Senior Care at Holiday Time

By Francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going home for Christmas and staying with my mother who is in her early nineties. She has care help and she wants me to stay at her place so badly. Should I book a room at hotel or flip for the couch?

I think you’ll find the time with your mother is better than ever. She has her needs met and you can review how the care giving is going. She has you at home with her and that is her blessing for the whole season. Go ahead and rent that car so you both can get out and about, but stay with her – it will pay off for years to come in your memory.

Just remember to keep calm. Life around a senior is a different world. They can tire easily, sleep at a drop of a hat…so only plan one event per day. If you want to go out for lunch, make it a late one and then do a little drive around to see the lights with her. If she wants to do some shopping; go out right after breakfast and go to a place that she can get lots of different things, like a walmart, so there is less in and out of the car. Let her buy you something and you get something for her. Giving is what the holidays are about, no worry about the faith base you each have, just enjoy the gifting. It may be your last time together…so make it joyous.

If you want to take her something make it fun. Maybe buy two pairs of pajamas that match with a holiday theme…and you can have one for yourself and one for her. Just silly things, that would make anyone laugh and feel like they are having an overnight party, instead of a difficult guest situation.

Make popcorn or have pizza..things that your mother would not make for herself. It is all part of just doing what feels fun and being friends together. Even if the pizza and spices are not on her diet, life is short…go for it. And if you need to have a glass of wine together do it. But do not go to her home and sit and drink a box of wine, that can be done in your own front room not hers.

Let her talk about her problems once. Then each time she retraces her stories, pull her away from the negative by injecting a question. “Mom, who was that lady that you used to go and take ceramics class with?” Let her think on it and get away from the little things that have consumed her life lately.

Tell her about your life, but in terms that will settle with her. I find that to tell the full story may result in seniors worrying about a small issue for ages after you leave. So, keep life real…but upbeat. Bring pictures, let her see your friends, children, grandchildren, your home, your business or office, your new car, your new backyard update or your last vacation.  Bring your laptop and keep in contact with your family back home and show her a Google Earth of her house and your house. She will be thrilled.

Little things, if you can not think of a gift how about a monthly one. Maybe cover her TV costs. Seniors only have their TV, how about you ordering DishTv or paying for more movies on her cable? Maybe get her a new TV set that is easier for her to use and see.

Bring a label machine. If you would spend an afternoon just labeling things in large print it will make for so much less stress when she is looking for something. She opens the cupboard and there are your signs, rice, sugar, or first aid, or light bulbs. Hey, change her light bulbs, make them all “Green” and show her how that will save her money every month.

Go green add a water reducer to her shower and make sure her shower chair or bench is working for her. Get her into using body wash and scrubies instead of bar soap and wash clothes. Flip for a maid, have them do a great 1-2-3 on the house if it is looking a little sad. Get some new couch pillows to brighten up the room, or a new lap throw to give her a change.

Call some old family friends and you begin the conversation and wish them well on the holiday and then pass the phone to your mother to say a simple hello. So she can reach out and enjoy old friends and voices from her past.

Make sure she is getting the news from upbeat places. Some stations on the radio and TV are very limited in their views and can be depressing. Find a radio station and mark it on the dial for her and explain about a neutral TV station for news so she keep up but doesn’t get down on news.

When you leave, leave you behind. Let her feel you were there with your kind words and loving laugh, your friendly manner and your forgiving behavior. Old wounds, old words, old arguments…let them go. Ignore them if they come up…life needs to have frequent updates and reboots, just like your computer. Make your update time with your mother, something to smile about.

Perfection, over planning, over doing, over spending – all of that is yesterday. Today its just you and your mum…having a laugh together. You both need it.

Hope you find this helpful and please visit my website and get more tips on caring for seniors.

Happy Holidays from francy Dickinson