Dementia – Alzheimer’s Spouses Care Tips

Ideas to keep the spouse of dementia and Alzheimer’s seniors strong throughout giving care…by francy Saunders

Alzheimer's spouse keeping calm

George enjoying the dogs n keeping calm

Dear Francy; My husband took the car out last night and ran it into the neighber’s rockery. I was making dinner. I left him sitting in front of the TV shouting at a baseball game. Then crash! I feel like my insides are gone…my head is empty, my heart is not even in my body anymore. What do I do?

You keep going on. You keep making dinner and knowing that you are doing what you can with dementia. You tell him it was OK and you bring him in the door and give him sugar to calm him down. You keep his name on the car insurance even though he has not driven in a few years. You get the car fixed or use “Hello Kitty” duck tape to fix it yourself. You are a strong, Pioneer Woman and you can do it!

This letter hit my heart, because I have experienced so many of her feelings. Let’s face it…this is our life. No one else understands but us…we do not come from our house and go somewhere else to rest at the end of the day. 24/7 is no joke for us…it is what we live 365 days a year. I am talking to you, not to the daughter or son or dear friends that help us give care. I am talking to the wife or husband that is the full time care giver, plus the lover of the one that has dementia. YOU and I are the ones on the front line…we understand each other.

Here are some tips to help you cope with your non-stop care giving:

  • Never believe that your spouse will stay. Think toddler; they would never be left in a danger spot, you know they will not stay. So use that thought pattern when you are trying to keep your senior safe.
  • Never believe that your spouse will take or eat anything you give them. They may even hide it. Keep a check on what you give to them, so you know where they are in protein and sugar. Give up  healthy food ideas…feed them what they will eat and try to slide in a high mineral and vitamin each day with their other meds. Do healthy eating on the sly…if you can make veggies look fun…or serve them with a dip…do it. Just know, intake of food is the goal…adding a supplement drink is great…but will they drink it?
  • Hide those keys to the car. Just like you would do if you had a teen in the house that was always asking for the car. Tuck your keys away in a special place that only you know and do it repeatedly. Take the second set of keys and put those in your office, far away from the main house.
  • Treat your mate like a toddler when it comes to going out the door. Tell them ice cream, donuts or coffee shop is there treat — if they just stay calm and follow you around while you are out of the house.
  • Get new clothes for the senior to wear around the house. The old complicated pants with belts, shoes that tie, tops that button…were yesterday clothes. Now, give them easy to slip on pants, shirts, sweat shirts, and pajamas. You can still buy style; just color and style that is easy on and off.
  • Shoes have to be strong. Get them comfort shoes to walk in and easy to take on and off. No shuffling scuffs…slippers have to have a good sole and support their feet. Falls will not only happen, but will be part of the senior’s life. Make their walking as safe as possible. Get the old shoes out the door, so their is no argument about what to wear. NO flip-flops, or sandels, the foot has to be supported.
  • Order a full TV schedule. Even if you and your spouse have not been TV people. Get the full cable range. You will never know what the senior will want to watch and something on the big TV channel list will hit them and they will ‘fall into’ the program. Old shows that used to have a plot or jump around in content will no longer interest your senior. They will want to watch history, or food channel, or military, or old movies. Don’t argue, just do it. TV is a way to keep their mind moving and occupied…you can not possibly be the full center of attention for an Alzheimer brain. Cable is an investment in the life of you both.
  • Make and keep a full range of doctor appointments. Even though the mind is effected in dementia…their body supports the brain. Keeping the senior well will eliminate the senior’s worry over things. They can get focused on skin sores…so have a skin doctor check each year. They will have problems with their bladder, so get a urologist to keep them on point with meds to help with function. They will have stress, so make sure your neurologist gives them a calming medication. Overall health may seem not important when the senior is going nutty day by day…but you having to care for their body functions or problems on top of mental health…is huge!
  • Make bath day twice a week. Water becomes difficult for dementia seniors. Get them a bath chair or bench, put on a hand held shower head and hire a bath lady as soon as you can. Even if they only come once and teach you how to bath a senior fast. This is a big deal with a senior. They have to keep clean, their skin needs attention and their hair needs to be tidy. Learning how to bath them is important. Do not put this off; even if they are in easy stage of dementia – add the bath chair or bench and hand held soon…so they move into the use of it while they are able.
  • Change your home; there needs to be a safe room…that means that your family room or living room…needs to tidy up. The dementia mind, needs less stress around it. So remove clutter, remove all the family pictures on the walls…keep it clean so the brain can see order. Take away the foot stool and get a Lazyboy so the spouse can easily get in and out of their favorite chair. Move the TV so watching it is easy and will also give them a view out the window. Many times the mind of a dementia senior will wander out to look at trees for hours.
  • Get your bedroom ready for change. Getting in and out of bed has to be easy. OR….OR, YOU will be getting up every time your spouse needs to go to the bathroom – all nite long! So you may have to raise up your bed so the senior can just sit up, turn and step out of bed…not stand up from the bed. Get new pillows that are strong and will wrap your spouse for the night. That will give a feeling of safety.
  • Give up the fight. Even thou rules will be broken over and over again. There is no fighting Alzheimer’s anger…you just have to let it flow and then stand your ground. YOU are the one that sets the rules of the house now. NO ONE can break the rules; so there is a lot of being the MEAN SPOUSE, but that is not going to change the fact that you set rules and enforce them for the safety of you and your spouse.
  • Eat on time, take drugs on time, take rest on time, take exercise on time….setting a routine. Routines are golden for toddlers and platinum for seniors with dementia. When they are on a daily pattern, they will be calmer inside their mind and that means you are able to relax more. It is not easy to have daily patterns…but you can and will set the routine and stay on it…I know you can do it.
  • Tell yourself to take a walk outside, around the house or block. A drive to the store on your own for a shopping trip…will give you a re-boot. You need it. If you have to get a sitter for your spouse…then ask a friend, a family member, a neighbor to come over twice a week for at least 90min and go out the door. Even if you just drive to a park and sit in the car in silence…and breathe.

That is it for this time….I will try to get back to a few more tips as we move along….I always thank you and bless you for all you are doing for your spouse. This is not a fun trip…how many times I want to ‘drive to Hawaii’–but I am here, day after day. I know you are there with your spouse too. Together we can make this journey with our loved one.

I know how strong you are….you are like a rock. Rocks cry….rocks crack, but rocks stay in place throughout time. You can do this, you are doing this…and I thank you for all you do that no one but you…knows you do. Its personal and private, but it also has to be shared. Share…stay well..francy

Shut-In: Senior Energy Fruit Shake…YUMM

Energy shake recipe for seniors – easy to make and tastes like a milkshake treat. by Francy Dickinson

Friday Special Treat Day

Shut-In Energy Shake

Totally Yummy Easy Energy Shake

I am going to try to update you with a Friday Recipe treat each week. I like to do easy recipes for those living alone, shut-ins, and those that are on real tight budgets. So, you will have a lot to choose from as the weeks go by.

George is getting more and more into shakes instead of solid foods for all his meals. He likes his in the mid-day. Alzheimer’s and it various medications can take away the feeling of hunger. That means its extra important to keep him filled with good food at the right times of the day. He has lost his taste and smell…they have gone down to almost nothing…so to give him a treat that tastes good is not easy. This shake has worked so well for him.

A good energy shake has protein. Now I like to keep protein drinks around so he can have something to give him a Boost during the day…but you can have a can of protein powder on your shelf too. The powder is less expensive and you want to buy a small box not one of the giant sizes. (we leave those big boxes of protein powder for the body builders) I suggest you get the Vanilla flavor so you can add fruit or chocolate, or even some coffee to flavor it in your shakes.

The good news about this shake is that it is easy to do with the new frozen fruits. I don’t know what they are doing, but this new flash frozen fruit is really adding high quality to the shakes. I get a medley of berries and use a couple for nite time treats…and add a cup of them to this shake and I have plenty for a few shakes. I find them at Walmart or Winco very inexpensive and it means I can serve the shakes all through the year. The frozen fruit adds to the taste and the feeling of an ice milk shake that George adores. This is a winner.

You will see that I add a few little things like 1/2 container of yogurt (flavor of your choice) for its rich taste and good probiotic. Then I top that off with a hit of Metamucil…it will add a little bulk to your drink and you will never know it was there!

My brother-n-law is loosing his teeth and they are very sore. He is fighting cancer and it’s not the time to dedicate to dental work. So his food needs to be soft and easy. This is a perfect shake to give him the feeling of a treat with nothing but good stuff in it.

Yes, you can use sugar…but I think we can all use a little less of that and a sugar substitute is so easy to use and no worry over diabetes. You can just do what you like and make it your own treat. You can make it and divide it into two for two people or give yourself one in the fridge to grab at night when you are tired.

This shake is perfect for your day time cooler that I like you to have by your TV chair, too. You will see that changing eating habits is not as hard as you think. If you cooked for 6 and now there are only 2 of you…or if you have lost your spouse and have to prepare food for just yourself. This type of thing is just the ticket.

As a caregiver…take a look at the protein in this drink. Different protein powders give you different measurements. Your senior really does need that protein to keep alert and muscle strong. So try to work a shake in at least twice a week, if not once a day. Adding a banana and other fruits is great too…but the frozen fruits to make this like a milk shake.

Here is the connection for the recipe and you can print it off easily from my recipe page. You will find a lot of family recipes and Shut-In recipes on my page too.

Click Here to Visit and Print Recipe

Shut-In:/ Easy Senior Energy Shake Recipe

  • You have a choice here choose one:
  •    1 Energy drink like Boost (vanilla flavor) OR
  •    1 cup low-fat milk, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  •    Then add to it, in blender:
  •    1/4 cup citrus fruit juice of choice (I use lemon)
  •    1 small pack of Splenda sweetener
  •    1/4 tsp vanilla
  •    1 cup frozen mixed berries (this needs frozen ones)
  •    1/2 container of vanilla yogurt
  •    1 tsp Metamucil (optional but good for you)

Instructions

  1. The beauty of this is in the frozen berries. They are flash freezing fruits so they are sooo good now. I get the packages in the frozen foods at Walmart and I use them in shakes so they give it the feeling of a frosted milk shake instead of just a protein drink. Oh boy, these are yumm.
  2. You can use your own protein drink that is chilled in frig or you can just get some protein powder and a cup of low-fat milk. Put either one of those (your choice) into your blender, or food processor. Add in the 1/4 cup citrus juice that you like and the sweetener with the vanilla. Then the berries or other frozen fruits (always use 1 cup) use 1/2 of a container of yogurt that matches flavors with your drink, I use berry or vanilla. I like to add the Metamucil to make it even better for George. Then hit the button and swirl until it is thick and rich.
  3. Pour it into one of the new large juice cups with lids. I show one in the picture above. These are at all the stores now and have a built-in straw. What I like about them is that you can close the lid and tuck in the straw to sit them on a table or put it in your walker and not worry about it spilling…Its so handy that way. Look for them at the grocery store and get a fun color…I have a red and pink one…George has blue…it makes it easy to spot around the house.
  4. Perfect shake to start your morning, for an afternoon snack or a dinner replacement. Some times you just don’t feel like cooking, but you need your protein and a great tasting treat!
Hope this helps with ideas for senior care givers. Feeding “Elders in Care” is a very hard thing to do. You will find more ideas on my recipe page…OH, this shake has no age limit….we can all enjoy it!
Thanks again for all you do for your senior family
PS//Excited about my new book coming out in September called “Guiding Family Care” I will let you know when it hits Amazon…would you click on the right side of the page and sign up for my site updates and leave me a comment…I love comments…OH and if you liked the read…please hit the LIKE button..thanks!  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

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NO MORE HOLIDAY DÉCOR?

Seniors Need Holiday Decor

Keep Senior Happy at Holidays

Seniors Stay Healthy with Holiday Celebrations By francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mother lost Dad last April and this is her first holiday without him. She has decided that since it’s just her, in her small home she will not decorate for Christmas this year. She has always been heavy on the holiday decorating so I am surprised and worried it’s a sign of depression. Should I be pushing her into a therapy session?

Any therapy is always good for people to have when they have been through a loss of a close loved one. If you decide to go that route I think a senior support group with folks of similar experience would be wise instead of a heavy duty therapy session. Most seniors will go through all the stages of loss and it may take them longer than younger people…to process. Holidays without spouses are tough…so give her room to grow into the new person she has to now become.

NO MORE DÉCOR? NO WAY

I feel very strongly about décor of any kind for the seasons. Not just Christmas or Halloween, but all the seasons. As we all go through life on a busy highway; days begin to slip away so fast. One day is two weeks, then its three months and then it’s our birthday round again. To keep our minds in the present and to celebrate life’s seasons we need to remind ourselves of the season and the best way to do that is to decorate with touches of spring, summer, fall and winter.

Being alone is no excuse to ignore the celebration of life that goes on around you. There is not a season on our calendar that we do not find a holiday or special birthday or event…to celebrate. This way we make a point of the celebration and have something to look forward to and a way to use our creative side.

This idea that we can change what we eat and stop cooking properly or change how we clean our homes and live among a pile of newspapers — grows with the idea that being alone, means no one cares. WRONG. We have to care; our homes and our lives have to be led as though we are having friends over that evening for cake and coffee. It’s a mindset that needs to be instilled in small children and seniors. Live your life like you are prepared for an upcoming event…and an upcoming event will happen!

My mother lived a very long life in good health and totally busy at all times. She passed at 100 and she had made the most of her full life cycle. She would talk to me about all her girlfriends starting to age more and more. “Francy, she lives in a tiny hole of apartment and has no room for us to play cards.” Or “Francy, she let her hair go gray and instantly started walking so slow she gave up our walks at the mall.”

Mother would share these things with me. She watched others go through their idea of what was accepted as “Getting Old” or being “a Widow” and she never liked what she saw. So, mother kept her home up on a daily basis. She would get up and pick up the small but ample apartment she lived in each morning. She would have her breakfast and then do a little clean-up with dusting and doing her dishes. Then she would settle in and do some reading or her knitting. If the weather was nice she was outside working in the yard for a few hours and if the weather was bad she was meeting a friend for a walk in a covered spot. She got out and about twice a week. She baked pies, cookies and froze them for family a couple of times a week and she had her home ready for the season at all times.

Everyone enjoyed stopping to visit mother. Her home was clean, it smelled delightful, her coffee pot was always brewing fresh coffee and those cookies could be popped in the microwave for heating up at any time. It was always enjoyable.  On her own, she would sit in her living room and enjoy the clean open room and her décor for the upcoming holiday.

YES…the décor was minimal compared to her days of a big home, larger family or when her husband was alive. But the seasonal décor was important to her and she was always finding ways to make small statements that spread the cheer. Her door would have a hanging craft piece that she would find at the local craft fair. Her coffee table would have an arrangement fitting the colors and theme of the season. She would have a small table top tree and a village scene on her dining room table. She found ways to make the joy shout out, even if it was holiday towels in her bathroom or a pretty holiday theme platter or cookie jar on her kitchen counter top. All year long, she found ways of stating the season changes and that made her home special for us to visit…and for her to enjoy her life on her own.

Being inside of life as it moves is so important. If you allow yourself or your senior to sit in the dark and retreat they will begin a downward slide in their mental and physical health. And remember; the argument that, “I really don’t care anymore now that dad is gone” – does not work. First, family and friends are still in place and need the senior. Second; letting ourselves go down does not mean a pretty dying in your sleep. It means you could have a serious heart problem and not be able to breath and have to use oxygen all the time, you could have a stroke and have to drag your legs around or be bed-ridden. Trust me; life is not perfect…so the alternative? Change the outlook in small ways to keep things comforting for the  senior, but in flux. Change is scary, but it’s also exciting.

NO DO NOT MOVE WITHIN A FEW MONTHS OF LOSING YOUR SPOUSE. But make changes. Take their favorite chair out of the living area. Paint the walls, buy new throw pillows. Do things to slightly start to remove them from the home but not leave the spouse with a feeling of loss every day. So, change the décor for Christmas this year; but do not put up the big tree with all the family ornaments. Leave that stuff in a box till next year and then the senior can sort the ornaments and give them to family members for special childhood memory gifts. But this year; buy a new small tree; one that spins or has those lovely laser lights inside that change color. Buy a poinsettia for the cocktail table and a nice fresh wreath for “inside” the front door so the pine scent spreads around the house or apartment. Put up some new holiday towels in the bathroom and ready a spot in the kitchen for the holiday cards. Have your mom take a picture of her and all her grandkids dressed in hats, scarves and gloves and use that as her holiday greeting card. Get her tickets to the local holiday performance of “the Singing Christmas Tree” “Nutcracker” or church play. Allow her to have her calendar filled with weekly things she will do with family and friends or the senior center. Keep her busy. So she can start to restructure what she feels is a happy holiday.

Happiness comes in all sizes and within funny events. It may be helpful to take your senior shopping for small grandkids gifts. It may be best for you to have a teen grandchild come over and do all the wrapping for grandma. It may be best to bring the senior over to your home on the Christmas cookie baking day and have her do the dishes while you whirl around your kitchen. Holidays can be remade and invented for all of us-as we age. But holidays and seasons, make our lives special. To give that up is a step towards being a sad and lonely person.

To change our lives just enough to move us into a new and rewarding future is the key for us all. Making new traditions is not hard, it just takes loving hearts and hands to help the senior see the new sights from a different window.

Blessings on all you do for your mom, francy

   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

My Spouse has Alzheimer’s – Why do I feel Nuts??

George in his work days behind the desk

by francy Saunders   www.SeniorCareWithSpirit 

Dear francy; I’m writing to myself…I have been driving my own self – nuts lately. You see my spouse has Alzheimer’s and all too often I get caught up into his memory holes and attitude mal-adjustments. I started to talk to others that give care to their family members or spouses on a full-time basis and they too…were suffering from the side effects of Alzheimer’s care. So I have been taking notes to give all of us ideas to live better and with less stress as care givers to dementia and Alzheimer’s or terminal care seniors. 

IDEAS TO KEEP THE CARE GIVER ON THE TOP OF THEIR GAME:

  1. Two explanations and move into “Just because I said so…” George will repeatedly ask the same question. He might be worried about a family matter and ask me the same question over and over again. The first time I answer with detail and explanation. The second time, I answer in a shorter manner trying to find a memory of our first conversation on the subject. Then by the third time he asks, I give up. I get short in my speech, I get exasperated and by the actual 8-9-10 times…I refuse to even talk about it. Now remember he has the same question, he has forgotten something important to him but I seem to fall into his basket over and over again. So how to change the way I respond? Because as a care giver you must understand that your Alzheimer’s senior is not going to change their point of view, their memory loss or their attitude. I have to be the one that adapts a way to respond by going back to how we handled the terrible two’s. Remember? When the two-year old asks questions all day long, in search of answers to a million questions? You finally are forced to simply state the obvious. “Because I said so, that’s why you will not go out to play in the middle of the night.”
    So, with George I have a two-time rule, I answer the question twice. Then I simply say “politely” I have answered that question in detail before so you will just have to take the “because I said so”. Now you will not get a fun response, but instead of me getting mad and angry…I am able to keep the conversation going, keep the project on track and keep moving ahead. Instead of getting myself upset and ruining the day because I remember the upset…he on the other hand; will forget the encounter and be renewed in no time. This has aided me with reduced frustration.
  2. If they take it apart, know that you can fix it on your own. This does not matter if you are the man or the woman care giver for a spouse, life changes and your old ways have to change. George has started to take things apart. If they do not work the way he wants them to work. Now maybe this is based in truth or maybe it is his perception of something not working. We have had remote controls, microwaves, washing machines, and water heaters all taken apart. Can he put them back together…NO.
    Maybe this does not fit your situation, but the point I am trying to make is that you can and will fix it. Or you will and can learn to do a new household task even cooking, if you simply put your mind to it. I purchased a new remote control and have hidden them so he does not use them. I put the parts back into the microwave/stove fan. Now it is used for a stove fan only and I purchased a new small microwave for the counter top. The washing machine was harder, I had to watch a lot of repair videos on youtube.com and a gal friend of mine helped me walk through the idea of how to put the machine back together. It took a few tries, but we have it working again. The hot water heater is an up in the air project at this time.
    You simply have to tell yourself that you can do things you have never done before. If it’s putting oil in your car, or scrubbing down a bathroom from top to bottom. If it’s fixing a broken blind or learning what are weeds to pull and what are plants to keep. Yes, there is a lot of change and Yes you are the one that will be doing the changing. So just breath deep and figure it out. I start by thinking of a friend or family member I can run the problem by. I then ask someone I know to help me or go to the Internet and read about the project. If I had money I would be paying a person to help me and since I don’t have money I usually wind up doing it myself. But I could also do a barter, I could make cookies for a neighbor guy that could check my car fluids. Or you could pay a local neighbor to cook dinners for you and in return give her money for your food and extra.
  3. Keep your mind clear. When George is in high gear and in the middle of an EVENT…I can not budge him. So I am now doing different things to release him from the stress and me…from the strain. I have a code word for my friend… “Mama Mia” When I say that word on the phone, in person or any time of day or night, it means I really need help and to be ready to come over. I have talked to a few friends and family – I just told them…there are times when George goes into his highest gear and I can not budge him. I need to calm him down before he does damage to himself or our home. So this Code Word that I have chosen and spoken to others about is my release valve. They know that I either need them to come for me or for him. If you think this will never happen to you…I honor your way of care giving. But I ask you to trust me, you will need to use this code and it is easier to set it up ahead of time, then spend an hour on the phone in the mid-crisis stage trying to make sure your family or friend believe the situation is important.
    People may say they will do anything you need…but when push comes to shove…they tend to disappoint. So this word is my friendship test and I let them know it ahead of time. If they do not help me, they will not be bothered by my call again for ANYTHING. It is that important to me. I have been left all alone in the middle of chaos and all I needed was someone to release my stress and calm down George. They not only did not come but gave me a lecture on how George did not really show any signs of Alzheimer’s. Those folks no longer exist in my life. I need the kind of friend and family that can understand I count – as much as George counts…and my need for support is only asked of them, if it is emergency EVENT.
  4. Keep life on paper. This has helped me a lot. I am constantly interrupted from my daily chores, tasks, business making duties and personal care. So now I am writing down a checklist to remind me of what and where I was when I was interrupted and a notebook so I can remember what ever was on the top of my mind when I had to run to George’s aid. I can not yell at him to wait a minute; that would mean that the remote control is then dismantled. So it is easier to jot down a note to myself, like a bookmark on my life tasks. This way I am not always trying to catch up, or feel like I have no control or feel like I can not remember anything myself. I am in charge of my life and when I can return to my task I know where I left off and where to begin.
    I even use paper for George to write down things that he feels are important that I am ignoring. Like he wants me to cut back his pills. When I give him his pill list I ask him to choose the ones he does not want to take. He sees the pills, the reason for taking them and then says well, OK….but then this is repeated in 3-4 days. So now I have him check the pills and if he says OK, I write it down: George OK’d his pills on friday the 13th– and he signs his name to it. So the next time he asks me, I can show him the paper and he is calmed down and goes about his way. Easier on him…easier on me.
  5. Medications in proper time make a life change for positive. If you think you can have your Alzheimer’s patient or YOU…forget or be late on their pills….you are living a dream. I find the medications have to be taken with food and on time so they work through the day. If they are late, taken without food or just forgotten all together…I am in big trouble. It means that George will act up for a couple of days, he will be more upset, more forgetful, more out of focus…he may even have a body reaction like a Parkinson’s shuffle or a diarrhea attack. So I try hard to double-check his pills and make sure he takes them when I give them to him. This is different for everyone, but even the supplements that I give George make a difference. Two days without Joint Compound and George will complain of aches in the knees. Six hours after a missed Zoloft he will start showing signs of upset. The day after a night pill has been forgotten he will have the runs. The day after a missed morning med with Zoloft and he will still be having upset. Even if he took his current pills the body is missing the medication from the day before and his personality is touchy.
    I personally take supplements and find that I get tired, have  joint pain and just do not click well- without my pills each day. So I have routines in place that mean we both have breakfast and pills…no matter what the day has before us. We do this if we stay in or go out. I repeat the process for his evening pills…I make sure they are taken after dinner and then give him a treat, dessert. This is a must keeping both of us on the top of our game, not fighting to stay afloat without our meds and supplements.

I hope these tips help. I’m in the process of working out a family problem at this time and I’m so down about it. Do you get down? Do you feel like life is simply overwhelming? We all do you know. So remember if depression is more than a week of low emergy and emotions…be sure to get your doctor’s advice on your own health and need for an emotional boost. Medications are a wonderful way to keep the quality of care giving high during times of difficult behavior. Some folks believe that asking for emotional drugs is wrong, they should just have a stiff upper lip and walk on. That is so yesterday. Drugs have been designed just for those experiencing extreme emotional pressure. It does not have to be a life long medication commitment, it’s just a way to help you through a rough time. Long-term stress reflects back on your heart and any ailment that is floating around in your system. So eat well, take your supplements and get a check-up yourself. YOU are the one holding the stick that keeps all the dishes spinning in the air…get help…those dishes can get heavy all alone! 

Read about my book that can help you with loads of other tips and tricks to keep care giving easier for spouses and family!

 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 August 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. Its 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

5 Tips For Summer Senior Fun

Free Music Concert in Tacoma area park

by francy Dickinson    www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Mom has a broken hip and now is unable to walk on her own, so we do not go out. I find the wheelchair is hard to get in and out of the car. So we seem to be stuck in the house. On hot days and with a full summer ahead, not to mention a hot fall – it does not leave much to be joyful about? Oh boy, we are going to go crazy with each other. I do work during the day and my son is still living at home, in high school…so mom spends lots of time alone. Got suggestions for relief?

5 Tips for Seniors in the Summer

  1. Get a walker, not a cane: when a person has issues with possible falls use a walker around the house and a wheelchair outside the home. Sit down and have a face to face with the facts of life for you all. When there is any big problem in the house; all three of you must be in on the discussion. Then go to the medical supply and try the different wheelchairs and take them out to your car and see if you can lift them in and out. Let the people at the supply store help you find a good fit. There are a variety of chairs and with a doctor’s prescription your mother’s insurance and medicare should take care of it. If not, rent. You need that lady mobile- like it or not both of you need to make that wheelchair your friend.
  2. Look up freebies. Our local museum is giving a FREE entry with an AARP membership once a month. The two small communities around us are doing FREE concerts in the park, once a week. Our local zoo has a Senior Day each month and the local ball park has family packages for tickets with drinks and hotdogs for $20 ea. The ball park has a special section for wheelchairs with great views. There is so much that can be done for very little investment in anything but your time.
  3. FREEbies and Coupons. Nationwide chains are giving two for one coupons a lot this summer. Your different local restaurants will have them too. Go online and look up some of your favorite spots and find the deals. There is a free pie at Sharie’s, there was a Free Slurpee at 7-11 on July 11th, there is a FREE ice cream cone at Costco some time in August and these events just mean you have a simple goal. Go out get a treat, walk around, come home…simple but fun for all.
  4. Invite others in to your home. Summer is an easy time to have a BBQ for family and friends. You can have the various grand children or cousins over for watermelon or an ice cream social. You can have a plant exchange with friends or neighbors. You can have sandwiches and ice tea for church friends, or your siblings over for a smores party. you can also meet at a park with friends and family and have a potluck with games for the kids, or a joint game for family. Thinking young and entertaining young often works just right for a senior, too.
  5. Senior Centers are a great place for the senior to play cards, do crochet, take a class and best of all? Travel. Many senior centers will have special price day trips that will take the senior, in their wheel chair, to local sites on a van or bus. It’s a fun time for the senior and often a good friend, the destinations are around your state that take an hour or two to drive to and from and many times the senior has not seen the area for a good deal of time. I also like to check for openings. Mom and I went to two different new library openings and we went to a large box store opening. We got freebies and had a fun time with the celebration of the opening and mother felt good she was at the beginning of a new place. Be sure to check with your city online website and see if they have disability tours of the city and special senior events. These are often well planned and enjoyable for the senior. Don’t forget a good movie can be a cool resting place and fun treat – senior prices and online coupons will make the movie easier on your budget too. We have friends that have free outside movies once a week in their residential village…all are welcome.

If the senior is well – doing two outings a week is reasonable. One, may be for fun and the other, for doctor or shopping. Planning ahead and putting the date on a wall calendar and talking about the event is great. It builds up the importance of it like a regular holiday. My husband does not want to miss a free concert in the park. My mother did not want to miss the spring trip to the tulip and daffodil fields. These small outings bring easy enjoyment and the cost and the time involved is quite small.

 Make sure you talk about things that might be keeping the senior from wanting to be out. Bladder problems, pain, confusion any fear can be addressed and figured out if you talk them through. Its the shy quality of senior’s to talk about their personal problems that will hold you back. Once again, be a family talk openly about issues that matter to each of you. Dont let using a “Depends” be an issue to keep your mother in the house instead of at the park with friends.

I remember being in my early 20’s and taking my own Grandmother around town for things. I did not mind at all, as a matter of fact we had fun doing different things together. It seems the age difference goes away when you’re enjoying an event. Since these events were just a ride of less than an hour or two for the most part, the event can be done and still do things for the rest of the family. I know you will think of things far more fun than I have but its the planning and getting out the door – that’s the important part. Days will fade together and summer will be over if you go day to day…make all of life have meaning with small adventures of pleasure.

Dont worry about dressing fancy, having lots of money in your pocket or spending cash on souvenirs. Those things are not required for having fun in the sun around your home area. Hope you enjoy…francy

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 are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the July issue out the door…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. Its 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  alot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

           

If Your Senior Goes to ER – Are YOU Ready?

by francy Dickinson

Mother in Hospital visit by her Pup

There I was standing in mother’s room in our home and she was not doing well. It was time to take her to the hospital. I had been through this before and I was running around her room trying to pack a bag. All of her meds in a plastic ziplock, slippers, her hearing aid case, her eye-glass case, her robe, on and on as I am zipping from one side of the room – pulling open drawers and grabbing what ever my mind said to grab, then darting back to check on her. My husband is coming in the room, getting her up and into her wheelchair and I am covering her with blankets so we can wrap her warm for the drive to the hospital.

Once there she is taken into the ER and I’m asked to fill out papers. I can hear her calling my name. Mother could not hear and she was frightened and needed me but I was filling out paperwork. It was horrible. I vowed not to repeat this mess again with any of us.
I put together a small plastic envelop filled with information that would answer all the questions that the hospital needed and allow me a quick in and out of the check-in with really just a signature. So I could be by the side of my loved one, not answering questions and pushing a pen around. Check and done…I know you will find this helpful. My mother passed at 100 yrs of age. But now my self, my friend Cheryl and my husband Georgie all have info packets that stay in the small desk in our kitchen. We are all ready for the ER and no matter how upset or scattered we are when we leave the house for the Emergency Room…we will now have all the required information in our hip pockets or in our purse.
YOUR EMERGENCY ROOM INFORMATION PACKET:
  1. First, I sat down with the bag of mother’s daily medications and read them over and divided them into morning, noon and night. I wrote down the name of the medication, the dose, the amount of daily dose pills, the time to take them and why she was taking them. If I did not know, I called the pharmacy and had them explain it for me. I would ask if it should be taken with food, or before food. Most medications absorb better on a stomach with at least a yogurt or apple sauce taken first, now it was on the paper for me to see and remember.
  2. Once they were all written down, I bought a new pill container that fit her schedule and was large enough for all of her meds and supplements. Yes, Mom took supplements. I studied what would help her, then asked the pharmacy person to make sure it would be OK with her prescriptions. Then I separated the supplements to compliment her medications throughout the day. I added the supplements to my listing of pills and the amount in the supplement.
    Example for you:  
    Vit D3 – 500 units -1 pill- morning – w/food  – (energy and emotional support)
  3. OK, I was now ready. I brought the paper to my computer and started to enter her list of pills and supplements. The top of the page had mothers full name and our phone number. The computer would put down the update date so I could keep it current and correct. I used the outline I had started and did the full listing. As we added or removed medications in times to come, I would just enter the new info into the computer and update the listing. It made the entry easy and fast from that point forward. Trust me so worth the effort when you consider you have to bring the big bag of pills to every doctor appt and now the listing on the paper is updated and easy for the doctor’s staff and you to read and understand. It’s a great thing. Not to mention perfect for travel even if the travel is to visit a close relative for an over night or weekend. 
  4. Now I started to think of the questions they asked at ER check in. Does she have allergies to medications? So I typed in the title and put down a list of medication and food allergies. She had no medication allergies, but she did have allergies to peanuts and rose oil. Believe me, even if it seems pointless to state this, you never know what is in medications, or lotions used for back rubs or veggie stir fry in peanut oil…this is big deal.
  5. They will ask about history: I put down a short history, 4 children, no miscarriages, eye operation to uncross her eyes, and cataract removal, no other medical history of hospital stays. No history of diabetes, blood pressure or confusion. Then I added the medical history of her family: Mother and dad passed with heart ailments, brother with cancer, brother with stroke, sister with Alzheimer’s. There you go – a quick and easy review for any new doctor to take a glance and see that there was clear relationship to her own heart problems.
  6. Now the emotional: Mother is clear of thought, reads even at her advanced age, watches TV and interacts with the news of the day. She does get very upset with her own frail abilities and can get angry in the late afternoons. See? It is stated matter of fact but you get the issues easy and so will the attending physician.
  7. Now her abilities: Mother does not hear well and her left ear is her best and has a hearing aid. Right ear is lost with no hearing aid. Her teeth are false and she has uppers and lower bridge. She walks with a walker at all times or she will fall. She has limited strength in her legs. NOTE: In order for mother to live with us she has to be mobile so she works hard to get around with her walker. She uses a bath chair and commode by her bed at night. She rings for me to come and assist her in transitions during the nite. But does them on her own in the day time.
  8. Food and Drink; Mother is not on any special diet, she eats well and prefers light food. She drinks one coffee per day and is not able to drink water, so juice mixed with water is her liquid for the day.
  9. Her TV habits are easy to understand news with captions or food shows that she can lightly watch and understand.

    Can you see the idea?  All the information that the ER needs, the nurse stations need, the new doctors that are assigned to her called “Hospitalists” need to know……in one place. Easy to read and understand

When I first presented this to the ER hospital check in person she took in a breath and said. “Wow, this is great, thanks I will make a copy and I think everything seems to be here.” KAZZZAMMMM – It worked!

NEXT PAGE: The next page is a listing of doctor and insurance information. I started by going to the copy shop and making a one page filed with mom’s driver lic, her social security, her medicare card and AARP supplement card. It was all there on one page. She could keep her ID in her wallet and I had it in my trusty ER Info Kit.

I then listed her doctors, their speciality, their office phone and fax numbers. I had a small explanation under them:

Dr Anna Kline, General Practice  o/555-222-1234  f/555-233-5678
Mother has been with Dr. Kline for three years and Dr. over sees and does all mother’s prescriptions. We use 90 day Rx and generics when ever possible. Dr. Kline works well with mother and is easy for her to hear and understand.  (Last seen June of 2009)

AT the end of the page: I put a — 

NOTE: I placed my name, relationship and emergency cell phone and stated my place as her Power of Attorney. Her medical information is to be discussed with me before any major change in medication or procedure given.

All of this is in my computer under Mother’s name. I updated it each doctor appointment and it’s printed and ready to go in a clear plastic envelop that I keep in the kitchen. I put a copy of the Power of Attorney in with the above information. That needs to always be presented at the check in for the doctor appointment or the hospital check in.

PLEASE NOTE: Power of Attorney can be done on your own computer. You can buy a great program called Family Lawyer or do a search and the information will be on the Internet. You can buy the paperwork at an office supply store. But the software is really nice to use. Then you sit next to your senior and together answer all the questions that will walk you through the Power of Attorney for Health. (You can also do full Power of Attorney) But the hospital needs this to include you in the informational and decision process for your senior or family member or close friend. By the way the Power of Attorney has to be notary stamped. You can do that free at most banks or real estate offices. This will also require two witnesses. So, I have done it and had mom sign and I wait for two people “unrelated” to come to the house or ask a neighbor. This is a no nothing thing that takes very little time and will pay off as your senior ages and their health diminishes and you are really needed to make decisions in their name. Just as you will need it for a spouse, friend or child. This is an important step in your family health, so taking the time to get this done will rest your mind and be appreciated greatly in times of crisis.

There you go…how cool is that…your packet is done:

 

Emergency Info Kit:

  • List of medications and the details of each and supplements
  • List of the person information
  • List of insurance and ID cards with contact  numbers
  • List of doctors and their contact information and how you use the doctors
  • Your Power of attorney (copy only needed)
  • Name of patient on each page and current date on material that could be unusable if out dated

All of the above are gathered folded and put into your plastic envelop. I used one that had come with an old insurance plan. It worked so handy I looked and found others like it. I slipped in business cards of the hospitals so I would have the call in phone numbers of the nurse’s station. That is it….Gold in an envelop.

OK… so it takes a little while to do the project, but once done you are in order and planned for any emergency. No matter what their age your family members will sooner or later need to go to the doctor or have an emergency. So, do this project and be prepared.You have the information for trips, and everyday crisis that do arise. Your Packet will relieve all the running around when you are in a state of high stress.

Would you like to have other tips to keep your life flowing a little easier? I have a step by step practical home care work book that is perfect for any family. It goes over all the things you ask yourself and wonder about when you’re caring for those that are unwell or elders that need assistance at their home or in yours. I have had such great feed back with my “Senior Care Workbook 101”  that I can say with confidence you will use it with ease.

Thanks for all you do for others…francy