You Have Been Diagnosed Now What? Dementia Notes

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How to handle the time when you first get a diagnosis of dementia or another life changing situation..by francy Dickinson

senior walkingDear Francy: My dad just got a diagnosis of dementia and my mom has just found out she has cancer. I know they are both depressed and upset…what should I do now?

First its the shock. No matter what your age or how long you have felt out of sorts…when a doctor looks at you and tells you, your body is not functioning — it is a big change to your life. There will be depression, sadness and worry…there is no getting over that…but how you deal with it all, is the key.

Mental processes have to follow through with it all and talking it out to a few friends, family or a faith adviser is really the best start. Then its time to roll up your sleeves and find out what all this means.

Here is your list:

  1. Actively talk about the diagnosis and let the senior feel the pain, worry and fear. They have to accept and process through it. After that time has passed and they can get out their feelings progress onward. Its always OK to be sad, its just as important to try to end the conversation with an up tone.
  2. To heal, or to live on with tough medical news the mind needs to know what that diagnosis means. No matter if the age is 6 or 86 the person needs to understand the name of the diagnosis and be able to visualize what it is. So, you need to go online and read about it…find out the main points and bring those points down to understandable language. The idea that you can “save” a person from the stress of knowing a serious life condition is long gone…now we face truth and work through it.
  3. Talk about the options that are now on the table. If the doctor has not done this…you can make another appointment for a consultation or go to the net and find the answers yourself. To know the different procedures, medications, surgeries, or other options is something that makes the problem into a “situation to solve” instead of a “dread to face”.
  4. Get a second diagnosis from a professional in the line of specialty- for the problem. A family doctor can tell you there are dementia problems…but a neurologist will tell you more specific details and explain the process of treatment. The family doctor can say you have cancer but a specialist in that type of cancer can give you ideas for treatment and prognosis. This way…you have a firm understanding of what is really wrong. When this is done the mind will be calmer…knowing is very important.
  5. Record doctor appointments on your cell or with a little recorder. Many times we are tired or nervous and we forget what the doctor has said. Tell the doctor you want to share the information with your family and get it down on tape. This way you do not forget or over emotionalize the consultations. Some times the mind will zero in on one word and the rest of the conversation is lost. This recording keeps you clear of mind.
  6. Always ask what this new condition will do to the other things that the senior already is dealing with in their life. If they have a heart problem and now dementia…does that mean medication changes, treatment changes etc. If they are a smoker, drinker, or even on heavy medications, does that mean a different type of treatment for the problems? If they now have cancer does that mean that their special “diabetes diet and drugs” can continue or is there a conflict with the chemical interactions? The specialist will know these things…and you will find support groups online that will share their journey with you so you can make changes. When you understand all these details…your own mind will be calmer.
  7. Understand that the body has to fight the invaders of what ever diagnosis that has been given. So a sincere re-think of diet and supplements has to be made right away. Keep in mind you have to boost the body’s ability to fight the new problem. So new supplements and new ways of eating and exercising will simply boost the ability to fight the invading problems. This step is not in place of medication…it is in addition to medication that will help the body absorb and heal faster. As everyone ages…we all need a boost of help with quicker healing. To ignore this step is many times to hasten the end of life issues.
  8. Talk and talk again. There are lots of things to talk about. There are business things…home, care, money, investments, insurance, and care giving. It will all be needed in the future. So talking about it right now…gets it out in the open and you can seek help from local services of needed. Do not delay in this important part. A person who is extremely ill or under mental/emotional stress does not make choices well. So do it now.
  9. Talking about end of life issues is always hard to do. To make sure a Health Care Directive is agreed on and understood by the family – will mean you can set that hard part aside and deal with the healing and everyday issues. Find out if the person, wants to extend their life, relax and let things take their course, be tube feed, resuscitated, or in the end – cremated. Once again…this is what you do as soon as you can so the ideas are set, papers signed and then it is put aside and you don’t dwell on it.
  10. Is there something an older person wanted to do before they are really unwell? A bucket list type of thing? Maybe they always wanted to visit a family member or see a special place, or return to their home town. Ask the elder what they had hoped to do and make sure you can try to make arrangements for this to happen or something like it. A brother can come to your town…instead of a big trip to his town…or a place can be seen via the web cams instead of a big car trip. But allowing the senior to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of their life, is very important.
  11. Make sure the family knows about the medical conditions. If a child has not spoken to the parent in years…this is the time to write them a letter to let them know the situation. This way they can make a decision to come and visit and let the hurt and years of upset – lay to rest before the senior is no longer with them. You may not care for the family member…but the senior loves each child and each family member and its not for us to judge.
  12. Take pictures of the senior and make video or audios of the senior and their childhood stories and family knowledge. It helps the senior sort through their life choices and leaves you with a remembrance that is very dear. This is a ritual that will really help the senior in their life journey.
  13. Put together what you will know as the dream team of health care. A good specialty doctor that you can talk to, a nurse practitioner that will help with the everyday things, your senior and you and any other person that will give care. Then make a pact that you will all work together to keep the energy and emotional levels up and support each other through the journey.
  14. If end of life issues are being spoken about…call Hospice…do not wait. Too many families wait and do not get all the benefits that Hospice gives. They will come to you and make an evaluation…if they feel it is not time for them…they will put you on hold and check in with you every month. If it is time, they will assist you in ways that really allow you to be with your family member, not only be the 24 hour care giver.
  15. Hurtful family history should be put aside. Thinking about how to make the senior as strong as possible in their mind, heart, and body is the key. Remove guilt and anger. Try very hard to just be in a settled and joy filled mind set each time you visit the senior. Things that happened years ago…are now gone…today has time for joy.
  16. Medic-alert systems are a must if the senior is starting on a downward journey and living alone. These systems will allow you and the senior to be assured that someone will come to their aid in an emergency.
  17. Since both of your parents may need health care…here is advice on how to deal with partners in care together. Click Here for information if your parents can not care for each other.

I hope this list will be of help…I know that all the things on it have happened to me over and over again…and when you tick them off the list…your mind and heart feel free. I thank you for caring for your senior and I wish you well on the journey…francy

10 Tips for Great Doctor Appointments 4 Your Senior

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Info on how to prepare for doctor appointments for you or your senior. by francy Dickinson

George on his weekly out and about.

George on his weekly out and about.

Dear Francy: Mother was complaining for two weeks on how she was having bowel problems and a soreness in her rib cage…I made the doctor appointment. We go…then she says nothing! He asks her how she is and she says; “FINE”  I am so frustrated and mad that I wasted a day off work for an empty doctor appointment. HELP!

Hello!  Are you sure you are not living my life? I have been there and done that so many times that I sat down and went over all the steps that would give me quality time with busy doctors. We all can get scattered and forget, or not really ‘think’ about our body and what to ask the doctor. So here is a listing to help you never again feel cheated at a doctor’s office.

George is going to his memory clinic on Friday. We have had three appointments that have had to be cancelled, due to all sorts of things, so this time…we need to really go and hit the nail on the head. I am taking time to do all of these steps this week with George. I know this will help you. It has made my time at doctor’s offices go smooth and easy.I have even had doctors “thank me” for being so informative.

10 TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE THAT DOCTOR APPOINTMENT INFORMATIVE:

  1. Quiet yourself and think about you/or your senior’s body. What has changed since the last time you were at the doctor’s office? Even if the doctor you are seeing is a foot specialist…write down your whole body changes. Doctors diagnose with detailed information. They are best when they know the most. Give them a list: slightly dizzy when I get up to go to the bathroom at night – gained 10 pounds and feel like candy is my best friend – allergy headaches that really bother me – my mouth is dry all the time, lately – my nails are breaking a lot – my hair is getting thinner. Go ahead. Sit and think about this, talk it over with your senior or spouse and write it down. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to share the information…this list could save a life.
  2. Write a letter to the doctor about your care giving elder. Just let the doctor know. I have written my letter for my husband’s friday memory clinic appointment. I have taken time to be quiet with myself and just write down his changes with his Alzheimer’s. I have had to insist on him getting out of bed, he only feels safe there. I have forced him to walk 10 min. in the hall – twice a day. His shuffling is so bad that I am very worried over him not walking at all and I would lose the ability to care for him. I even did a short video to show him on our tablet. I am not sleeping (see I talk about me too) I find my temper is getting short over the silly things he does. Now you go ahead do your letter and let it all flow out. Let the doctor know the things your senior has told you during the last couple of months. Write it down and give it to the check-in desk and ask the doctor to read it before he comes into the appointment. The doctor will be so grateful.
  3. Keep a list of things you hear on the radio, from friends or read online about the special medical problems you or your senior may have at this time. Maybe you heard a tip on supplements to help diabetes, or a special test on a new drug, or a place to go and join an experimental test. Write it down, so you can remember to ask the opinion of your own doctor before you proceed. Use his opinion to help you make your “own informed decision”  about treatment.
  4. Walk in the doctor’s office with an updated list of your medications. Keep this list on the computer or ask the doctor to print if off for you. You need to know each name of the medication, the amount, the time to take it, if it is taken with or without food, and what the medication is doing in your body. If you don’t know those things take a trip to the pharmacy and talk to them. You need to take pills that make sense to you and understand the reason you take them. That way you will be taking them on time, in a a daily manner. Many medications simply stop working if you take them 2 -5 times a week. So you may “pay” for a medication and then not take them properly or not understand that one medication may assist another. This is serious stuff. If you do not take your medications…then open your mouth and tell your doctor. He is assuming that you are taking it. So each time you walk in the door, he is trying to diagnosis you and if you do not have his prescriptions in your body chemistry…he is unknowingly making a mistake.
    This is important. KNOW YOUR MEDICATIONS AND TAKE THEM PROPERLY. If you forget to take them…find a way to remind yourself. There are cell phone apps that will do just that, or ask your care giver or family to call you…but take your medications!
  5. Be informed. I often go to the doctor with my sister because she tends to blank out when she is faced with the doctor’s answers to her questions or diagnosis.  I go and take notes. But now, we all have cell phones with recording buttons. When the doctor is starting to tell you what is wrong with you or how to treat it…have your record button ready…let the doctor know you are taping and push the button. Then you can play the information back for yourself or your family to review.
  6. Dress for success. OK you are going to the doctor, wear something that is easy to remove and put back on. Wear shoes that are not the heaviest you own because you will be weighted-in. Take off your coat before you get weighed and take note of your weight at the doctor’s office so you can go home and adjust your own scale. Also write down your blood pressure, if it is high you can then take it a few times at home to make sure that it does not stay in a high range. Blood pressure is best taken at lunch time…relaxed and repeated so the doctor can see the time frame of the numbers. Same with weight…weigh in the morning, twice a week and write it down in a notebook. When you go to the doctor you can show him your progress up or down over a time period so he can look for glues.
  7. Seasonal issues. Keep a green marker for your calendar journal to mark seasonal problems. Maybe you gain weight around the holidays…write it down. Maybe you have spring or fall allergies, write it down. So the next year…you can look at it and know that it is repeated and needs to be talked about with your doctor. Allergy medications have changed a lot in the last few years. Ask for help, runny noses may not be life threats, but they do keep you from going on walks for your health. Medications change and update…always ‘ask’ the doctor about new medications and if you can drop some that you are taking. All medications are changed just one at a time…so the doctor and you actually know what the reactions are for that one drug. Then you can make another change…so be patient. Maybe your weight has gone down and your diabetes pills or water pills are no longer needed. Do not marry your medications…think of them as fluid and up-datable. There is always a doctor that will give out medications just to keep you quiet…so make sure you “ask” why you are getting a medication and then do a little homework online to make sure it is something that you need and you are prepared for the side effects if they show.
  8. Can you relate to your doctor? If you are going to a doctor that does not talk to you, or you do not understand. Tell him, or change doctors. Your own, or your senior’s health is what life is about. You need to understand..that exercise is needed to help your knee or maybe you need to stay off of it…or cold not hot must be used. If you do not understand then you are not healing and it could effect the way you walk for the rest of your life. Its a big deal! Do not be afraid to make a change of a doctor, or to speak up!
  9. Use a calendar on the wall to remind you of all medical appointments. I like to cluster them. I have George do his appointments in the spring and the fall. So, in one month we see all his specialist doctors. Then the rest of the time…we only go to the doctor if he is unwell and needs extra help. This way I am not trying to take him around to appointments every month…or twice a week. My mother got too weak for doctor appointments…so I found a local doctor that would come and visit her at home. Working with a nurse practitioner is also a wonderful way to check-in quick with questions and not have to wait for appointments with a busy doctor.
    REMEMBER: ER visits are to be avoided. You can catch germs, get overly tired and they are expensive.  Make appointments and keep them. That way the flow of your life will be calmer.
  10. If you have come to a point in your life, or your senior’s life — that fighting a physical or extreme dementia condition- is simply too overwhelming. Then you need to tell your doctor that too. The doctor will discuss palliative care. That is where you are treated to keep you pain free and comfortable. You will be assigned a Hospice Care Team that will come to you and allow you to relax and adjust to the end of life journey. There is no reason to drag elders around to doctor appointments if they have issues that are beyond a medical cure. No matter what your income..Hospice is there for you. You or your senior deserves to have a wonderful team of caring nurses and helpers come to you…to keep your needs met and the pain or worry level down. It is always hard to make that decision, but once made the Hospice team really knows how to take over and keep the elder in-care…comforted and given good palliative care.
    NOTE: Medicare and insurance bill either your regular doctor or Hospice. So you do have to make an appointment and have a good truthful decision with your doctor for this change of care situation. You need to also remember to ask for a disability sticker for your car and understand the doctor needs to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ agreement. I always try to remind you to get a Health Care Directive Form, signed and agreed on right away while the senior understands the issues.

I hope this will all be of help to you. Since I have kept my medication listing and added in the allergies that George has and his needs if he is put into the hospital on that same page….the doctor visits have been great. I express myself before the appointment and then the information is turned into the nurse at the check-in desk to attach to the file. The doctor then walks in the door, knowing what is going on and directs his attention and knowledge to help me and George make changes for the good in our daily lives. Some times there is no change, some times there is a medication change — other times there is just advice in how to make changes in our daily life to keep George as strong as he can be. Maybe we go to the Physical Therapist to help him get strong, maybe we have a respite to give me a break. All of the information that I share with the doctor, helps him make sound decisions that are based on our reality of life. I once told the doctor that a medication he prescribed was to hard for me to give four times a day. George has no memory and I can do morning and evening meds…but to add a few more during the day…means I have to remember things for me and for him. It was too much. The doctor said that was fine, he would change the medication to one that had a time release. You see how being honest helps everyone?

REVIEW:
*  Take time to review the body functions of yourself or your senior
*  Write down the information or changes
*  Be prepared with a list of medications that is complied from all the different doctors that prescribe to you
*  Be honest with yourself and the doctor

Thank you again for giving your time and love to your senior. Its a lonely world out there for care-givers. I appreciate you taking your time to share with me. I am here for you. Send me your questions and I will do my best to help. OH, I would really appreciate you signing up for this blog post…it will email it to you. I am doing less blogging because George’s Alzheimer’s is getting in advance stages and he needs more care. So the ups and down of my writing is easier for you if you just recieve the update in your email. Please add your email to the side bar and you will hear from me each time I write a posting….Thank you…and Blessings, francy

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

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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.

Dementia – Alzheimer’s Spouses Care Tips

Featured

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

Alzheimer's spouse keeping calm

George enjoying the dogs n keeping calm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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