Answers for a Depressed Spouse Care-Giver

Ideas to help those feeling low and helpless with depression over giving care to their spouse 24/7. by francy Dickinson

Family friend, Kathy, giving me a break and caring for mom

Dear Francy; My wife is in late stages of Parkinson’s. She now sleeps a lot and her speech is very impaired. I can not really understand her or what she wants from me. Her ability to be mobile is gone and I have to stay by her side when she moves. She does not eat anything but cookies and drinks only soda pop. The house is a mess, I am tired and mad most days. I know you help others with ideas, but what can you do for me…I’m just angry.

Anger, yes…who would not be angry when the person you have given your heart to for so many years…suddenly needs you the most, but you are unable to really help?

You just have to trust me this frustration and anger is called depression. If you have never had anymore than a few blue days in your life…depression may seem a fussy word for you. But you described just the situation that brings a person down.

See if this fits?

  1. You try so hard to care for your spouse that you actually can ‘feel’ their needs. You know when they need to go to the toilet, eat, or what they say when they mumble. You try to think ahead to things that will keep them calm. This is very what mothers do with small infants; the ability to talk, does not mean there is no way to interact with another person.
    But/ if you go to the bathroom yourself, take a step out of a room or just fall asleep in your chair you miss the clue. You then feel like you have let them down. They’re in need, they have fallen, they have had an accident, they are crying from frustration…it feels like your fault.
  2. You find that you are sleeping at the top of your sleep…any small noise wakes you up and you feel you have to go and check your spouse. This light sleep makes you feel out of sorts all day.
    Result/ you get very little sleep at all and almost no deep rejuvenating sleep. Therefore, you are just running on fumes most days and your frustration turns to anger towards yourself.
  3. You try to  think of things to feed your spouse. As they lose their sense of taste they turn to sweet or sour foods. They eat less, so they are not hungry. They forget how to swallow well and you have to be right by them at all times to keep them from choking. They need water for flushing their pills and the toxins in their body, but they will not drink water. You try but they resist every road you go down.
    Result/ you don’t eat well yourself. You do not want to make a dinner for one, it feels like to much trouble so you grab easy choices to eat. Toast, sandwich, cookies, chips and other easy to eat food. They simply give you sugar highs and lows, upset stomach, weight gain or loss and you counter with more and more caffeine to keep you going.
  4. You need to be there to move your spouse from point A to point B. Too unsteady to walk on their own, that means you have to jump up each time your spouse needs to move.
    Result/you have no time to your own self. You get pulled away from doing the washing, making beds, cleaning the house. You can not take time to walk out the door even to retrieve something from the garage. You feel almost trapped in the room with your spouse and your world gets smaller and smaller.
  5. People tell you to get out and about. But preparing your spouse is so time-consuming. You have to clean them up, get them dressed, struggle with the upset they have on any change of pace to their day. Then you have to get yourself clean, dressed and ready to go.
    Result/ you forget your grocery store list, you lose your keys, you are late for doctor appointments or if you do go out to eat…the process is so upsetting, you simply find staying at home is safe and easier. Plus; one trip out the door, means 2-3 days of bed rest for your spouse and more work for yourself.
  6. TV becomes the focus of the household. It will calm your spouse and give you that ‘white-noise’ in the background to rest your mind.
    Result/ you nod off during the shows and that reduces your night-sleeping ability. You sit in a chair and do not get real exercise so when you jump up to help your spouse you find you have a sore back, or achy feet.
  7. When any moment of intimate talk with your spouse does take place, or even quiet time–you look at your spouse and remember old times, memories of places you have gone together, things you used to say to each other. You miss the little jokes you once shared, the songs you sang, the silly talk between you. You start to hate holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and you avoid the thoughts that bring out the pain.
    Result/ you get upset and emotional, then you get mad at yourself for being silly and you get angry. You walk around the house just thinking of what you can do to change things and yet, come up with no answers.
  8. You wake up with an idea for your day; maybe you have a household repair that has to be done or a chore that has to be attended too. You have it in your mind, how you will go about the repair, or what tool or part you have to buy to make the repair. Then you start to care for your spouse. The morning personal cleaning of them, their breakfast, their pills, adjusting their chair or couch area, the whole process and then you realize that the day is half over. You have had no time to do the chore or to leave the house to get the tool needed.
    Result/ you get upset with yourself that you are getting nothing done around the house. The place looks messy, dirty, and it is over-whelming.  You start to pull back and force yourself  not to look at the mess, not even think of the repair. You just protect yourself from disappointment by ignoring your surroundings.
  9. You have had a stomach upset for a few days, you know you do not feel right. You get so busy helping your spouse and dealing with anyone coming over to help with the house that your own health is coming second.
    Result/you slowly become weaker in your own body. You start to have more problems. You feel allergies, problems with your bathroom habits, your own cleanliness. Everything seems to go downhill. You would go and get yourself checked-up with a doctor but the ability to be free to leave the house is so limited you just put it all on the back burner.
  10. Your family or children come over and when they do your spouse rallies up and looks so much better. They see a person that is doing well, maybe in a good mood and wonder what all the fuss is about when you call them.
    Result / your relationship with the family and old friends starts to go down. You call them less, you rarely ask them to help you. You know they are busy and so you simply cope. You feel upset towards others that don’t understand

All of the above things equal a care giver that is burnt out, tired, feeling helpless, angry, upset and that all twirls together into high stress and depression. It does not mean you are a bad person, or that you are not strong, or that you are not doing your best. It means that you need help.

HELP – HOW CAN I GET SOME OF THAT?

  • March your bottom into your doctor’s office and tell the doctor you need help. Let them know you are tired, upset, worried and simply have emptied out your energy pool. Let them look you over. Let them see if your weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, energy, strength and emotional issues are understood and treated. That way you can continue to care for your spouse with a renewal of energy and creative ideas to help them. You get strong, so you can be stronger for your spouse.
  • Call a ‘family and close friends’ meeting. Explain you need to have some time to breath away from the house. You need help with a few hours here and there to take your mind and body out the door and away from care giving to ‘just be you’. Let them come up with ideas; maybe they will offer to come and help, maybe they will offer to pay for in-home care. No one knows what you are going through until you share. I had to share and when I did I was shocked at how kind and loving my family and friends were to me.
  • Call a professional. There are companies that your doctor or friends can recommend to come into your home and help with different chores. If you are on a strict budget, do not worry…the companies that do this work, know all the ways to get paid. They will know how to bill you personally, through your insurance, through a local or state funding, or other means. Give them a call; it will cost nothing for them to come and give you an evaluation. They will tell you what you need and work within your budget. If nothing else get a bath lady to bathe your spouse so that chore can be done fast, professionally and allows you the rest while they do so.
  • Ask the doctor to advise you of an elder care social service. This is really nice. They are trained people who know how to find different services in your area that are free. They will help you get things done. They can advise you and you can alway say NO…but to know that there are people out there that will help you is so important. I have personally gone to the local hospital and worked with the social worker there. Hospitals are very community oriented and they want to advise you on services. There is no cost to go and talk to an Elder social worker.
  • Call your local Elder social services in your area. They will hook you into things that your state can provide for you. Often there is food, care, energy bill relief and medication money available from your state. It is a wonderful service and your tax money, all the years of your working life, have paid for these services. You are not talking anything from anyone – the state wants their residents to be safe and well cared.
  • Let neighbors and your faith community know that things have now gone into over load…do not be quiet. No one can help, if you don’t tell them your efforts and challenges. The help will be for you and your spouse…so speak up. Veteran’s, service organizations like Elks, local community services, fraternal and union orders, there are so many people who are waiting to give you a hand. Reach out…talk – tell them you have needs.
  • Hospice is a free service for those who are on a life ending journey. They will come to your home and make an evaluation and give you ideas of how to use their services. If it is not time yet, they will check-in with you every couple of months, if it is they will ease in the door and take over and give you so much more time to yourself. This service is so important and most people call them way to late. When you call they will come and offer food prep, cleaning services, medication, nurse services and the list goes on and on. Know that it is there…to allow you to return to the job you really have…the loving spouse. So you can have quality time during the journey’s end for your loved one.

The key to your situation is being brave enough to reach out for help. To talk, interact with others and to understand your personal strength is the key to good care for your spouse. You need to stay healthy and in a place of peace with your emotions. No one will take away the sadness of your situation, but they will honor it and help you find ways to work through the journey. I thank you for your loving care given to your wife. Blessings, francy

francy Dickinson with Missy

PS I am working on a care giving book for all of you…I’m excited to say it is scheduled for publishing in the next month. Yeah.

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Never Too Old for New Year’s Start-Overs

Ideas to re-boot and review the care for your elder in the New Year. How to get a boost in the care giving routine. by francy Dickinson

Adding Mobility in the New Year

Dear Francy; My dad has had a hard holiday caring for my mother. He feels like his life is fading as fast as my mother’s life. He is worn out and simply feels frustrated with the doctors and medications that have been given to mother. I have asked him to get a new doctor, but he says it’s best not to rock the boat. How do you feel about changing doctors in mid-stream for a Parkinson’s patient?

I feel like you all deserve the best care you can get. If the family doctor is no longer making head way with your mother…then it’s time for a change. If you do not have a neurologist you need to do some research and get one. Get your mother in the door and ask for a review of her symtoms and a re-assestment of all her medications.

The world changes so fast and every year there are new medications. As a patient moves forward in their care they may need to change their general health medications or limit them down. Neurologists are like the geeks of the care world. They love to research the different meds and do an in-depth review of all the chemical compounds in the medications.

Let’s take another step; let’s get your dad thinking positive about his health and his own future. As a care-giver; the emotions of the spouse do make a difference in the quality of care. Depression is very real for those facing the onslaught of a constant down swing in the health of their life-long partners. Here are a few tips I use:

  1. Get his own health check-up. Many times women are the ones that keep their husband’s health on track. If she is no longer able to do that sort of thing…it is up to him to make an appointment and get a full check-up in the New Year. Knowing his body is strong, or if a problem is beginning for him….he can add medication or a proceedure to deal with it and give him a feeling of well-being.
  2. Depression is not a light issue. I talk about it so often because so many care-givers suffer with depression in silence. The family is concentrating on the care of the sick spouse and the other spouse just seems to slip under the radar. Pay attention to him and make sure he is taking his own medications, that he is eating well and he gets breaks from the 24/7 of care.
  3. Freshen up the surroundings. If a home becomes a care place, it often gets very disorganized. That clutter of pills containers, bills, pillows, and care giving things can really get over whelming. Try to help him calm the place down. Many elders use their dining table as a place to put bills…get them into a spot that is sorted and easy to review. Get a spiral notebook so your mother’s care and notes can be kept in one place, not on little pieces of paper. Get the dining table free to be clean and tidy, get the living areas calmed down so the care giving and the patient can feel comforted not distracted.
  4. Do phone checks. If you have other siblings have them call in the morning and you call at night. That constant check-in for just a couple of minutes will keep your dad feeling he is not alone and you can judge if he is in a good place day by day.
  5.  Get your dad into watching a TV show, or radio program each day. Many times if one has a focus on something simple but distracting it can really lift spirits. It might take you to do a search to find a sports show, and interview show or a game show that your dad would get a kick out of viewing or listening to on a continued basis. This repetitive action gives the days a basis. When you are care giving around the clock…you tend to lose your daily clock. If you can replace that with something enjoyed by your dad…he will look forward to it each day.
  6. Exercise for them both. No matter what stage your mother is in her journey, she needs to move. If she can still walk…she needs to do so, if she can only do transfers she can do hand and feet circles and lift small weights. Your dad can take a walk in the back yard for 10 minutes while your mother is napping. That way he is close, but still feels the fresh air and moves his body back and forth. I do this on a daily basis. It may not be a fancy walk in the woods, but it gets me moving, breathing and rests my mind with the quiet of the outdoors in my own backyard.
  7. Have your dad change his daily drinking of coffee to one cup a day and then switch to tea. Most older men have problems with prostate issues. They do not understand the way that coffee pulls on their body and if they make this change it will help them. Running back and forth to the bathroom is very exhausting when you are busy giving care. Keeping an eye on this issue is important there are medications that can help and it should be talked about.
  8. Watching skin care. Lots of elders tend to stop bathing as much as they used to. It means that the skin can break down and so they need to set a ritual. I have an every other day shower rule for my Georgie. He gets his shower and his legs and arms get a good moisturizer so the skin stays healthy. Then he has the next day off.  Take note of the bathing in the home. If your dad has trouble with bathing your mom…get a ‘Bath-lady’. This in home service is worth its weight in gold, they will come once or twice a week and bath your mother. They are trained to bath and check for any sore spots on the skin. They interact with the elder and do their hair and moisture treatments. They are a great choice of added ‘in-home’ care.
  9. Ask family to give your dad an afternoon or evening off each week. Make sure he has plans. No staying home; kick him out the door to go to the store, have coffee, visit a friend or do a hobby. This simple rest from the care giving can save the mental, emotional and physical health of a spouse giving care.
  10. Make sure your dad is wearing comfortable, clean and new clothes. Lots of elders tend to stop shopping for new things. All of our minds need to have new things in our lives to keep us feeling good about our self. We need to get our hair done, our face and teeth clean and our clothes looking good. Just because they are in their home most of the time, does not mean they get to ignore their personal appearance. Men often do this and it will affect their emotions.

I think that the beginning of the year is a perfect time for anyone to review what has been working in the past and what has not been working. To share it with family and the health care team they work with and make changes. Your mother deserves quality care; new medications, new supplements, new food intake, more water and other fluids and movement…could change the stage of her health.

Your dad deserves some space to be his own person. Encouraging him to do a hobby or see friends is just as important as his giving care to your mom. He needs to keep his own life pattern so when your mother passes…he will have a reason to live on in peace.

It’s never too late and no one is ever too old to make decisions to empower and improve their lives. Encourage your dad to make some changes this month. Often, the thought of change itself; is hard for someone in the middle of giving care. Help him with your spirit and love…it will make a difference for both of your parents.

Blessings on all you do for your mom and dad…thank you for your care, francy

Francy with her Bichon, Missy

PS My new book on senior care is coming out this winter…I’m excited to start sharing it with you and help with more care giving tips.

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Alzheimer’s/Dementia Need to Keep Moving

Fighting dementia’s anger issues, Parkinson’s body muscle breakdown and Alzheimer’s emotional outbreaks with exercise and small chores by francy Dickinson
 

Friends Enjoying Assisted Care

Dear Francy; My in-laws have gone from the sweetest couple in the world to a home with shouting, anger, and total rejection of home cleaning and upkeep. My husband is beside his self and trying so hard to keep them safe and calm. His mom is in her late 70’s and his dad is 82. Once active they are simply now doing nothing, rarely even prepare food. It’s really tearing my husband up and exhausting him trying to keep the plates twirling in the air both here at home and for their home. What can we do?
 

Well the amount of dual diagnosis for couples is rising, I’m afraid. It’s really tough when you have both parents ill or suffering through side issues of emotions or depression. But lets take a few ideas and throw them around. As you know; the first and best idea is to re-locate them into a retirement situation that includes meals and activities. That would give you and your family so much time and energy saved with your parent’s care. On the down side; it would probably take the value of their home for their life care, so there will probably be no big inheritance in your future. Lots of children of elders think that the carrot at the end of their care-giving stick…is inheriting their parent’s home. (trust me, a lot of kids feel this way) If you can say goodbye to that future income; in exchange for the parents being in a place where their life can be relieved of so much stress and just think about their personal and health issues— it would make a huge change for all of you.

But the reason I write this blog is that ‘most’ families can not do that change. The parents may not want to move, their home may not have equity, their income may not allow them to have assisted or retirement care. So what do families do if this is the case? Lets list a few ideas and see if you can take a few of them to help your current situation.

TAKE THE PRESSURE OF CARE AND REDUCE IT WITH THESE TIPS:

  • Make the rules. If you are going to care for someone on a long-term scale…you get to have a say in the life style and home rules. Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way from the get-go. Get the power of attorney done and signed by both of them. Get their property in joint names and make sure that the dots and dashes are taken care of from day one. I just insist people take care of this issue, even if there is argument and hurt feelings; it’s the way the world is and business is business. Plus, you would never be able to help them in a doctor’s office if you do not have a Power of Attorney for health care signed and notory stamped. Everyone wants this doctors, hospitals, insurance, banks, and the list goes on. Trust me; get this part done.
  • Take time with your own family and set up a calendar for the family and work. See the actual days and times that are free before you try to run over and solve your parent’s problems. If you see that Wednesday is a low family value day…than just make it into a mid-week parent check day. Your husband or you will go over and solve mid-week problems, fix a good meal and spend time with them. Then another in person check can be done on the weekend. Work your own schedule not theirs. If they have a TV show or card club that night…too bad. They will have to tape the show and reschedule the cards; YOUR schedule is current and your own family comes first. That is the rule. Then we move on to care time.
  • Buy a large calendar for the parents to put up on their kitchen wall. I have one with three months at a time. You are in charge of the calendar. You put in the month and dates and keep it updated at the end of each month. It’s a reminder calendar, birthdays, dr appt, at least one activity outside of the home each month, general things that you do around a house each month. This is the hub of what you will be doing and what they can do.
  • You do things that require a ladder and detail work, they do things that are easy to achieve and safe for them to do. You will have to begin to put down the chore list on a small white board…each time you come, you give them things to finish when you are gone. Laundry or folding and putting it away. Or you do the laundry and bring it to them to fold and put away while you are there. It is how well they are functioning that you judge the chores. If you need to do a reminder and call them during the week…then snap a pic of their chore list on your phone..so you can remember what they need to be doing. Keep repeating the chore listing and asking how it is coming, push, push, push…they need to be doing and the confusion of what to do, and who is to do it and how to do it…is giving them stress and thus the arguments. This clearly defined listing of chores is still done, over and over. Do not cave…keep it up, make the chores easier or more complicated depending on their joint abilities.
  • They need to move…so here are some tips. If you have close hands on, turn on the TV for the PBS ‘Sit and Be Fit’ or get DVR’s designed for seniors to move. If they need more supervision then take them to the senior center twice a week. If they can not go out and you are not there to help them…get a student to do it for you. Just like a dog walker; exercise students will come to home and do a 30 minute exercise with them. Seniors always respond to young adults. Visit a gym or college and find students that need to get some experience and hire them for a small amount to keep your parents moving and grooving.
  • Walking? If the two of them can still walk, a walking group is a great way to add both movement and socializing to their life. Make a few calls…get creative and find local resources to help you care for them. Senior resources are available in all communities; more things than you can imagine…but they are there for the taking so find them.
  • ‘Looking forward’ is a big issue with seniors. Get your kinds or your events up on their calendar to share. Let them look forward to grandson’s music concert this month.  Let them look forward to a family birthday, wedding, shower, swim party. Get them involved in the function. Grandma’s favorite salad should be made and Grandpa can help with putting up the decorations or setting up the tables. Use their skills and keep them busy. Just like the Cruise ship social director that keeps everyone busy on the 7 day cruise…you begin to get the feel for it and keep them involved in their family and community.
YES THIS ALL TAKES YOUR TIME; but the key is to keep them busy, active and thinking. It will reduce down the stress and any household that is organized is much richer. It does nothing to just arrive and try to solve an argument. The idea is to keep your parent’s interaction more positive and show them that aging with health and emotional issues is simply a bumpy ride, not the end of their life. Their life needs to be supervised and that should be your role.
You need to be organized too because for a few years, you will have three jobs. Work, your home, their home…that is a lot on your plate. Doing it with joy is very important so ask for help. If you have siblings…they get to step up to the plate. If they are out-of-town, or too busy to help…a financial help is required. Everyone has a limit; but even a monthly Safeway card with $25 or $50 makes a big difference for seniors and their food bill. Walgreen type of drug store gift cards are also perfect for the little things that all seniors in care need.
Family can help; teenagers can do the lawn work, small children can visit and just read or play in front of the grand parents to keep them happy and busy while you work around the house. Aunts can make a weekly slow-cooker dinner that will be eaten for a few meals. Friends can be scheduled to come and visit once a week.
YES…this takes your time, but it’s not impossible to do and once you get a support group going..your time investment goes down.
Communities are adding more and more services. There are free family movie nights, summer free concerts in the park, local food markets, visiting people of interest that do free lectures, heritage communities have celebrations with free events and faith groups have on going senior gatherings. From libraries to local theatres…there are things to do for seniors. It simply takes time to make the investment of knowledge.
I say it over an over again, if you do not have money…you make up for it with creativity. You talk to people you meet about your care for your parents and listen. I have found so many services from others that are involved with community services, charities and community outreach programs. It is amazing how much is available – even in small towns. I hope this information has helped you with your care.
It is a very long road caring for your parents. I want to thank you for giving them the love and care that they deserve. Care giving is a lonely gift, but taking the journey down the path of aging with your parents will be worthwhile in so many ways. I am happy to say that I have a new Alzheimer’s/Dementia guide coming out in just a couple of months…would you click on the sign up over on your right of the screen. It will put you on my email info lisitng and I will let you know so you can get even more ideas with your care giving. Thank you, and blessings on your family…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

Senior Emergency Tips, Plans and Packs

how to make a senior emergency kit

Your own senior emergency kit

Emergency Kit for Seniors…Ideas
by francy Saunders

Dear Francy; Mom is in a retirement home so I’m not worried about her care in the middle of a small emergency. But after watching Japan and all the sadness, I worry about who would help her in a big emergency?

Katrina, Japan…I think we have all taken note, that it takes at least three days before people are getting help. That is what happens, there is always a time that we are each alone and need to plan on how to make it over the first few days of a big emergency. So I wanted to write down some ideas, I have given classes in Senior Emergency for many years and I will share some notes with you.

These ideas are for anyone but I’m gearing the information for older seniors. Find a backpack…they are easier to grab and take out the door and if you have to walk you can put it on your back. If you are weak, be practical, make the backpack very light and keep only the most important life-sustaining things inside and you can drape the backpack on your walker to carry it, if need be. If you cannot carry anything use a small overnight case with wheels.

Your Emergency Pack;

You can buy a pre made emergency pack at large stores in the sports department. There are simple things put together for your needs. You can then add to it or make your own.

THINK…what would I need with no electricity or if I have to actually leave my home?

  1. Light weight slicker/raincoat rolled up in bottom of the pack. Add a Ziploc with 3 pairs of socks, 3 undies, hand cleaner, small plastic cup and a small pack of hand wipes from the dollar store.
  2. Clean Ziploc bags; small baby shampoo can be used for hands or hair. Small Toothpaste and new toothbrush. Small Hairbrush. Use small tissues in your pack for toilet paper. If you need bladder control, add in a few pads for that purpose. Gum can clear your mouth and make you feel like you are having food, and if it’s sugar based it will give you a boost. A plastic garbage bag for you to use for many things, folded flat.
  3. Rx Ziplock; buy a box (usually 3) face masks, small Sun protector cream, Neosporin tube, a few Band-Aids, aspirin or Advil and chap stick.
  4. Meds; Make a copy of your medical ID and insurance and fold it and add to a Ziploc with information. A pair of old glasses in a hard case. A photocopy of your Rx from the doctor (glasses too) and 3-7 days of meds in a Ziploc container. Be able to tell the rescue people the name of the pills you take each day. If you are Diabetic or other health issue…make a large ID for the outside of your backpack and say DIABETIC…Ann Clark. I have one for George that says ALZHEIMER’S GEORGE – that way anyone helping you will see it and understand your needs.
  5. Write down a few names for others to connect with to help you. Example for George: Wife; Francy Cell #0000, Sister in Oregon Cell# Email address, Son in Calif Cell# Email#, Dr Name Office phone# — if you’re sick or confused, someone can look at that paper and help you get to family for help.
  6. Pair of older tennis shoes, small radio, matches, a can or bottle opener and some sort of small pocket knife, spoon and fork. Large black marker to leave a note on your house about where you went, so your family can find you.
  7. Money/10-$1 bills/2-$5 bills / 1-$10 bill  Put that in an envelope and keep in your pack or case. If you need to get a taxi or pay for help you will have a few dollars to do so. Do not put in too much money you do not want to be robbed. Copy the name of your insurance and policy # so you can contact them about your home or renters insurance.
  8. Small blankets out of a foil type of cloth can be purchased for your kit. A blow up neck pillow that stores flat and folds up. There are other items that you will find in the hardware stores or large chain stores in the sports section and always look for things at the Dollar store. Once this backpack is prepared put it by the exit door in a place that is easy for you to get to and grab. If the power is off and you have to leave the home, you can crawl to the door to stay safe and pull or push your backpack out the door with you.

In the middle of an emergency:

Seniors need to ask for help, do not stay behind, do not stay alone. Go outside or put a big message in your window with HELP on it so someone comes to help you. Find a young couple to join. You can watch the children while they do the needed chores. They will have the energy to help you.

The world has changed, now messages get out on cell phones, text on cell phones, Internet via Skype, ham radio and satellite phones. So be prepared with the family information in your kit so someone can read it and make a call to your family.

Make a plan ahead of time to connect with family. Say something happens big in your town; make a plan that everyone will go to a certain house, or a certain central place in the city. Or appoint a family member out of your area to be the central hub of information. That way everyone will be on the same plan of action. Red Cross will help you find your relatives so try hard to stay calm and know that when the emergency passes, things will clear and help will come to you.

As a senior you can help make the emergency calm, by telling children stories and re-assuring the other adults. You have years of experience of small emergencies…so during a crisis you’re a valuable help and your caring ways will ease a great deal of tension for others.

  1. Take UR marriage certificate to a copy shop and have it reduced so you can put it in your kit. Copy your passport information, if you can not grab your purse or your ID  the emergency – Your backpack will have copies of things to help you. Tuck in a small book of family pictures –so if you have nothing left, your memories would be in place. Remember everything goes into  Ziploc bags to keep dry.
  2. Pets/Put an extra lead and/or cat carrier by your backpack. Have a couple of days of food for dog or cat in a Ziploc and a small bowl for food and water. Make sure your animals have ID’s. If you cannot take them with you…let them be free in the backyard, not locked in the house or on a chain. If you love your pets you will leave your home and be safe, you can always get reconnected with your pets in the days after an emergency. Many emergency safe spots will now take animals, no need for you to stay in peril. Your animals will be OK if you think ahead and have a plan.
  3. Water is heavy; take a few bottles with you for your own use. At least three small bottles will keep you well for a couple of days. If you can tuck in a couple of Boost or Ensures so you have protein shakes that would be great.
  4. Food:/ Take protein bars, they last in your backpack and they are easy to eat and keep you nourished until you are helped with real food. Do not give your food away. Eat privately…you have to keep up your strength. Younger people can go longer without food…seniors cannot. Be sure to have those protein bars well wrapped and in an additional Ziploc for safety.

No matter what the major emergency is… it will be a few days before the services reach you. So just think through what you would do. Where would you go to be safe, ask a neighbor to help you, or know you will sit on your front porch until someone comes to help. Talking about it and knowing that even in a retirement community…you need to be prepared. If there are two of you, make two backpacks the more you have for each other the better. It’s always best to plan to stay close to your home, walking may have been enjoyable on a warm summer day…but not in the middle of a crisis. Just stay low, stay safe and be helpful to others, so they will be helpful to you.

When you think of things when life is good and calm…and plan for an emergency you can then put the thoughts away and go about your life. You will know that no matter what happens you are prepared and ready to face it. Millions of elders have lived through horrid emergencies and have had worthwhile lives and continued to give their family and friends joy for years after. BE PREPARED- you are loved.

For other tips please go to my website www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com

Thanks for all you do for your seniors…francy

HELP- Alzheimer’s Anger Too Hard to Handle Alone

Senior and Alzheimer’s Anger Issues by francy

Dear Francy; I am an only child of two wonderful people. My dad is now in his eighties and has dementia and he is getting so angry and hard for mom and I to take care of– what can we do? We are tired, sad and just in a daze.

George in Fun times B4 Alzheimer's

Before the Alzheimer's Anger there was Fun

Well blessings on you and your mom. How lucky he is to have you both and don’t be fooled, he loves you and knows you are there to help. But Alzheimer’s and other dementias just take over the brain and you need help to make it easier for your dad and the care givers. So, what I need you to do is to be calm and just take a deep breath and then think like a doctor would think. Because when a body is off kilter, it has to be diagnosed and any possible medication or treatment has to be given to help.

RULE ONE: GET THE RIGHT DOCTOR FOR THE JOB

Now this may seem so simple but if you do not have a full time neurologist you need one right now. Today: ask a few friends, your family doctor or family members that might have used a neurologist in the past and get a name. Or go to your local drug store and ask them for three names of neurologists within a 20 min drive that prescribe for dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. Get a name and immediately call and ask to make an appointment and tell them your father is in great need. If they have a long wait list, ask them to refer you to another neurologist. Get this done.
DO NOT GO TO YOUR USUSAL FAMILY DOCTOR. Please understand that your family doctor is trained for caring for the normal range of body aliments. He/she is not an expert on brain chemistry, medications and treatments for brain ailments. Just as you would go to a heart surgeon for  bi-pass surgery, you will go to a neurologist to have them help your dad with his dementia.

Once you have that appointment. Take your mum out of the house, to a coffee shop and have a notebook with you. Ask her to help you write a list of things that your dad has been doing and try hard to put a range of time on those events.

EXAMPLE NOTES FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS REVIEW: 

  1. Last summer; Dad started getting shorter tempered. At that time we could calm him down and the next day he would be fine.
  2. September; Dad just started to be angry on almost a daily basis about small and large things. Nothing we say seems to release him of his anger. We try and try to do things that will help, but he just throws things, and uses terrible language and we are feeling so upset on a daily basis.
  3. During the holidays; dad got even worse. He was mad at our attempts to celebrate or to have holiday dinners. He refused to even sit at the table and he did not even eat the pumpkin pie (his favorite)
  4. Now on a daily basis; mother and I find our feelings hurt and we still try not to engage in his rants. We are tired and getting personally depressed. We need help.

Can you see the review? It’s simple and to the point– it allows the doctor to see the timing of his decline and to see what you have done to help your dad. Now the next job is to get a list of his medications together for the doctor to review.

EXAMPLE OF MEDICATION LISTING TO TAKE TO DOCTOR ON EACH VISIT:

You will prepare this list only once and type it on the computer. Then you will update it as appropriate and take it into the doctor on each visit. Any doctor needs this list to review. You will also make a copy and keep it in your handbag for Emergency Room visits. This is important for anyone with a brain/emotion illness they will have heavy duty meds and the hospital and all doctors need to know what the medications and supplements are and how to treat any other physical problem around them.

1/ 1,000 unit of vitamin C       morning w/food

1 multiple vitamin       morning w/food

Doxazosin mesylate     4mg     One a day (to relax bladder muscles)/nite

Hydrochlorothiazide 12.5mg per day 1/2 pill  (for blood pressure) /early day

Ok this is just an example- but you want to take time to read all of the pill containers and write down the name of the pill, the amount , what the pill is for and when to take it – plus the w/food.

Now that you have done this…anyone can come and take care of your dad and make sure they give him just the right amount of medications at the right time. This allows you and your mom to relax and know you can add a professional or family member to the care giving list. And your doctor is going to be able to enter the information in their computer and advise you on supplements to add or take away from the list and medications that will enhance your dad’s life at home while you and your mother are giving him care.

TIME TO BE REAL WITH YOURSELF

No one, not even a loving daughter/son or spouse can be with a person that is combative, angry, and demands full time care without breaks. A care giver has to stay strong in order to give care. So, you have to put down a schedule in your notebook with your mum. Talk about it and be real about it. Stick to the schedule and do whatever you can to make it your bible.

EXAMPLE:

Monday: Mother’s day all day and I will call on the way home and see if she needs anything picked up from store.

Tuesday: Mother has morning with dad…then a neighbor, church friend, relative or professional care person comes in around 1PM and stays until 3PM and mother leaves the house. She can shop, she can read quietly at the library, she can go for a walk, or she can just drive somewhere and be quiet in the car. But she is out of the house and is quiet and away from your dad. This way she will feel a release and be calmed and regenerated.  I will call her on my way home and make sure all is well.

Wednesday: Mother is home all day and I will stop over after work. I will help her with any chores around the house and make dinner for her and dad. I will clean up and she will just sit while I chat with her and dad. If there is a situation, I will do my best to relax it and refocus dad. I will make arrangements for my own family to have dinner and an evening – without me at my own home.

Thursday: Dad goes out of the house. Mother takes him shopping, or for a walk at the mall, or drops him off at the senior center for cards or a movie. Thursdays mean out of the house…but the rule is he is well fed before he leaves. A sandwich is taken or a go out to lunch – is planned and a snack (just like you would if you take a toddler out) is tucked into your mother’s purse. Most important he is home by 3’ish…Sundowners will kick in around that time. Sundowners is a syndrome that means the energy in the body/brain dips low as the sun sets and the dementia patient is very prone to this. At home they need a sugar treat with a cuppa tea and quiet for the rest of the day.( This sundowners is experienced each and every day). Outings are done early and should only be 2 hours in length. This will allow the care giver to get out and your dad to get exercise and then be home to crash and nap.

Friday: Mother is once again there in the morning and the family plans to visit in the afternoon. Ask any relative or friend to come and visit on Friday and talk to your dad. This is a visit for him, so an old army buddy, business friend, faith based friend will do nicely. You can also ask a faith organization for a home visit for a male and they will put him on their list for every Friday. Just 20 minutes to 1 hour is needed to keep your dad’s mind up and interested in something new. Your mother is there, but out of the room, so your dad can say anything he likes without hurting her feelings. This is his time…and it then becomes your mother’s release and relax time also. You will call and check on your mom and plan for the weekend.

Saturday or Sunday: should be family day. If there are grand children or cousins, they can come and cut the grass, wash dishes, do windows, vacuum and help the grandparents with the house chores. 2 hours is all that is needed to pick up the house and have fun. They should bring over a dessert so Grandpa has some sugar for his brain and they have something fun to eat. Then it’s time for them to leave. Or if the day is planned to stay together they can make a family dinner and be quiet while Grandpa rests and then enjoy a big meal together. The kids can bring their computer games and such and just understand that it is a visit that is required of family because it is a part of life. This influx of energy with new people during the week is important…it raises the energy level of the home and your dad will be able to react off of others not just you and your mom each day.

The other day of the weekend is spent relaxing for both your mom and dad. Ready to hit Monday rolling along with your weekly plan all over again. This type of routine allows your mother time to rest and look forward to things each week. It allows you to plan your week and your own life and family routine and involves other family, friends, neighbors, faith based friends, or professional care sitters and givers to be involved and allow you and your mother to have a plan. This pre-plan may not go perfectly each week, but it is better than a daily fight of trying to cope with chaos instead of planning peace.

Your listing of weekly time, is yours to make —but making it and then planning appointments around the listing gives you both hope…

CHECK LIST:

  1. Dr. appointment – made and ready to go
  2. Notebook: writing a review for doctor to be given at check in so he can read it before the appointment
  3. Enter all medication listing so the doctor is ready to help your dad with new medications and print out copies for doctor appointments and a copy for your own handbag to have on hand
  4. Notebook: the weekly outline of what each of you is going to do every day for yourself and your dad. Asking others to help you, hiring a professional to be an in-home break for your mom and other activities that will help both your parents. This will keep your own mind clear and your emotions steady so you can deal with whatever comes out of your dad. His medications should do the trick of calming him down. And remember to call the doctor if the meds don’t make a difference. There are loads of different medication combinations (or cocktails) that can be done to enhance your father’s life as he declines in his Alzheimer’s

I send you blessings and know that the above is how I deal with my husband’s ever increasing anger and I have an appointment right now to review his decline. It’s a constant sadness for me to live with my husband’s Alzheimer’s…but sharing with others helps me cope.  francy

Please go to my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter so we can support each other  www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

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 www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 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