Summer Garden Squash Lasagna for Seniors


Seniors love their gardens.Here is how to use your early zucchini and summer squash
for a delightful Italian meal for your senior. by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mom is so sad that she no longer has her garden…she talks about it all the time. I just wish I could gift her a day in the dirt…any ideas for a gal stuck in a wheelchair?

George enjoying his tomatoes on the front porch

George enjoying his tomatoes on the front porch

Yes….get her out the door on your front or back porch and put some veggies in a container. Even if it’s just some herbs…she will feel a part of it again if you hand her the hose and let her water each morning or evening. Here is a fun recipe from our garden…George loves to sit on the porch and watch his garden grow and so when we cut our first squash today — we had to bring it in and make it into a meal!

What I love about cooking these days is I cook for four or six…then I freeze a couple of the left overs as meal size portions. When I have a day that is stress filled and I’m tired. I am able to go and get one of the home-made dinners and George can enjoy the moment all over again. I served this meal with a French roll. I find buying a couple of French rolls is so much easier than trying to finish off a big loaf of French bread. I know both you and your senior will enjoy this meal…its fun to use your own (or local) summer squash and this is a hit with George.

Summer Squash & Zucchini Lasagna

Our first summer squash and zucchini from our container garden

Our first summer squash and zucchini from our container garden

1 med summer squash and 1 med zucchini( chopped)
1/4 pound hamburger (room temp)
1/2 medium sweet onion (chopped)
1 tsp of house seasoning
1tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp fennel
1 can chopped Italian- stewed tomatoes
1  small can or 1 cup of tomato sauce

Turn the oven on to 350 and get a 9 x13 pan greased and sitting aside.

Layering the veggies with cheese

Layering the veggies with cheese

Start the hamburger browning on medium, on the stove. Break it apart so it is in small pieces as it cooks. Add the seasoning combo of salt, pepper and garlic..then when it’s brown…mix in the small chopped onion pieces and the fennel. Let it all brown together. (drain off the excess oil) Add in the squash pieces – that are cut in inch cube size – and the can of stewed tomatoes. Stir for two minutes to bring the flavor of the mix together than take off the burner and let set while you make the cheese layer.
Cheese Layer: 1 Small carton of small curd cottage cheese – 1 beaten egg – a few fresh  leaves of basil cut with scissors into small strips- a large sprig of parsley from your container, cut with scissors. 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix all of this together and add pepper and salt.
Layer 1/2 the veggie and meat mixture in the greased pan. Top that with the cheese layer dotted all over the first layer and then spread out. Layer the rest of the veggie and meat mixture and top it with the 1 cup of tomato sauce (or canned spaghetti sauce) and sprinkle that with the Italian Seasoning.
Top it with shredded mozzarella cheese and if you have some shredded fresh Parmesan you can mix that in with the other cheese. Sit the pan in a baking pan to prevent dripping (the squash really adds moisture to this dish, so you do not want to have it dripping in the oven as it bakes.) Bake for 45 minutes on 350 –watching the cheese so it browns but does not burn. Take it out and let it set for about 5-10 minutes so it will cool and set so it is easier to serve.
Italian casseroleI take the French roll – butter it and sprinkle with garlic, Parmesan cheese and Johnny’s Seasoning…and wrap in foil…put in the last 10 minutes so it can be warm and toasty…YUMM.

I usually serve George at his chair in the living room. I have a good tray that I use and I always line it with a towel or napkin and make it look as nice as I can. Eating when you are a a hard chore…many times seniors lose their ability to taste…so this is a great Italian seasoning meal that is tasty and fun for the senior to eat. Since it’s made of veggies I do not make a side salad..and because its quite rich…I let George eat…rest and then have his coffee with a couple of cookies later. I always put his pills, on the tray…so he can see them and remember to take them after the meal.

I like to give George a nice tray to encourage him to eat the meal

I like to give George a nice tray to encourage him to eat the meal

Italian is a fun way to mix up dinners for seniors that get so tired of everyday meals. Plus the use of the veggies that they helped raise…with their daily watering…and love…makes the dinner even better.

I understand that as the senior advances in his medical complications…eating spicy foods can be hard on the stomach. I did not use many spices in this and you could always leave out the garlic completely. Just work around it and then remember the dinner is fresh and the left overs are perfect frozen dinners for next week.

I always want to thank you for your loving gift of time and attention to your senior. Care giving is a very lonely way of life. So when you and your senior can share a little chore of watering a small container garden…and then enjoy the taste — it gives your daily life a boost…Blessings, francy


Worried About Grandma Back Home?

Help for seniors that are left alone in cities without family to care for them. Ideas and tips by francy Dickinson

Keep Seniors safe at home

Living Safe and Living Long

Dear Francy; My Grandmother and Aunt live in my old home town- two states away from me. I have a family of my own and very little time or money to spend on their care. They do not live together but they talk each day. I am getting very worried about their welfare. Their homes need help, their gardens need help and they need help. Both are in their early 80’s and are able to be on their own, but they need an extra eye to look over them. Ideas?

YES! This is a subject that I am asked so often. It’s so hard on family these days with all the travel we do, the jobs and families that we have established away from our old home towns. I understand the worry, I understand your fears and I have a few ideas to help.

  1. Try to plan a trip back home once a year or every other year. Do not go home at holiday time…do it in the spring or fall, when life is not so busy. That will allow you to really spend a few days with your older relatives and get a feeling for their health and ability for self-care.
  2. If you can not go than ask a relative or old friend from your home town to do a security check. You can reconnect with a highschool chum that would stop in once a month and you send her a thank you note with a Starbucks card inside. Be creative; older folks tend to say; “I’m just fine” when they are not just fine.
  3. Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way right from the get go. You need a power of attorney for health issues and they can have each of their names on the POA as back up. That way if they’re in trouble you can call long distance to the hospital and get information. The world and laws have changed, privacy means, NO information will be given out without permission of the patient. If the patient is unable to give permission…you are stuck.
  4. Make sure even if you are far away you can call and talk without worry. Add a MagicJack to your computer. That will give you unlimited long distance through the Internet for $25 a year. That way there is no worry about multi calls each day or long calls to them or others in the town to make appointments.
  5. Add them both to your family cell phone plan. They will not use many minutes and its a safe way for them to call 911. If you are all on the same cell phone company then your calls to each other are usually free. So they can talk to each other and to you and no minutes show on your billing. Call your service and ask them what a good plan would be for all of you, then make the change. Keep updating your cell services, some companies have special senior plans and it really helps to have that phone in their pocket ( or in their bra- LOL) all day long so they are secure in case of a fall.
  6. Think like you would if you were close. Call their doctor and make appointments, they do not care where you live. You make the appointments and keep up with the information as it comes up. If you have lived well into your 80’s and you have low health issues, then keeping life simple and having check ups is the way to keep your seniors living on their own for an extended time. Every year they need to see eye, skin, family doctor, and any specialist that they need for their extra care. Don’t forget teeth, they will start to eat less if they have teeth that are missing or hurt. 
  7. If they begin to have health issues; ask them if they would consider living together. They could both sell their homes and put the money in a fund. Then move in together in a retirement situation that would provide care as they age. They would have a community around them and be more involved in their lives – instead of alone.
  8. If they want to be where they are for as long as they can….start to set up a group of people who will help them. Get a listing of repair people from the community colleges and tech schools that are inexpensive and help seniors. Get yard people from garden clubs or faith organizations that do a yearly clean up for free.
  9. Add on a care service or hire an occasional cleaning person. Even once a month, or every other month. Add a bath person once a week this is really a good way to check their health. The bath person is trained to see if they are losing weight, have bruises from falls, or other medical complaints. I think this should be #1 on your list.
  10.  Connect with someone who will pick them up once a week and take them both to the grocery store, get their hair done, and get a pedicure (every 5 wks). They can visit together get a lunch after the shopping and have an enjoyable day. Someone from a faith center will do the job if you simply give a gift to the program. Be creative.
  11. Food, if they need help with food then do the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ they will send out food for the week and little treats can be purchased on the side. Do not allow them to go one day without a protein drink. This drink can be covered on their health program if you ask the doctor to give them a prescription for it. Boost and other protein drinks give them vitamins and protein that they may not get each day with small or unbalanced meals.
  12. Call the local Senior Center and get them on their mailing list…get them involved with day trips to local sites, card days, lite exercise, movie nites. Senior Centers have lots of extra services and so do the YMCA’s in the area. Tech college that are training in-home care givers also can send students for safety checks and so can the local Red Cross and Senior Care Services.
  13. Professional in home services can be done by the hour and you can get a review of what is needed when you call a Senior Care Service in the area. I always find them online and check out the references. These services are varied like bath people, cleaning, food prep, care giving and nursing. You can figure out the amount of money you have in the budget and use them each week or only on occasion. Its good just to talk to them and have an evaluation so they are ready to go when you are in need. Remember Medicare will pay for one month of in-home care after a patient has been in hospital for three days or more. Or Medicare will provide a 30 day stay in a care center to recover from a hospital stay before the senior returns to their own home. Your insurance and local senior services will review what your area covers for in-home care so call and get the idea in your mind and written down, in case you need it.
  14. If you feel they are in need of help financially..with food or other things you need a social worker. The best place to begin is with a  trained person that is there for you…you can call the local hospital that is close to them. Ask for the senior social worker and start with that person. They are always in the know and it is a hospital community outreach to help the public.

It will require you to make calls and get your lists ready to go, but once you do. It will be like you are living right next door. Do not depend on relatives, they often say they will do things and then do not follow through. It’s better to have a service help you, pay for it if your seniors have money and/or search for local charity services if you don’t have funds. Once again, the key word is being creative. Think about how you can ask others to help you to give your seniors the best care…even if you are not able to be there for hands on help.

Thank you for being so kind to your seniors. Many elders find their lives closed in to just their own home. They lose their spouses, friends pass, children are out-of-town and who do they have to help them? So good to know that you care enough to be on the other end of the phone. Blessings, francy

Holidays with Alzheimer’s

Dear francy; My mother and I took my dad (who has early dementia) to Texas to have a family Thanksgiving. It was simply the worst event of my life. Dad was confused from the moment we got in the car. The check- in at the airport was awful. He was mad and angry at the TSA check through. Then on the plane, he simply got rude to the flight attendant and everything went downhill from there. He did not want to be at our relatives, he did not want to eat. Oh my gosh; it was simply one moment of embarrassment after another. Dad had shown little signs of dementia at home, but we had no idea of his decline until we went on this trip. Should we get him into the doctor for a checkup or is this a normal event that we simply missed the signs?

Alzheimers at Holiday, Alzheimer's, Seniors Alone

My Georgie at Christmas


I think it’s really both. Your doctor should hear that he was so moody and had what they call an “event” on the plane. That is common, the oxygen changes in the plane and it affects the brain. But the doctor needs to know the different things that happened. So, first write it all down in simple terms like an outline. Fax that letter into your doctor or take it with you for the next appointment. Ask for an appointment as soon as possible. Christmas is right around the corner and if the stress of change is beginning to affect him – you need to get it handled.

The doctor will read the letter that you outlined the problem and be able to assist you in a mood type of drug that will help your dad cope with the pressure of change. It will mean that he will be less upset and that is the goal for all of you as a family. These medications are designed to just calm him down, not make him tired or unfeeling. As the dementia progresses; your doctor will increase this medication as needed. This is what your doctor and medications are for so do not feel like you are doing something wrong to report his behavior and ask for help. Doctors are trained to help you and so you will become part of the health team for your dad. You, your mother, the doctors and your dad; all together working to make his dementia progression as slow as possible = Health Team.

Have a talk with your mother and really allow her to express herself. She may be shocked and upset at his behavior, or she may have been looking the other way on all to many occasions when your dad has been moody before this “event”. She has to talk about it, if she is covering for him – as many loyal wives do for their spouses – that has to be talked about. His health means being very open and out there with the different ups and downs of his behavior. He will go downhill on a fast track if he is allowed to just go on emotional upsets without any attention being given to them. So, your mother is the front push of the Health Team. She has to get used to talking to you honestly about the daily ups and downs in your dad’s behavior. Then you both can decide when that behavior is not acceptable and needs to be reported to the doctor. Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients can get angry and not know how to express their needs and will lash out with words and with physical fighting. If that happens; the doctors need to know so they can medicate and keep the patient calmer. Your mother has to be protected from any harm during her care giving. Honesty between you and your mother will be a key to giving your dad good care.

Alzheimer’s/Dementia Spouse care givers have to be giving all the knowledge they can have to understand the steps in the decline of the senior. That way they know how to express their own needs and what to do to keep their own spirit and health intact.

Here are some ideas to help the spouse or the family care giver:

  • You may have to make plans for your dad to have a pro care giver brought in once a week to care for him while your mom gets rest or an outing.
  • You may need to take him to a day care for dementia patients once or twice a week –  or just a few hours – so he can get some interaction with others and your mother gets a rest.
  • Maybe once a week you and your family can come over for a Saturday night movie and bring dinner…so your parents can have family interaction and feel like they are still connected and not alone.
  • You may want to call five of your dad’s old friends and ask if they would commit to calling him once a week in the early afternoon, or coming over to visit once a month for no more than 20 minutes. That will give your dad a touch of friendship and connection with others.
  • You may want to have a bath lady come and do the personal bath each week. That way your mother does not have to argue about a bath. It keeps dad clean and keeps mom calmer.
  • Maybe you can have a neighbor/sibling come over for two hours each week and you take your mom shopping with you. Then stop for a quiet coffee time and then back home. This break means your mother gets a boost of energy from you and your dad gets a separation from routine.
  • Make sure your dad gets an out and about at least every other week. Even if he gets uptight. It can be a car ride to get gas and coffee and never really leaving the car. Or a ride to your house for dinner. Keep the event short and simple. Try not to include a big crowd or strangers.
  • Sunday services may not be on the list any longer. You can ask the pastor to visit the house each week. Or you can attend a quieter mid-week service. These large crowds of people, even though he knows them well – can set him off to a place of insecurity and that means opening him up for another “event”.

To Review:

  1. Get the doctor on board with information and updating medication
  2. Make sure the main care giver understands that the senior is changing and they will both need more support
  3. Get professional support for just a few hours each week, so the cost is within budget and the spouse has a relief from care
  4. Get family and friends to assist you in their own way to keep your dad connected but calm
  5. Keep your senior out of the house but within boundaries of their own comfort level
  6. Change things around for the senior like heavy holiday stress or large faith or family events into smaller doses to keep comfort level calm
  7. Holidays can be any day that has friends and family around the senior with a light dinner. The stress of thinking you have to have a big event with all the trimmings is now going to change. Do not think “This may be his last Christmas for him to remember.” He has already changed, his holiday has to be less of everything, with more love and happy up energy.

This whole adventure through care of loved ones at holiday time– is a bum. I am learning step by step as I go forward with my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Our Thanksgiving was way too much for him and I was to blame. I wanted him to be happy…but I forgot that his happy has changed. A simple good meal and a good movie would have been much better. I have learned and I will not be doing a big push for Christmas. Keeping things down and calm, but still celebrating is the ticket. I guess we are all going through this journey and learning together and I thank you for all you are doing for your parents.

Blessings on your holidays may they be quiet, calm and filled with the real love that you and your family have for each other…

   Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at  


 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the new newsletter issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. It’s a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  a lot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

Valentines for Seniors or Mid-Winter Smiles

by francy Dickinson                      Note my web site is updating will announce when all in place again 🙂

Dear Francy: Can I tell you how unhappy my uncle is right now? He’s in care center- bored, nothing going on. The Superbowl was fun for him but now…what? I brought him a magazine but he just put it on his side table- not interested. I want him to live with happiness in his life. How can I help him with that?

How kind you are to even care and go and visit. It just takes a half hour to visit and costs nothing to sit and chat, you are adding so much quality to his routine. It may seem like you’re doing very little, but it’s a huge thing to have a friendly face visit you during the day in a care center.

Valentine is a perfect time for all seniors men or women. Arrive with an arm full of valentine stuff from the dollar store. Put up the hearts around the door and have a big bowl of candy so the staff and visitors get a treat each time they come in the room. It will keep everyone perky and talking about happy things.

I first gave a battery operated Valentine Dancing Monkey to my Uncle many years ago. It played a funny Elvis tune and moved all around when you pressed the button. He listened to it and laughed and tucked it into his walker and took it with him to the dinning room. He showed it off and other seniors laughed and moved around to the music.

A few years later, when I had momma at my home, I found a delightful one with boy and girl bears dancing together to music. Mom would have everyone that entered the door push the button and she would laugh. It just brings down the stress and adds a little silly moment to a life that is lonely. I suggest this action to all who have elders in care, or at home with limited mobility…its just for fun. It may seem like its childish, but some times childish is just whats needed.

To laugh at silly things is important. To talk about love is the perfect timing around Valentines. Talk about family members that have passed and let the senior express their feelings. Ask them when they first met their spouse, if the spouse has passed this lets old memories flood forth and you enjoy the family history with them.

I love the way elders talk about the past. They do not try to hide any of the off color stories or the bad choices, they talk about them and laugh. Aunts and Uncles you always thought lived perfect lives,  suddenly sound like everyday people.  The stories become funny and the memories are alive and happy.

Most elders, even those with dementia problems, will remember things from their early days. You will enjoy the talks about being shy and finally asking someone to dance and then winding up marrying that young girl. Or my mother’s story of daddy paying a neighbor boy to keep him informed if mom had a date with another boy. Daddy would mysteriously appear on the door step as she returned home from her date.  Preventing  mother’s possible good nite kiss with a rivil suiter.  Mom did not learn of the plot till many years later.

Talking about fun things, sad things…they help the senior adjust to life and tuck in memories of their past. It’s very good for them and great interest for you. All started over a simple heart decoration and a piece of candy.

Don’t forget if your senior was always an animal person, bring your dog to visit with a big red bow and some valentines hanging off of their collar. Just give the dog a bath and take it for a good walk around the block so it can go potty and get its energy out. Then visit the senior for 15 minutes. Always inform the office or care giver before you arrive with the dog, but I have rarely had a NO in all the years of bringing in my Bichon for elders to hug. The dog adores the visit and the attention and the senior and their friends are thrilled to just pet a sweet dog.

If children are too young or too restless to bring for a visit, then do a video and place it on your laptop and show it while you’re there. You can have the kids making a valentine around the table at home and then give the senior the valentine so they feel a part of  the activity.

If you want to flip for something fun, there are great pajamas with hearts and inexpensive jewelry with hearts to adorn your senior lady’s neck. You can imagine the surprise of jewelry (even just for fun) for a lady that is unable to get out and about. Not to mention the laugh that an elder man will have with heart shaped sleeping bottoms. Its just for fun.

If you become the energy with the spirit of Valentine – the senior feels that spirit and reacts well with your surprise visit. It’s just one more way to share happiness and love with those that have given so much to all the rest of us through the years. Here’s an easy recipe to make candy truffles to take to the care center or senior’s home. give this a try it is not hard to do, I am doing it with my young niece this coming weekend.

Anyone can make these (even the guys) they are easy and super yummy…makes a nice gift and treat!


  • 1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee (fresh from the coffee maker)
  • 12 (1 ounce) squares Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted
  • 1  teaspoons vanilla
  • Suggested coatings, unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and/or Coconut I always use cocoa for the coatings it makes it so yummy (looks just like a truffle from the ground)


  1. Beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing until well blended.
  2. Add melted chocolate, coffee and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.
  3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in cocoa, powdered sugar or coconut. Store in refrigerator.
  4. I always buy a storage box at the $store, for Valentine they would have a plastic red heart box that is perfect storage for these little gems. They are rich and good and you can give just a few and spread them around to friends, family and your special senior in care! YUMMY

Talk again soon, I am working on my website this week and will have it going again and looking fresher and filled with fun stuff…please do follow me on twitter @seniorcaretips – francy

Military Spouse Care Support for Veterans

by francy Dickinson             

Dear Francy; My husband has been home from the middle east and the hospital for six months. He has had severe brain trauma and I have been his full-time care giver. We have two children under 10, a dog and his older mother with heart problems. His condition has recently changed with recurring epileptic type of fits that set him back in his recovery. I am so upset and have no support because if we complain we are put on lists and treated badly. Hard to explain, but I am feeling trapped and hurt and worried about our future. I need a life back for me too.

Thank you so for emailing me and I have taken off any personal information so I can share this with others. Please note that your husband has to make sure he is receiving medical care to its utmost. If you need to have a second opinion about his status you have to find out what the procedure is to get that opinion. That way you know the veterans hospital people have him on a good course and you can release your worry over his recovery.

As you know his recovery will take a very long time to rebuild the mind and U have to think of it as a dementia situation at this time and treat him as you would anyone recovering from a stroke or dementia. That means that it is both physical and emotional and those two have to be treated together. So if he displays emotional problems you have to be sure to note them and explain them with his doctor. Many people think that the brain is just recovering tasks and skills, but it is also recovering emotions and a mixture of good and bad emotions as it changes. This is part of his recovery and you should not keep it secret, just express his condition to this doctor as you would talking about your children’s symptoms, make it something that is a part of his healing.

That said, you are the main issue and you have to make sure you have a support system. There are groups of veteran wives that have nothing to do with any military connection. So search them out and see if they can fill a void you need filled with people who understand what you are going through. Together you are more powerful. I would think an online support of other veterans spouses that are going through similar things or those of us who are going through dementia and Alzheimer’s with our spouses is also a place you could gain information. Just having people to talk to that will not judge you is important. If you feel you might have problems with expressing your true thoughts then use another name for your online connections. That way you stay private.

Money, everyday life and more is hitting you at this time so I would say you really need support. I would also get yourself and your kids into a program that allows them to express their frustrations, too. There R mommy and me groups for pre school kids and YMCA and Boy n Girl clubs for kids. Getting them into a hobby helps you all, like training the dog to be active in field work or getting involved in a sport that is not going to cost a lot of money to enjoy. The family can then rally around together and still do enjoyable events.

Personally, the ring of stress is so much for you the only thing I think that could help at this time is a short escape for you. Since you can not afford a weeks rest, maybe a two-hour rest when the kids are in school and your husband is resting in the afternoon. Maybe letting the family watch TV and you go into another room and read a book or do a craft so it is your own time, to just be. Many times creative outlets will take the busy mind away to a place that is interesting and re-newing for the care giver.

You can always download audio books from NetLibrary and listen to them on an inexpensive MP3 player. You can also get books at library to teach yourself a craft or new skill. You can also get a cookbook like slow cooking and find some new recipes that would ease your cooking time and give you something new to think about. It is the little things that we do that are able  fit into a life that is already brimming over with tasks.

You can ask for help at home from family or community. There are organizations from churches, local and state governments and neighborhoods that will do a few things for you to ease your stress. Maybe get someone to come and clean with you once a month, or do your lawn in the summer or play ball with your kids. It does take some research, but the time on the phone could pay off in your feeling more support and less stress.

Talking, if you do not tell people you need help, they will not know you are in need. If someone came to you and said, I am in need and exhausted, would you not help them? YES you would. So, this is the time in your life you have to ask for help for you…it’s a very important step to bring others into your world and let them find a place to give you support. If I was a friend I would be phoning you just to make you laugh each night. I have done this for lots of my girl friends going through hard times. I am personally too busy with caring for my husband and working to spend time with friends, but I can chat them up in the after dinner hours and just get a 10 minutes break to laugh. It can make a huge difference on my end as well as theirs. Plus, it brings me back to a connection with others and knowing they have challenges too, I am not alone.

The kitchen time can be exercise time for you. Doing dishes and drying dishing, getting things in and out of drawers and cupboards. Your counter can be a barre and you can hold on and do some stretching, and balancing as you move around. Holding in your tummy as you work and moving your arms as you wait for the microwave to buzz or the water to boil. Thinking of your own breathing and doing that at least two to three times a day. Just good old deep breathing- nose in and mouth out breathing that will calm your body. Stretching like a cat in the morning and before bed, walking in place for 100 steps before dinner. Or standing and walking during the commercials, just in place and getting your heart to beat a little bit. Gyms and long walks may not work for you, but you can start to move and get your body to produce a few endorphins to help your brain relax.

Cleaning up things around you so you do not see a mess everywhere. Have the kids help you unload the car and give it a good vacuum and make them keep a plastic garbage bag in the backseat to empty after each ride.  So when you slip into your driver’s seat and you are tired and on the run, your surroundings are not cluttered with junk. Clear the inside of the car and you can keep a calm mind while you drive. 

Pick a closet or room each week and give things away and sell things and keep your home as calm as you can. It is a chore, but in a month its a chore that is done and gives you a sense of control over your home. Even if you take one garbage bag a week around your garage and throw things away, in a couple of months your garage will be so much better than it is now. Those are the things that really overwhelm us, when we simply can not keep up with small tasks. When you are on your own with family, care and chores…the chores have to go. So instead of doing it all…just force yourself to do a little each week and then you will feel more empowered.

It is easy for folks to say, I will come and help. But hard to say how they can help. One way…have your kids go visit friends. Have a friend come and sit to chat up your husband and have a neighbor collect your mail, have a friend call your mother in law every other day to check up on her. 

Take your husband in for a pedicure and get one yourself. You can find those small shops that are very inexpensive and it will be like a $20 dollar investment in your personal happiness. Take the kids over to McDonald’s and then U can get salads for you and your husband. Ask an older neighbor to bake a weekly pie or cookies and take her the flour and ingred. Ask your best friend’s husband to check your car fluids once a month. Get the kids to donate toys to a charity and then buy the family one game to enjoy together. Look for 2 for 1 dinners at diners and cafes so you and your husband can have that eat out time on a dime.

Go to the library for movie rentals and watch small older theaters for their family movie nights. Have your kids learn to cook and give each of them a special dinner. Then once a month they make their dinner and it gets better and better. That way you have a few nights off and they learn more than peanut butter sandwiche skills.

You can do it, and if you feel your depression has gone on longer than a few weeks and it is overwhelming you– It means it has gone into a chemical burn out and you simply have to get help. When your body is not responding to your emotions, you need a doctor to help you with it. You should feel tired and sad, but not feel so tired you can not move or so sad you can not talk or interact with your family. You have to take care of you, in order to keep the ball moving with your family. Dont be proud, this is a time for creative thinking, not a time for you to be silent and suffering. You are doing a job of ten, so make sure you pay yourself with kindness.

I am very proud of you and I hope you will look up my ebook “Senior Care Workbook 101” on my web site at it has all the basics that you need to help you with home care. It goes into lots of ideas how a spouse can make care giving easier. Blessings…francy

One Dish Thanksgiving Dinners for Seniors

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Hard to get Mom and Dad to join us now they are both more comfortable at home. They both have limited eating, dont chew well and don’t do sugar well. So the full turkey dinner doesnt work any more, but I want them to enjoy the day and a special dinner. Last year my leftovers were left in the refrigerator for days and it was just a waste of my time to have gone over with them in the first place…suggestions?

Yes…here you are this works great for me. These ideas come from your kitchen after you have cooked your dinner, you use your own left overs and then take the dishes to the elder/senior family member’s home to reheat. It tastes great and I have done it many times and the senior is left with a good dinner and no mess or fuss.

  1. One Dish Thanksgiving Dinner for Elder As you are picking up your holiday dinner grease a glass square baking dish and put some stuffing in it, then add in some cranberries, a small dollop of mashed potatoes, a big scoop of green bean casserole,  some cut up turkey both white and dark, and stir in some of your gravy. Stir and spread out. Now top it with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. This is their dinner, its a casserole with all the goodies in it already. It can be heated in the oven or microwave and give them a great dinner….add in a separate container of gravy to put on top of it and U have an easy pick up and two nites of yum.
  2. Toasted Turkey Sandwich & More: Slice left over turkey and put into zip lock and make a good loaf of bread in your bread maker or buy a nice loaf at the bakery. This bread is like an oatmeal type that is dark and crusty. Slice bread and put mayo on each side. Break up the turkey with your fingers so it is easy to chew and cover one side of the bread with turkey…on the other side of the bread put a tbsp of gravy and spread over the bread like U did the mayo. Keep it open face and put into broiler or toaster oven and heat through…I like to toast it so both sides of bread are heated and toasted. Remove and before you close it up to serve spread some cranberry sauce (the jelly type) thinly over the hot turkey. Cut and serve this marvelous hot turkey sandwich
  3. Pasta Dish for Picky Eaters: Take over some gravy and turkey left overs, small amount of green bean casserole and stuffing. Prep a small amount of pasta in boiling water. In another pan stir fry the cut up turkey and small amount of green bean casserole and a couple of tbsp of stuffing. When it’s heated, add in some gravy like you would any sauce. Drain the pasta and put the stir fry and sauce over the top and you have a nice pasta dish with the great taste of Thanksgiving that is easy to eat and nice as left overs.
  4.   No Crust Pumpkin Pie: This is nothing fancy…it is the pumpkin can recipe that makes such a nice pumpkin pie – dont forget using Splenda instead of sugar is just as good and you can not taste the difference. The different twist is that you do not use a crust. You butter the pie plate and then put in 1/4 cup of corn meal…over the sink you roll the pie plate till it is dusted with the corn meal and shake out the rest in sink. Then you pour in your regular filling and cook it as you would any pumpkin pie. This is all you need, it is easier to eat, faster to make and can be cut and served warm or cold…with whip cream…Total yum here so know I have made this for years and it works every time…I am just a Libby pumpkin pie girl and proud of it.

I take over the dinner ingred and make it right there. I start with the pie and it is cooking as I do the dinner. Buy the time they are done eating the meal the pie is hot out of oven and I cut a tiny piece and top with whip cream…they get to have a little smell of Thanksgiving in their house too. If they have no kitchen then you take it over all pre-done and ready to hit in microwave or stove top. Seniors do not have smell or taste as they get older so a little more salt is a must so they can taste the food. Obviously you can do this the day after the holiday or in the evening of the holiday. I have found my sisters and I like to take a break and make the trip to moms to visit and enjoy some time with her. Plus, it gave us another excuse for a second piece of pie!

Happy Holidays….francy

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

by francy Dickinson           

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, francy