10 Gift Ideas for Grandma or Elder Neighbors


Senior gift ideas by Francy Dickinson


Hard to believe, my nephews, Dan n Jeff have grown families of their own and have helped me so much this last year as I moved out of our family home

Dear Francy; OK so what I wanted to help you with is ideas for gifts for Elders at Xmas…So here it goes…F.


Neighbors need your attention. I am sure you have a few “live alone” neighbors your way. Please do not forget them, even if they are younger…they need to know that others care about them and Holiday time is so hard for those alone.

A small bag filled with a card and sweets is the easy thing…hang on the door knob and leave. You do not have to spend time with them if you do not want to. You can just gift your kindness. Tuck in a little candy, or a few cookies in a Ziplock, a bar of pretty soap, a $5 gift card to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Whatever you do for your gifting of thanks…do it for those that are on their own.

We just lost a gentleman in the neighborhood due to suicide. He had kept care of his wife with Alzheimer’s for years and when she died, he was exhausted and just retreated into his empty life. I did not know him…so I was not aware of any of this and it still hurts my heart. Sometimes, a small chat with a neighbor gives them comfort. So, a gift bag surprise could change a person’s personal outlook on the world…to one of “someone cares about me” or “I belong here”  or even more important “I feel safe here”. Gift your kindness. Even a gift card for some lawn cutting in the summer would be a fun one. Be creative and think about those around you. Gifting to others in formal charities is wonderful, this time of year…but those that are close and alone…they are the perfect place to begin.


Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Mother enjoyed giving & receiving gifts up to her passing at 100 years of age!

Always saying; “I don’t need anything.” Is really the truth when you start to age. But getting a gift at holiday time, no matter how small, is a fun thing that everyone enjoys. Here are some senior ideas.

  1. Small bag with card and treats. Sweet tooth’s never die. Seniors love sweets. So a few candy treats, or homemade cookies are perfect. But, your own grocery store has wonderful bakeries that have individual cakes, pies and cheese cakes that come in plastic, easy to gift, containers. They are all decorated and look pretty and give the senior a feeling of being special.
  2. Fruits: Fruits that are special like grapes, berries, cut pineapple, small winter sweet oranges, apples dipped in caramel. These are things that seniors like to “piece on”. Easy for you and a lasting treat that many seniors do not spend money on for their own enjoyment. Obviously, cheeses, deli meats and crackers or specialty holiday breads are also a fun surprise. OH and an old fashion one ~ is dates…nice California dates that are sweet and other dried fruits.
  3. Things for personal: nice soaps that you find in the bath department, something that is handmade is so special for a senior, instead of the usual Dial soap. You could also add new shower mat and a nice big bath towel that’s a great one. Seniors tend to keep their towels and bed linen for years and new ones add a freshness to their lives.
  4. I love gifting hand cream that is special. Goat milk hand cream or healing hand creams. It just is something everyone enjoys using but seldom buy. On that; a new tube of toothpaste and a battery toothbrush. Lots of elders have never tried a battery toothbrush and you can get it all ready and talk about it a bit to take away any worry over its use. That will doll up their day!
  5. A large read-out Atomic clock. George loved his and he had an auto outside temperature read-out on it too. You get the clock and place it where it’s easy to see. You put in the battery and that is that. If you add the outside temp you get a small battery run remote to hang outside your back door. The senior does not have to change or set the clock, it is all done automatically for them each night via the Oregon lab and seniors love it. (No WiFi needed)
  6. Handy tools for the kitchen or the handyman. Now what I mean is this; many older people stop buying kitchen utensils or small tools for their quick repairs. All of these things, have been updated the last few years. A plug-in lite that goes on if the power goes off, it has LED lights and is really bright. A light weight screwdriver that is battery-electric with a few heads or a can opener that is easy for the older hand to use. A plug-in hot water pot, so there is never a forgotten pot left on the stove. These are the thoughtful things that will change the ability for a senior to stay alone in their home or apartment. Maybe a return-again visit and go through and clean out their junk drawer with dividers so they can open it up and find anything they need for quick use. (How many rubber bands can a guy have in a junk drawer? J
  7. New front and back welcome mats. This is a simple fix, but mats that take away the dirt, and keep the wet from coming into the house on the carpet…it’s a big deal. Bet your senior has not changed theirs’ in years.
  8. Plastic glides for under chairs or heavy furniture. If the senior has a favorite chair, can they even move it? Probably not; it’s now too heavy for them. These simple chair glides will help them move around the big table or chairs they use often. (Ace Hardware has them)
  9. A holder for their cell phone. Seniors tend to lose their cell phones even in small spaces. I little holder for the cell phone is perfect. Taking time to add new phone numbers or make sure their smart phones are organized and not confusing is also so helpful. Don’t forget Jitterbug makes phones for seniors that are easy to see as well as use.
  10. Led and long lasting light bulbs. This is a really, great thing. Seniors often have trouble with changing lights. How about you bring over a few of the newer long life lights and do a few replacements of lights that are needed and used the most. Front porch, kitchen lights, light by their TV chair, bathroom lights…this is a very thoughtful gift and will be appreciated for years to come. Even if it is a simple one, its important. Keeping seniors off step ladders is a must, so this is a life-savor too!

Seniors do not need fancy things, expensive things or another sweater. They need things that they use every day and that need updating. I once brought over a shower curtain liner and put it up for my mom with a new bath tub mat. She could have never done the shower curtain it was too much for her to stretch. She called me and thanked me for weeks after. She said that she did not realize how dingy her old ones had gotten and how she enjoyed the new ones so much. Simple shower curtain liner…hello, who knew that would make me her favorite daughter? (OK, it didn’t my sister Merrilee was her favorite, but it gave me points!

Gift Holiday cheer and love to your loved ones and neighbors…and thank you for care giving your time to others. It’s a very kind gift to give your love, time for a chat and tea together with a senior. Just picking up a Starbucks coffee and bringing to the senior and spending a half hour in chat is a gift that lasts.

Blessings on your holidays…f.


Grieving at Christmas


Handling grief at holiday time by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going through my second holiday without my husband and its tough. I have a few friends that are going through similar feelings and I thought I would share some feelings with you. f.

Memory Snap Shot

Memory Snap Shot

There is no time frame to grief. I have known and listened to stories of spouses remarrying within a few months of a loss and then those that never find another mate. My mother was without her husband for forty-eight years. There is simply no rule to the time of healing and adjusting to loss; a tough divorce, moving away, loss of a job or home and of course; death of a dear and close loved one or partner. The rules go out the window. So, each of us have to try to make it through the woods on our own. Creating our own healing time-frame and finding small and large ways to restructure our life patterns to form a new life for our own self. That is why I share with others that their loss and my loss are totally different. Therefore, no comparison is available. But the pain, the loneliness and the unsettling in each of our lives is certainly a bridge of understanding and its shared by all of us walking through those woods.

George's Memory Tree

George’s Memory Tree

This is my second Christmas without my Georgie. Last year, I was in our family home and did the decorating as usual. I used George as my theme…and printed up pictures of him at different times in his life and decorated the tree with a sense of love and joy. I had friends over for holiday dinner and used my china and made my special recipes. I love to bake; so I did my usual baking of Biscotti and gifting it to friends and family. I missed my guy with all of my heart but I went through the motion of festivities because it gave me a sense of security to stick to the plan.

This year; I am not in my home that I shared for so many years with Georgie. I am living with friends for a while and they are too busy to decorate for Christmas. They are not into baking or into any of the many traditions that George and I had taken on to express our love of the holiday season. So, its quiet here. I have time to think back on lots of holidays and reflect on what I want to do in the forward motion of my life. I have time to rest and not do the crazy run around for gifts, food and parties. Its something different for me, not bad, just different. But my heart aches for my guy and our old ways.

I have a dear friend that lost her husband around the time I lost Georgie. She too has moved out of her long time home. She is settling into an apartment lifestyle and is in the process of adjustment, as I am. We share our memories of years of fun and love with our mates and I think it helps both of us…to talk about things…work through things in our minds by sharing.

I would say that having a friend that shares a similar loss in their life to talk to, is very helpful. If that is not something you have in your life; try to find a support group that would fit your own needs. When you can talk about yourself and then help others through their hard time, it really does makes your own pain feel controllable. When you keep all your thoughts and feelings inside and only have an on-going personal discussion with yourself…the pain can and will overwhelm you. Why try to pretend you are not sad or lonely for the sake of friends or family…it hurts only you. I am not saying that you escape the pain, but support and comfort from others allows you to express the sadness and more or less flush it out. Instead of getting stuck in thoughts that circle around and around again.

Safety, is what I think I miss. Somehow I felt safe with my Georgie around. Even when he was extremely ill and could not have really saved me from anything or anyone…just his presence allowed me to feel, safe. Therefore, if you were asking me what is the hardest thing about his loss? It would be my feeling of safety is missing. I can not put the feeling into words. But on a daily basis I am faced with actions, decisions, and schedules that are presented to me and there is no one behind me to support my own decisions. I suppose they would be the same decisions with or without George there…but his energy and love always gave me a feeling of confidence, that I was free to make a good choice. Now, I fuss over things and worry over my choices.

When I talk to my friends that are going through the same situations of loss over their spouse. I find it comforting to know they too have similar feelings. So, in a strange way, it helps me. Not to change my choices or my life decisions…but to know that its a stage that we are all going through, not just me. Those stages of grief that are printed and talked about…just so you know. They are just a suggestion of a progression through pain of loss. You do not have to go through those stages in order, or timely. You may skip feelings and then hover on other feelings. Its OK, we are not all cupie dolls walking through the same experience. So, do not be worried over the death experts…just allow yourself to feel and be as you go. No rules, no guilt. Maybe you feel nothing, maybe your relationship is tucked in perfectly. Maybe your personal beliefs have you and your loved one on a very accepted path and you are able to let your sadness go. Each of us, have our our walk through the woods. There is no rule…so do not stress. If you have an after-life belief go with it. But if you don’t…there is plenty of time to build your own.

I used to wake in the morning with George beside me in our big bed. Just as the sun was coming in the window, the room was so quiet and George still asleep. The two dogs and two cats all curled up between us and sleeping. I would look over and see them all and will myself to take a mental snap-shot of the scene. I knew it would change…so I wanted to hold on to it as long as I could.

Now, when I wake I often close my eyes again and recreate that snap-shot. Listening to the breathing of George and our little ones and feeling them all close. George is gone, so is one of our dogs and one of our cats. The scene is no longer there…but in my mind’s eye I still hold that early morning feeling of love. I still remember how I wanted that scene never to end and I take comfort in reviewing it in my mind.

I have no answers to my own future. I wish comfort and love for me as the time moves on. But I try to live each day. I don’t stay in bed…I get up and move. I try to eat well, I try to sleep well. I give my little dog and cat my love and keep them on a daily routine. I write each day, I call family, friends and clients each day. I shop for good food and remembrance gifts and cards. I have a journal that I share my fears and joys in and it helps keep me on track. Even if I am down, I try to reach out and chat with friends and family. I guess I am trying to just keep in motion. So the positive life changes for my future can happen from any direction.

My walk in the woods has just begun. Maybe yours has not even started yet…but know that when you get to the woods, they do not have to be dark and scary. The woods are filled with tall quiet trees that reach out and support you. The woods has ferns and plants that give it a carpet and sounds of birds and small animals that send you energy along the way. It is not a bad or end of the world walk, its just a stroll. Each of us has to take it. If you reach out and talk to a friend that understands or join a group that supports you…the walk will be lighter. I wish that for both of us.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

What ever you choose to do on your holiday, make time to do for others. That is how we heal; by turning around and giving a hand-up to another.

Thank you for your gift of care giving your loved one. Blessings, on your holiday. francy

Ten Tips to Make Your Senior’s Holiday Perfect!


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.


  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


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!!


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!


  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.


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!


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?


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


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.

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)

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.

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.)

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!

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.

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