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

by francy Dickinson           

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, francy


It’s Not a Food Bargain if it Moves!

by francy Dickinson                      

Dear francy; Dad and I got back from the $ store with lots of bargains. I fixed his dried soup for lunch and before I got it in front of him, I noticed it was moving! Yuck!

Yes, that is a nasty thought and here we are all so proud of our ideas to save money for our seniors. So, I have a few tips on how to save and still be safe for seniors and care givers, too!

  1. Get a small magnifier. I have one that I wear around my neck when I shop. Those food packages have very small print and you need to see what you are buying. Check for out of date and out of country labels.
  2. I do not buy dollar toothpaste if it comes from China. It has been reviewed very badly in the news. The toothpaste has normal well known labeling, but has ingrediants that might be strange. So, keep eyes and ears open for those “shopping bewares” in the news.
  3. $ store is such a great place to shop, but you need to remember that a $ for a can of fruit is not a deal. You can find it cheaper on sale at the grocery store. So, know your prices. A $ for a sealed bag of cookies, is a good deal. A $ for spices that can be $5+ is a good deal. Really shop and learn the different $ stores in your area. I love them, but I read, read, read when I shop. I just got a bag of coffee filters that saved me $4 – too fun!
  4. Shopping can really tire anyone out. So I have a once a month $ store run, not every week. I get my greeting cards there and put them away for the month’s birthdays. I buy a few food items that I have checked out and make my regular. I buy personal items like soap and deodorant. I get small gifts for grand kids and party items if I need them. Then I am out of there for the rest of the month.
  5. I love using box stores. But once again, I get tired- walking with my bad back- so I go to them on a limited basis. Our Wal Mart does not have a grocery store, but it has a few basic food items that I love to buy and save big. Like cereal, eggs, milk and some canned items on special. I get my Rx list there with the low generic prices and then I always buy my paper products and house cleaning items. Once a month means I need to shop with a list.
  6. A list, if you do not list your needs, you are much smarter than I am. I can not keep my personal needs and the needs of my senior in my mind. I make a list at home. I have a big $ next to items to buy at the $ store, a W for my box store items, a star next to coupon items and then I write down my needs for the month.
  7. I have a basic 14 day plan for meals for my family and my senior’s family. If I work in two places, I need to be organized and it saves me money. At least 2 times a week my own dinners are used as the senior’s dinner. I just make a good quanity of soup, stews, slow cooker meals, etc and then share them with my senior. That cuts their budget and the saving on the double cooking  time makes me happy.
  8. Coupons are a great way to save. Some folks love them – some don’t. Even if you do not dedicate yourself  to coupons, be sure you look at the store flier before you shop. They post them on the wall of the store. It will point out items you will want to buy on sale.
  9. I have long made coupons a senior project. I get the newspapers and fliers in the mail and my seniors do the viewing and cutting out and then we file them together and talk about the meal planning. Some times you get a double saving and lots of times you can buy foods that you rarely buy because it is on such a good bargain. Look for new food items, they often give those away to get you to try them. Online coupon sites can really help you learn more about coupon use.
  10. I always take my senior to a coffee shop or lunch when we do the food shopping. It means we get time together, they are out of the house and we both rest after the walk around those huge grocery stores. I have a couple chain restaurants that I get online coupons from to help us in our lunch budget. Shari’s is a favorite for us, they have a special Honor Card that gives you a free meal after you gather enough points. They also have online coupons for free pie, or 2 for 1 lunch and dinners. Makes eating out more fun when you save!
  11. Ask and look for senior discounts, just know it only makes sense to offer all of us a savings. Seniors have a good income to spend, even if we are on budgets we are a big part of sales income for the business world. We are loyal buyers and they know that, so they offer us coupons or senior specials to keep our loyality. That will help us save at least $10-$30 dollars a month. Hardware stores, lower gas rates and free coffee with your meals – all of those are just for the asking if they have a “senior discount”
  12. Senior Center meals. Each area has a senior center and often they offer free or discount meals. When you arrive they often have something free to hand out to you. From bread products to coffee samples, it makes it fun to have a free treat basket, so check it out in your area.
  13. Bakery outlets, do you have one close to you? Or maybe a canned goods store. Some of the larger areas have outlets to sell their items that have been cleared from the grocery store shelves or are what is called “end items” These are great places for deals, but not for the senior to visit without a friend to be with them. They are often hard to move around the store and they can really confuse and tire you. So, this is a once a month or every few months trip. The savings is not worth it if you have to rest for two days after your shopping.
  14. Odd places have surprise savings. Our small local hardware store has flowers and garden items for a great price. So, I always do a planted pot for my seniors. It is not a big garden, but a welcome note at their door step or off their patio door.
  15. Local fruit markets. If you are able to wander around your local farmers market is a great outdoor escape in the summer. They have fresh from garden produce and good prices, plus they support local growers. Good stuff to go there and think of it as a trip out, not just shopping.
  16. Nothing is a bargain if you over buy. Large containers of food, or dozens of something is great for a big, growing family…not a senior on a buget. Buy what you need for a couple of weeks, not for a year.
  17. Rule: before you go shopping clean out your cupboards and refrigerator. Get rid of that old and unused food. Does your senior still bake? No? Clear out the baking goods that are old. Does your senior eat ice cream not that they are on a low sugar diet? Throw away those old frozen items- If your senior is not good with left overs, throw them out. Food that is not eaten on time is dangerous. You have to have a void to fill it- so clean and clear before you shop.

Well I hope some of these ideas help on your trip to getting more on your already smaller budget. Buy wise, make lists, remember senior discounts and coupons, buy what you really eat and use. Happy Shopping!

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

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

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

Seniors Losing Long Time Friends

by francy Dickinson                  

Dear Francy; Dad just lost a long time friend. Today a few well known stars have passed. Dad is reacting saying he needs to stop his meds and just let the world go by without him. I am upset, his health is not extreme just managed with medications.

I understand, I went through a daily reminder of my mother’s loss of all of her old friends as she lived with us in her last five years of life. She would tell me how she missed them and how she could not share her memories with anyone. So, I have been there the only idea I had for her moods of sadness was to re-direct her to thinking in the now.

Here are a few tips:

    1. If there is a big dedication for well known personalities that have passed keep it down to a dull roar. Yes, watch an hour or so and get the information, then the channel gets changed.
    2. Get the senior out of the house, the world has sights that bring all of us back to calm. Going for a walk or drive will bring the neighborhood back into the mind of the senior, the coffee shop they love back to the forefront of their brain.
    3. Make sure you talk about passings of others but do it with humor. Remember old stories that bring smiles. Those that past should represent good memories, not sadness.
    4. Honor passings. Even if the friend that passes has not been around for a while, find a picture of them to put out and talk about the person and ask when the senior first met them and the most enjoyable time they had together? Let the senior remember and talk about the person to work through their grief.
    5. Ask if the senior wants to go to the memorial. Some times they do, some times not. When one of mother’s old card pals passed, she was to unwell to go to the memorial. So I went for her. I did not know the lady well, but I reported back to mother about the day. Signed her name, and mine, in the guest book and took a picture of the flowers and receptions table for her to view.
    6.  When she was sad I would ask her to tell me a story I had heard in the past about her family or friends and some funny thing that happened or family event. I did this often to keep the memory of those that passed around mother in a positive way. Not tucked away in the dark and sadness.
    7. When mother lost her small dog, I bought a balloon for both of us and we went outside and let them go. We talked about when the dog first came to mother and the thought of loss was honored.
    8. When mother’s brother was very ill and we thought he would pass, we make sure she visited him. She was weak and it was a hard thing to do, but she needed to see him and tell him she loved him. He got well but she would pass a month later. It was a good- good bye that she needed.
    9. When a singer passed that she used to listen to when she was young, I got a CD of his music at the library and played it for her and we talked about her and dad dancing the night away – one night long ago. We got silly and I pushed her wheelchair around the room with the dog in her lap!
    10. When her neice died I got a picture of her out of the memory book, had it enlarged at the copy shop and framed it. I put out the frame and a small voltive candle and had it burning each evening for a couple of weeks. She needed a way to work through her grief.
    11. Each time she complained about her old age and passing, I reminded her how much both my husband and I enjoyed having her with us. I would tell her about how much she helped me with this or that. I feel a senior just needs to feel wanted and needed. Like all of us, they need a purpose to keep life on the top of their plate, not start to think that that their death would not effect anyone. Once they get that reassurance, they perk up again.
    To Review: to honor a passing, but not dwell on it. To remember a friend’s passing by honoring the happy memories. To have a ritual that that helps to set the grieving process in motion. To remind the senior that they are still loved and needed, no matter who else is passing along the way.

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

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

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

Senior Refuses to Eat Real Food – Getting Weak

by francy Dickinson              

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caution: Mobility Chair Coming Through!

by francy Saunders                        

Dear Francy; My dad is 77 and he has arthritis and has a heck of a time getting around the house. He wants a scooter type of chair, do you think he can qualify?

Electric/Power chairs have really changed our physically challenged society and given them freedom. I feel that the chairs are simply wonderful for out and about. When I was a young person you rarely saw anyone in public in a wheelchair – they simply stayed at home. Can you imagine to be trapped inside a house because they could not walk any distance at all?Heart patients, lung problems with difficult breathing, arthritis and other things like MS and severe diabetes side effects have kept folks glued to their small inside living area for far to long. So the birth of these chairs is wonderful. The different insurance programs and medicare seem to be paying for the chairs and more and more people are using them. You can simply call your local medical supply and ask them how they decide on the insurance coverage, they will take you through the steps. They will even get the prescription from the doctor for you and plug you into the best buy.

But should you?   NOW my caution. The chairs are additive to use and if you do use them all the time and no longer walk at all, that means you lose your muscles and you will not be “able” to walk. This may seem like a joke or no way, not me kind of thing…but it’s true and you have to understand what you’re trading off. If you have a problem with your lungs and then you never exercise your lungs or your legs, what comes next? If you have a problem with your weight and then you start to move around in a chair, is your weight going down? I doubt it. So here are some suggestions that you can go over and see how it would effect him:

Mobility Chairs:

  • Have the patient or senior make a commitment that if they use the power chair all the time, they will do exercises from a sitting position to keep their muscles in their legs, thighs and buttock working. This way they can get out of a chair, up and down from the toilet and so on. The exercises I am talking about are found on the PBS stations or on video with “Sit and Be Fit” – you could find them at your local library, too.
  • If the patient/senior says they will walk around the house in the morning when they are fresh and do their exercises and stretches. In the afternoon when they are getting tired or have more pain- then they will use the chair.
  • The Patient/senior can use the chair on outings and around the outside of the house or when people are visiting to make life easier.
  • The patient/senior can use the chair for household chores and such, but walks from their regular chair to the bathroom and back to keep their legs healthy.
  • The patient/senior uses the chair all the time, but does a series of deep breathing exercises three times a day and daily does their sitting stretches and exercises. They practice getting up and down from a sturdy side chair with arms and keep those legs working for healthy movement.

I am not saying the chairs are not great…but many times using things that help you can also hinder you in the long run. Most older people with health problems, just think they have a short life span ahead anyway so they do not look into the future. You have to know that medical care is so advanced that people with severe health challenges do live for five, ten years or longer. That’s a long time to be bed ridden or stuck with a full time care facility because you did not think that exercise in your 70’s or 80’s was important.

Lots of men will promise to exercise and never do it. Lots of women with diabetes are very overweight and this chair allows them more access to food on whims. People in pain think the chairs will relieve the pain, when lots of times it promotes muscle cramps that are very painful. There is a trade off for using the chair. I simply want you and your dad to understand it is not a joke. His arthritis pain is not a joke either and if he can commit to exercise along with the chair then the combo could be a wonderful life enhancer.  

Choosing to use a mobility chair should be a choice, you would hate to have your body force you into using a wheelchair or the power chair on a full time basis, just because you got lazy with exercise. Even if you are totally unable to walk…you need to exercise as much as you can. That’s how you stay well, that’s how your body functions work. You will find that digestion, intestinal, and breathing problems will develop if you do not exercise your body. That also means if you get a cold or flu you’re likely to get pneumonia and that can threaten your life.  So be wise, talk it over and make sure the commitment to a mobile chair is really needed and properly used.

Please do read over my website tips and notice that I have a great Care Givers Workbook 101 that really helps with all the details that come up in giving care to a senior. Visit sign up for my newsletter and check out the workbooks on the products page.

Thanks for all you do for your dad,


Bad Day, Need Help – Note in bottle from Caregiver

Francy Dickinson                   

Dear Francy: I am having such a hard time, I have tried and tried to get my dad’s outlook more positive – but he is just stuck in mud since my mother’s passing. Help?

Yes, that is called the angry old man syndrome and it is a real effect of men that have been pampered and loved so much that when they lose that spouse they simply retreat in anger. It is certainly not directed at you, it is directed at the world.

So lets go over some tips for you to use:

  • Exercise, even if he is really limited you must get him up and out the door. A walk a day with an older neighbor, a walk with the dog, a drop off at the Y and let him do a senior exercise program, or just you and he walking around the house every time he goes to the bathroom!
  • Get him a good multi-senior vitamin supplement and add a few other things to it. B-12 is a biggie for brain function, and lots of folks are talking about Vitamin D for seniors so go and do some Google work and see what you can find to make his system work as well as it can.
  • Reduce his sugar, if he’s diving into cookies and candy to relieve his depression. Change that get some puddings and Jello without sugar. He eats- the sugar gets a lift and then comes crashing down to depression or his current form, anger. So keep him on a more stable up and down with a lower sugar intake.
  • Invite others in to visit him. Call some of his older friends and ask them to come over for a piece of pie and coffee and to visit your dad…if you have no one, then go to a local church and just talk to the minister and ask if he has seniors that like to do lay-work in the community and would visit him and play cards or take a walk.
  • Have at least one event every month that he enjoys and looks forward to get out of the house. I give this one to your kids or grand kids to pick. The miniature train display at the historical museum, the WWII movie at the local theater, the Civil War re-enactment at the local park, the July 4th parade in a small local town. Just give this to the kids to figure out and they will enjoy the event along side of him.
  • Try the penny jar routine. You put out two jars, one filled with pennies or beans…and every time he says a swear word or gets mad you –go over and put a penny in the empty jar. This is an amazing way to show someone they are repeating a negative task. You can say, dad you are swearing so much it bothers me, but he could care less – until he actually sees that empty jar filling up with pennies from his own actions. You will see a change, I promise, I have used this with myself and I have really been able to make a mental note on change.
  • Doctors can prescribe meds if they know what is going on. Write a letter to his doctor and just tell him the changes your dad has made and see if the doctor feels meds can help. I believe in these meds, my husband has Alzheimer’s and one Zoloff pill a day keeps his confusion and anger away!
  • Give him things to do. Make sure he is not sitting all day watching TV. If he is at his own home, write a list of honey do’s-just like your mother would have done. And press him to get one or two done before your next visit. If he is with you, you do the same. Make the chores easy and with no more than three steps to finish the task then he will feel he has a reason to keep going.
  • Ask his advice. I would sit down with him once a week and tell him you have a choice on a few things this week. Should you go ahead and try to save money with these coupons that you see on the TV that everyone uses or should you just shop in the discount grocery store and not worry about the fuss. Ask him what he thinks. He may blow it off and think your conversation is not worthy, but do not take it personally, the information will go into his mind and he will make a comment on it at a later time. You are giving him the respect to ask his opinion and that is what he needs. Even if the conversation is not deep, it only has to be sincere. You can talk about politics or neighborhood problems, just talk.
  • Make sure his surroundings are reflective of him. If he is in his own home, make sure your mothers things do not dominate his visual everyday. Move the furniture around in the living room to give his chair a better view of the window and the TV. Paint the room, use earth tones throw pillows. In small ways remove your mother’s feminine side and allow him to have a space that is his- instead of him living in a museum to his wife.
  • After an incident that you two argue or you get your feelings hurt. Let time pass…maybe a few hours or a day and then go and sit down with him and say. You know dad I am trying hard to live my life with lots of people that need me, I count on you loving me and giving me support. No more arguments OK? No long boo hoo passages, just let him know, he is a part of your family team and you need him to support you- not fight against your every move.

Well I hope some of these things help bring your dad back to a place that he can find a good smile. I certainly appreciate your time with him, I know it is not a pleasant thing to be with a person that is angry at the world. Please do sign up for my newsletter and visit my web site for more information at You are doing a very good job, just think creative, not negative when you’re giving him care.  

Thanks, francy

Where is my Pepto? Senior Care Tips

francy Dickinson          

Dear Francy: My mother has asked me to buy her pepto, lip balm and other over the counter stuff on repeated occasions. What’s up, I can never find them when I go over to her place, is this early dementia?

Well before we have your mother diagnosed by a blonde, like me. I think we should start with something I can tell you- if she’s forgetting and losing things, then you schedule her for a memory test at her doctor’s office. Some primary physicians do it but most ask you to go to the neurologist. This is a good thing to do – they do the memory test and a year later they repeat it. That way the doctor has a base line and can see if her mind is changing in any alarming way.

How about something you and I can do to help her out right away? Ah, organize! I know you’re saying that your own home is not organized so why should you help your mom on this subject. Well, it’s always easier to clean in someone’s home. Less distraction.  Here are the steps to get the bathroom and the table by her TV chair in order:


  • Start with taking a large black trash bag in the room and open all the drawers and dump. There will be old hair brushes and rollers, and creams that have gone green with age. There will be hairpins and old make up and it will just go on and on. So, throw as much of the old stuff as you can. Anything that you have a question on, put it aside.
  • Add a 7-10 size magified mirror that sticks on her bathroom mirror, so she can actually see without glasses. That way she can put on and take off makeup and do her facial hair work.
  • Clean out the drawers with some soapy water and line them. You know, you buy the Rubbermaid liner that’s a plastic sheet in a roll and will be easy to clean and freshen up old drawers. Then you’ll get a few of the plastic trays for drawers-just like you use with silverware, only single size. Those are for her toothpaste and brush so they stay clean-sort of thing.
  • Take a moment to re-think the drawers. You want to have a drawer for teeth cleaning and small first aid in one of the top drawer areas. You put in the tray liner and buy a new toothbrush ( I personally live for the Sonicare it’s so terrific) if she needs it. Then you put in this drawer the things she would reach for everyday. Maybe a new moisturizer (by the way get one with SPF she may not know how important that is these days) Then the neosporin, the anti-itch cortisone cream, any other cream she uses on a daily basis and her underarm deodorizer. You can slip in a few other things like a small band aid box and one of the newer liquid band aids and tell her how to use it. This means that she opens this drawer for her basics, teeth, deodorant, moisturizer and small cut and itch repair stuff.  Her morning routine in one drawer, or in one small basket if she does not have a drawer.
  • On the other side of the bathroom sink – that top drawer is for her hair and her make up. Once again, use those individual trays. Three or four trays will hold her tweezers and small scissors, eye color, under eye concealer, mascara, blush and mineral makeup. The mineral makeup is new to older folks, so introduce her, it will not stick in her lines and help her look young and pretty everyday. Her lipsticks go in another tray and remember, only keep a couple -they turn bad- as does moisturizer and mascara. So if she’s not using a lot of makeup these days – do a replacement with new. In another tray is her comb and hair brush and a tube of hair gel. Show her how to just shampoo, moisturizer, towel dry and comb through her hair and then use the gel and run it through her hands into her hair for it to look tosseled, if she’s in a hurry. Lots of older gals get into not doing anything with their hair and this way she looks good everyday.
  • Under the sink gets cleaned out next and everything goes. This is where you put the toilet paper stash, the basket with cleaning goods for the shower & those cleaning wipes with bleach. A small plastic tub for her throw away shavers, back up shampoo and her bar soaps that she can easily grab. The same type of tub for her “over the counter” med stuff. (Her prescription drugs should be on a high shelf in the kitchen away from moisture, not in the bathroom)
  • Load up the plastic tub with the over the counter drugs: Get rid of all outdated stuff…just throw it. Buy new items and I know it sounds expensive but once you get this down it will be all in order for her. You should have Pepto, or generic, tussin cough syrup, Imodium pills for diarrhea, stool softeners for constipation, a cold pill that she can take with her meds, Vick’s, larger band aids,a new easy to read thermometer, alka seltzer & cough drops. Everything ready to use if she is unwell- or needs something in the middle of the night – she just grabs the basket.
  • The rest of the shelves in the bathroom, if she has them, like a linen closet, should be cleaned out. Old towels are gifted to charity and old shampoo or other products or fancy gifts that were given to her for the last ten years – that no longer are used – go in the trash. The shelves should be empty…they only hold a couple of new towel sets that are new and feel fresh and fun to use. They hold a basket of wash clothes for her to use on her face. The toilet paper can go here and her cleaning products from under the sink if she has this extra space. The other basket that works well here is the one for her hands with moisturizers and her nail polish, cotton balls and remover. So If she does her nails she just takes the basket down and takes it with her. But all the old junk..the old curlers and curling irons, bottles of fragrance, bubble bath  and blow dryers that she never uses – they go out the door. You want the area to be clean and easy for her to see what she has and what she needs.


  • This is a must for all seniors. You have this for their chair side-table at home or in a care center. If its a care center it’s a smaller basket, but the at home, needs to be on top of the table.
  • In this basket you put a small magnifying glass, emery boards, a pen & letter opener, small paper scissors, a small glass-cleaner spray bottle, tums, lip balm, small hand cleaner, small hand moisturizer, tiny Swiss knife, Q Tips and a small pocket mirror. The basket has to be easy to grab and look through or a box with a top if she likes things tucked away.
  • The point of this is to think of things she has to get up and go and get all day. Then she has to remember to put them away and they find their way down her seat cushions and on the floor before that happens, so this way, she stays organized and still has her things right at her finger tips.  I like to put a klenex box and salt and pepper by the chair too…so if she has carried her food in the living area, they can have the seasonings close at hand. My mother always wanted a small glass container with a lid to keep little sweet treats in and she kept a nice tile to protect her coffee or tea cup when it was at rest, on the table.
  • I also love the over the chair arm and the slide in the mattress caddies. They work so well for the remote controls and the magazines and such and they make everything close.

Why all this fuss and work on your part? The easier it is for your mom to not walk around and get up all the time, the less falls you worry about. The cleaner the area the less visual clutter the mind has to sort through and can help anyone with light memory challenges. The easier her bathroom is to find things and know that it’s at an arms reach, means she does not tuck this here and there and then forget where? If she is having memory trouble just label the drawers for her in the bathroom.

Remember the majority of illness happens in the bathroom. If seniors feel sick to their stomachs or have problems with their bowels – in they go to the bathroom. To have it tidy and clean and easy to use, means it could help them in an emergency.

If her bathroom is really looking sad, you can perk it up with a new light fixture that uses the new low volt lights. Very easy for anyone to trade off light fixtures, just remember to turn off the light at the switch before you meddle with them. You can get a new faucet so the old one does not leak. You can bleach out the counter tops and make them bright and then shine them with a car wax. You can paint the room with one gallon of paint. And you can remove and replace the caulking around tubs and sinks with an easy to use acrylic caulk for tub and tile. The place will look fresh and fun for her to use again.

The Bathtub: You can have the old bathtub redone with a service that refurbishes porcelain and it makes her tub all new and pretty. You can add a great bathtub hand rail or special bath chair. The handheld shower is a very easy addition to any tub and you will only need Teflon tape and the hand held shower kit. The shower curtain should be see through so she has plenty of light when she’s in the tub. The toilet area should have a handle to help her up if she’s unwell.

As we all age, the bathroom is used more and more, so it needs to be easy to use and not have floor rugs that slip. If you want to get a new floor mat that sits in front of the sink that does not slip and is made of latex, great, otherwise rugs come out of the bathroom. Almost all bathrooms that have vinyl can be easily upgraded with the new 14″ vinyl tiles that stick on and look so great with grout lines printed right into the tile pattern. They are inexpensive and take off 10-20 years of age in the bathroom. (wish I could have something that took off years!)

Your mom will feel updated, upgraded and have less stress to remember where she put her lip balm, if you take a little time on this. Remember, people live in homes for years and years and the bathroom just gets more stuff in it, rarely does it get a good clean-out. So this is just the ticket for you both!

I did this with my mother and other seniors in care and they responded with so much excitement. I redid mom’s bathroom after my father passed – in a more feminine color with fancier towels. It really did make an emotional change for her. Please do go to my website and get other tips on care giving and read the rest of my blogs on Alzheimer’s and dementia if you are worried about your mother’s memory.

Thanks, francy