Ten Tips to Make Your Senior’s Holiday Perfect!

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My Georgie w guests at our table -Nice Times

My Georgie w guests at our table -Nice Times

Dear Francy; I have personally been under the weather lately with a nasty cold. I am usually on my own so when I visited a home with children I was exposed to a cold bug. It has taken me down and I have had to really fight to get well. So, take note and remember that seniors do not have the resistance to fight off “kid bugs”. Do not bring little ones to Grandma’s if you even think, they are getting a bug. I wanted to share how to handle holidays with your seniors…its easier than ever with the help of the Internet.  So here is a review of the things to keep in mind. Blessings on all of us who give care to our family members…its a big task to take on, but it represents the kindness and love you share with others…Thank YOU! f.

GREAT TIPS FOR SENIORS AT HOLIDAY TIME

  1. If your senior is out of town. Call today and order a Thanksgiving dinner to be delivered. Then let the senior know it’s coming; so they can invite a friend to join them. The dinners come in 2-4-6 and more so just pick a portion size that would give them a dinner with left-overs for great turkey sandwiches.
    Go online and look up “Turkey Dinners Delivered, Home Town” and up will pop, a few grocery stores, cafes, senior centers and such and you can choose. If your senior wants to go “out” to dinner. Find a senior center that will be serving and then call a cab company and make arrangements for a home pick-up. If the area is too small. Call the local community church and ask the pastor to guide you. The pastor will know what is available and tell him if he would arrange it, you would kindly send a

    Pies Ready for holiday dinner

    Pies Ready for holiday dinner

    gift to the church as a thank you. There is always a way…be creative. A dear friend of mine sent me a Christmas dinner box; when I was in the middle of caring for George one year. It meant the world to me. All I had to do was warm it up and we enjoyed it. No muss – no fuss. DO IT!

  2. Don’t give seniors a long day. If you are bringing the seniors to your place for dinner, limit the visit time. Pick-up should be an hour before dinner, then figure, dinner and one to two hours after dinner. Then take them home. For a senior that is not used to interacting with lots of people, they can only take so much time and use so much of their energy before they go downhill. They will wilt on the vine, if you don’t make their time easy, fun and fast…so they are home with a turkey sandwich in their hand for later and an extra piece of pie. They will rest and recall the lovely day you have gifted them.
  3. If you are visiting and bringing the senior dinner. Take over the teens and make sure they are healthy and just stay about 45 minutes. Long enough to get their dinner in place, chat with them about family things and then leave. Seniors do not have the energy to handle long visits with multiple people. But they love them….so be kind, make it fast but enjoyable for them. (I always use a glass pie plate to put the dinner in. It’s deep and holds a lot of food and can either be heating in the oven or microwave.)
  4. Leaving town? Make the holiday dinner before or after your return. Even if it is a dinner out. Let the senior know you love them by making your own holiday. Just because you go away for fun… they do not. Don’t leave them without a holiday meal and family memories.
  5. Live out of town? Then be sure your senior knows how to use SKYPE. I have a neighbor and dear friend with an elderly sister in New Zealand…well at least that is what they tell me. Because every time I go over…the phone rings and the sister is calling on SKYPE. The two sisters just chat away and enjoy their time together and they feel close and happy. Its like they are living two blocks away from each other. Its very sweet to watch. Gift that closeness to your senior. Either you or someone you know, goes over to the senior’s and sets-up the older computer on a phone and you just keep it for SKYPE. It will be so appreciated and fun for the senior. Don’t let them say they are afraid of the computer, make it work and let them practice over and over so you and your senior can be close even if there are thousands of miles between you. PS Lots of retirement centers now have SKYPE set up for their guests too.
  6. Holidays are family and family is tradition. So, take dad with you to get your Christmas tree…call mom and ask her, for the 100th time, how she makes her stuffing. Include your senior in the actual planning of the holiday and it will mean more to you and to them.
  7. Record the stories. It’s the stories you miss when an elder passes away. Stories
    1960's holiday w Grandma Mary n her GGGrandkids!

    1960’s holiday w Grandma Mary n her GGGrandkids!

    of people long gone and stories of how the world was many years before. Stories that young family members need to hear and to know. That way we all keep our web of history and we have our own feeling of belonging to our family, town and country. Record the stories at the dinner table. Make it a habit to put a phone out on the table with the record button on. Set it close to the elder in the family and then push the conversation around the table about Thanksgivings long ago. When other grandparents were alive, when the children were tiny and when life was different is what you want to hear. Those recordings can be saved on Ancestry.com and listened to for years and generations to come. It’s your own family treasure.

  8. Ask Grandpa to “help” you carve the turkey. Ask Grandma to “watch” you make the gravy. When you are older, people tend to do for you. You lose the feeling that you know something or can do something. Let your elder know; they have the ability to help you. My Grandma would come the day before the dinner and she would polish the silver and set the table. She really enjoyed it. She could sit and do it the silver. She could take her time doing the table, but when it was done, it was her’s. My mother was always grateful. They could talk while they worked and mom got out of polishing silver! What could your elder do?
  9. Food is a bridge to history in the family. Maybe your family is into a different diet than your elders, but still put something out that they remember. The good old fashioned green bean casserole with mushroom soup, or sweet potatoes with marshmallows topping may be off your list. But it could make your grandma’s dinner special. Remember traditions and honor the elders with a bit of extra work to present to them so the dinner is comforting.
  10. Keep the drinking, smoking, weed or whatever until the elders are taken home. No one will drop over if they wait until grandpa is taken home before they light up. It’s a kindness that families must adjust to when habits change. Interactions with family members can be heightened when people are using substances, so keep it calm and easy so the elder goes home happy…not upset and worried for the week to come. Be kind…it may be the last holiday you have with your senior. Take pictures, do hugs, sing songs, be silly…. life is too short not to do family things that bring everyone a smile.
Sister, Merrilee making her famous turkey gravy...Yumm!

Sister, Merrilee making her famous turkey gravy…Yumm!

Happy Holidays everyone…thank you for all the care giving you have gifted to your loved ones this year. We are all grateful you are there…francy

 

Tips for Moving Grandma into Smaller Digs

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How to move a senior into smaller housing and keep them happy…francy

 Dear Francy; I moved my Grandma into an assisted living. She had been in her family home for forty-two years. The change was hard and she argued with us all through the move.She is now in her new studio apartment. She is unhappy, lonely and her health is going down hill. How can I help her with the transition? 

New Surroundings for a Senior are Hard to Handle

First, you can just allow her to be calm and adjust. It will not happen in a week or a month, it will take a while for her to get into the swing of not having her things around her and giving up her privacy. Make sure you,or someone you appoint, goes to visit her each week. Make a plan of action before you go and bring a little something to brighten the senior’s space and fits into the season. Let her feel your sincerity and forget the hurt feelings…they will happen. The point is; you go forward and you keep the dialog open — your Grandmother can not change her situation and you have to respect her upset and continue your support of her.

Make Plans before the Move

Almost all seniors eventually have to move from their family home. Yes, if they are well to do and have a good income they can stay there longer…but most senior men and woman face this change, at a hard time in their lives. So, have your “open ears” on as you visit and care for them. Listen to what they love and and ask about different things in the house. Is there a special family picture they feel closer to than others?. A picture of a time in life that they want to remember forever. Is there a special chair or table they have had for years and enjoy? What do they do each day that they enjoy? Does your Dad still go out to the garage where his tools are, maybe just to stand there in comfort? Does your Grandma still enjoy making cookies or fixing coffee for you when you arrive? Does your Grandpa read about the war years and have books around him? Does your Mom water her houseplants and talks about missing her big garden? Take notice–write your self a few notes for the future.

Ideas for the Change

If you don’t really know your senior well…talk to a friend or older family member and ask them. “What do you think that Grandma would really want to see on the wall or have around her everyday when she moves?” Get input. I have a case that the senior was a hoarder and her two sons took her out of her small home to rescue her and place her into a clean and safe assisted living. But they did not bring anything of hers…no pictures no chair, not even clothes. Now, I get the frustration of that special situation but you have to keep the comfort of the senior in your mind.They are making the last move of their lives…they need things to ease them into that situation. The opposite can happen if you try to crowd a studio apartment with too much stuff….so just take time to think it over.

  1. Take pictures of the old house. Inside and out. If the senior is home sick you can bring your laptop over and show her a nice slide show of her home and her rooms. Close up of pictures on the wall of all the family and inside closet shots of things the senior may miss. You do not have to rub their noses in their past life…but you can have it ready for them, if they need it.
  2. Just because they leave their old bedroom behind for a hospital bed in a small room…does not mean you can not take their bed spread, quilt or favorite pillow or throw. Comfort for an elder is sleeping, so having things on their bed that reminds them of safety and their old home is very helpful.
  3. Sort over clothes by season. Only take clothes that are clean and in good shape. Divide them into large air compression bags or nice see through storage boxes. Keep them in your garage and each season take their clothes over to them…take out the winter items from their closet and take them home to launder and put dryer sheets in the box to keep them smelling fresh. Add a few new pieces of clothing like fresh undies and shoes for the season. That way they have changing wardrobe in a small closet.
  4. Take a favorite family photo and one of just their spouse and have them blown up. You can do this on the net or at a local copy shop. Blowing up photos to good size posters keeps the room feeling clear but filled with memories…it will allow them to see the photo well and have something sweet to remember their children, grand children and spouse.
  5. Get nice new sheets and then towels for the bathroom and keep a hanging kit for their shaving things or their make-up. Yes, even elders want to feel fresh and look good when they go down to the group dinner table.
  6. Bring their favorite chair or side table from home. If they are having problems with standing; you can get them a mechanical recliner that raises and lowers with a push button, but you can keep their old tapestry pillow for their back and a throw from the house for their lap. Make sure a small chair for guests is there too.
  7. If ladies miss cooking a safe toaster for them to make toast or warm up pop-ups at least gives them a feeling of cooking. A nice mug or tea cup from home and thermos or tea pot…those things mean a lot to a senior.
  8. A tall table to put a plant on and bring in a long time loved orchard or houseplant in a special pot gives gardeners a feeling of green. Don’t forget a small measuring cup to water the plant.
  9. Nothing wrong with a small work bag filled with small tools for dad…there may be an emergency and he would need a wrench…or it might just make him feel safe to have it close by.
  10. Donate old books to the library at the senior facility so your senior can still visit and enjoy their books.
  11. magnifier“Ott lites” give high power light to those that love to do handiwork like knitting or crochet…and higher power readers or jeweler’s magnifier are great so they can still enjoy an long time hobby.  The new craze of adult coloring books are also a fun treat. Its easy to find a lap desk that goes over the chair arms so they have their things right in place for comfort.
  12. Bring a basket from home for all of their “little” things. Nail files, lip balm, pens and small notebooks, address book, small scissors and flashlight, etc. This goes on the table by their comfort chair. Remember the key is to keep the room looking clean and clear so the senior and cleaning staff have a calm vision. But inside the basket can be a collection of items that we all need to have on hand.
  13. drawersDon’t forget a small drawer unit for emergency storage of personal things. Like band-aids, itch cream, Vaseline, Bengay, and simple relief meds like gas pills, diarrhea pills etc. These are personal things…if you mark the drawer with vitamins, creams, first aid…the senior can store little tubes of this and that needed with privacy. These are found in box stores by Sterilites small 3-drawers.I use them for my own things and love their size and ease of use.
  14. Jewelry and expensive art can be stolen in public housing…so make sure there are ways to note that your Grandma has her wedding ring on and your Grandpa has his silver golf award on his table. Just ask the staff how to handle that sort of thing so the senior can be safe and still enjoy something they cherish.
  15. There are never any rules that you can not put your own web-cam in the room to check out your senior’s care when you are not there. Small nanny cams are available and allow you to see the seniors room from afar. This is a great way for family from out of town…can rest assured that their senior is safe and receiving good care.
  16. Teach your senior about their cell phone and how to use it. So they can have a camera and face to face talks with their kids and grand kids. They need to know how to charge it and how to take it with them. In a special lanyard holder around their neck so they can walk with their walker and not leave their phone behind…or in a cross body bag…or on a special holder that recharges and keeps the phone at hand by their comfort chair. Seniors can use gadgets…they just need reminders and patience in teaching them how to use them and find enjoyment…not fear over making mistakes with them.
  17. Get to know the staff and help the senior make friends and become involved in gentle ways with the social side of the assisted living. Maybe they will not attend all the events…but choosing a few things that will hit their interest button may mean you coming over and taking them to the meeting the first time. Easing them into a new life-style takes time and patience…reach down and find it within yourself so the senior can feel your strength and love.

I know you can do this…it’s just a hard time and hard decisions have to be made. But making those decisions so they are for the best of the senior is key. This helps keep it in perspective and makes it smoother for all of you. Giving love to a senior that has now lost friends, dear family members, possibly a spouse and or children…their end of life issues are raw…so your patience and understanding is a big deal. You always there smiling, always there even in quiet…is a gift. I thank you for your giving…as I have experienced my own losses lately…having friends and family to just talk and walk me through scary times…feels like you are surrounded by angels.

Thank you for your care giving…francy

Senior’s Medications are Sky-Rocketing – 10 Tips to Help!!

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Grandma can not afford her medications…Help! by francy Dickinson

prescription-drugsDear Francy; I am taking care of my mother, her medications have gone up so high that I am paying $900+ to keep them on the shelf….I cannot afford this…what can I do?

OK, I am right here with you….I did the same thing for my mom. The problem was I thought I could afford it so I took money out of my own savings. The catch? I did not know she would live for so long with me and I did not know my husband would become ill and need my full-time care. You can not see the future. So I was unable to work outside of the home and it took a sad toll on my personal needs. PLEASE, do some home work and see if you can change this pattern right away!

TIPS TO SAVE Rx EXPENSES:

  1. Step One is to “talk” to someone. You have choices depending on where you live.Some times there is a “Senior Care” phone line that is local or your local senior center will have a list of people that counsel on these type of matters. Next, your local hospital. I love this; they have a Social Services Expert on staff that you can go and get guidance from. They do not solve problems but they send you in a direction that is really helpful. Then the last is a medicare insurance person that sells supplemental insurance. These people sell different policies and they can review and suggest a change in medical and prescription changes that fit your needs with a supplement insurance that has pre listed the medications they cover and how much they assist you in each medication price.
  2. Talk to Medicare; some life-sustaining treatments and drugs are covered completely by Medicare and because that is a complicated thing…I can not advice you on your personal circumstance. But you can call them and they will assist you in what is and what is not covered. Make sure your senior has the drug extension on their medicare program. I have read a lot lately about those who say you do not need Part D or supplemental insurance for drug coverage…and I have asked my experts and talked about this point recently. It is not true. You need to have Part D and you need to know how to use it and keep it working for you.
  3. HOMEWORK Know that reviewing the coverage of a medicare supplemental insurance is not easy to do. But you have to do it. Because you have a time each year to make a change without any financial penalty and this is the time to know that you are getting the most for your coverage. You come into Social Security and Medicare a younger person with few medical problems so the supplemental insurance has little worries for you. You would just choose the one that was the least expensive or ignore it altogether. But…Its when you age and find yourself with medical problems that are more and more complicated that you need the proper medial supplemental insurance and it becomes a big deal! Know that you can change your program as you need to change it…you may want a health co-op or a simple supplement program. Your community senior center will have free-classes each year to go and learn. There are also classes on how to use Medicare itself. I go to the these classes and I learn so much. It does not have to be overwhelming.
  4. Letter to Doctor..alert the doctors that treat your mother and tell them she is unable to afford the medications without your help and you can no longer afford to help her. Ask them to please help you review her medications for things she really needs…not just preventative medications. Issue prescriptions for generic replacements and extend the prescriptions to 90 day units (they are usually less expensive over all.)
  5. FREE Meds If this is not enough, the doctor also has a form for you to fill-out from the manufacture of the drugs. You tell the manufacture that your mother is on a very limited income and can not afford the medication and if she hits the requirements she will go on a direct replacement program. That sends the drugs to her free after the doctor fills out her prescription and sends it to them. This is a great program for those on a low income but not low enough for state help.
  6. Go to your local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to review the list of medications that your mother is taking. Ask him to see how he could reduce it and then suggest how to lower the costs. I always use a pharmacist in my care giving. I found my mother was on two different heart medications that were no longer needed because the doctor has given her a new medication that covered the problem. I got to cross those two drugs off her list by calling the doctor and explaining what the pharmacist said to me. Pharmacists are very knowledgeable and they will try very hard to help you and keep your business. Do you forget things when nervous? Use your cell-phone to record your conversations with experts so you can review the information again later. 
  7. 1953343_origBeware; not all doctors know the in’s and out’s of medications…there are those that are swayed by pharmacy reps and prescribe things that are not really needed or are way too expensive. This is a bigger problem when you have more than one doctor, because its hard to keep track of why and what medications your mom is taking. If all your doctors are on a computer system…this is easier, but the check still has to be done. And you do the med check each year…so just check with each doctor and tell them your problem…it is part of their responsibility that the patient gets the proper dose and medication that they prescribe…so do not be afraid to demand their time to help you figure out how to keep your mother’s medications slim and trim, financially.
  8. Use these Apps They are designed to reach out in your community and tell you which medication is being sold at the lowest price. Then you ask the doctor to make the Rx he writes for you…generic and 90 days and you are saving a nice chunk of money. www.goodrx.com and www.lowestmed.com they are there to help with lowering costs…please use them!
  9. Do not worry about being loyal…make changes each year to keep money in your pocket. You will also note that in each regional area there are drug stores that fill prescriptions for the local care centers, those places are often very inexpensive because they buy in large bulk…check them out and compare. Even if you have to drive a ways…saving money every few months is well worth your time and gas.
  10. What if a doctor you use is not on the supplemental insurance listing? Well, honestly…specialists are all over your area…you only go a few times a year to a specialist so that is not a big deal for a huge monthly change with a savings on the medications part of the coverage – for a pill that is a huge expense each day. Now your “family doctor” should be on the listing. That would be a game changer…but not the end of the world..if you save hundreds of dollars each year on an insurance change because of expensive monthly drugs…changes of doctors may have to be made. That is why you do the yearly comparison on your own with a free class to help you review things or with a insurance expert. Be open to change in care…because in the end…the quality of life money issue, everyday, is what needs to be in the front of your decisions for your senior.

I had taken care of mother for two years; in my home and paying for everything. She was on a very small social security income. Then she went in the hospital and I got to talk to the Hospital Social Claim worker. She was appalled that I had not signed my mother up for state medical assistance. Medicaid; in our state, pays for medications and services. I kept mother’s supplement and social security and added in the Medicaid and I no longer was worried about the monthly costs. It was a great relief to me personally. I could care for her without being so upset over costs. And I was…I would actually cry in the car, when I went into the drug store and came out with an antibiotic that was $400. It was horrible to worry so about money when I just wanted my mother to get well. Please do not be afraid to fill out the paperwork for an income review for state medical coverage and see if help can come from other places than your own pocket.

Being a good son or daughter does not mean you have to pay for everything your parent or grandparent needs. Your personal income should not matter in getting good care for your parent. So, take time to talk to people that have good experience and advice. If you are a person with money and you want the best for your senior…GREAT…gift your love and money. But if you do not have extra money in your bank account you should not have to financially suffer for your loving, care giving.

ASK FOR HELP! AND KEEP ASKING UNTIL YOU GET HELP!

Saunders Family 2013 096Always remember any Veteran or spouse of a Veteran has medical benefits for life if they meet the criteria that is set by the government. Any time spent in a war or conflict zone, even if the veteran did not retire from the military is considered a qualifier. So if you know that your dad or mom — grand father or grand mother were in the military…you need to check if they are covered by the Veterans Administration Health Program. Please do not brush this off you do not know what is covered until you call and ask…that medical program is extensive and can make the quality of life for your family — improve.
Call to inquire: Veterans Affairs …. Benefits: 1-800-827-1000; Health Care: 1-877-222-VETS 

I thank you for the love and the sacrifice you are gifting to your senior in care. But I want you to remember, that there are people in your community that make a living helping others. That is their job and their passion..they are lifted up each day when they are able to help a family out of a crisis. You need to respect those people too and go and ask for their help…they will guide you. Remember doctors are to diagnos and treat…they are not there to take care of your care giving needs. For that you have to reach out and talk to others and attend free classes and get into a support group. Then you will be able to ride the wave of care giving with confidence and without financial stress. Best wishes, francy

National Dog Day is Perfect Senior Adoption Day!

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Should I get another dog or cat now that I am getting older? by francy Dickinson

Should Seniors Get Another Dog or Cat when they are Aging?

YES!

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

One of the things I hear so often is that seniors feel they are too old to get a dog or cat…so they suffer alone without anyone visiting them for days on end….NO WAY!

There are senior anipals at all shelters and shelter staff to help to match your senior to a senior dog or cat. This is just the best mix…an older dog is already potty trained and quieted down a bit. A smaller dog will keep the senior busy and sit on their lap on a full time basis. An older cat will bring hugs and loves on a non-stop basis.

A larger dog will be a good “Senior Setter” They will hover over, guide and care for the senior. The stories of dogs that have never been formally trained in care/service –helping–their senior owners as their own pack family keeping them safe…those stories are numerous.

The dogs also “alert”. For seniors that have hearing problems it is very reassuring to have their anipal bark out to the door if someone is coming close. Or their cat acts up and may turn around or run to hide. This behavior not only keeps the senior’s day busy with noise and activity but it helps with the feeling of safety for the senior.

Anipals get excited in the middle of night with unknown noise or fire. Many a dog and cat have fussed and fussed until the senior wakes and has the knowledge of something that is wrong within their home or apartment.They have saved their seniors from fire and intruders with their attentions. Not to mention how many anipals have alerted neighbors that something was wrong with the senior with their incessant nervous barking.

What if the senior has to go into a care center?

  1. More and more senior housing is accommodating small anipals. Small dogs or cats are welcomed as part of the regular running of the assisted living apartments. You only have to look and ask…it is now understood that our anipals are an extension of our families.
  2. After the terrible storm Katrina; when the local rescue workers would not allow anipals into the emergency shelters and it caused deaths and injuries to those who stayed in their homes-ideas changed. All those folks who decided that they would not go into a shelter because they could not leave their beloved dog or cat behind shouted out and FEMA actually heard them.  The rescue system learned a big lesson. They now have changed emergency shelters to allow anipals and the families can stay “safe” together.
  3. What if the family will not promise to take the anipal -in the event of the senior’s passing? That is not a problem. You simply call a local shelter and tell them ahead of time that you are a senior / or care giver of a senior and you have a beloved dog or cat that will not have a home if the senior gets very ill or passes. They take note of the information and you leave the connection information on the refrigerator so loved ones know who to call and how to transfer the anipal to a safe shelter that will find a new home for them. I personally; only adopt senior dogs and all of them are from seniors that have gotten too ill to care for them or have passed…because of those seniors caring – I have wonderful little bundles of joy in my home to love for the rest of their lives!

How do I find older anipals?

You call your local shelters first. Tell them what you are looking for and they will assist you in finding a anipal just for you or your senior. It may take a while, small dogs are not always available and you have to wait for them —but the wait is so worth while.

You also want to always ask…is there a discount for senior anipal adoption if I am a senior too? Usually there is a discount and many times there is a “free” adoption for senior to senior dog or cat adoption. Online information is available too, I always check out Petfinder a locator tool that will match my needs with a senior dog. Here is there information.

George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

George napping with Kirbee and his new, warm throw

 Petfinder has come together with Maddie’s Fund to match senior to senior adoption, the information is here and you will find more when you call your local pet shelters in your area. Just click on Petfinder in blue type and you will go to their site and read about their work. Don’t put it off…call or visit your local shelter today and start the process of bringing a new senior anipal home with you. Those little ones need someone to love and your senior needs them. What makes a senior anipal? Usually, they are age eight or above, but some times they are younger with a small disability. That makes the senior adoption so special…you/or your senior saves their lives and give them a “forever” home and “forever love”.

The shelter will talk to you /or your senior about the anipal and how you can afford the food and medical attention that the anipal may need in the future. There is always a way for a senior to enjoy the love and kindness of little ones around them. I can not stress enough what a difference a dog or cat can make in the quality of your senior’s lifestyle. Its really a gift from the family and caregiver to bring an anipal into the senior’s home. It relaxes and brings the senior out of their own problems. Gives them something to do each day by putting their dog out to potty or cleaning the cat potty box or feeding them treats and meals. It gets the senior up in the morning and walking around in the afternoon.It will often remind them to eat as they feed the anipal. The senior anipal and senior will be on a program that brings enjoyment and happiness to the home.

When your senior is happy and busy….you are happy, as their care giver…please take a chance…get a senior sweetie in the home and enjoy the “change for good” that the anipal brings with it.

PLEASE GIVE ANIPALS A CHANCE….National Dog Day is a perfect day to begin to “think” about a new member of the household! Blessings, Francy

10 Tips and Gadgets for Senior Care Givers

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Ideas and gadgets to help you with your senior care giving by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; So both mother and I are losing our marbles. She simply cannot find anything these days. Yes, I know I have taken her in for a memory check and it’s her immediate memory that is getting nutty. I just need to figure out how to help her with the finding keys, remote control, her wallet, her glasses…wow, driving me wild…can you help?

We all need gadgets to help us in life. Dementia, even younger senior memory burps drive everyone crazy…so how nice to have a few things that can help us out.

WHERE IS THE REMOTE? WHERE ARE MY KEYS?
Tile for finding phones, keys and remote

Tile for finding phones, keys and remote

Two different products are in line for gold stars. These are designed to find things you tend to mis-place, like the remote, the cell phone, your keys, a cane, anything that you can put down and then forget. They are called the Tile and Magic Finders. They work the same but the price is different Magic Finders I found online and in-store at Bed Bath and Beyond is a little less expensive. I do not know if they are easier or better than Tiles? This is how they work. You stick them on things that walk away from you. They have little locators on them that work through apps on your smart phone. So make sure your senior has the smart phone, availability. Bluetooth means they have to have Wi-Fi in the home. But how sweet is that? For all of us!

TipsRULE// if you get a senior a smart phone…take time to teach them how to use it. Keep the apps down to just a few so they do not get confused. Have them do the step by step in front of you a couple of times…so they can use it…not be afraid of it. Then…call and text them often so they remember how to use it…keep it close to them so seniors are not afraid of it. If you empower them to the use of smart phones you will be able to free yourself to time consuming “constant return home visits”.  (PS??Jitterbug makes great senior smart phones w big screens)

MOTHER HAS GONE MISSING…two tips here!
Door Bell Alert

Door Bell Alert

When George walked outside and got stuck a block away…I got 3 open-doorbells that attached to the front, back and garage doors. I found my system at the hardware store, they are inexpensive and easy to install. Every time my outside entry doors open up, they have a loud ring. This may drive you crazy at first, but at least you know when a child or elder is walking out of the house and you can run and give it a check. My Georgie is now gone, but I left it on my door…it makes me feel safer to hear a bell if someone opens the door. This works on a AA battery and is easy to put up on the door. No Wi-Fi is required.

 

Bluetooth Guardian 650-80 Alert

Bluetooth Guardian 650-80 Alert

The next is a locator that works through your cell phone.But these are expensive. I looked all over for one for George, in my price range, they were just too much for me. Now I found a new one for under $30 dollars…so use it for Kids or Grandmas too! Remember these are 250 foot range locators that are connected to an app with Bluetooth locator features for your own cell phone. I would have loved this when I took George shopping, he would often walk away from me…then I would panic and spend my time trying to find him all over the store. It was scary stuff.

WHAT TIME IS IT?
ALEXA, REMIND ME TO CALL MY GRAND-DAUGHTER ON HER BIRTHDAY!
Amazon Echo Alexa Voice System

Amazon Echo Alexa Voice System

What’s up, Alexa? I got an Amazon Echo for Christmas from my dear friend. I was thrilled, I love the idea of “mini helpers” and Alexa has proven her worth over and over again. What it is…it’s a mini robot, in a small box, that sits on your counter. You need to have a Wi-Fi connection for this device too…but it’s so great and would help seniors living alone….so much!

You put the Echo or Tap on your counter and you can take them from room to room if you like. I keep mine in the bedroom. I use a plug-in Echo…but they have 3 week battery ones called Taps or Dots that are more portable if you like. Anyway, Amazon has designed them as a first step to robot help, in your home. You keep it plugged into the wall and projecting Wi-Fi. Then you talk to it in a normal voice tone.

Just say something like this:  Alexa, what time is it? Alexa play big band music.  Alexa how do you spell, hitch?  Alexa add dish washing soap to my shopping list. Alexa what is on my shopping list? Alexa what is the local forecast for next week? Alexa turn on my light.  Alexa turn off my TV. Alexa how many steps have I taken today? Alexa please read my Amazon Kindle book, out loud, to me. Alexa set alarm for my pills at 2PM today. Alexa who is at the front door? Alexa play the news today. Alexa turn down the heat. Alexa have a pizza delivered to the house. It will respond to all voices when addressed with Alexa…or the Tap, adds a tap to the box to turn it on. It has a wonderful speaker inside that sounds terrific. The surround sound works well for all of us, even if the elder has a hearing reduction you just turn it up and they are in business.

Can you see how helpful this would be for a senior that learns how to use this simple, little box that sits on the counter and tells all of us how our life is organized and connected? I love it and Alexa is growing and learning new tasks every day. The extra plug-ins that go on the wall outlets to connect the lights or TV, or whatever you need to turn on and off during your day. They are just a voice command away. No more trying to worry about turning things on and off as you move through your day. Really great for seniors that have movement problems.

Alexa connects to your Fitbit, your Ring doorbell and Wi-Fi home furnace heat monitor and your garage door and many other special product designs. Why not start to use robotic and remote services to help with your day? The Amazon Echo is a one-time purchase there are no monthly fees. You just plug it in and start to talk to it and it talks back. Just to listen to a book you want to read when your eyes are tired…listen to your favorite radio talk show or listen to your own style of music. Come on. This is fun and your senior will love it when you “teach them” how to use it. Do not buy it, if you think they will figure out how to use it…it will take a lesson and patience on your part… to set it up and get them using it.  (George Jetson, would love it! I sure do.)

HELP
No monthly fee 911 Pendant

No monthly fee 911 Pendant

OK so I have talked about this one before but I think it’s important! It’s a 911 auto-dial. I know that there are loads of medical alerts buttons that have great services. But some folks cannot afford the monthly billing. This is a one-time purchase and it simply needs a set-up once to get it plugged into your own local 911 systems. Once this is done, your senior can wear it around their neck or on their trousers all the time- anywhere. It works like a cell phone, FREE…because 911 calls are free! No monthly bills, just a feeling of safety where ever they go. I want one for my daily walks!

I found this with a good price online at HSN I am going to order one for me, too!

MY FEET HURT!
Try inserts at local pharmacy

Try inserts at local pharmacy

I understand that if you are young, it’s hard to imagine that your feet could be painful with every step. But as one ages, foot padding gets thinner and the feet can really hurt! Or they can swell –  or they can have very painful nerve problems. So start today. Get a good insert for your senior. You can find them in the pharmacy section. They are for the heel and instep and they keep the foot in alignment and that means they relieve the pain. Try a couple different ones in the senior’s shoes.I have them in all of my shoes…when I buy a new pair, I buy a new pair of inserts. I also update mine every six months so my feet are comfy!

TipsRemember that slippers that seniors wear around the house, should not be mule style. You want a senior to walk around the house in comfortable shoes that will not cause them to slip, trip or lose their balance and to be able to walk out to their garden or porch without changing shoes. Falls are the wicked “end to freedom” for seniors, living on their own. Keep them safe with safe “easy on” shoes and add insoles that will help them feel pain free when they walk. Get them a good shoe horn that has a long handle so they do not have to bend over to use it. That way your senior will keep walking and get more exercise.

SAFE EXERCISE
exercise bar

Exercise Bar that is easy to use

NO, you never are too old to move and stretch. Never, my mother was doing her stretches at the age of 100 years.  You have to keep bodies moving in order for the heart and the body to be strong. So what do you do with a senior that does not want to exercise?

You DO NOT get them a bunch of fancy machines that they will never use. You get them the rubber banding that will stretch out for them and a trip to the Physical Therapy specialist will put your senior in the know. You can also find the same type of thing with a hand band system that comes with how to videos. This can be kept by their special TV chair for the senior and you can call them each day and get them to reach over and get their bands and start to stretch and move with them as you chat on the phone. You in your chair, using your own bands and they in their chair, using their bands. This is how you make sure they work on their body and in the meantime…you get a good stretch out with them, too! Here is the video connection.

MedCenter Talking Pill Alert

MedCenter Talking Pill Alert

MedCenter is a “talking” alarm system to remind your senior to take your pills up to four times a day. For seniors with memory problems this really adds a special layer of safety.
Did you know that doctors that feel a patient will not take a medication on time…will not even give the senior a prescription for that medication?
It is serious stuff to take medications on time and with or without food and do it without any help when their memory is not clear. Or if they are not feeling well and sleeping a great deal. Give your senior a chance at solid medication levels by using something like this for their daily pills. I would suggest you set it up and replenish the pills each week. That way you can keep an eye on how your senior is taking their pills and keep the re-order of medication on time each month. You can find this at your Walmart and other local pharmacy chains. Approx $30-$40

 

merrilee at johnnys

Lunch w my sister Merrilee at Johnny’s Dock in Tacoma, WA

Hope that was informational for you…I really enjoy using all of these products and I think they are so helpful. Trying to work around busy schedules and still keep our seniors in their own homes or safe with-in our home, is so important. Good luck…and thank you for caring for your elders. What your love and support means…it’s the world to your senior!
Blessings, francy

The Fear of Loss and Pain of Grief

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Facing the loss of your loved one and living through the pain of grief when they are gone…by francy Dickinson

699-happy-new-yearDear Francy:
Most of you know I lost my dear Georgie last year, in November. My holidays were blurry that first month…and so this year is my first holiday without my Georgie and the sadness and feeling of loneliness has been hard for me.

I enjoy hearing from all of you and I have been returning emails and helping anyone in need of a good talk through…but I have not been posting. I am in hopes that I will be able to concentrate and get posting again on a good speed in the new year. Its one of my first of the year goals.

Its my birthday…and New Years Eve and New Years Day used to be a happy time for me. I felt the whole world celebrated my birthday…so I always looked forward to it. In good times…George would always take me out dancing. Parties in cities close and far away. We were in the travel business…so traveling to a wonderful city for New Years was part of the excitement of the holidays. I am so aware of those memories when life was good and times were special with my guy. But what I want to share with you…is the fear and pain that took over when George started suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

This idea that you give care until someone passes is really not true. The truth is, mental health issues mean that a person changes in personality and in their memory on a daily basis. So way before any end of life issues pop up…you are starting to lose the person you love. Each day their brain changes and in bits and pieces they leave and never return. So in essence you lose your loved one every day. It’s a very hard thing to live with and hard to understand. But you have to be aware its the truth. Doctors, nurses they do not tell you these things…they do not give care like you do. They treat and diagnose — you do the care giving so you feel and see the changes. It could be a forgotten name, or a forgotten word and you watch them try to find another word to use in the conversation. It could be an emotional outburst or a series of days when nothing is said at all…quiet! It could be a strange walking gait, or a repeated action over and over again.

The doctors don’t see it, your family doesn’t see it…YOU see it and FEEL it and it scares the beegeebies out of you! What can you do…how do you make it better? Can you exercise it out…can you calm them down…can you change how you have conversations with them. Can you take the car keys away, can you put alarms on the doors to hear when they just walk out…can you put up signs to help them remember things? Your mind starts to race and you feel. ALONE.

I can not take that feeling away from you. But I can tell you…that you must keep your mind on the goal. That goal is to give your loved one the best “end of life” that you can. It may be a year or ten years ahead…but just take a step at a time and try hard to get support. Write to me, join a support group…ask a few good friends to meet at your place each month so you can express your fears and upsets. YOU need to be strong…because the ride is not pretty and it’s not short.

You also need to have as much help as you can. Trying to be quiet about the struggle will only hurt you and your loved one. Telling family and friends and asking a few of them to be your mind and heart is what is needed. Do you have a friend that is good on the Internet…well ask them to look up the details of problems you are finding and working through. There are wonderful tips out there, but they have to be found so ask that friend to be your eyes on the world.

Do you have a friend that will drive you around? Ask them to take you to the hospital, doctor appointments and therapy treatments. That way you can control your loved one, keep them calm and the driving can be safely done by your friend. You have to ask, you have to say…I NEED HELP. If you don’t you are hurting yourself and your loved one.

The brain of a dementia patient is not going to magically heal…so you simply have to be verbal to people about the situation. I told everyone in the neighborhood. “If you see George walking in front of your house without me next to him. Go out and get him to come in for coffee and call me…please!” Who are you going to impress by being quiet? Let your village know that you have a situation that needs their help…and you will get it back. People want to help…they just don’t know what to do.

I know my loss of George, after his death, has been hard on me. I adored the guy and we were bestest friends and I feel empty. I have to heal and begin to bring new things into my life to feel whole again. I know that…but for me…its been a slow heal. What do I do?

I talk to family and friends about my sadness…I look at pictures of him, I have a little area in my bedroom that has an enlarged picture and candles that I burn each night. It calms me and I feel close to George when I do that…even though he is not there…I feel him there and it comforts me. You need to do the same thing….but in your own way. Find little routines that make you feel safe and start to fill up time in your life. Plan your days, have future events on the calendar and bit by bit…be a part of life around you.

I still pull away from big events. Sometimes in a big family gathering I feel more lonely than in a small one. So I say no…if I feel the event is too much for me. But I force myself to say YES…to events that are smaller with people I know well and love. I am trying to develop a new me and still give myself the honor of the old me that was a part of my duo relationship with George.

Just remember…do not do this alone. Do not think a nurse or doctor has emotional and physical answers to the day by day tasks of your care giving. Do not get upset of friends or family leave you all alone…and rejoice in the friends new and old that will stand by you when you ask for their help. Know that money is not going to grow on trees and you have to stick to a budget because it can be a long, long ride. Know that answers to help you are there…ask me or others that have gone through care giving to help…and be a trooper…ask again and again. Life is meant to live with others not on your own….ask!

I know you can do it…and I honor the fact you are standing there day after day giving someone who is unable to care for their own life…care. You are a good person. No one will give you a thanks…nor will you get a reward for your care. In the mind of your loved one they think they are still…just fine. Nothing has changed…you know better…you know life is now upside-down…yet they think their life is in control. Be brave…force yourself to be honest and talk about the dementia as if it was the flu…let out your voice and keep the honesty of the situation everyday. Hurting feelings is not the point, honesty is the point.

You saw the path to the end of their life was laid out…you stepped up and took their hand and walked next to them.Your loved one is not alone. That makes you a very special and loving person and I am proud to know you. I know you will be honest with them, your friends and yourself and not stand alone. I want you to remember the world does not know you have a problem or you need help…without your voice shouting it out. Be brave and shout and keep shouting till you have a group around you to help you in your journey. No one will say it…but you are loved. Your loved one does love you…even if they can not put that into words…so just hold the honestly of knowing they love you and you are doing the best job you can…each and every day.

Blessings on your New Year…Keep your own health and body strong…life is still there for you after care giving. francy

Honoring Passing of Seniors with Love

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Ideas of how to honor elders when they pass. By francy Dickinson

George Saunders' memorial

George Saunders’ memorial the summer after his passing…when his kids were in town and the weather was bright and the day perfect for scattering his remains.

Dear Francy; My dear Great Aunt has just passed…mother wants a big funeral..I want a quiet family memorial. What can I do?

The times are changing and more and more families are having quiet and special memorial gatherings for their elders. When people have been unwell for a long time…and are of advanced age memorial gatherings seem to fit the bill in today’s world. Although funerals are still a wonderful way to honor those that pass…we have found that it works best when a person has passed in their prime with lots of friends,neighbors, children, siblings or even their parents alive to attend.

In contrast an elder that has lived long and has been unwell for quite some time…maybe aged out of their large group of friends and maybe have no friends left alive has different needs for their memorial. For those that have outlived most of their own family and those around them that would honor them…a smaller memorial has a new appeal. There is a larger and larger amount of seniors that are now choosing cremation and their remains have to be honored. Some of them want to be buried by their spouse or family members…some have no one left to be buried next to…so they choose to have their ashes spread in a place that has a meaning to them.

A perfect example of this was when my own father died and my mother had a very large formal funeral and burial for him. He was 62 in a time of his life that he was still working with loads of friends, business associates, family and a healthy wife. He was in the furniture business so mother paid for an expensive, carved wooden coffin and had the full services of minister, open casket, singing, and service. I remember it all well…it was a very hard thing for me to get through really…with the sting of his death so new and the pageantry of the formal funeral so close behind his passing.

No extra charge for a simple grave side memorial  for family members.

No extra charge for a simple grave side memorial for family members.

So, it was with great shock that 40 years later… when my mother was asked about her personal wishes for her own funeral she refused the idea. “I don’t want a funeral. If you want to say some prayers over me when they bury me…that will be plenty for me.” WHY? I was shocked…the memory of my dad’s burial so clear in my mind.

Mother told me, at the ripe old age of 100 years, she was without all of her dear friends. She only had one brother left, who was in a nursing home and her children were older with grand children of their own. She just wanted a quiet, inexpensive burial…nothing fancy. She would share the double size head stone with dad and she would be just fine. I was very pleased…so when she died we met together at her grave and said our goodbyes. Then the next summer….we all got together in the her favorite park on the Puget Sound and had a wonderful picnic in her name and threw flowers in the water with all her grand, great grand and children together. She would have been so happy to see us together having good times.

Passing is hard for those that are left behind…so I ask that you talk to your senior about their own idea of what they want for memorials. Some people plant trees or bushes, some buy bricks on a memory wall at their local charity, some have legacy money that goes on to honor them in an organization that they enjoyed. So, when my Georgie passed what to do?

I had given him non stop 24 hour care for months and I was seriously exhausted and close to illness myself. I knew George did not want a funeral and the day I picked up his ashes I went into tears and had to wait in that parking lot for 45 minutes till I could get myself under control to drive home. The darkness of November was overwhelming. George’s children were all busy people, three of them and grand children lived out-of-state.
So I made a decision to prolong his memorial to the next summer. Lately, many of my fellow caregiver spouses have done the same. Prolonging the memorials for their loved ones and holding the memorials in places and times that reflect the personality and family members’ needs – and the person that has passed.

A sweet gnome church was placed as a greeting for guests at the memorial.

A sweet gnome church was placed as a greeting for guests at the memorial.

My dear friend, lives on the water and had worked hours on getting her home ready for the memorial for her husband. Cleaning, painting, and working in the garden to brighten and clean it all up from the neglect the winter of sadness and illness had been left undone.Working through her own grief by keeping busy and putting her life in good order.  Now, she has the place all in order, clean, up dated and ready for her friends to be invited to an event that can be filled with love, warm friendship, honoring and enjoyment of her dear, passed spouse. During the clean up she even came across a sweet little church her hubby had made by hand. She re-painted it and placed it on a tree for the guests to enjoy when they entered the garden and lovely home. The sadness of the immediate passing had been worked through and the gathering a few months later allowed everyone to think over their memories and express their feelings with each other. Choosing a place and time for the memorial that fits the family and the person that has passed  makes the event very special. A Celebration of Life for the loved one that has passed.

Even younger members of the family can participate in the memorial. Maybe a guitar and song from a grandson…a small dance from a young grand-daughter, or a reading of a poem or story from daughters and sons. For us it was my Georgie’s children singing “Oklahoma” a song that the family all sang together on road trips. Or a collection of the elder’s hobbies or a board full of pictures that show the movement of young to the older pictures of the elder for all to view that special life journey.

IMG_20150727_191152Handing out something for each attendee to enjoy is always special. One gal had her husband’s picture put on YoYo’s and had a contest…that cracked me up. I like making book marks on your computer and topping them with a small ribbon…with a special Quote from the honoree on the back. Or asking your Grand daughter/son to do a small brochure fact sheet w pictures, birth and death places and dates to share with everyone.

The rules of these memorials are yours to make. Balloons to release, flowers to throw into the sea, cookies wrapped up with a note on each to take home. There are wonderful photo charms, craft projects with the name of the elder on a poured stepping stone for the garden. Small Christmas tree ornaments with a picture of remembrance for the tree at the holidays…or tee shirts with Grandpa and all the grandkids’ picture on the front 😉 Your creative side can find something sweet to share with all.

Making the memorial as complicated or simple is up to you…but doing it with the knowledge that even long after the death…the emotions are still strong and making the gathering a memory…not a chore. Being together with family and friends…each sharing their memories of the loved one is powerful stuff. Inviting a person to represent their faith or appointing a family member to be the spiritual point person is also important. Some times the simple moments of togetherness…is what is remembered and appreciated. The event does not have to be big or expensive…it can be small and sweet. Just know that there are choices to be made…and an immediate, expensive funeral, burial, and large event is one way to memorialize the elder…and a relaxed time frame that may be even months or a year after the death is another. A simple gathering of a few friends to wish the elder blessings on their way…is another. No rules…no right or wrong…just in love – you give your care giving and your bon voyage to a dear life partner or friend.

I thank you all for giving care to your loved seniors…this process of saying “Good bye”  can be a choice of your own. Remember…there are no rules…you do what makes you and your family feel is right for you! That is how your elder would want their leave…to be done with love and ease.

Luminaries to follow the path...each representing the love that is felt for the elder that is memorialized.

Luminaries to follow the path…each representing the love that is felt for the elder that is being memorialized.