Worried About Grandma Back Home?

Help for seniors that are left alone in cities without family to care for them. Ideas and tips by francy Dickinson

Keep Seniors safe at home

Living Safe and Living Long

Dear Francy; My Grandmother and Aunt live in my old home town- two states away from me. I have a family of my own and very little time or money to spend on their care. They do not live together but they talk each day. I am getting very worried about their welfare. Their homes need help, their gardens need help and they need help. Both are in their early 80’s and are able to be on their own, but they need an extra eye to look over them. Ideas?

YES! This is a subject that I am asked so often. It’s so hard on family these days with all the travel we do, the jobs and families that we have established away from our old home towns. I understand the worry, I understand your fears and I have a few ideas to help.

  1. Try to plan a trip back home once a year or every other year. Do not go home at holiday time…do it in the spring or fall, when life is not so busy. That will allow you to really spend a few days with your older relatives and get a feeling for their health and ability for self-care.
  2. If you can not go than ask a relative or old friend from your home town to do a security check. You can reconnect with a highschool chum that would stop in once a month and you send her a thank you note with a Starbucks card inside. Be creative; older folks tend to say; “I’m just fine” when they are not just fine.
  3. Get the legal stuff out-of-the-way right from the get go. You need a power of attorney for health issues and they can have each of their names on the POA as back up. That way if they’re in trouble you can call long distance to the hospital and get information. The world and laws have changed, privacy means, NO information will be given out without permission of the patient. If the patient is unable to give permission…you are stuck.
  4. Make sure even if you are far away you can call and talk without worry. Add a MagicJack to your computer. That will give you unlimited long distance through the Internet for $25 a year. That way there is no worry about multi calls each day or long calls to them or others in the town to make appointments.
  5. Add them both to your family cell phone plan. They will not use many minutes and its a safe way for them to call 911. If you are all on the same cell phone company then your calls to each other are usually free. So they can talk to each other and to you and no minutes show on your billing. Call your service and ask them what a good plan would be for all of you, then make the change. Keep updating your cell services, some companies have special senior plans and it really helps to have that phone in their pocket ( or in their bra- LOL) all day long so they are secure in case of a fall.
  6. Think like you would if you were close. Call their doctor and make appointments, they do not care where you live. You make the appointments and keep up with the information as it comes up. If you have lived well into your 80’s and you have low health issues, then keeping life simple and having check ups is the way to keep your seniors living on their own for an extended time. Every year they need to see eye, skin, family doctor, and any specialist that they need for their extra care. Don’t forget teeth, they will start to eat less if they have teeth that are missing or hurt. 
  7. If they begin to have health issues; ask them if they would consider living together. They could both sell their homes and put the money in a fund. Then move in together in a retirement situation that would provide care as they age. They would have a community around them and be more involved in their lives – instead of alone.
  8. If they want to be where they are for as long as they can….start to set up a group of people who will help them. Get a listing of repair people from the community colleges and tech schools that are inexpensive and help seniors. Get yard people from garden clubs or faith organizations that do a yearly clean up for free.
  9. Add on a care service or hire an occasional cleaning person. Even once a month, or every other month. Add a bath person once a week this is really a good way to check their health. The bath person is trained to see if they are losing weight, have bruises from falls, or other medical complaints. I think this should be #1 on your list.
  10.  Connect with someone who will pick them up once a week and take them both to the grocery store, get their hair done, and get a pedicure (every 5 wks). They can visit together get a lunch after the shopping and have an enjoyable day. Someone from a faith center will do the job if you simply give a gift to the program. Be creative.
  11. Food, if they need help with food then do the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ they will send out food for the week and little treats can be purchased on the side. Do not allow them to go one day without a protein drink. This drink can be covered on their health program if you ask the doctor to give them a prescription for it. Boost and other protein drinks give them vitamins and protein that they may not get each day with small or unbalanced meals.
  12. Call the local Senior Center and get them on their mailing list…get them involved with day trips to local sites, card days, lite exercise, movie nites. Senior Centers have lots of extra services and so do the YMCA’s in the area. Tech college that are training in-home care givers also can send students for safety checks and so can the local Red Cross and Senior Care Services.
  13. Professional in home services can be done by the hour and you can get a review of what is needed when you call a Senior Care Service in the area. I always find them online and check out the references. These services are varied like bath people, cleaning, food prep, care giving and nursing. You can figure out the amount of money you have in the budget and use them each week or only on occasion. Its good just to talk to them and have an evaluation so they are ready to go when you are in need. Remember Medicare will pay for one month of in-home care after a patient has been in hospital for three days or more. Or Medicare will provide a 30 day stay in a care center to recover from a hospital stay before the senior returns to their own home. Your insurance and local senior services will review what your area covers for in-home care so call and get the idea in your mind and written down, in case you need it.
  14. If you feel they are in need of help financially..with food or other things you need a social worker. The best place to begin is with a  trained person that is there for you…you can call the local hospital that is close to them. Ask for the senior social worker and start with that person. They are always in the know and it is a hospital community outreach to help the public.

It will require you to make calls and get your lists ready to go, but once you do. It will be like you are living right next door. Do not depend on relatives, they often say they will do things and then do not follow through. It’s better to have a service help you, pay for it if your seniors have money and/or search for local charity services if you don’t have funds. Once again, the key word is being creative. Think about how you can ask others to help you to give your seniors the best care…even if you are not able to be there for hands on help.

Thank you for being so kind to your seniors. Many elders find their lives closed in to just their own home. They lose their spouses, friends pass, children are out-of-town and who do they have to help them? So good to know that you care enough to be on the other end of the phone. Blessings, francy


Holidays with Alzheimer’s

Dear francy; My mother and I took my dad (who has early dementia) to Texas to have a family Thanksgiving. It was simply the worst event of my life. Dad was confused from the moment we got in the car. The check- in at the airport was awful. He was mad and angry at the TSA check through. Then on the plane, he simply got rude to the flight attendant and everything went downhill from there. He did not want to be at our relatives, he did not want to eat. Oh my gosh; it was simply one moment of embarrassment after another. Dad had shown little signs of dementia at home, but we had no idea of his decline until we went on this trip. Should we get him into the doctor for a checkup or is this a normal event that we simply missed the signs?

Alzheimers at Holiday, Alzheimer's, Seniors Alone

My Georgie at Christmas


I think it’s really both. Your doctor should hear that he was so moody and had what they call an “event” on the plane. That is common, the oxygen changes in the plane and it affects the brain. But the doctor needs to know the different things that happened. So, first write it all down in simple terms like an outline. Fax that letter into your doctor or take it with you for the next appointment. Ask for an appointment as soon as possible. Christmas is right around the corner and if the stress of change is beginning to affect him – you need to get it handled.

The doctor will read the letter that you outlined the problem and be able to assist you in a mood type of drug that will help your dad cope with the pressure of change. It will mean that he will be less upset and that is the goal for all of you as a family. These medications are designed to just calm him down, not make him tired or unfeeling. As the dementia progresses; your doctor will increase this medication as needed. This is what your doctor and medications are for so do not feel like you are doing something wrong to report his behavior and ask for help. Doctors are trained to help you and so you will become part of the health team for your dad. You, your mother, the doctors and your dad; all together working to make his dementia progression as slow as possible = Health Team.

Have a talk with your mother and really allow her to express herself. She may be shocked and upset at his behavior, or she may have been looking the other way on all to many occasions when your dad has been moody before this “event”. She has to talk about it, if she is covering for him – as many loyal wives do for their spouses – that has to be talked about. His health means being very open and out there with the different ups and downs of his behavior. He will go downhill on a fast track if he is allowed to just go on emotional upsets without any attention being given to them. So, your mother is the front push of the Health Team. She has to get used to talking to you honestly about the daily ups and downs in your dad’s behavior. Then you both can decide when that behavior is not acceptable and needs to be reported to the doctor. Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients can get angry and not know how to express their needs and will lash out with words and with physical fighting. If that happens; the doctors need to know so they can medicate and keep the patient calmer. Your mother has to be protected from any harm during her care giving. Honesty between you and your mother will be a key to giving your dad good care.

Alzheimer’s/Dementia Spouse care givers have to be giving all the knowledge they can have to understand the steps in the decline of the senior. That way they know how to express their own needs and what to do to keep their own spirit and health intact.

Here are some ideas to help the spouse or the family care giver:

  • You may have to make plans for your dad to have a pro care giver brought in once a week to care for him while your mom gets rest or an outing.
  • You may need to take him to a day care for dementia patients once or twice a week –  or just a few hours – so he can get some interaction with others and your mother gets a rest.
  • Maybe once a week you and your family can come over for a Saturday night movie and bring dinner…so your parents can have family interaction and feel like they are still connected and not alone.
  • You may want to call five of your dad’s old friends and ask if they would commit to calling him once a week in the early afternoon, or coming over to visit once a month for no more than 20 minutes. That will give your dad a touch of friendship and connection with others.
  • You may want to have a bath lady come and do the personal bath each week. That way your mother does not have to argue about a bath. It keeps dad clean and keeps mom calmer.
  • Maybe you can have a neighbor/sibling come over for two hours each week and you take your mom shopping with you. Then stop for a quiet coffee time and then back home. This break means your mother gets a boost of energy from you and your dad gets a separation from routine.
  • Make sure your dad gets an out and about at least every other week. Even if he gets uptight. It can be a car ride to get gas and coffee and never really leaving the car. Or a ride to your house for dinner. Keep the event short and simple. Try not to include a big crowd or strangers.
  • Sunday services may not be on the list any longer. You can ask the pastor to visit the house each week. Or you can attend a quieter mid-week service. These large crowds of people, even though he knows them well – can set him off to a place of insecurity and that means opening him up for another “event”.

To Review:

  1. Get the doctor on board with information and updating medication
  2. Make sure the main care giver understands that the senior is changing and they will both need more support
  3. Get professional support for just a few hours each week, so the cost is within budget and the spouse has a relief from care
  4. Get family and friends to assist you in their own way to keep your dad connected but calm
  5. Keep your senior out of the house but within boundaries of their own comfort level
  6. Change things around for the senior like heavy holiday stress or large faith or family events into smaller doses to keep comfort level calm
  7. Holidays can be any day that has friends and family around the senior with a light dinner. The stress of thinking you have to have a big event with all the trimmings is now going to change. Do not think “This may be his last Christmas for him to remember.” He has already changed, his holiday has to be less of everything, with more love and happy up energy.

This whole adventure through care of loved ones at holiday time– is a bum. I am learning step by step as I go forward with my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Our Thanksgiving was way too much for him and I was to blame. I wanted him to be happy…but I forgot that his happy has changed. A simple good meal and a good movie would have been much better. I have learned and I will not be doing a big push for Christmas. Keeping things down and calm, but still celebrating is the ticket. I guess we are all going through this journey and learning together and I thank you for all you are doing for your parents.

Blessings on your holidays may they be quiet, calm and filled with the real love that you and your family have for each other…

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


 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

Pets and Seniors Need Each Other

by francy Dickinson   (web site is updating – honest, I am working on it 🙂

Dear Francy; Mom lost dad two months ago, she is just 80 and still active. Dad did most of the driving and paying bills so she’s a bit lost on her own. She is in a smaller home so I know she can stay there for a while and she is well and dealing with adversities. But she calls me all day long, with the old; ” I don’t know what to do”. I know she should not make any big change decisions, but her coming out of giving full-time care to dad is hard on her. Suggestions?

Yes, I know this time frame is really hard on any spouse, but especially on your mom because your dad did a great deal for her during their time together. She is in withdrawal from all sorts of things. She misses your dad, but she misses his giving and caring for her also. She misses giving to him, he was her daily routine and life structure for a long time. Caregiving is something you do 24/7 and you give up lots of things for yourself to tend to another.  Then the care is over, the spouse passes and you are left alone. Now it’s time for her to slowly become her own self again.

I always suggest a pet. It means that the senior has something to tend to each day. They start their day with a need to clean a kitty box or take a small dog out the door. They know they need to exercise the pet and that keeps them moving. They know they need to feed the pet and that gives them a focus on time to eat for their own needs. They need to give the pet love and this helps to fill the place that their spouse left empty.

You want to be careful with your selection of  a pet…get something small that they can enjoy and make a commitment to them. If they become unwell and unable to care for the pet let them know you will find it a good home. Mean it, the pet deserves a lifelong commitment and that can include more than one family -not a return to the shelter. 

Lots of people will get a cat and if you do so the shelters have wonderful older cats that will be calm and enjoy living inside and having love and hugs. If you or your mom have never had a cat, just talk to the staff and let them help you find one that fits the home, your mom’s personality and the needs of the animal. If your mom already has one think of adding a playful kitty that will add a little snap and pop to the quiet home.

Now days you can hire a high school neighbor to clean out a kitty box and do light chores every other day or buy a cat box that’s self-cleaning. The expense pays off over and over again when a senior does not have to bend over or carry things outside to clean. You want to know what to get the cat…like a large scratching post and little toys and good food. Dry kibble is what a cat will eat and you need to buy the kind that is for indoor cats. A senior can not lift a heavy bag of food or litter. So buy a couple of the big bins with wheels, at the pet store, to store them and let the senior just open the lid and scoop. The bins can be kept safe in the garage, pantry or hall closet.  Then add just a little taste of canned food every few days for the cat to enjoy. This is an easy project for family and the elder senior. The cat in return will snuggle in with the senior and give them hours of enjoyment and a feeling of not being alone.

Going into a senior home that has no animal is always so quiet to me. The TV may be on, but once it is turned off…there is total silence. Add a pet and the silence is absorbed by the love they generate. They fill the place with silly play time and demands that only animals can make. It brings smiles to all seniors.

Even fancy retirement or assisted living places now allow cats and small dogs…so do not be worried about the future. If you make a commitment to give the animal a good life…then it will happen.

I remember talking to a man, years ago, that had lost his wife to Alzheimer’s. He was so lonely and I asked him to get a pet. I told him about a small dog and he thought I was nuts. No small dog, he said. He felt little dogs were barky and wild. NO, I said, they are well-mannered if you make them that way. A big dog takes lots of exercise and with your bad knee and bum hip, you need to keep it small so it can get exercise in the back yard with a ball throw and good romp, each day.

He was not hot on the idea, but as he progressed in his grief and he felt he needed to do something. He was getting very depressed on his own and so he called me again and asked if I would help him find a dog. I brought him into our local shelter and we talked to a lady that worked for Purina, they had a special senior placement program at the time. She reviewed his needs and his home size and talked about other pets he had, had in his past. She came up with a small schnauzer. It took her two months to find one that was older and would make the match. He was so excited when she called and we went in to meet with her and meet the dog. The dog had been with another senior, it was five and it was used to a quieter home.

It was a hassle getting him to understand the needs of a small dog. (He had large dogs that needed little attention and his wife had done more of the pet care than he had.) But with a couple books and getting the right products to help him, it all smoothed out. A month later I returned to visit him. The first thing  I found was the little dog in the window at the front door and the wiggles of delight at meeting a new friend. Then when I entered the house I found a large basket of dog toys that were piled high in the living room. The three (count them three) dog beds were placed throughout the home. The water bowl on the kitchen floor was on a very cute plastic floor guard and the food dish matched the water bowl. The dog had a collar with his name tag and a flashy lead that would stand out on dark nights for short walks. He also had a groomer that had brought his feathers into a very handsome cut.

Then to my amazement, the gentleman picked up the dog and started to talk to it with a high voice and a funny little patter to his words. It made me smile a smile so deep. A man who found a friend, a man who was able to express his inner needs and share it with a dog. A dog that was so filled with love that he had to kiss the guy non stop and a family united in love.

Pets, and seniors not only belong together, its pretty nutty for them to be apart. If allergies exist, there are animals that will work within those challenges, just ask your local shelter to help you find the perfect match. Losing a spouse of many years goes to the top of life’s hardships…but grieving with a small pet by your side, will help healing and keep the senior young in body and heart. 

Blessings on all you do for your mom. I think many forget that giving attention and time to seniors is a gift that keeps on going. Your patience on the phone is helping her find herself again. That is a kind and dear thing to give to a lady that gave so much to you as you grew up. Thank you. francy

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Valentines for Seniors or Mid-Winter Smiles

by francy Dickinson                      Note my web site is updating will announce when all in place again 🙂

Dear Francy: Can I tell you how unhappy my uncle is right now? He’s in care center- bored, nothing going on. The Superbowl was fun for him but now…what? I brought him a magazine but he just put it on his side table- not interested. I want him to live with happiness in his life. How can I help him with that?

How kind you are to even care and go and visit. It just takes a half hour to visit and costs nothing to sit and chat, you are adding so much quality to his routine. It may seem like you’re doing very little, but it’s a huge thing to have a friendly face visit you during the day in a care center.

Valentine is a perfect time for all seniors men or women. Arrive with an arm full of valentine stuff from the dollar store. Put up the hearts around the door and have a big bowl of candy so the staff and visitors get a treat each time they come in the room. It will keep everyone perky and talking about happy things.

I first gave a battery operated Valentine Dancing Monkey to my Uncle many years ago. It played a funny Elvis tune and moved all around when you pressed the button. He listened to it and laughed and tucked it into his walker and took it with him to the dinning room. He showed it off and other seniors laughed and moved around to the music.

A few years later, when I had momma at my home, I found a delightful one with boy and girl bears dancing together to music. Mom would have everyone that entered the door push the button and she would laugh. It just brings down the stress and adds a little silly moment to a life that is lonely. I suggest this action to all who have elders in care, or at home with limited mobility…its just for fun. It may seem like its childish, but some times childish is just whats needed.

To laugh at silly things is important. To talk about love is the perfect timing around Valentines. Talk about family members that have passed and let the senior express their feelings. Ask them when they first met their spouse, if the spouse has passed this lets old memories flood forth and you enjoy the family history with them.

I love the way elders talk about the past. They do not try to hide any of the off color stories or the bad choices, they talk about them and laugh. Aunts and Uncles you always thought lived perfect lives,  suddenly sound like everyday people.  The stories become funny and the memories are alive and happy.

Most elders, even those with dementia problems, will remember things from their early days. You will enjoy the talks about being shy and finally asking someone to dance and then winding up marrying that young girl. Or my mother’s story of daddy paying a neighbor boy to keep him informed if mom had a date with another boy. Daddy would mysteriously appear on the door step as she returned home from her date.  Preventing  mother’s possible good nite kiss with a rivil suiter.  Mom did not learn of the plot till many years later.

Talking about fun things, sad things…they help the senior adjust to life and tuck in memories of their past. It’s very good for them and great interest for you. All started over a simple heart decoration and a piece of candy.

Don’t forget if your senior was always an animal person, bring your dog to visit with a big red bow and some valentines hanging off of their collar. Just give the dog a bath and take it for a good walk around the block so it can go potty and get its energy out. Then visit the senior for 15 minutes. Always inform the office or care giver before you arrive with the dog, but I have rarely had a NO in all the years of bringing in my Bichon for elders to hug. The dog adores the visit and the attention and the senior and their friends are thrilled to just pet a sweet dog.

If children are too young or too restless to bring for a visit, then do a video and place it on your laptop and show it while you’re there. You can have the kids making a valentine around the table at home and then give the senior the valentine so they feel a part of  the activity.

If you want to flip for something fun, there are great pajamas with hearts and inexpensive jewelry with hearts to adorn your senior lady’s neck. You can imagine the surprise of jewelry (even just for fun) for a lady that is unable to get out and about. Not to mention the laugh that an elder man will have with heart shaped sleeping bottoms. Its just for fun.

If you become the energy with the spirit of Valentine – the senior feels that spirit and reacts well with your surprise visit. It’s just one more way to share happiness and love with those that have given so much to all the rest of us through the years. Here’s an easy recipe to make candy truffles to take to the care center or senior’s home. give this a try it is not hard to do, I am doing it with my young niece this coming weekend.

Anyone can make these (even the guys) they are easy and super yummy…makes a nice gift and treat!


  • 1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee (fresh from the coffee maker)
  • 12 (1 ounce) squares Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted
  • 1  teaspoons vanilla
  • Suggested coatings, unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and/or Coconut I always use cocoa for the coatings it makes it so yummy (looks just like a truffle from the ground)


  1. Beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing until well blended.
  2. Add melted chocolate, coffee and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.
  3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in cocoa, powdered sugar or coconut. Store in refrigerator.
  4. I always buy a storage box at the $store, for Valentine they would have a plastic red heart box that is perfect storage for these little gems. They are rich and good and you can give just a few and spread them around to friends, family and your special senior in care! YUMMY

Talk again soon, I am working on my website this week and will have it going again and looking fresher and filled with fun stuff…please do follow me on twitter @seniorcaretips – francy

One Dish Thanksgiving Dinners for Seniors

by francy Dickinson          www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; Hard to get Mom and Dad to join us now they are both more comfortable at home. They both have limited eating, dont chew well and don’t do sugar well. So the full turkey dinner doesnt work any more, but I want them to enjoy the day and a special dinner. Last year my leftovers were left in the refrigerator for days and it was just a waste of my time to have gone over with them in the first place…suggestions?

Yes…here you are this works great for me. These ideas come from your kitchen after you have cooked your dinner, you use your own left overs and then take the dishes to the elder/senior family member’s home to reheat. It tastes great and I have done it many times and the senior is left with a good dinner and no mess or fuss.

  1. One Dish Thanksgiving Dinner for Elder As you are picking up your holiday dinner grease a glass square baking dish and put some stuffing in it, then add in some cranberries, a small dollop of mashed potatoes, a big scoop of green bean casserole,  some cut up turkey both white and dark, and stir in some of your gravy. Stir and spread out. Now top it with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. This is their dinner, its a casserole with all the goodies in it already. It can be heated in the oven or microwave and give them a great dinner….add in a separate container of gravy to put on top of it and U have an easy pick up and two nites of yum.
  2. Toasted Turkey Sandwich & More: Slice left over turkey and put into zip lock and make a good loaf of bread in your bread maker or buy a nice loaf at the bakery. This bread is like an oatmeal type that is dark and crusty. Slice bread and put mayo on each side. Break up the turkey with your fingers so it is easy to chew and cover one side of the bread with turkey…on the other side of the bread put a tbsp of gravy and spread over the bread like U did the mayo. Keep it open face and put into broiler or toaster oven and heat through…I like to toast it so both sides of bread are heated and toasted. Remove and before you close it up to serve spread some cranberry sauce (the jelly type) thinly over the hot turkey. Cut and serve this marvelous hot turkey sandwich
  3. Pasta Dish for Picky Eaters: Take over some gravy and turkey left overs, small amount of green bean casserole and stuffing. Prep a small amount of pasta in boiling water. In another pan stir fry the cut up turkey and small amount of green bean casserole and a couple of tbsp of stuffing. When it’s heated, add in some gravy like you would any sauce. Drain the pasta and put the stir fry and sauce over the top and you have a nice pasta dish with the great taste of Thanksgiving that is easy to eat and nice as left overs.
  4.   No Crust Pumpkin Pie: This is nothing fancy…it is the pumpkin can recipe that makes such a nice pumpkin pie – dont forget using Splenda instead of sugar is just as good and you can not taste the difference. The different twist is that you do not use a crust. You butter the pie plate and then put in 1/4 cup of corn meal…over the sink you roll the pie plate till it is dusted with the corn meal and shake out the rest in sink. Then you pour in your regular filling and cook it as you would any pumpkin pie. This is all you need, it is easier to eat, faster to make and can be cut and served warm or cold…with whip cream…Total yum here so know I have made this for years and it works every time…I am just a Libby pumpkin pie girl and proud of it.

I take over the dinner ingred and make it right there. I start with the pie and it is cooking as I do the dinner. Buy the time they are done eating the meal the pie is hot out of oven and I cut a tiny piece and top with whip cream…they get to have a little smell of Thanksgiving in their house too. If they have no kitchen then you take it over all pre-done and ready to hit in microwave or stove top. Seniors do not have smell or taste as they get older so a little more salt is a must so they can taste the food. Obviously you can do this the day after the holiday or in the evening of the holiday. I have found my sisters and I like to take a break and make the trip to moms to visit and enjoy some time with her. Plus, it gave us another excuse for a second piece of pie!

Happy Holidays….francy

How to Visit Seniors on Holidays

by Francy Dickinson                   www.seniorswithspirit.com

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

Rules of visiting, fast and fun:

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

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

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

Thank you and blessings on your holidays, francy

I’m Helping Him but He’s Mad-Senior Anger

by francy Dickinson              www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My Dad is in his early sixties, he has been divorced and on his own for years. He is now going through a stage that he calls and needs me to do all sorts of things for him. I’m trying to be there for him, I go over when ever he calls, but I’m busy with my own family. When I do go over he’s angry with me. I am his only child and I sadly dread the visits, what can I do?

I understand and I am sorry about this it’s a way with older folks, many times men especially, will display anger when they have frustrations in their life. So, lets begin with his age of sixty plus, that is young he should live into his eighties or nineties, so think of him as a person that needs to be healed and treated, not just old. Get your ducks in a row with the Health Care Directive signed and in place with your name as his partner in health. That is important so you can work with him on his health issues in years to come. Then schedule a good review of his health with a doctor. Write a letter to the doctor and drop it off or send it ahead of his appointment so you can tell him this issue of sudden needs and anger. The doctor needs to know to address emotional issues that might not surface in the exam if he is not notified.

There is a great issue of depression in men on their own. Not that depression does not effect women but men are especially hit with it and they rarely have the ability to talk it through. If he is newly retired, that is often a problem. He looked forward to many projects and kept busy until they were all in place and suddenly, he is faced with years of retirement and no where to go. There is also a problem after a spouse has passed, a year or so later, the realization that life is ahead with loneliness and no reason to be happy- hits. All of these things happen to many people single or in a relationship, that is why we have them checked and go to a support group, senior center or stay active with family to keep their emotional health up. If there is an on going problem, they will need medication and or counseling to get them healthy again. So you have to be pushy about getting a doctor’s opinion. Write down a few of the episodes of anger, so the doctor can see what stemmed the anger and if it might be body or emotional based. Once you have that diagnoses then you can help him with the treatment and go forward.

Tips on dealing with anger;

  1. You are the pivot point to anger – as the caregiver it is you that can start or end an angry session. So arrive up-  in energy and remove your emotions and just do what is needed and leave. It is very hard to do this, because you will think that the person hates you or you have done something wrong. But emotional anger has a base in the person not with you…so pivot that anger by being in charge of your own emotions.
  2. I deal with my husbands dementia all the time and I have learned to refocus him into a different project, idea, talking point or action. This will remove his frustration of the moment and get him thinking in a different direction. It takes practice, but I have learned how to avoid a lot of arguments by keeping him off a subject and onto another. I do this by interrupting a conversation and interject a whole new thought pattern.
    Example:George was up in arms about trimming our trees, had spent hours getting saws out in his work space and trying to do this task. I went out and told him my back was bothering me – could he come and help me move something in my office? He followed me into the house and the anger and frustration of his project was over the pattern broken. After he helps me, I praise him and get him a piece of pie and he then releases his day long project and returns to his TV or reading and the anger and frustration is over.
  3. If your dad has had a history of being involved in faith center or events, or if he has long ago given up a hobby –this is the time to reintroduce him to those events. Doing something he knows is easier for a senior than starting something new.
  4. Interaction with others. No one can be on their own for days at a time and stay happy. Little things start to become big things and small problems become a big mess. So, break this pattern by making sure he is doing a few weekly outings. Senior centers have card days or bowling teams, or any hobby he likes. Local libraries need volunteers as do teen centers and soup kitchens. Senior Universities are all over the place with weekly classes and lectures on fun subjects. These classes are just an evening or afternoon of information and it becomes an enjoyable routine. Your own family has weekly outings he could join, sports events, teen pick up from classes and school, school performances, bi monthly family picnics or dinners. There are ways for him to move into the world again and keep him with a weekly calendar of events that will fill his mind and spirit.
  5. Exercise is a great way to bring a senior back into good health. Joining you for a walk twice a week, or getting him into a senior bike program or golf game can improve his mind and his outlook.
  6. Talking to a support group or hobby group is great for a man’s interaction. You will find that Twitter and online support groups also provide a non evasive way to express feelings and interests. Woman usually have women to talk to, but if not, they too need to be attached to a group that will help them express their feelings among friends that understand.
  7. Eating well, can be a huge thing for men or women living alone. Days of empty food and no supplements can make a big difference in any ones life. So adding food from you or a service could be a big boost. He may have a neighbor that’s a senior and would be willing to provide 2-3 dinners a week, for a small charge. You then know that good food is on his plate and helping him feel well. Being creative with care is never easy, but it can make a big difference in his lifestyle and emotional wellbeing.
  8. Moving; many seniors try to keep their home forever. Nice if they can do it, but over burdened with yard, house, money or repairs is not a pretty picture for anyone. So, if he needs to relax and get yard or house cleaning help get that done. If he is not able to really do the work, then suggest a few visits to local townhouses where yard work is provided or retirement communities where everything is at hand for easy living. Moving early means a life of comfort in retirement, not worry over a huge move sometime in the future, usually when the senior is unwell. Keep them close to you, but find a place to tuck them in with a smile. The retirment communities are so diverse now, that you can find all price ranges in your search.
  9. Get him a pet to protect and care for at the local humane society. Often a furry pal will totally change a person. Instead of having a day ahead with nothing to do, you suddenly have to feed and walk the dog or change the cat box. It’s just this small chore, that keeps a senior busy and thinking of something other than their own problems.   
  10. Ask him to help you – what do you have around your home to fix or do? Men love to be of service, figure out different chores and ask him to come over and do them and then give him a good dinner and movie to share. Example: I would ask my mother to come over and make pie crusts. Then we would freeze them. She loved to make pie crusts, mine have always been horrid, so it was a nice way for her to do for me and I would get her talking and give her a nice day and dinner. Now that she is gone, I buy the frozen crusts which do not come close to the ones she made for me as well as miss our times together.
  11. Do not be a child, sit down and talk about anger issues. Tell him you are here to love him and have a nice visit to help him, but this anger is out of bounds. If there is something that bothers him about you, get it out and see if you can talk it through and leave the issue behind. Let him know, you will not be abused with words, they are hurtful and you do not want to have them in your life. Do not involve yourself with anger, this is a grown up talk between two adults, not a shouting match. But, remember, this conversation only works if he is not drinking, or in a depression or any altered state, those situations change the playing field and are why you need to have him checked out medically so you know what is what from the get go.
  12. Interaction during your day. Call him and ask if he is watching a news alert, or if he is going to watch a special program that night. Make things to talk about so you have more of a give and take talk during your week. Get your teen to teach him how to text message to them even if he does it on the computer. Set up a Twitter or Facebook account and get him used to it so he can enjoy it. This stuff is a perfect thing to do with grandchildren. Add an MP3 player with his favorite music and downloaded books from the library, a new digital camera or video for the kid’s sports events. Those are things that grandchildren will enjoy doing for him and give a boost to connections within the family.
  13. Don’t forget the geneology part of life, it can be very involved and fun to learn about heritage. To express an interest in wanting your kids to know about their past family history and ask if the family pictures could be organized for them. This is a project that can involve your dad, you,your kids and many other groups that do geneolgy in person or on the Internet.
  14. Know that as people age, the progress of health and mental health is not in stone. Dementia can set in early or late in life. Heart health can hit you in your thirties as well as in your sixties. Aches with arthitus can zap your energy and a simple addition of joint supplements can make a huge difference in pain control. So just take it step at a time, and read and learn because helping someone age means that you are helping yourself age well in the future.
  15. Reality is that most women are the organizers of events, food, doctor appointments and family for men. That is how our society works. So, if your dad does not have a gal in his life…you are the it girl. So, try to just let this sink in and add him to your list of boys to care for in your life…once you get this in place in your own mind, you can move your dad into a lifestyle that is good for him and for you. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but I have found very few in my care giving years.

I know that your creative mind will come up with other ideas. Once you get your mind in a direction to solve problems it becomes so much easier. Just remember anger does not mean they do not love and appreicate you. Seniors just have troublem expressing their feelings and dealing with their body changes. So be a sleuth and find out what is at the base of the anger, not what is on top of it.

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

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

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