What Do You Do When Your Mom Stops Loving You?

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How to handle the anger and pain of emotional discourse between parents and caregivers. by francy Dickinson

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Francy w her mom, Toots and dear little Mac

Dear Francy; This is a review of many folks that write to me…that have had very painful experiences with their parents. It could be their mom or dad…or grandmother. Someone that raised the caregiver and had a solid relationship and then it was broken. The pain is not a small issue…it is felt long and deep.

I suppose it starts with me. My mother and I were very close. I was the ‘late in life’ baby that arrived after mother had raised three other daughters. She was older and going into mid-life issues and I really gave her a run for her money. But over the years, I was her escort, I took her to doctor visits, cared for her and her home…included her in vacations with my husband and really felt I was her friend. When she started having small strokes and could no longer live alone, she moved in with us and lived on the lower floor of our home. Her care was long and hard for me. She was with us for five years…and it was in the last few months of her life she began to talk through her personal history…and the more she talked…day by day…the more she decided I had been the pivot point of her life. She told me she could have gone back to work and made a better life for herself if I had not been born. One day, she spent the whole day telling me how she just never really liked me and it was so hard for her to be in my house. I understood that a woman of almost 100 years was working through things. But when your own parent tells you…they really just never cared for you, as a person…it hurts. I am a fully grown woman and I understand the pain of someone facing death with health issues. I understand the dementia that slowly changes the way an older person sees the world….but it still hurt. I also know that mother loved me…she was a caring person. But loving and liking a person are two different things. I am still working with those words she spoke. In little ways I think…that I did all I could to make her life rich and happy in the end. But I know that inside of me, I was just not the right type of person for her. I was outgoing…she was shy. I was independent and she was a person that needed her family around her. I was not afraid of life…she was cautious. But we never had an argument, or bad words, we would laugh and enjoy our friendship all through my adult life. So, those words…those feelings…they are still with me. Mother died at 100 years after living with us for her last five. She has now been gone since 2006 and yet…I am still mulling over her words.

What do you do…when someone that has been a life-long parent or parent figure decides that you are not the person they need or want in their life? Well its very hard. So I am going to use three examples of family caregivers that have sent me emails about their situations that brought them to a place of feeling deep sadness.

Mary was in her late forties with a great job. She had been divorced for three years and her son had just graduated from college when her father died. She had always been close to her parents and so she really stepped up and traveled to her mother’s side. Those trips to help her mother increased and within a year…Mary sold her small home, left her job, friends and son and moved two states away to be close to her mother. Mary found a small apartment, she got a lesser job and she began the three-year care giving of her mother. Her mother was suffering with kidney problems and they became very serious. Mary tried to keep her mom busy with things that brought her joy. They would shop, go to activities, do a bit of travel and gardening together. Mary would constantly think of how to help her mom over the pain of her health issues. Mary quit her job and moved in with her mother in the last year of her life. Mary was her mother’s sole caregiver. She tried to make each day include something happy to talk about and give her mom food she enjoyed and was constantly arranging friends and family to come and visit. As an only child, Mary was really shocked that on the death of her mother…everything that her mother owned, family pieces, property, money and personal items…were all left to the Humane Society. (Who promptly arrived on the door step two days after the funeral to ask Mary to be out of the house within 48 hours.) Mary has moved back to be by her friends and son, who is now married. She started her own business and is busy, busy, busy. But, she still harbors the pain of her mother rejecting her after her death. Never telling her that she was not going to receive things that belonged to her dad and her family history items. She has no idea why her mother made those decisions…but the pain of them haunt Mary. Mary and I have talked about it many times…she has gone on with her life, she is happy and comfortable…but she is wounded.

Roger lost his mother when he was 10 and his dad did his best raising he and his brother. His dad was a professional man and spent very little time around the boys…but hired care givers. As Roger went through life, graduating from college, marriage and success with wonderful children of his own and a great business career…his dad often told him how proud of him he was so Roger always felt loved. It was when his dad had aged and lived alone a long time.. that things started to crack. His dad told Roger that his brother had been helping him more than Roger and he was disappointed in him. He would call and tell him that the brother was there when he fell or went into the hospital. Roger was really upset. He called his dad every other day. He lived about an hour’s drive away and would come if his dad needed him. But his dad never told Roger of his health issues or of any need…even when Roger asked and came over to check on him. Suddenly…it was like his dad was using Roger and his brother as bouncing balls. His brother always coming out ahead. This tension went on for five years…constant worry over his dad and his dad’s care…upsets between he and his brother…upset with what his dad wanted and needed. Then when his dad had his final heart attack and Roger raced to the hospital…his dad had put his name down as “blocked from visits”. When his dad died…he was even asked not to come to the memorial. Roger, a man with a family, grand children, money and friendly disposition…is suddenly out of favor. His own father rejecting him from his life and death. Roger has talked to me about this for many years…those actions of his dad…have caused Roger so much heart ache and feelings of failure.

Anne was the 8th child and the beloved baby of her family. They were all close and caring people and often gathered together in their parents large home for holidays. Family gatherings were filled with jokes, laughs and love. Stories of the family history, grandchildren running around and simple joy of being together. So when her mother died…it was not only hard to be without her…but the family gatherings stopped. No one really stepped up to take them over…the family slipped apart. Soon her dad was alone in a large house and none of the other siblings, but Anne, were coming to visit or give him care. No matter how often Anne would talk to the family members…they were busy and had their own lives. So she and her dad just forged ahead. At first Anne tried to keep the house and garden up like her mother did. But Anne had her own family and she simply could not do two homes. As the house became overwhelming…her dad started to get quiet and sad. Finally, his health was not good enough for him to be alone…so Anne and her husband had him come and live with them. Her dad sold his house and remodeled a garage at Anne’s place so he could have a place of his own, but be close. Then Anne began the high pressure care giving of someone with health issues and the running back and forth to deliver food and care from her house to the back garden cottage. Anne had three boys who had spent their life adoring their grandfather but now he wanted quiet and was always complaining about them. Her husband would go over and watch TV with her dad and then the complaining began that he did not have privacy. A lifetime of a quiet, loving dad had started to turn into a man who was mad and his own anger was directed at Anne. The rest of his kids rarely came to visit…no matter how much Anne tried to get them to come…so the dad felt it was Anne keeping them away. The situation was not just hard, but hurtful and three days before her dad passed…he had called a retirement center and told him he was being abused and needed to move in with them. Anne was too busy to think about the sadness when her dad passed…but now that her own kids are grown and out of the house she has more time. Anne cut ties to her siblings…she just could not deal with the thoughts that people she loved were not there for her when she needed them. She has worked through the anger over what her dad had done…at the end of his life…but the reporting abuse has left her feeling such pain. She still does not understand why her dad would say things so hurtful about her.

So, that is the review of issues between parents and their children…who have grown into adults and gave their love back to their parents. What to do? How to heal? I have talked this over with so many family members that I know that just saying it meant nothing…the hurtful words, actions or times…are just forgotten. But the hurt does not go away. You can tell yourself that an older person has fear of dying issues…but hurtful words and deeds take their toll.

What most of us have decided is that talking about our pain helps…even if we have to repeat the story a few times with a few different people…it helps hearing it in your mind and through your ears. Making a personal pledge that we will not do anything like this to our own family caregivers when the time has come is also helpful. But the most we can do…is to simply put the experience down as a sad life story…and try to move on through our lives.

Care giving is a gift…and just like any other gift…it can be accepted with grace and a thank you…or it can be taken and put aside and not appreciated. When you take a step back you see the bigger picture..but you can not step back far enough not to wonder why…the one person you loved and tried to help…took advantage of you. Just know you are not alone…and your own moral compass gave you the ability to help and love your family member at a time in their life when they needed to have someone to help them. That knowledge means you tried your best…and nothing more needs to be said. Even thou your mind and heart will never forget the slight from someone so loved by you.

I want to once again, thank you for all you have done and or are doing for your senior in care. They need you, even if the journey is not pleasant…they need your love. Blessings, 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

Dementia – Alzheimer’s Spouses Care Tips

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

Alzheimer's spouse keeping calm

George enjoying the dogs n keeping calm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alzheimer’s and Afraid

Alzheimer’s and afraid to leave the house or safety of a room:

Fears overcome seniors with dementiaDear Francy; My mother is terrified of leaving the living room…she no longer wants to go to the bathroom or to her bedroom. She feels safe in the living room and she clings onto the chair and I have to pull her out of the room to the bathroom. What can I do to release this fear?

First rule; do not connect with the fear yourself. In other words, do not show worry on your face over her fear..treat your mother with smiles and talk to her in a normal tone of voice. Get her to follow you on a daily tour of the house, maybe have her hold a dust wand or rag while you are touring so she feels the movement of cleaning the home. For instance; “Mother would you come and help me with the laundry for a few minutes?” This everyday routine is soothing and your voice shows no change of character…on a good day she will follow you because she is doing something “for you”. That is how our family responds to us the best…they do things “for us”. Lunch time, you ask her to come make a sandwich for you. If you set up a commode to use; place it at the far end of the living room so she has to walk over to it and be close to leaving the room and then slowly move the commode every few days closer to the bathroom. Taking it easy and slow and using your mild calming voice is the ticket.

Ideas:

  • Always remember to review the small and large problems with her doctor so he can adjust her medications to help her through her fears.
  • Therapy for dementia and Alzheimer’s is not considered helpful when they go into the moderate and above stages.
  • Calming, reassuring and cheerful demeanor is the best treatment to receive positive responses.
  • Third party care can release the tension and often kick-start the brain into a different focus. Ask a family friend to visit, get an in-home care person for a couple of hours a few times a week, etc. Change is fearful for the Senior but it also might spark different feelings that can change the atmosphere of the home.
  • Use music to change moods. Morning music is upbeat and happy, afternoon is slow and calming, evening is fun music with voice, and nite time music is slow and calming.
  • If TV is on all the time; monitor it like you would a young child. The TV voices and noises make a difference in the senior’s mood. Find stations that are of interest and then turn it off for a few hours in afternoon to encourage a rest or nap without noise.
  • Ask the doctor about sweets; I find afternoon sweets with tea help the brain to re-energize. I give George cookies with tea at 4PM every day…then make sure his dinner is on time around 6-6:30PM with meds

Dear Francy; My Aunt is not sleeping in her bed, she is sleeping on the couch and it is not a comfortable couch to sleep on. How can I get her to move to the bedroom again?

IDEAS:

  • Make sure the bedroom holds comforting things in it and not memories of things that might upset her. Pictures of spouse or relatives that have passed can be overburdening. Move the pictures from the wall and put them somewhere else in the house. Make the room comforting. Update the room in small ways and refresh bedding.
  • Take your Aunt into the room while you are there and have a talk on her bed. Allowing her to reset her mind that the room is warm and friendly. Looking through her drawers and have her help you sort them out. Get her re-involved with the room in a positive manner each time you visit. Even having her take a nap, on her bed, while you clean the house or do her chores.
  • Put in a night light in the room and in the hallway to the bathroom for ease of night vision
  • Make sure there is a phone, emergency button or a cell phone available by her bedside table
  • Change the living room furniture so the couch is not as comforting as it has been in the past. Place a TV chair in the prime space of TV viewing. Make sure the chair is comforting and has a table that is easy for her to use for her snacks and other personal behaviors.
  • Call her mid-day and make sure she is not napping all day. In order to have good rest, she needs to have exercise and movement during the day hours
  • If she is using the TV to keep her mind busy…put a small TV in her room with an under pillow speaker
  • If she is responding to time alone, get her a senior rescue anipal. Like a cat, that will fill her day with movement and love. Older animals are easy to adapt to seniors and they mind the senior’s problems like unsteady and forgetful. Cats can stay indoors, use a potty box and eat and drink from a larger bowl that does not have to be replaced during the day. Place a fluffy cat blanket on her bed so she can welcome the cat in the room with her and not feel lonely in bed.

I hope this helps with the everyday issues that all families face with their dementia senior’s care. Thank you, for your gift of care, these are hard issues to face on a daily basis. Keep talking and asking for help…your care has so much value. It is totally understanding that frustration and self doubt will consistently arise while caring for anyone with dementia. Keep strong; your love and kindness do make a difference in this person’s daily routine.  

NO MORE HOLIDAY DÉCOR?

Seniors Need Holiday Decor

Keep Senior Happy at Holidays

Seniors Stay Healthy with Holiday Celebrations By francy Dickinson

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

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

NO MORE DÉCOR? NO WAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings on all you do for your mom, francy

   Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the new newsletter issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. It’s a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  a lot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy

Living Long, Easy – Living Well, Takes Work

Dear Francy; My parents are in their early nineties and still live in their family home. The house is small and easy for them to keep up with hired help for fix-ups and me for assistance. But, they are now doing less and less…their days are spent watching TV and sleeping. I know that they will face their end times but I want them to stay in their home as long as possible. What can I do to keep them safe and yet home, at such an advanced age?

Uncle Bill & Mom 100+ Yrs of Living

It’s all about quality of their days now…so keeping them moving and thinking — it’s the key

  1.  Do they move around during the day? Keeping their legs working and their balance in place is really a hot point.Make sure they move around to go to the bathroom…make them walk around the house or up and down the hall twice each time they go to the bathroom. Their commode goes over the toilet during the day to help them up and down on the toilet seat. Then at night move the commode into their bedroom for ease of use when they are trying not to fall at night. NO Should I ?….this is a must and do not let the senior make decisions that effect their balance and possible fall at nite!
  2. 

  3. Do they eat on trays by the TV all day long? That will keep them from knowing what they are eating and allow them to snack without thought. Have them eat at the kitchen or dining room table not in front of the TV on trays. This is really important to keep their food intake under control. Intake of food in advanced age is very hard. The palate does not taste food and the stomach is not hungry for food. So making food spiced well and served attractively is important. They will concentrate on their eating, chewing and swallowing safely. They will eat a full meal, not piece. They will be able to see each other and be forced to talk to each other to encourage their interaction. If there is a care giver there, ask them to sit and visit with them while they eat. To be there in case of swallowing problems.
  4. Do they remember what day it is and talk about things happening in the present? Their minds have to keep working not go on vacation. Keep a wall calendar and put all their appointments on it and add in family events. Grand children’s birthdays that need cards sent or calls to be made – holidays coming up in large print – reminders of voting days and library return days. Keep them in the present as much as you can so they do not simply stop thinking. Order books from the library, they have special “homebound” programs that will send out a few books for them to read and return in a pouch via the mail. FREE… Talk about TV programs that are coming up that have interest for them. PBS has history series that are so well done, they have Masterpiece Mystery and Theater and art programs. These are quality shows that can be easily understood and enjoyed.
  5. Are the newspapers piling up around the house and look like they are not being read? You need to keep them thinking and reading. Change the paper to just the weekends. It means less paper to throw away and still is a weekly review of local events. Add a Newsweek or Time subscription so they get the news in detail. If they have trouble listening to news each night, this will do a full in-depth report of major events so they keep up on life around them. Remember those magazines need to be dropped off at the library. Most libraries have a magazine exchange for those that can not afford them. It’s a kind way to stay gifting all through the Sr’s life.
  6. Is their surroundings looking dull and like grandma’s house? Everyone enjoys a clean and pretty home especially when they spend all their time in their home. Make a few changes…Add some new throw pillows for color, change the grand children photos and update their selection. Get the family photos on an electronic photo frame that will be changing throughout the day. Ask the family to help you do a weekend of painting and get the kitchen, and living area updated with new paint, clean windows and curtains. It will lift spirits and have to be done when they choose to leave the home and the house goes up for sale. So best done so they can enjoy it.
  7. Do they still have friends alive that they can connect with once a month? This is really hard- as you age- you lose your friend base.
    If friends are few and far between now, have them go to a local senior center at least once a month for a card day, or craft day or an exercise class. Let them met some new folks to get their minds going on interaction again. A senior DayCare is around $14 a hour and you can find them in care facilities. Keeping their social skills alive means they will interact with their care givers and family much better, too!
  8. Do they have something to take care of or do you do everything for them? Everyone needs to have chores and responsibilities.
    Add a pet to the house. Your local shelter will find an older dog or cat that are small and easier to care. This is an addition that will give them a worry. They will even complain at first…”Oh,NO we don’t want to worry about a pet” Well too bad; older pets need good homes and love..and so do they. This new pet will add a feeling of movement to the home, noise and something to worry over and do for all day long. It will give them a reason to get up and put them out to potty or feed them. It will allow them to pet and stroke the animal and get that tactual interaction that all people need to keep healthy. It could be a bird, it could be fish…but pets are important to older folks and not to be ignored as something to hard to handle.
  9. Do they keep clean? Is the home smelling clean?  Many older people simply do less cleaning of their home and their own person. So schedule a bath lady once a week so they have a good supervised bath. Then make sure that the house gets aired out and have a good air cleaner. You can find ozone air filters that will push the air through the house and clean it out for you. Keeping clean is a foundation for a happier disposition. You will find almost all people who are depressed dress poorly and have less personal hygiene. So if you see this in your seniors disposition, take note and remember that depression can hit elders hard and it can be addressed and treated by their family doctor.
  10. Are they missing out by not hearing or seeing well? Do not think that someone older does not need to hear or see well.
    The idea that older people do not need to hear or see well is nuts. If you are in your eighties and will live another 4-25 years you need to keep your ears and eyes working. So get them help. Ck ears for wax, get at least one hearing aid. Add TVEars (a great headset) that gives them personal hearing for the TV. This also allows the TV audio to be turned down so you do not hear the TV in every room. Check their eyes, get glasses and updated frames or add magnify sheets so they can see to read and to understand their medications and the TV schedule. Get them to remove their cataracts that will open the world to their eyes again. Keep them thinking that time is moving forward but they deserve to move with it, not get stuck.
  11. What if you live to 120? My mother never thought she would live to 100 years. She was shocked as the years moved forward and she kept living on after many physical challenges. So she would say; if I knew I would live this long I would have done more when I was eighty. You see no one thinks about this…they just think they will drop over any time after 80+ so they wait for it to happen. Doctors have answers to many problems that caused early death – now, even something simple like colds can be handled so they don’t turn into pneumonia. Heart attacks can be medicated and life extended. So stop the thinking that your elders will drop over any time now. Start thinking…” If I am going to live another five to ten years what do I need to do?” It does make a difference. Movement will be more important, eating will become something to be involved with and dressing and interactions with others will be fun again. Life can be very long and a quality life is a treasure. Keep thinking ahead as you care for elders. Mother would often say; “All these pills can’t I stop taking some?” I would then go over her pills and ask which one do you want to stop. The pill to help you not get a stroke?- the pills to make your stomach feel better, the pill to help you go to the bathroom eaiser…on and on. She then would say..well I suppose I better just keep taking them. She was right, medications, exercise, food, personal care, friendship, family and social interaction make life worth living. So keep it up, keep them moving and grooving, no excuses…before you know it will be five years down the road and they will still be in their home and happy!

I thank you for all you are doing..francy   Francy with Missy  Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com  

  PS: 

 DONATE: I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know that are caring for seniors — francy 
 
 Join my Newsletter Listing: I just got the November issue finished…I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You’ll also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. It’s a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. When you click and go to my home page it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are  a lot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy