Advanced Alzheimer’s/Dementia Help for Care Givers

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

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

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

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

Ideas for caring for Elders with Dementia:

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

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

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When Your Medical Team Gives Up

When your medical team gives up and you are left alone with your care through a terminal illness or Alzheimer’s. by francy Saunders

Dealing with terminal illness

George walking with Kirbee

George is still healing from the fall he took two weeks ago. The rib cage is feeling better, but it’s still sore and his bruises have turned to a mud-yellow. It was time to check-in with the physical therapist and the nurse practitioner to review his progress and give us guidance.

Alzheimer’s is a very emotional condition and even though we have doctor appointments that does not mean George wants to get up in the morning. His bed is a safe place from the world of confusion. Everyday is a battle to get him up and going without arguments and upsets.

First, I have to make sure he has an up energy. I start with only positive talk and a strong voice tone. I often take a few deep breaths first so I can pump myself up to hand out the energy to him. A special high protein meal has to be served on a day that he’s going out the door. His medications are given to him early so his dementia pills and Zoloft can kick in and keep him calm. Not to mention his bladder pills that help him from nasty runs to the bathroom all day. Once these pills are given and the meal is taken he already begins to feel better. I also talk to him during that meal. I tell him what we are doing, what is happening in the world and our family. I remind him of a special day or event and talk to him as if we are going on adventure; even if it’s just to the doctor’s office.

Once up and out of bed, I have to be next to him to guide him on his daily groom. He no longer showers without me in the bathroom. His Parkinson’s could kick in at any time and take his balance away so I am there to start the shower and get the water at a comfortable degree. I help him into the tub and then he takes over. When the shower is over; I’m there with a hand to help him out and get dry and attend to his personal needs with a reminder for deodorant and moisturizer cream for his legs.

I have already laid out clothes for the day that fit the situation. George gets very cold these days so even in the summer I have to think of light weight but warmth. Then there is the shaving, the whole teeth clean and another reminder for his face moisturizer with SPF for going outside. As he is grooming; I’m cleaning his glasses and talking to him in an up tone with excitement to keep him interested in his day ahead.

All through this process; he pauses and wants to rest or go back to bed. It’s very important for me to keep focused on his progress and keep him on task in a way that is not pushy – but encouraging. I check how he looks and give his eye brows a trim and choose shoes that are good for walking. Then I get him settled in the living room with the TV news so I can do my own personal groom.

The amount of time it takes to get George ready for an outing is really quite staggering. It leaves very little time for me to get ready and often I skip my own breakfast because the time simply falls away. There is my bag to fill with sugar treats if George gets upset and water for his never-ending thirst because of his medications. Then there is his binder with all his medical notes and ID’s to put into my bag. I must have all of the information because we use the Veteran’s for our health care and they need the numbers and names at a moment’s notice. Then its time to pull out the car and get his walker loaded.

His walker is heavy and really hard for me to get into the back seat. George would want to help me with it if he saw me struggling to get it in the car. I always do it ahead of time so he can get in the car and just relax, not be distracted with anything around him.  I have to remember to have the car cool or warm according to the weather or George gets upset and then I need to be prepared with my map if we are going to a medical office that’s unfamiliar. Luckily, we live very close to our Veteran’s health facility at American Lake. It’s just a short drive with no traffic.

I get George out the door and into the car without using his walker so it takes time to guide him and constantly talk to him to keep him motivated and interested in what we are doing. I give him input on what we will do “after” the appointment so he has something fun to think about, not fuss over the upcoming appointment and wait in the office before we see the doctor.

Once at the parking lot by the medical building I try to park as close to the door as possible so its easy for him to walk. The check-in can be quite complicated and I have to make sure he is seated and calm before I go up to the desk. Then I need to be ready with ID and if I have a letter of review for the doctor it is presented to the staff at this time, to be placed into his file. This way the doctor can pre-read the review of care questions or description of his latest challenges that I want him to address during the appointment.

It was our day for physical therapy appointment and our PT is a very nice man who addressed George with respect and walked him slowly to his office. Once there we reviewed George’s fall and his healing progress. The PT tested him for injuries and gave us a few suggestions for exercises.

This was our second appointment this week and I was busy asking questions of the PT about exercises and what areas I should address in the time coming up. As we finished the appointment, the PT told us that he really could do nothing else and it was up to us to do the exercises and address the physical declines that were coming up. My mind is always clicked into using the time I have with the medical professionals for questions and I was busy checking my notes and then we were walking out the door to the car.

I was getting George tucked into the front seat and trying to get the dumb walker back in the car. My mind running ahead at a stop at the store to get some pre-cooked chicken for dinner and asking George if he wanted an ice cream treat on the way home. I was thinking of getting home to the dogs and making a call to his sister about his appointment results. I was thinking of carefully getting the car backed out of the parking area when I was surrounded by disabled patients all backing out of their parking spots at the same time. I was thinking of the co-pay money and wondering if I had enough to get a few extra things at the store. I was thinking of George being left in the car alone when I ran into the store; did he look like he was calm enough to be left on his own? My mind was going a million miles an hour and I was checking my mirror and getting ready to back out of the parking spot.

George reached over and touched my arm. Reaching for my hand he looked at me and I noticed he had tears in his eyes. I stopped the car, pulled back in the parking space and put on the break and looked at him. He held my hand and squeezed and said. “He could do nothing else, that’s what the doctor said the other day. I think it’s just you and me now, Francy. They have given up on me.”

It hit me. I was so busy with my own mind, my own mental to do list, my own thoughts of the day..that I had forgotten the physical therapist’s wording. He did say he could really not do any thing more. George had heard that and taken it in and it had hit him. I had been so busy thinking and he was busy feeling. I had been worried about the full day and all that I had to do ahead of me and he was “in the moment”. I was busy being in charge of our outing and George was quietly absorbing his surroundings.

George had watched the other Veterans that were clearly in medical stress, and judged his own inability to walk well into the building. Feeling that he did not do well with his physical testing and knowing that there was no medication or treatment that was going to change his Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s condition. He was coming to the conclusion that his medical team had given up.

We cried together. The loneliness of terminal illness is a very personal time. It hits you in different ways at different times. For George and I its a loss of little bits and pieces of his mind and who George has been in his life. It creeps in the door and sits there in silence until we can absorb it and process it. George was right; the medical staff had nothing else they could do for him.  He was in a decline and there was no stopping it. He had a taken a hard fall and was stunned by the pain of his recent injury when he had been such a strong and athletic all his life. Realizing that his body and his mind simply could not be willed to work…was frightening for him.

His medical team is still there. They are polite and helpful but they have no way to make him well again. All we can do is walk this path together and it does become overwhelming at times. We can  just hold on to each other and feel our way through the hurt. George pulled away and looked out his window. He was ready to go home. So I turned the car back on and began to pull out of the parking space…as I backed up George used a very quiet voice; “I’m glad, I’m not alone, Francy…I need you.”

Don’t let your seniors be alone when their medical team gives up. You may not be able to save the day…but you can save the moment. You can call your parent or family member and give them a giggle. You can stop over and give them a hug. You can put your busy day aside and give them a few minutes of your time. Your senior may know inside that their life’s journey is coming to an end; but they should not have to be on that journey without those that they love and have shared friendship with for years. Go and visit them, give them a reminder that love and friendship never end.

Blessings on you…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

Seniors Can Eat Well and Enjoy It!

by francy Dickinson   🙂 I am working on my website and will have it updated and ready soon…thanks  

Dear Francy; I am giving up, mom will not eat a thing. I have tried food from every place in town plus my own dinners. She nearly drinks energy drinks. She wants to eat, but she is so picky and says her taste buds have left her. What on earth do I do to get her back to eating again?

I know how hard this is, fighting medications, dementia, weakness, upset stomachs…the list goes on and on when you have a senior not eating. But we have to just remember a few rules of the care givers trade and you will find it change for the best. I have added a great French Toast for the Most recipe in the end of the rules. It is always a go to food for me when I am dealing with someone who is beyond eating.  Now remember…eating is all of a person not just food. So, read this and take from it what you feel you can use…good luck!

CARE GIVER RULES FOR SENIORS EATING WELL:

  1. As you age and take medications your taste buds start to diminish and it’s very hard to enjoy eating. This added to not feeling well brings out the “I am not hungry”, or” That does not look good to me.” Start with telling the doctor that the senior is not eating well at all. He will do a couple of things: he will give you a medication that can increase hunger, or have you take one of the pills that are already on the senior’s list at a different time of day. He will ask a nutrition person to meet with you and review the diet and see if little tweaks can help add protein. Finally he will professionally tell the patient they “have” to eat. Sometimes a doctor’s word is stronger than family or caregivers.
  2. Next buy protein powder and supplement drinks. You can add the protein power to different things, like soups, gravy, milk for cereal, etc. The supplement drinks are for a meal or supplement to low food intake. I always try vanilla and add a flavor to them. The chocolate is good…but remember when they are the meal, using them cold is what makes their taste pop. Keep drinks in fridge and then shake them before you serve in a chilled glass.
  3. Make smoothies for mornings. Everyone has to take pills and will drink in the morning. Using a yogurt, and protein powder with milk or a supplement drink and whipping it up in blender (always with one ice cube) will give it foamy drink that tastes good and will really add protein and sugar to the senior’s morning. I always top the drink with a little nutmeg, it gives it a good taste and smell. If you have fresh or frozen fruit, go for it!
  4. Dont forget egg nog…I am personally on a low carb diet and I have enjoyed my morning drink. I use vanilla protein power with milk (or vanilla supplement drink) a packet of sugar substitute, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/3 tsp nutmeg, an ice cube, one full raw egg, and mix in blender until its fluffy. This is a yummy way to add extra protein it tastes fresh and goes down easy. It really works to fill me up for the morning and I know a senior would find it satisfying too.
  5. Add spices. To bump the taste buds you need to add spices a little more aggressively. I love using the low salt mix like Mrs Dash and adding low sodium salt so you can use it without side effects. Sprinkle everything… you use spices as you cook so they are absorbed in the food and then top the food with a lite hand so the smell and the taste pops.
  6. Smell goes in elders too…so be sure to serve food hot or cold, they give out more smells than room temp or warm food. Get a microwave plate cover and use it to transport the food on the tray to the senior to keep it hot.
  7. Get in habits. Seniors like habits. So you have eggs & bacon or sausage type of meal twice a week, protein smoothie and toast 3 times a week, a good pancake or waffle on weekends and then one day is cereal. Make the plan out for the week and stick to it…so the senior gets good food sprinkled with different tastes and knows what to look forward to each day.
  8. Rules, the rules have to be set for seniors that are not eating or eating unwise things. They simply have to eat 1 meal a day and drink 2 protein drinks to keep alive. I sat down with mom and told her that her small strokes were not going to go away, so keeping her body strong was her only hope for a comforting life. It’s so easy to think; “I will stop eating and pass away.”  In reality it usually means you stop eating and your meds don’t work and you wind up in the hospital and/or a lonely high-care nursing facility. If they want to stay at home, or with family…they have to think of eating as their work each day. When they look at it like a duty and a responsibility you will get less stressful complaining.  
  9. Food is not just food, if it was you would never pay hundreds of dollars for a dinner at your local best restaurant. So buy a tray that is light and functional for you to bring food to the senior. Buy a few new dish towels that look bright and fun and use them to line the tray. Use a smaller plate (yes buy one) so it looks like their food is big and their eating is full. Have good utensils, if senior has a problem with holding forks or spoons, buy some that are specially designed for that purpose you find them in the medical supply place, or in a medical catalog online. Have a smaller glass for the juice, it will look better to give a 1/2 cup in a small glass instead of a 1/2 cup in a big glass. Make the tray cheery and the plate well done, just like you get when you go out to eat. This is the presentation that makes a difference…they will see the food “looking good” and want to eat it more than just a plate shoved in front of them.
  10. Keep salt and pepper by their chair so they can always add a bit, if the taste is to bland. Give them a napkin a real napkin in a ring holder for their meals. It is more sturdy for drips and more enjoyable to feel special instead of a paper napkin or paper towel. It’s all about feeling, seeing and smelling with food. So make it your job to think about how to change the presentation for the better. Your standards of feeding will set the meal for more success and don’t lower them. A simple sandwich can have a sliced pickle or small tomatoes on the plate. You can make a difference by just being creative as you give your daily care.
  11. Serve with a smile. Oh how I remember an afternoon that a dear girl friend came to take me to lunch when I was giving 24/7 care to my mother. My sister stayed with mom and I got to “go out”. We went to a local diner and had a simple hamburger meal. The waitress was in a mood and slow and when my food arrived she slid the plate on the table to me and it went into my lap. I was in tears. I know, I over reacted…but you see I had given so much to mom that this lunch was my time to have someone care for me and she just pushed the meal at me. It hurt my feelings and I left without paying or eating. I took that experience in and made sure that no matter how personally tired or upset I was, I did not show it when I fed my mother. I arrived with a tray and a smile. I served the food and talked about something light and left her alone to eat it. I gathered the tray and did not allow myself to be upset if she did not eat one or more of the things I had fixed. Attitude of cheer and happiness and talking about good things and leaving the TV on something light and easy to watch while the senior is eating….it all goes together in a package.
  12. When you have children you learn to stick veggies into anything so the child gets good stuff to eat. Well that is what you do for a senior. If you have spaghetti then you put shredded zucchini in the sauce and no one will know. You put protein mix in the gravy. You take the bologna out of the package and put it into the processor with protein powder, mustard, pickle relish and mayo and let the blades bring it down to a simple chopped meat spread for a great sandwich treat with lettuce or sprouts. Be creative and smart…give the senior good food, with little packages of surprise goodies inside.
  13. Talking, just let the senior know you are doing your best and you are tired and need their help. You need them to try as hard as they can to eat at least a few bites of the things you bring to them. If they can not finish it, fine, but they need to think of eating as a job and do the very best they can so you can all enjoy life together. You are apart of a health team, you and the senior have to work together to make days filled with good food, exercise and happy thoughts. It can be a challenge, but it is how life is lived to the best each day. I know you can do it, just keep trying and understand that your energy to make them eat good food, has to be matched by their willingness to continue their care with you in their life. If they can not help you, then a change is going to be made. That honesty about your rules of the home and your care giving- given in calm moments not anger….is what has to be done so the senior knows good health can come from good nutrition.

FRENCH TOAST WITH THE MOST

My husband loves French Toast so I do it once a week and I give him much more than what it looks like on the plate. So gather in the ingredients and put this recipe together so the senior gets even more than they know from eating it.

3 Eggs   – 1/4 cup of milk with a scoop of protein powder or use vanilla supplement drink  – 1/2 tsp vanilla – 1/4 tsp cinnamon –
1/2 tsp sugar or 1/2 packet of sugar substitute – 2 slices of good sandwich bread

Mix the egg ingredients in the blender until they are foamy and pour into a pie dish. Prepare a large skillet/grill with spray oil and heat to medium. Have the egg mixture close to the pan and use a good pancake flipper to dunk the bread into the egg mixture. Get both sides of the bread good and moist and then transfer to medium hot pan for browning. Turn the two slices of bread over and when both sides are lightly browned – dunk the bread back into the egg mixture and re-coat. Then put back into the skillet or grill and continue cooking. Repeat this until the egg mixture is all used up and the two pieces of bread are well coated with layers of now cooked eggs. Lower the heat and cover the bread for a minute to puff up slightly.

Serve on plate with a fresh fruit topping, syrup and always sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar for a festive appeal. If you have some whip cream in a can use it, just like in a breakfast diner, make it look as good as it tastes. This is such a yummy meal and it is loaded with extra good things and means that even if they eat one piece they have loads of protein. If your senior loves bacon, use it on the side and if they love a special fruit just buy frozen in the winter.

Hope all of this helps, it has always been successful for me. My seniors always respond in a positive way to my cooking. If you are not a cook…then take time to buy a simple Betty Crocker cookbook and use it as your guide. Don’t be embarrassed to make your skills improve in order to help the senior and your family eat more and eat healthy. Blessings, francy

Join me on twitter @seniorcaretips
Enjoy my other recipes: http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/

How to Visit Seniors on Holidays

by Francy Dickinson                   www.seniorswithspirit.com

Here come the Holidays…Thanksgiving and all the winter fests that each of us follow. You are exhausted and have loads of family to visit. Divorced parents have two different families to add to their list of visits and often 2-4 sets of grand parents. But holidays are for all family not just the ones that are easy to visit. The older grandparent, the ones without money, or without a fancy home, ones that no longer are legally connected to you…still have feelings and love in their heart for grand children. To visit can be very hard to do both with little time and emotions. Here are some tips to bring families together in a way that they can enjoy it, not dread it:

Rules of visiting, fast and fun:

  1. Visits do not have to be long or include a dinner. They can be short and sweet, it”s your demeanor and up energy that makes it fun.
  2. Calling ahead and saying: “We are so busy this season that I was hoping I could stop by and pick you up and join us for a nice family movie and then some ice cream after.” You will have an experience with the family, but the time will be in a movie not talking or arguing. After, the treat is ice cream not a fancy dinner or the time to have someone get upset. Just friendly and fun. This works so well, you have to give it a try…Kids love it, have time for Great -Grandma and many time older grand parents haven’t been to a movie in ages.
  3. A drop by with gifts of love. Have the kids help you make easy sweet bread or cookies and put them in zip locks decorated with hand-made Holiday Cards. Dress up the kids and then give the grand parents a call, tell them you are on a tight schedule but you want to stop by and say a holiday HI and give them a hug. When they say sure…do just that…have kids go over and take pics of grandparents and kids together, give them the cookies and have the kids do a song if they are old enough. Then after 20 minutes it is time to leave and move on to an older auntie or neighbor. Short and sweet.
  4. Dinner at Grandma’s. If you have dinner at Grandma’s planned and there is family tension come prepared. Bring toys for the kids and a family photo album for you. Come with a small hostess gift to give and something easy to add to the dinner. Even if it’s candy in a candy jar, a pie from a high end bakery, or home-made something…bring and join even if you have not been asked to do so. Gifts for older Grandparents are really photos and related items. They want to see their grandchildren, so make sure the kids are dressed up and have had rest so they do not over act up at the dinner. Eat dinner, stay for dessert and then leave. That is how it is done and a little email or card in the mail to say thank you can be sent or pre-done and left on a table for them to find after you have left.
  5. Keeping your self and kids busy is the key to a dysfunctional family. Bring a movie for the kids to view or a DVD to watch a movie. Bring toys or a game for them to play. Keep yourself busy with doing the dishes for the family after dinner, the kitchen is often a good escape from angry talk around the table. Bring a small craft project like knitting or crochet and just sit quietly when all swirls around you. Or take a deep breath of fresh air with your kids with a walk around the block if  the house is getting to filled with drinking or arguments. Make your time at the dinner short and kind.
  6. Dressing up for holiday parties may seem silly to you. But showing the hostess that you respect the time that it took to ready their home and buy food and gifts is important. Make sure you’re the one with the manners.
  7. Bringing gifts can be very small…a nice candle even from the dollar store is always enjoyed and any craft project that the kids do is enjoyed by grand parents.
  8. Visiting Older family before the holiday during the week so you can leave the actual holiday for your own family and celebrations.
  9. Talk to your children before you visit older people. Tell them that you expect them to be polite and actually talk to their grand parents or older family. Show them their toys and be kind and polite. After the visit if they are good, you will take them for a treat. It is not the time for children to have an emotional fit when they are visiting a senior on a rare visit. Feed them before they go, dress them well, get them involved in the handmade gift or card and let the visit be fun and short.
  10. It all revolves around you. Why are you the one to visit in the busy part of the year? Why do you have to buy extra gifts for people you hardly know and never talk to? Because older people deserve to see and enjoy their family. It is not their fault that they can not drive over and say Hello often. These visits are often the only visits they have during the year, they are special to the senior. Please respect that and make it only 20 minutes of your life that can be with a smile and enjoyed by all.

Hope these ideas help. I know the pressure of holidays can build and build and visiting older family is just one more thing on your plate. But take a moment to remember it may be the highlight of the elder’s holiday, it may make them feel like they have value and worth in your family. They may feel their grandchildren are all they have in their life and your visit could have more value than you could imagine.

Please go and visit my website for other ideas to help care for seniors www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thank you and blessings on your holidays, francy

How to Bring Grandma Into Your Home

by francy Dickinson                         www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy: I have decided that Mom just can not keep living on her own and in a state of worry each day. Her health is not ready for nursing care but I know she needs to be looked after more than a drop by each day. How do I tell my husband and kids and where will I put her? I live on a thin budget and I am worried.

Now this is a problem that I can help you with because I did the same thing and I have helped so many others do the transition smoothly. Here are my ideas and tips:

Moving Elders into Your Home Tips:

  1. After discussing it with your spouse and getting their approval, you call a family meeting. You will not be asking their approval, but informing them of the situation and letting them know a new arrival means there will be changes that might not be the most enjoyable. Depending on the age of your kids, let them live in the elders shoes, explain why the change, why the elder is no longer safe in their own home that way the family has a base of understanding that this decision is how we treat and care for family. You make room for children when they are born into the family, you make room for elders when they retire into advanced family care.
  2. Make it clear to your family and to YOU that this is a change that is not going to just go away or get old. This is a commitment on your part and your elders that life will be together through thick or thin. If money gets low, or someone gets unwell in the family, or a move has to be made- the elder is now a part of your family and will be with you for good or bad family times. That is life making room for an elder is a serious decision that once made is made, not changed because of an argument. You do not throw out babies or elders because they are extra work or a pain to live with…so think this step out very carefully and inform all; that this is a commitment of heart and honor on both sides.
  3. Set up some rules of the house so every one can work within a fair basis of comfort living. Kids do not invite friends for an overnight if Grandma is using the living area for her bedroom. Things will change, but the changes do not have to be huge, just considerate on all sides.
  4. Plan your elder’s living area. They need their own room, even if your children have to share a room, that is better than an elder sharing a child’s room. If no extra bedroom is there, then take an area that can be shared like the dining room. Put the big table in the kitchen, living area, or storage. Put up a day bed that can be used as a sitting area during the day. Always give privacy from public areas, you can hang a curtain or a bamboo shade to enclose the privacy for the senior.
  5. Try to bring the senior’s favorite things with them. A good sitting chair, a side table for bed and chair, a little desk or bookcase, favorite books, family memory photos, jewelry, special mementoes and art that can be incorporated into your home. This is the time for them to distribute family things to their children and grand children, not at their death. Do not rent a storage unit. If your elder is going to move in with you and it does not work, they will be in a care facility with little space, so there is no going back to an apartment living for the elder, this is a life change, not a try out.
  6. Paint the area to match the elder if you can. If your home is high energy color reflecting an action family….lower the tones for the elder so they can relax and rest in their space.
  7. Decide on the bathroom the elder will use. You might have them use a half bath and just take a weekly bath or shower in the kid’s bath. Always make room for their personal products.  A basket with their bathroom items tucked on a shelf makes their things private. Young kids do not understand false teeth or Depends. Make sure your family respects the privacy of the elder and no teasing takes place, bathroom humor is not appreciated by a person making a big change in their life.
  8. Keep elder drugs in a place in the kitchen or laundry area. That way it is away from the kids and in a place that can be sorted and the weekly pill try can be filled as well as meds reordered correctly.
  9. Use a closet in the hall or a rack in the laundry room for elder’s clothes, plastic drawers can be purchased for clothing. Sort over elders things and take clothes that fit the lifestyle they have now, not the clothes they wore ten years ago when they were active or working.
  10. Keep the elder with their friends as much as you can. If they go to a faith center away from you, take them back to the faith center once a month to connect. If they have a favorite Senior Center or exercise group try to keep them there or let them visit and replace those activities close to your home. Elders need to know their life has just moved, not changed or gotten lost. Emotional problems often stem from elders losing their friends, spouse, home and all connections…so work on keeping them as connected to their long established lifestyle.
  11. If your elder is into gardening and you are not, let them at it, get them started redoing your front yard and enjoy that the elder is giving back to the family. If the elder loves to cook, let them do a dinner during the week or make the lunches for everyone each day. Figure out how to use their talents with your needs and make room for change on your part as well as theirs.
  12. Hearing impaired does not mean shouting or loud TV. It means getting them a headphone remote for the TV so they can hear it, or putting on the text feature to run text on the bottom of the TV screen. It means turning down music to a normal range and take time to talk facing the elder not on the run.
  13. Careful walking with elders that may trip means removing scatter rugs and use double side carpet tape on larger rugs. It means making sure there are lights to see well in the public rooms and dogs that are trained to love not jump up on people. Think safety. If your kids are older you may have left those safety thoughts behind a long time ago, now get your mind going again on what your elder needs to be safe walking around the house.
  14. If the elder wants to make alot of calls, get them a cell phone and let them  learn how to use it. Then they can call on their own phone without worry about family phone time. Get them their own TV if they need it and a radio or MP3 player with a head phone for music and talk radio listening.
  15. Do not be afraid to ask the senior for money to add to the family income. They can give you a couple hundred dollars a month for food and utilities, even if they are on a small social security income. They can pay for their own personal needs and medication products, specialty foods and clothing, too. Just be fair, do not take all their money and think they will not reflect emotionally to it.
  16. If your senior is part of your family…then you can take them off as a tax deduction. Ask your tax person how to do this before you take that action, but it can help you financially to do this. You can also get help with their house sales investment of money, or reducing their bills. Get help so you do not have to worry about funds for their care, talk to senior care consultants and let them help you with the legal part of your relationship. Remember their home sales will have to pay for their care for a long time, so be wise with the money. It is hard when you are limited on funds to care for an elder, but it can be done with advise.
  17. If the senior is unable to pay for their own medications ask the DR for help with pharmacy company programs. If you need to put the senior on state medical do so, they will pay for the medications and pay you to care for your parent if they are in need of more than just light care. Get a review, be in the know, so the money you spend on your elder is wisely spent.
  18. Make sure your senior has someone to talk to about you and your family living. A faith center person, a neighbor or other family member, that is a third party, should make a monthly visit. Get the elder to talk about their life. They may be afraid to say what upsets them, or they may be filled with upset and anger and need to vent it to make their life easier with you. Emotional health is often not understood until you live with someone, a doctor can also medicate to calm an elder, if you explain your concerns in a letter to him before your elder’s next appointment.
  19. Everyone has odd behaviors even you…so learn to live and let live, small things you have always done may need to change, that is not the end of any one’s world, it is just a change to make life easier for all parties. That is what makes living as a family work, you all have to adjust and talk and love and make changes to make sure each of you can enjoy life together. But elders find change upseting and hard and younger folks can adjust to change much easier, so that should set the tone when making family decisions.

Perfection is not the goal with a senior living with their family. But kindness on both sides is a must. Do not be afraid to have someone come in and talk to the family about problems, questions, ideas or concerns. Talking things out helps everyone. There is your way or the highway is not the way with a multi-generation family. Every one has to make way for privacy and for kindness for each other. Often the experience of grand parents living with children changes the child into a more understanding and caring adult in years to come. That means when it is your turn to need help, your own children will be more open to giving you loving care in your own older age.

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.

I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one,

blessings. francy

PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.

“Change” the Word sends a Chill!

by francy Dickinson                           www.seniorcaretipswithspirit.com

Dear Francy: My mother is not coping well with any little change. It’s getting so bad, that I simply do things now without telling her. Can I help her through this?

Change, some of us will climb a steep mountain instead of facing change – I do understand but what I have been doing for a long time is trying to divert the senior’s thought pattern to the outcome of change, not the actual change itself.

Example:

  • If you’re feeling that a doctor you are using is simply not working for you and you want to change. Then you put on your change hat and say; “Mom, I have found this great doctor that’s really close to us and has a wonderful referral list. I talked to a friend about him and he gives him five stars, I made an appointment and we can see how we like him.”  No mention of the other doctor, if she asks, you just say we need someone for a back up just in case. Keep it calm and keep it safe.
  • You know your mom has to stop driving and you are trying to ease her into the idea and she kicking her way out of it. You then put on the change hat, “Mom I was thinking that when you decide to stop driving it would be fun to give your car to one of your grand daughters. Like Shelley, she is taking that bus to work everyday and it will be ages before she can save for a car, think how special it would be for her to drive your car and keep it in the family?”
  • Your dad knows that he has to stick to his diabetic diet, but he is making the change a nightmare. Off comes the son/daughter hat and on goes the change hat, “Dad, I just bought a new cookbook on diabetic cooking and it features desserts. I’m going to make you a different dessert each week. I want to start with this great pie they have on the cover.” When you get to the house with pie in hand, make sure you leave with all the cookies, candy and goodies he has stashed away. Replace them with no sugar treats and remember carbs are like sugar, so the bread needs to be wheat instead of white. But make the change out well worth the fuss!
  • Your senior is really unhappy in their retirement place. A change of living is going to take place and that is a worst change of all. Change hat ready? ” Mom, I walked through a care center right by my place the other day. It is such a close drive and we could have lunch together if you were over there. I love the way they do the colors in the rooms and their food was so nice, the people are so kind and I loved it. I want you to be happy again so we can spend more time together. Let’s go over and walk through together.”

See what I mea? Always talk about a cheery outcome, not the change. Make the change, yes…but make it with a feeling of positive movement instead of leaving something good behind. Think forward and dangle a carrot. If you want a young child to eat veggies, you always dangle a carrot, like dessert in front of him/her. So do it now. When you move we will have to get you some new pillows or a couple new comfortable robes or slippers, or go over and have lunch with her each Friday and see if you can get your siblings to join you. Those are the payoffs and that is how change is done without so much fuss.

If there is a lot of fuss. The truth is, you are the caregiver and you make the decisions. Making sure they are kind and just – the decisions are on you and you have to be the “mom” here and there with no guilt attached. Just as you said no to your kids- this is a – we will do this change – to your senior. It’s the hard part of giving care. Sometimes loving care does not make you popular.

Please do go to my website www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and click on my new BlogTalk Radio Show icon www.blogtalkradio.com/seniorcarewithspirit  and have a listen to my radio shows. I cover, Senior Care Tips, Making the Most of Your Doctor Visits and Moving Mom out of the Family Home….it’s fun listening, I know you’ll enjoy it! The shows are on demand so you listen when ever you want to and you just click on the PLAY button…easy breezy-

Thanks for all you do for your mother…francy