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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Routine gives Alzheimer’s n Elders Good Home Care

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George’s Routine -Daily exercise with me ;O

Ideas to give Elders and Dementia/Alzheimer’s seniors good care with routines..by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Dad moved in two months ago and stays in bed all day. What can I do to get him up and out? 

Good Care Secret? ROUTINE

Many people lose their routines when they retire or suffer a loss of a spouse or a health change. It is a normal for them to react…they just cope. So, if you are unable to get them professional care…then YOU have to be the care giver with the mostest….and that means YOU return the senior to ‘a routine’. You might remember back to when you were raising or helping others raise their children…children respond to life so much stronger with a routine in place….well…this is just like that…the more you pre-program the day with activities that are repeated…the more secure the senior feels and the more they respond in kind.

I say this with love…because it means that YOUR own life is changed…you, have to live for another and it is very challenging…trust me — I live it. But here are the rules:

RULES FOR DAILY ROUTINE:

  1. You will do the routine for two days and then take a break. So we have two days on and one day off. That off day means you can sleep in or do your own morning routine. 
  2. You will have an up attitude, even when you are down, sick or tired. That is what it means when you ‘give care’ You are giving not taking.
  3. You will think through a routine and write it down and then make it your own.

FRANCY’S ROUTINE WITH GEORGE:

George hates to get up in the morning. So I do not pressure that…I allow him to rest. He has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s so there are loads of issues for him. But what to remember is that everyday…is a new day in his mind…so it has to be a new day in my mind too.

I bring him breakfast and tell him that he has to get up in 1/2 hour and then I take note of the time. I either rest, or go and get things done in the house while he is eating and then return at the set time for him to get up. I make sure he has taken his meds then I get him up and bring him into the bathroom. Usually, he has already gone to the toilet…so I begin with him sitting on his bath bench facing out into the bathroom – or facing me standing right next to him. It is a good height and easy for him to get up and down from this sitting position.

I start him by asking him to remove his upper clothes and as he does that I go and get his clean clothes for the day. I always put out an under shirt and a thermo-shirt and then a flannel shirt or nice sweat shirt (sometimes with an added vest.) <Why so much? Seniors often have a problem with feeling cold and to keep the house temp in order…I layer his clothing>

Once he is undressed on top: I then get warm water and give him a wash cloth and he does his personal wash up, then deodorant  Twice a week we do a bath; the other days it is this procedure instead. <Many elders become worried about water and a bath is hard to get them to do…so this is a short clean, if the problem with the bath continues, then hire a bath person to come once a week and you do the clean up ea day in-between>

Then I help him dress with his undershirt, his thermo-shirt and have him stay seated.(I do not add the rest of the tops until he is done with all of his clean up and ready to exit the bathroom) Still in his sitting position: I then have him do his leg exercises that keep his calves strong. <This exercise keeps the falling down to a min. The calves are the point that helps us stay up and balanced> He will sit and lift one leg out straight and then do flex and point of his foot for a 20 count. Keeping the leg out and straight the whole time. Then we change to the other leg. I do the flex and point with a slow (one-and two- and three…so the point is on the number and the flex is on the and count– up to 20) You can do this a round of one or two…depending on how strong the legs are and if they have fallen within the last month. If so, repeat the 20 count routine on both sides.

He stays in a sitting position and we take off his socks. I let him do it and he bends down and then takes off his pajamas and his Depends…he then cleans up with a fresh wash cloth, just like we did with his torso and then sits back down. I make sure his feet are done and I help him with this so he can be steady. I then apply a moisturizer for his legs and feet and he has to rub it in. It will require him to bend over; so I stay close and hold his shoulders so he does not fall while he rubs in the moisturizer all over his lower leg & feet. If there is fungus on his toes we do the drops at this time. The skin there gets very flaky and we want it healthy, clean and moist. <This is when you notice if there are any sore spots or red spots. If so you talk to the doctor right away by phone and get guidance  Any sores on legs or feet are serious and hard to heal…get help —fast>

I then (while in a sitting position) have him put on his new Depends to the knees and add his sweatpants to his knees and then he stands and we pull them up. He sits down and we add his socks and slippers. He then gets up and goes to the sink and I have him do his shaving on his own. Then I remind him of his mouthwash, his floss and then he sits back down to do his Sonicare. Now you may or may not have a Sonicare…but I feel they have saved our teeth. They are an investment, but they do such a good job when you are unable to move your arms well to do your teeth. <Obviously if using false teeth you would have them soaking while you did the body clean and rinse and put the teeth in fresh and ready to go. You never brush false teeth they are made of material that is to be cleaned with a Polident-type of soaking once a day to keep the mouth fresh and you would  have your senior rinse their mouth with mouthwash before the teeth are put in again.>

Now he is back standing at the sink:  I have him use a wash cloth and get it very warm water and let George go over his face. Then I use a sugar scrub…it is designed for the face. Or you can use a cleanser for the face with beads in it to remove the dead skin on the face and leave it looking fresh and healthy. George moves and scrubs the scub all over his face up into his brow and hairline and his eye brows. Then he takes the hot wet wash cloth and cleans it off the scrub…rinsing and cleaning until the scrub is gone. Then he puts on Oil of Olay. <Any moisturizer is good, this one is easy for a guy to use and It is designed as a nice face moisturizer and it goes all over the skin of the face and ears and chin. it has SPF in it so the sun will be kept away from delicate facial skin and ears.  Now he is clean and ready to leave the bathroom.

I remove all his clothing that has to be washed and put it in the closet in a large clothes hamper and do a load twice a week of his clothes alone. < It is “SO-OOO” important to keep the bathroom and clothes clean, the bed linens and towels clean too! The ability to have bed sores and infections in small cuts and scraps are very high – when a person is older and their body is not as healthy as it used to be. Clean everything…be a freak…or hire it done. Its your choice.>

George then goes out to the living room. Where I have a straight back chair. I put a small pillow on the chair for his comfort and he sits down. From here he does his exercises. He will first do a stand – squat – stand and slowly sit. This is an exercise that allows his thighs and bum to learn how to sit and stand from a chair, again. I use the term stand as (solider with his straight arms down to his side – I say squat and he does and I move my arms to the front so he remembers that he has to balance his body with his arms. Then I say solider again and he goes into the straight standing position with his arms straight down to his side and then I use my voice “Slowly down” for him to sit in a slow motion….then it is repeated for at least 10 times. If we do this 4 times a week…his body responds well…if we do it less…he forgets the routine and his muscles get weak again. That is when he begins to fall and it goes down from there…

I have learned that his routine is really ‘my routine’ and the more we are able to stick to it..the better his body and muscles respond.  

From there I do arm exercises and I will do a little video for you to use if you like. I will add it in to this blog when I get it done.

After we are through I help him back into his chair and have him do 3 really deep breaths to load up his brain with oxygen. Breathing-in with the nose and out with the mouth. The is the beginning of his day…from here he rests and we do what ever our day holds. But I do this as often as I can. YES…it is a pain — NO he is not always nice to me while we do it — YES I have to push him each time — NO he does not remember the exercises or the toilet routine —YES it does make a difference in the quality of his day forward.

It’s a routine that takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes because he is slow. But it sets the tone for a full day of healthy, happier emotions and the attention makes him feel wanted and I always give him a full cheer-leading routine as he is going through is paces.

I know you can do it. It would be done like this at a professional care facility…so I think doing it at home makes the ability of the senior to stay in good health and strong all the longer. I feel that Alzheimer’s is going to take over George…but we can hold it off by keeping him fit and clean and happy in his day

Blessings on all that you do each day for your senior. Francy

SENIORS And HEAT – IT’S DEADLY

Visist your seniors today and check for heat stroke signs

Ideas for keeping seniors cool in the warmer weather months…by francy Dickinson

When I began caring for my mother in her 90’s with heart problems, I was shocked at the extent of her feeling ‘of being cold’. She wore layers of clothing all year long…she had her space heater on in the summer and wanted me to give her heating pads. Why? I would be so confused and wanted her to be outside in the sunshine…but she was too cold there.

I talked to the doctor about this and he said, it was her medications. Many medications fool the body into believing that it is cold. Even though the seniors temperature is normal, they ‘feel cold’ . So, that made sense to me and I tried to help her with year round flannel sheets and a good electric blanket on her bed. I would serve her tea warm not cold in the summer and I would give her a hat and sweater when we sat outside in the middle of a heat wave. Lucky for us, we live in the Seattle area and our summers are very moderate. But, all along…I would push her drinking juice and water.

ELDERS DO NOT DRINK WATER….LIKE WE DO!

I don’t know when we all started to drink so much water. But older folks did not grow up with water bottles. They had drinking fountains and drank when they were thirsty…so it is very hard for them to drink water, on our demand. Mother and my husband George…would drink water with pills –but just enough to take the pills. So, I have learned to give  fruits like grapes and watermelon, fruit drinks watered down…and as much decaf tea and coffee as I can get in them during the day.

Water is not only important for reduction of heat stroke, but also for good bowel movements and kidney functions. It’s not just water for thirst, its water for a body to function well and stay healthy and working. Many seniors take water pills to help their hearts clear out the water in the body….that alone will drain the system of liquids. So the seniors have to keep intake of water up…and up…and they have to do it in the summer even more.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT IS HOT AND THE SENIOR THINKS THEY ARE COLD?

This is so important. You simply have to ‘remind’ them over and over again to drink…to keep the room cool with a fan or AC and if not — you have to take them to a ‘Cool Center’ in hot weather. Each summer we have waves of extra hot weather..and with it waves of seniors that lose their lives to heat stroke and dehydration. As neighbors, family, spouses and simply caring people…we have to be as observant of our elders as we are of our small babies.

If you know a senior that is alone during this heat wave…please check on them over and over again. Seniors do not want others to fuss over them…so they will say; “Oh, I’m fine here -everything is OK at my place.” Do not take that as an answer…go and check…see if they have the temperature in order and there are signs of drinking liquids.

IDEAS FOR KEEPING SENIORS COOL:

  1. Cooling Centers are set up all over your area. They can be at high schools, churches, senior centers. Just ask, call your local library and ask them to locate a senior cooling center for your own senior. Those librarians are always a wonderful source of information…please use them!
  2. Time for a movie…or a walk over at the mall. If you just want to get your senior out and about…find a movie they will enjoy and know they will have a couple of hours in a cool spot. If their apartment is extra hot, call the local fire department (on their business line, not the 911) and ask them if an air conditioner is available for a senior that is bed bound. If the senior is on Hospice, ask Hospice to check on the temperature in their home. There are many avenues of community help out there…get creative and find someone who will step forward and give you help.
  3. Not only can you give your senior liquids, but fruits such as watermelon, grapes, apples and always bananas for their potassium. Ice cream is a senior favorite, but Popsicle are golden. Sherbet and Popsicle are really easy for seniors to have two to three times a day. You can buy a big bunch of Popsicle at any box store for very little price. If you are going to check on a senior that you do not know well…arrive with a box of Popsicle and ask them to enjoy them a few times a day to stay cool and keep their body hydrated.
  4. Bed clothes are way to warm at night. Add flannel sheets to keep the senior feeling warm — but remove the electric blanket and layers of heavy blankets during the summer heat.
  5. Change the senior’s clothes. Layers are fine, but make it layers of underwear, tee-shirt type of material and then a sweater or shawl. They do not get to wear winter warm clothing in summer. I actually change the closet in the hot and cold weather to make the dressing choices easier for the senior. So flannel shirts go out the door to the storage closet and the polo shirts and short sleeve shirts hang in the closet. Adding a light jacket, sweater or sweat shirt is fine…but keep the selection of clothing tilting towards the cool side in the summer. Remember: Mumu’s were invented for one reason…comfort in the heat 😉
  6. Most seniors shower. As you age using a tub for a bath becomes harder and the risk of falls increases. Showers are the best way to cool down each day…a moderate temp shower on the cooler than normal side will reduce the body temp and ease the skin. ALWAYS HAVE A BENCH OR SEAT IN THE SHOWER AREA WITH A GOOD WALL MOUNT HANDLE FOR SAFETY!! You know; senior skin gets thinner and it makes it very sensitive. So you will have to keep moisturizer handy for the senior to use in the summer. A Spitzer bottle of water will also provide the skin and face with moisture in the heat.
  7. PERSONAL: (Cover your ears.) Body parts are body parts…so women that are older have hot spots under their breasts, on the high thigh or hips where the stomach skin slouches down and other personal spots. Men are the same with even their penis effected with the skin shrinking down and the area becoming moist. So, ask your doctor 4 help here…or just get some cream that you would use on baby bottoms to fight diaper rash. That cream will go on, in those sensitive areas and keep them from rash and infection in extreme heat. (OK, you can uncover your ears now)
  8. Cool clothes or small zip lock bags with ice inside held under the arm pits –on the neck, or lower back, will cool the body fast. NOTE TO SELF: Check to see that the senior has ice available.
  9. Fans should be kept on in the sleeping area…maybe the senior can sleep in a back bedroom instead of their usual bedroom…check the house for the coolest spots and keep the air flowing or the AC on in those areas. Check the internet for less expensive portable AC units. Do your home work and know the investment is always well worth it, when the heat hits.
  10. Be creative. I know seniors get stuck in their ways…but take a look at their home or apartment…you can work things out. Then if all else fails…I sit down and get serious. I told my mom– that I loved her and wanted her to be with me as long as possible. Her health was simply the most important thing to me, so how could we keep her body cool and healthy? I made it a joint venture…don’t lose your family, friend, neighbor or spouse in a heat wave…it can be prevented!!
  11. My tip for seniors alone…get them a small ice chest to have by their feet, at their favorite chair. Then you can fill it with Boost, water, fruits and sugar treats etc and they only have to reach down and open the lid to get refreshed!

Once again, I thank you for caring for your loved one. Because of you, their life is richer and you have to focus on that. I know that getting thanks from seniors in care is rare. So, take it from me…YOU ARE SPECIAL…francy

PS I have been going through hard times with my husband Georgie, so I have not kept the blog up to date. I am sorry for that…I will try harder. Georgie has Alzheimer’s and is forgetting how to walk. I have had to re teach him to walk on a weekly basis, lately. He also had so many accidents that he is now using Depends….it was a hard thing  for him to do, he was so sad over it. Life is never easy with care giving but, I do want to be here for you and I know you support me. It’s a lonely road when your spouse is failing in their health. Let’s work together to make the road as smooth as it can be for us all…f.

Answers for a Depressed Spouse Care-Giver

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

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

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

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

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

See if this fits?

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

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

HELP – HOW CAN I GET SOME OF THAT?

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

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

francy Dickinson with Missy

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

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Never Too Old for New Year’s Start-Overs

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

Adding Mobility in the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francy with her Bichon, Missy

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

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Merry, Merry Ideas for In-home Seniors

Here are some tips for helping elders through the holidays when they are stuck in the house or in-bed…from francy Dickinson

Our Holiday Home in Washington State

Dear Francy: Mother is nearing her end, she is in bed full-time and can only see out to the back yard. This holiday is pretty sad for us. Do you have some ideas for those stuck in their bedrooms?

The end of life journey is never easy…but making it a joy in bits and pieces is something we can all achieve if we give it our creative thoughts. So here are ideas that I have used and the elders have found enjoyable.

IDEAS TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH YOUR ELDERS IN CARE:

  1. If a bedroom is by the bathroom, it’s a great place to put the special hospital bed. But if the home has more  activity or a view from the front of the house…move over that sofa and put the hospital bed in that front room.
  2. Once a hospital bed is ordered from hospice, it is usually understood that there is a three-month care range for the elder to experience. So, this move of putting the bed into a special room with a view, or a large TV or just where the action is —-is a great choice. You can also move the bed around in the bedroom to face a window so they have a view…when they are bed-bound.
  3. Often commodes have to be used anyway…walking to the bathroom is a trip that becomes too long- even if it is within 20 steps. So, don’t worry…just pick a place the elder would feel good to be in during the day and nite.  (If you have to move furniture…do it!  Take it out to the garage or basement area so there is room for the senior to get up and move around to a chair or commode with their walker or wheelchair.)

HOLIDAY DISPLAYS:

Outside Light Show for Elders

  • Set up an outside light display for the Elder’s window…so during the day they have a small tree in their room —but at night the lights become a fairyland outside their windows. Seniors often have trouble sleeping nights– with pain and worry–so a lovely outside display really makes it special.
  • If you don’t have a holiday light display; ask around, get a friend or a neighbor to share their display of tree, deers, etc with you for this holiday season
  • After the holiday add a peanut feeder for the squirrels or a birdfeeder for the birds in a cold winter weather -that way the activity of the window and view gives the senior a way to meditate and rest
  • You can leave little fairy lights on after the holiday to go through the cold and snow of the winter. Just a little twinkle lights on a bush or tree by the window adds wonder

TURN OFF THE TV…
AND TURN ON THE HOLIDAY MUSIC

  • When you feed the Elder their dinner, or do their night-time procedures—turn on the holiday music. This is a great way of celebrating old memories and holiday traditions, to surround the senior in music. Find a Traditional Holiday Music channel on your Dish or Cable, or find a local radio station that features holiday music through the week before Christmas.
  • Ask a friend, or a neighbor to include your senior in their cookie list. So the senior gets the flavor of homemade cookies and each evening has a nice treat to enjoy before bed. Add cocoa in a nice fun Santa mug and peppermint candy cane sticking out the top of their morning coffee.
  • Take note of the different holiday traditional programs on the TV. Just like you would with the kids, think of your seniors and make sure they are able to enjoy the specials. The favorite movies would be; Miracle on 32nd Street, White Christmas and many more. Each year different singers have specials and there are cartoon specials like; “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” that add a happy note to the day.
  • Note that ordering a new TV Dish or cable so the senior has a variety of channels to enjoy when they are bed-bound is a caring thing.
  • Think about the senior’s heritage. Our family has a Danish Christmas Bread flavored with cardamom and my mother always looked forward to it. There are other traditions of cookies and different dishes that are special for the holidays. Taking time to ask; what is a good memory for the senior???  is a perfect way to add love to the difficult time of illness over holiday time.
  • Do not forget those gifts; a pair of slippers, a new robe, a fun hat or throw to keep the senior warm…all of those are usable and kind to give as a healing joy.  Never forget that all seniors love chocolates…and chocolate dipped fruit, or small seedless mandarin oranges or sweet apples.
  • Watch things that are hard to chew because most people in pain do not have good teeth

SPECIAL THINGS FOR SPECIAL ELDERS:

  • Asking a local church if they would visit with a caroling group, or young people dropping off some soup- or holiday treats…would all be appreciated.
  • Family members that are very small could dress up and bring over a nice arrangement of greens so the house smells great and the kids can play in front of Grandma.
  • A telephone listing can be made special if someone shares their SKYPE with Grandma and she can ‘SEE’ grandchildren or great grandchildren from a far.
  • A scanner can be used in the elder’s living room and pictures placed on a thumb drive so the family has copies of old pictures. Then place the thumb drive in a slide show frame so the elder can see old pictures run through their show —each evening.
  • Teens can bring over their laptops or tablets and let grandpa see his old house on Google Earth, or view the lights on Broadway, or pic out a cam-pic from their old village in their parent’s home in Europe or Asia. Even more ideas from those that love their Internet…yeah…fun stuff.

Home bound, bed bound, does not mean…that you cannot open the world of love and memories for the senior in care…give it your creative ideas. You may just make their holiday the best they ever had…blessings, francy

Hey stay tuned for my two new care giving books…they are due out in January…

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Thank you…and Happy Holidays…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