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.

Advanced Alzheimer’s/Dementia Help for Care Givers

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Tips for families caring for advanced Alzheimer’s seniors. by francy Dickinson

When your senior is confused…Tips to help with care giving.

Dear Francy: Mother does not remember me any longer. I can hardly go into her room without crying. That makes her confused and she cries…I want her close to me, I want to care for her…but my heart is broken. 

Living life “in the now” is a very hard thing to do, so here are some tips to help you through this awful time in both of your lives. First, would you do me a favor and just trust me that your mother has not really forgotten you…she remembers in her inner mind and heart that you represent love and caring for her. So you just have to try hard to work with that thought.

Ideas for caring for Elders with Dementia:

  1. If you took a nap and woke up to a world around you that was not familiar to you, can you imagine the fear you would have? That is what is happening to your senior when they wake…or go a few minutes without input…they get caught in a world of no memory. They become frightened, angry, upset, totally overwhelmed with fear–their mind running 24/7 with nerves. You must keep your senior connected to your neurologist. Even if the appointments are only every few months…you want to check in with the memory clinic for help. They may take the senior off the heavy brain drugs because they are no longer working. Usually, the drugs are given in a combination to treat the patient for as long as they get a response. Once off those meds the mind of the senior regresses fast. But we are talking about treating the signs of the regression…the fear, the anger, the upset, the nerves. So you need to keep a running note of your care giving days so the doctor can see where they can prescribe different meds to calm and give the senior an underlining feeling of peace in their mind.
  2. You must accept the “living in the now” concept because this is how the senior is living their day. They wake up to confusion – to a life that is out-of-place and they try to cope. Your job is to help them. No longer address them as mom, dad or auntie…call them by their given name. Remember the farther they regress they may recall a family nickname that they were called as a child. “Sissy, Sonny, Toots, Cutie, Sweetie, Kittens” Families often give young children nicknames and the senior may find comfort in that name once again. Always smile when you talk to them…remember they will react as a child does to a face…if you are angry or upset…they will reflect your emotions…that is what a child or dementia patient does. So force yourself to stay “in the now” and “act” calm and happy…that way your elder will be calm and happy.
  3. Take breaks…overwhelmed with sorrow means you need a break. Ask your neighbor to come over a couple of times a week for two hours and sit with your senior…you can take a walk, go for a ride or do the grocery shopping. Ask a cousin or family member that is older and retired to come and give you a couple of hours a week. Ask your children and grand children to come and visit for a couple of hours each week. Yes, you have to arrange the time…no one looks forward to this task..but they will respond with love “if you ask”. So write down a few names of people who will help you just for a short visit. Then call two or three each week to fill your week with breaks here and there.
  4. Deep breath. You will find when you are upset you hold your breath.I do not know why this happens, but we tend to tense up and hold on to our breathing. So, begin a program of taking in a breath with your nose and holding it a moment and then very slowly let it go. Like a balloon deflating…It will release the tension and the stress on your body as you force yourself to breath. I do it in a series of three as many times as I can during the day…just this simple trick will allow your body to relax.
  5. Smile…remember the rule of smiling through tears. Smiles allow others to read your face as calm and in-charge. When you are in-charge the senior in care will feel relaxed and know you have their back. It may sound silly…but it is so true that I implore you to smile.
  6. Set a repeated pace to the day. It is a proven fact that when children are raised with a structured daily routine they are found to be more emotionally stable. So if your senior is constantly trying to remember who, what and where they are…this underlying feeling of a routine…keeps their inner mind relaxed. Plan the day around you, not your senior. Up at a certain time, eat, do exercise, then rest. Quiet time, TV or radio time and then a nap. Up again to cleaning up time, teeth, face, more walking or exercise in the chair. A puzzle on a table to work,a game of cards, a craft project and then a rest for the afternoon…usually a nap in their chair. At 4PM there is always tea and cookies to keep the blood sugar high for the evening and keep the senior from a “Sundowner crash”. Then TV news to keep their mind thinking and you talking about your day. Rest time…dinner time. Then talk time…right after dinner while you are cleaning up the kitchen you have the senior sit quietly and you talk to them about the day. Who called, whose birthday is coming up…what time of year it is and tell them of your own day. Just use a sing-song voice tone and matter of fact talk through things of the day. The senior may or may not respond. If they do respond – listen to them and go with their mind. If they talk of years past, or a fear, or hover on something fearful. Take note of that and do not go to that part of their brain with your conversation again. Maybe a kidnapping or violent event on the news got them thinking they would be hurt…you just change that around and take note not to mention that again.
  7. Find an in-home nurse practitioner to come and check-in on your senior. There is no reason to constantly worry the senior over the big trip to the doctor. Just keep medications that are palliative or for the seniors comfort. The rest of it can all just drift away and their body can adjust to the natural way of their journey.
  8. TV game shows are very good for dementia. They have excitement in the people –clapping, laughing and the senior will respond with pleasure. Radio shows are very good for seniors. Many elders were raised on radio…they like their own childhood music styles and NPR or local radio stations that feature music of their era are great to have playing in the background to “Ground” the senior’s very busy mind.
  9. Just because they no longer talk…does not mean they no longer think. They have just lost the part of the brain that allows them to speak. So you have to talk to them as though they are speaking. You have to look at them and learn their cues to tell you their needs. Or if you are in the black over their needs…you just say to yourself…”what would I want to be doing right now?” You do as much as you can and then release your own worry. You are doing what your heart is telling you to do…that is all that is needed.
  10. Remember, smile…speak in a strong tone…so the senior can hear your voice. Face the senior and talk so they can see and read your face and don’t be afraid of making mistakes…we all do that every day. Just do your best to care for your senior with love. Then tell yourself…what do I need today? Keeping yourself well fed, exercised and calm is the key to your own health and that will reflect onto your senior in positive ways.

Thank you so for giving your love to your family…you are doing a job that no one else will do. You are loving and caring for your loved one. I so appreciate your time, love and the years that you are gifting to that senior. Taking their hand and helping them down the path of their last days is a very hard thing to do…you are doing fine. I trust your judgement.
Blessings, francy

You Have Been Diagnosed Now What? Dementia Notes

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How to handle the time when you first get a diagnosis of dementia or another life changing situation..by francy Dickinson

senior walkingDear Francy: My dad just got a diagnosis of dementia and my mom has just found out she has cancer. I know they are both depressed and upset…what should I do now?

First its the shock. No matter what your age or how long you have felt out of sorts…when a doctor looks at you and tells you, your body is not functioning — it is a big change to your life. There will be depression, sadness and worry…there is no getting over that…but how you deal with it all, is the key.

Mental processes have to follow through with it all and talking it out to a few friends, family or a faith adviser is really the best start. Then its time to roll up your sleeves and find out what all this means.

Here is your list:

  1. Actively talk about the diagnosis and let the senior feel the pain, worry and fear. They have to accept and process through it. After that time has passed and they can get out their feelings progress onward. Its always OK to be sad, its just as important to try to end the conversation with an up tone.
  2. To heal, or to live on with tough medical news the mind needs to know what that diagnosis means. No matter if the age is 6 or 86 the person needs to understand the name of the diagnosis and be able to visualize what it is. So, you need to go online and read about it…find out the main points and bring those points down to understandable language. The idea that you can “save” a person from the stress of knowing a serious life condition is long gone…now we face truth and work through it.
  3. Talk about the options that are now on the table. If the doctor has not done this…you can make another appointment for a consultation or go to the net and find the answers yourself. To know the different procedures, medications, surgeries, or other options is something that makes the problem into a “situation to solve” instead of a “dread to face”.
  4. Get a second diagnosis from a professional in the line of specialty- for the problem. A family doctor can tell you there are dementia problems…but a neurologist will tell you more specific details and explain the process of treatment. The family doctor can say you have cancer but a specialist in that type of cancer can give you ideas for treatment and prognosis. This way…you have a firm understanding of what is really wrong. When this is done the mind will be calmer…knowing is very important.
  5. Record doctor appointments on your cell or with a little recorder. Many times we are tired or nervous and we forget what the doctor has said. Tell the doctor you want to share the information with your family and get it down on tape. This way you do not forget or over emotionalize the consultations. Some times the mind will zero in on one word and the rest of the conversation is lost. This recording keeps you clear of mind.
  6. Always ask what this new condition will do to the other things that the senior already is dealing with in their life. If they have a heart problem and now dementia…does that mean medication changes, treatment changes etc. If they are a smoker, drinker, or even on heavy medications, does that mean a different type of treatment for the problems? If they now have cancer does that mean that their special “diabetes diet and drugs” can continue or is there a conflict with the chemical interactions? The specialist will know these things…and you will find support groups online that will share their journey with you so you can make changes. When you understand all these details…your own mind will be calmer.
  7. Understand that the body has to fight the invaders of what ever diagnosis that has been given. So a sincere re-think of diet and supplements has to be made right away. Keep in mind you have to boost the body’s ability to fight the new problem. So new supplements and new ways of eating and exercising will simply boost the ability to fight the invading problems. This step is not in place of medication…it is in addition to medication that will help the body absorb and heal faster. As everyone ages…we all need a boost of help with quicker healing. To ignore this step is many times to hasten the end of life issues.
  8. Talk and talk again. There are lots of things to talk about. There are business things…home, care, money, investments, insurance, and care giving. It will all be needed in the future. So talking about it right now…gets it out in the open and you can seek help from local services of needed. Do not delay in this important part. A person who is extremely ill or under mental/emotional stress does not make choices well. So do it now.
  9. Talking about end of life issues is always hard to do. To make sure a Health Care Directive is agreed on and understood by the family – will mean you can set that hard part aside and deal with the healing and everyday issues. Find out if the person, wants to extend their life, relax and let things take their course, be tube feed, resuscitated, or in the end – cremated. Once again…this is what you do as soon as you can so the ideas are set, papers signed and then it is put aside and you don’t dwell on it.
  10. Is there something an older person wanted to do before they are really unwell? A bucket list type of thing? Maybe they always wanted to visit a family member or see a special place, or return to their home town. Ask the elder what they had hoped to do and make sure you can try to make arrangements for this to happen or something like it. A brother can come to your town…instead of a big trip to his town…or a place can be seen via the web cams instead of a big car trip. But allowing the senior to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of their life, is very important.
  11. Make sure the family knows about the medical conditions. If a child has not spoken to the parent in years…this is the time to write them a letter to let them know the situation. This way they can make a decision to come and visit and let the hurt and years of upset – lay to rest before the senior is no longer with them. You may not care for the family member…but the senior loves each child and each family member and its not for us to judge.
  12. Take pictures of the senior and make video or audios of the senior and their childhood stories and family knowledge. It helps the senior sort through their life choices and leaves you with a remembrance that is very dear. This is a ritual that will really help the senior in their life journey.
  13. Put together what you will know as the dream team of health care. A good specialty doctor that you can talk to, a nurse practitioner that will help with the everyday things, your senior and you and any other person that will give care. Then make a pact that you will all work together to keep the energy and emotional levels up and support each other through the journey.
  14. If end of life issues are being spoken about…call Hospice…do not wait. Too many families wait and do not get all the benefits that Hospice gives. They will come to you and make an evaluation…if they feel it is not time for them…they will put you on hold and check in with you every month. If it is time, they will assist you in ways that really allow you to be with your family member, not only be the 24 hour care giver.
  15. Hurtful family history should be put aside. Thinking about how to make the senior as strong as possible in their mind, heart, and body is the key. Remove guilt and anger. Try very hard to just be in a settled and joy filled mind set each time you visit the senior. Things that happened years ago…are now gone…today has time for joy.
  16. Medic-alert systems are a must if the senior is starting on a downward journey and living alone. These systems will allow you and the senior to be assured that someone will come to their aid in an emergency.
  17. Since both of your parents may need health care…here is advice on how to deal with partners in care together. Click Here for information if your parents can not care for each other.

I hope this list will be of help…I know that all the things on it have happened to me over and over again…and when you tick them off the list…your mind and heart feel free. I thank you for caring for your senior and I wish you well on the journey…francy