals around. Maybe a larger breakfast would work for her. She would have all the food in the morning with her pills for the day and then a small lunch and dinner snack. Maybe almost a dinner type of meal for mid-day and then just a snack for dinner. Adjust her up and exercise schedule to her meals and she may be able to eat them with more gusto.

Give her a choice. This is how I do choices. I look in my refrigerator and I see that we have a small amount of lasagna left over from a couple of nights before (or frozen from the dinner last week) and then our current night’s meal that I am planning to prepare. I would go down to mother and say, “Mom do you want lasagna tonight or would you rather have stir fry with pork?” She would then have a choice and feel like she was making the “menu” decision. I on the other hand was simply stating two meals – one that was already prepared and the other was the night’s dinner. The choice was hers to make, but mine to choose.

Stand-by’s. Mother loved those toasted strudels that you can buy frozen. When it was a bad day, I would pop a strudel into the toaster and make some fresh coffee and she would be pleased with the selection. See if you can find a stand by – that way when you are not feeling well, tired, stressed or just out of it in general, you have a release valve of something easy to prepare that she will eat and enjoy.

If you push all of this away and remember you have stepped up and given your mom a safe haven living place. You are concerned enough to worry over her well being and want the best life she can have at this time for her. You are the one to be praised, you are holding down a whole lot of living and your constant juggeling is noted and appriciated by me and those that love you. Keep caring and keep being kind to yourself and your own needs. Keeping you strong and well centered in your mind, will give your mother a continued good life.

Please come and visit my website and find other ideas for your care giving www.seniorcarewithspirit.com Thank you for your time and questions, francy