How to Be an Awesome Caregiver
Care Giving Made Easy
How to Be an
Care Giving Made Easy
Dale B. Adams
2313 Anvil Drive
Harrison, AR. 72610
T: (870) 741-4132
Copyright © 2006 – 2017 by Dale Brent Adams d/b/a Majestic Publishers
ISBN No. 978-0-9677958-0-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2006927387
Written and Designed in the United States of America
This book may not be reproduced in any form without written consent of the author.
This book is dedicated in loving memory of my Great Aunt; Mary Morris O’Hair
Who still blesses me to this day and
Dale B. Adams and Cherie L. Adams
make a special dedication
in honor of and in loving memory of
my wife’s Mother; Linda Faye Gattis
In 1995, I was standing in the same place you are now. I was in the library and bookstores scanning the shelves for any helpful book I could find on this thing called care giving. I had a Great Aunt that was moving in and I needed all the information I could get. As I browsed the shelves I couldn’t find what I needed. I saw books about dementia, Alzheimer disease, and there were plenty of books that described the emotional aspects of caring for the elderly, but it wasn’t what I wanted. There are many books that focus on all of the stress involved as a caregiver, and there certainly is – but there are ways to minimize this stress. This book will show you how to limit that stress and how to really enjoy yourself and your loved one. I don’t want to read a book that tells me how hard a job is going to be – I want a book that will tell me how to make my life easier and more enjoyable.
There was no practical everyday information available to me so I learned by experience, research, and being taught by nurses and doctors. My experience as a caregiver was a complete joy with a minimal amount of stress. I don’t like problems because they cause stress. I don’t like stress because statistics prove that stress can shorten your life. So I figured out ways to avoid and prevent problems to ensure both my Aunt and I had a wonderful time together. We did and we’d like to share it with you.
I don’t know what your situation is or the temperament and personality of the loved one you care for. Some of these ideas may work for you, and others may not. The trick is to be creative and adapt ideas to make your lives more enjoyable, instead of focusing on how stressful and difficult care giving is. No matter what situation you are in, you determine if it is an unpleasant or an enjoyable experience. You have the ability to convert lemons into lemonade.
This book is a step-by-step practical guide that focuses on how to make your life together a delightful experience. It informs you how to be a wonderful long distance caregiver with an arsenal of safety tips. It also helps the reader broaden their perspective of their elder and the importance of history. How to be an Awesome Caregiver – Care Giving Made Easy, has tips and lists of caregiver tools for different areas of the home to quickly assist the caregiver to get what they need to safely care for their loved one.
Chapter 1: Organized Long Distance Care
Observing your Elder
We live in a mobile society and families are now stretched out across the globe rather than being raised in the same community for generations. Chances are good that you no longer live in the same place as your elderly relative. You may keep in touch by phone on Birthdays & special occasions. As they mature you may want to make a visit in person more often to check up on them. Here is a list of observations to be concerned about.
- How healthy and happy they are,
- Are they able to physically take care of themselves or having problems,
- Take a ride with them and observe how they are driving. (Secure your seatbelt),
- Talk to her friends and neighbors and express your concern for your relative,
- Examine their medications and observe that she is taking them as prescribed,
- Can she hear you well or does she need a hearing aid,
- How is her vision and does she need glasses,
- How are her teeth and is she having any trouble eating,
- Does she have the energy or initiative to cook meals or is she just eating crackers and snacks,
- Who is her doctor and why not make a point to take her on the next visit,
- Where does she go to church and why not join her for services,
- Are they getting lazy and not cleaning up or putting food away as they should,
- Is there a rodent or insect problem,
- Is there anything you can get her to make her life more safe or convenient,
- What are her hobbies and interests,
- Is she opening her mail and paying bills or throwing them away,
- How secure is the home and are there any fire safety concerns,
- Does she have an emergency response or medical alert device,
- Is the home energy efficient,
- Do hazards exist that could enable falling,
You have to balance acquiring this information with the privacy interests and needs of your loved one. As we become older we become more guarded about our security and independence. If you express your interest in their independence and security with good communication, they will be much more cooperative. Try not to offend the deep ingrained independent American spirit we all have. Above all love, listen to and enjoy your time with your relative. A Mother’s love is never fully appreciated.
When it comes time for your loved one to need minor assistance she may opt to move to an assisted living facility. She may not want to impose on family and try to make arrangements to care for herself. However, the majority of seniors prefer to be taken care of by family members. There is a creative option that families can explore to preserve their careers.
Why not explore a creative option where a younger family member could assist your loved one. We all have younger family members; cousins, nieces, nephews or children that may be a little misguided. They may be working in restaurants, enrolled in college and haven’t figured out what area they want a career in. You don’t want to jeopardize your career or retirement and these younger family members may amaze you by how great an assistant they can be. You can then stand behind them and monitor the situation with limited stress and step in with your guidance when needed. Besides that, it is a clever and responsible move. You could assist the younger caregiver in gaining a better appreciation for family values and have them fully trained for when you may need care.
I will list some caregiver qualities that will assist you in choosing a few family members who may be natural caregivers. Approach them and just ask them to spend a few weeks visiting your elder and see how they get along. Although the younger person may rapidly oppose the idea, chances are very good that they will later thank you for helping them to develop good character. A bond could form that would surprise you. I had never met my 91-year-old Aunt Mary until I was 35 y/o. My mother, Nancy Mayberry, was her guardian and she worked full time. My Mother had asked me to move in with her and several months later our Aunt needed care so we went and got her. At first I was a little cautious wondering what I was getting myself into. I didn’t have any experience in this area at all.
My Aunt and I had a natural attraction. We both had the same pleasant temperament and were considerate of others. She was born the same month I was. In some ways we were the same and others we were the opposite. In general women are fonder of males. Older people are also attracted to younger people. Your relative will be best cared for by somebody whom she has a common bond with. Who is her favorite? Of course your relative will let you know in a hurry who is or is not acceptable in her home. If an elderly relative passes away, the spouse may need some company to monitor and nurture them. A younger and healthier care giver will be better equipped to handle the stress and health consequences of care giving. The creative option for elderly care offers many benefits which can preserve your livelihood and your career.
Some Caregiver Qualities
- Indoctrinated in customer service,
- Restaurant worker,
- Organized and methodical,
- Warm and thoughtful,
- Interested in History,
- Patient and understanding,
- Health conscious,
- Enjoys reading and learning,
- Sensitive and conscientious,
- Smiles and laughs a lot,
- Good listener,
- Family oriented,
- Sense of humor,
- No career yet,
- Black Sheep,
- Likes to clean,
- Early riser,
You need to get a part time assistant to allow the primary caregiver some breaks if you don’t have family members able to help you. There are some caregivers that try to do it all by themselves and some do, but it is not healthy for them or their elder. You simply can’t be a responsible caregiver if you don’t take care of yourself, as well as your family member.
The assistant will recharge you and offer advice that you may not have thought about, which will offer your elderly family member another person to love and enjoy. This person can also gently guide you in the right direction if you falter. It’s like an insurance policy to make sure your elder is well taken care of. They may offer advice for your health too. It is important for caregivers to nurture their health and spirit so they can offer the best care to their loved ones, which a nurse assistant can offer. Normally doctors and nurses only educate patients about pertinent medical problems as they arise. However, when you have a friendly nurse assistant in your home, they are much more open about health issues including preventative health which is valuable information. Obtaining a part time nurse assistant to care for your elderly loved one is well worth the expense and it will increase your knowledge about important health matters.
Chapter 2: The Awesome Caregiver
Hearing Loss and Communication
The top thing on the list when starting to care for your family member is to ensure that you have good communication to make your lives easier. If they are hard of hearing you may want to get them to an ear doctor and get a hearing aid. There are two very important reasons. You don’t want to strain your voice and yell when you are talking to them and if your elder is ahead of you in a possibly dangerous situation, you want to be able to call her to safety. If they can hear they will also feel much more comfortable and safe. The caregiver must be able to have good communication with their elders.
You don’t want the elderly to feel isolated or unimportant in their own little world. If you don’t get them a hearing aid, be prepared for them to mumble and talk incoherently in negative and unpleasant ways, maybe even about you. They may develop paranoia because they don’t know what people are saying about them. An Example: They see you laughing and daggers come out of their eyes thinking that you are laughing at them. They erupt in an incoherent tirade. They can’t communicate effectively because they can’t hear what other people are saying. Now give that person a hearing aid and she can laugh with you. She won’t be paranoid and unpleasant. She will be able to communicate better and you will both be able to enjoy many special moments together. Your doctor will recommend an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a hearing test and a hearing aid. Some tips to enhance communication with your elder are below.
- Always look at your elder when speaking to them,
- Use the appropriate audible level, some elders require loudness and others need a soft voice,
- Some elders may not want a hearing aid and a voice magnification device may be helpful,
- Avoid or limit cell or regular phone use because it irritates elders and makes them feel neglected,
- Gently announce your approach so you don’t startle them,
- Use and understand each others gestures and body language,
- Use a soothing yet confident and enthusiastic voice,
- Use humor and a smile as much as possible,
Hearing aids are not too much of an added burden to your daily activities. The doctor will probably arrange for you to receive batteries through the mail, which is convenient. Hearing aids are expensive but well worth the happiness you will put on your loved ones face when she hears the laughter of a child, or the chirping of the birds in the morning. I made a special spot next to my Aunt’s medicine containers for her hearing aid box. I also had a box of tissues there. Every morning I would give her the hearing aid and turn it on before I gave her the medications. Every night before she went to bed, I took the hearing aid out and put it in the same spot. I wiped the earwax off with a tissue to keep it clean and working well. When the elderly take a nap you may want to take he hearing aid out or just turn it off, whatever is more comfortable for her. It is best to take the hearing aid out when she naps because it can fall out in the cracks of a chair. Something to keep in mind is to keep good track of the hearing aid. They are expensive and can be lost easily since they are so small. As your elder enters her second childhood she may opt to play a little hide and seek with you and stash the bionic ear. Be sure to know all of her hiding spots or you may never find it.
You may want to take your elder to an eye doctor also. She may have cataracts or other vision problems that can and need to be corrected. The new laser surgery available to correct these problems is amazing. My aunt was 91 years young and didn’t have any problems with it. It is an out patient procedure. Besides the safety issues, if your family member can’t see well she isn’t going to be happy, and if she isn’t happy – you won’t be either. Her eyes are probably not as good as they used to be and you could buy her a pair of reading glasses or a magnifying glass so that she can enjoy magazines, photographs and books.
Warm memory: My aunt was on a gurney ready to go into surgery for her cataracts and the hospital was kind of cold and I’m sure the gurney was to. A lovely nurse put two warm sheets fresh out of the dryer over my Aunt to keep her warm. What a warm gesture.
Choosing a Doctor
If you relocate your elder and you have to choose a doctor, you want to take location into consideration. I had the option of driving 17 miles to the nearest hospital or drive 7 miles to a small rural town and take her to a nurse practitioner. It was a small comfortable clinic with one nurse practitioner and one nurse assistant. It was easier to get to, it would have less contagious people in it, and it was a small personal family oriented clinic. I did have reservations about a nurse practitioner. I wanted a bona fide doctor for my sweet Aunt Mary, only the best for her. But I decided to give the nurse practitioner a chance and if I didn’t like her services or thought the care was lacking, I would take my Aunt to another doctor. Well this nurse practitioner did a wonderful job. We were greeted with smiles and kind understanding every time and the personal service that every patient deserves.
Don’t underestimate the local clinics when choosing a doctor. You need to remember when our elders were growing up there may not have been a hospital, only the local doctor. Make sure your elder has a choice in choosing her doctor. If she isn’t pleased with the service, it may be time to find another doctor. Pay close attention to your elder. I believe nobody knows our body better than ourselves. Ask her often how she feels and monitor her closely. Write it down so you remember. It is surprising how a memory can go blank in a doctor’s office. This may be due to nerves, referred to as “white-coat syndrome.” You may need to inform the doctor about her symptoms or complaints because your elder may not remember everything at the doctor’s office. The doctor needs to be well informed of her symptoms so he can detect the problem and offer the best remedy.
When you choose your doctor you are also choosing nurses. Behaviors are contagious and if your doctor is less than friendly, this will eventually rub off on the nurses under him. However, if you choose a friendly doctor the nurses should also be friendly. More importantly, if you are in good spirits, this feeling will transfer to others around you, including your elderly loved one.
If you decide to care for your elder in your home these nurses may be required to come to your home to administer assistance to your loved one. This can become an enjoyable or irritable experience. Care giving is a very personal and sensitive matter. It is much like the feelings a parent has over taking care of their child. They wouldn’t want anybody telling them how to raise their child and caregivers can be a little touchy when nurses try to inform them of the proper way to care for their loved one.
There is a large disconnect between the nurses and caregivers. The nurses have no idea of your daily experiences and history of your situation and you may not have the medical knowledge that took the nurses years to learn. This book will shorten this gap by giving you a general education of health matters so you can understand them and communicate better. Try to respect the nurses and not be offended too easily. I was never offended by the nurses and had the ability to overlook inconsequential matters, but I knew that some females would take the nurse comments more sharply. If the nurse offers advice, it is a good idea to ask questions to learn more about the best way to care for your loved one.
If your relative takes a blood thinner you will probably have to go for blood tests every two weeks to ensure she takes the right dose of medications and alter it if needed. You may have some alternatives to where you have these tests taken so ask your doctor for a convenient location to go for you and your relative. It may also be possible to have this done within your home. We rarely had any long waits or inconveniences during these short visits. The nurses were always pleasant and are trained to make the patient feel comfy while they poke them with these large needles. Most of the nurses are well trained to hit the vein they need and accomplish their task. Some will be better then others. Monitor which part of the arm they successfully hit a vein, so you can tell the next nurse if she doesn’t know exactly where the good spot is or which arm is better. You don’t want the nurses poking holes all over until they find a good place. This could lead to pain and a bad mood. Be sure to browse through the magazines while in the waiting room. You may find a helpful article on care giving or learn something else. Always try to use your time efficiently and stay positive. I looked for articles about improving my health during these visits.
Warm Memory: The nurse during a blood test offered her finger to my Great Aunt Mary and instructed my Aunt to squeeze her finger as hard as she could. My Aunt was serious as she smilingly said, “I don’t want to hurt you doll.”
Bathing & Skin Care
I tried to guard Aunt Mary’s dignity by allowing her to take her own baths, but eventually I had to help her. If your elder is able, allow her to administer the bath in order to get exercise and you can assist with her back. I would tell Aunt Mary to wash all the curves. The nurse told me to keep her clean and dry. The most convenient place I found to administer a bath was on the toilet seat in the morning. If your loved one has had an accident in bed you will have to give her a good cleaning and change of clothes. It helps get them awake and ready to start the day.
Occasionally you will want to give them a full bath in the bathtub. Since the elderly secrete less oil and perspiration, full baths are not needed all the time. More baths will be needed in the summer versus the winter. You can buy plastic seats to put in the shower for them to sit on while you bathe them. The hand held shower nozzles are great tools and it will feel good to your loved one. I always did a temperature test on the water to make sure Aunt Mary was comfortable. You don’t want your elder to come out of the bathroom looking like a boiled lobster. It is a good idea to ensure you have rubber suction cup bathtub mats or sand paper strips on the tub floor so you won’t have any accidents.
As we age our skin becomes dry and more sensitive. We don’t secrete enough oil to moisturize our skin. I found that Aunt Mary would get itching when her skin became dry so we used lotion to keep her skin comfortable. Their skin needs more lotion in the winter versus the summer. I found the best time to apply lotion is after a bath when their skin is moist, but we kept a good lotion handy in every room for convenience. A humidifier can also help eliminate itchy skin and make your living atmosphere better.
Feet & Toe Tips
You want to make sure to keep your elders feet comfortable. A nurse informed me that the feet can affect the health of the whole body. To create humor you can buy your elder some cute bunny footsies to wear around the house. You want the footsies to be comfy and safe with some kind of traction as in rubber soles. You want to also have some comfortable shoes for outdoor trips. A shoe that slips on and off easy will make your life easier versus having to tie shoe strings.
If you want to pamper yourselves, buy an inexpensive foot massager. I would tell my Aunt Mary, “We are both going to the spa today. We both deserve it.” I would put a few balls of Epsoms salt and fill the foot massager up with warm water to give Aunt Mary a foot spa for about 15 minutes. Then I would rinse it out, refill it and relax my feet. Elders can develop a foot fungus on their toe nails and the spa can help prevent those problems. You should pamper yourself too as you will be on your feet a lot and you need to nurture yourself.
During this foot spa is an excellent time to trim your elders toe nails. Inspect her feet and toenails and make sure that she doesn’t have any hangnails or other problems. Be very careful trimming her toe nails. More than likely they aren’t going to trust anybody too much with sharp objects near their little toes. This is no job to be doing when you are in a hurry. If you accidentally clip a sensitive toe, you better have some earplugs and a helmet on. Then the next time you try and clip her nails, her eyeballs are going to be wide as silver dollars showing deep concern. Keep their trust; don’t make mistakes in this area.
The first time they need their toenails clipped I suggest you take them to a foot doctor. You want the doctor to inspect her feet and ask him to also clip her nails. You want to watch him to see how to do it, and what kind of clippers he uses. More importantly, watch your relative eyeballing that doctor like a hawk. Now smile and clip away some stress. Get suggestions from him for proper foot care. You have been taught by a pro, now tell your relative that you are certified to clip her toenails since a doctor has taught you. Try and get a smile out of her any way and every time you can. It is healthy for both of you.
I made it a habit for us to both use the bathroom before we went on any trips. I would ensure I put the seatbelt on for Aunt Mary and that she had a water bottle she could drink if she got thirsty. If she fussed about the seat belt tell I would tell Aunt Mary the sheriff is going to get us if we don’t. You want to make sure they are comfortable and ready to go. I would always ask Aunt Mary how she was doing to make sure she was all right. I would hold Aunt Mary’s hand while driving at times to offer her reassurance that she was safe. I did this to ensure both of us a safe trip because if your elder gets nervous or upset, it can distract you from the road and cause an accident. I would point up to the sky and ask Aunt Mary to look at the clouds. I’d always tell her to look at them big old cotton balls up there. I was observant of our scenery and if I saw children or nature I would make Aunt Mary aware of it. You want to make the trip an enjoyable one so she will always be willing to get in the car and go with you, even if she is going to see the oral surgeon. I tried to avoid bumpy roads because they can be very uncomfortable for an elderly person. If you have real bad roads in your area, call the county road commissioner and ask to get them fixed. Then show your Aunt that she is a high priority; the county road commissioner fixed that road just for her. A good way to get the cooperation from anybody is with food. Your phone call to request proper snow plowing or road repair may be overlooked. However, if you were to send the road commissioner or whomever you are trying to influence some home made cookies or baked items, they will remember you. Be sure to include a warm note or picture to brighten their day. You will be impressed with the results. Drive safely and keep your distance from the other vehicles. You have precious cargo on board.
- Avoid traveling behind vehicles with out of state license plates who don’t know the area,
- Avoid traveling behind trucks or vans that you cannot see in front of for good defensive driving,
- Do not honk your horn at others – it causes accidents as well as stress for everybody in the area,
- Hold your elders hand if she gets nervous and reassure her that she is safe,
- Give your elder curbside assistance at every chance,
- Carry snacks, water, blankets, towels, moist wipes, flashlight, umbrella, etc., and a big smile,
- Keep good maintenance on your vehicle and your tires, to prevent dangerous problems,
- Make certain to have a fully inflated spare tire, and a jack,
- Always use your turn signals and keep a safe distance from other vehicles,
- Consider taking a defensive driving course because they offer excellent safety tips,
Designing a Daily Routine
Below was the daily routine that I used to care for my Aunt Mary and it may help you design your own daily routine. A routine helps keep elders more comfortable and helps with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is best to write it down so when you have others to help care for your loved one, they can keep the same routine. The routine also helps the caregiver to be organized and function better.
- I wake up and poke my head in to check on my sweet Aunt Mary,
- I turn on the heat to make the house warmer for her when she gets up,
- Go to the kitchen and pull her chair out at an angle so she can get in easier,
- Crank up the go-go juice and get the coffee percolating,
- Plan breakfast, tidy up the kitchen and open up the window curtains,
- Get her medicine and hearing aid on the table with a glass of water,
- Play some light country music to get in gear,
- Listen for any signs of rumbling and check on relative,
- Get breakfast started or cereal soaking to be soft for her,
- Go fetch my aunt and wake her up with a kiss and loving smile,
- Get her footies on and safely stroll to the bathroom,
- Allow her to do her business and grab a clean nightgown and panties,
- Slip her nightgown off and give her a birdbath on the toilet,
- Slip the clean nightgown on before she gets cold and exchange panties,
- Help her up and get her bloomers on and strut over to the sink,
- Wash her face and hands with a warm cloth to get the sleep out of her eyes,
- Allow her to brush her choppers & hair, or do it for her if needed,
- Look at her in the mirror and tell her to look at that pretty girl in the mirror and get her smiling,
- Stroll to the kitchen and allow her to easily slide into the chair you have ready,
- Give her a kiss and a BIG Good Morning and listen to her chat away, happy and smiling,
- Finish making your breakfast as you chat together and get her fully awake,
- Now give her the medication, the small pills first and graduate to the bigger ones,
- Now its time for breakfast and during her meal remind her to chew her food good,
- Give her sips of water between bites to wash the food down good to avoid choking,
- Give her any medications that are to be taken after a meal,
- Allow her to feed the pet and spread her love and drink her coffee,
- Wash dishes and clean kitchen while she is enjoying her coffee (Dance to amuse her),
- Ask her if she needs to go to the bathroom before changing from the kitchen to the living room,
- Walk her to a comfy chair in the scenic room and put her feet on a stool,
- Cover her with a throw to keep her warm and watch her smile,
- Give her a hug and kiss on the cheek and allow her to give you a kiss,
- Sit with her and chat about the nature and birds singing or TV news (Fill the bird feeder),
- Make sure she is comfy and tell her you got some chores to do, “I’ll be right back.”
- Wash the kitchen floor, get laundry & dishwasher going, and focus on multi-tasking to do several things at the same time and maximizing your efficiency,
- Check on your loved one to see if she is alright and needs to use the bathroom,
- If you vacuum the floor turn your elders hearing aid off and back on when you’re done (Entertain your elder with a spin and some fancy dance moves),
- Enjoy the program together and point out how happy and excited the people are,
- Start writing an agenda or to do list of everything you need to get done,
- Get lunch started and bring in your loved one when it is ready,
- Give her any medications required or pain reliever for any pains,
- Clean up kitchen and start doing dishes while she finishes her lunch,
- Inquire if she needs to go to the bathroom before going back to the scenic room,
- Try to balance getting chores done while keeping an eye on your loved one,
- Allow you elder to get a nap and turn off her hearing aid while you get some things done,
- Start getting supper ready and bring her in when it is ready,
- Give her any medications required,
- Clean up kitchen and start doing dishes while she finishes her supper,
- Try to relax with your elder in the evening due to sundown syndrome,
- An extra strength pain reliever for a good nights rest and curb sundown syndrome,
- Give a loving hand to your elder and let her know that she is loved,
- Safely walk your loved one to the bathroom and then bed at the same time every night,
- Take her hearing aid out and put it in the same place every night,
If you start the care giving assistance in the home of your elder, this is the ideal place to learn their routine. They may not have a routine yet but you can see how they like to enjoy their days and there may be some things they do everyday at certain times. An average day for caregivers follows and you can use this list to form your own daily routine:
- Insert hearing aid,
- Comfy chair,
- Morning news,
- Nap (Your time to get things done),
- Comfy chair,
- Watch nature,
- Watch TV,
- Talk and snack,
- Nap (prepare dinner),
- TV and talk,
- Pain reliever,
- Remove hearing aid,
A routine is good for you as well as your loved one. It gives them comfort and structure. Placing synchronized clocks in every room can help you map out a daily routine. Make sure a written routine is available to any person who offers you relief when you are away. A safe place to keep the written routine is with your elders’ medication, eye glasses and hearing aid box.
Rise & Shine
When I woke up I would poke my head into Aunt Mary’s bedroom to make sure she was alright and still sleeping and as I was walking to the kitchen I stopped at the thermostat and raised the temperature to make it more comfortable for Aunt Mary. I discovered Aunt Mary was not eager to get out of bed if it is a little too chilly and I didn’t blame her. I’d hide under the covers too. The coldest temperature of the day is normally in the morning just before we wake up. If you are real tight with money and don’t want to turn the heater up a little bit, let me give you an example of the alternative. Your elder is cold and doesn’t want to get out of bed. She has to go to the bathroom but she delays getting out of bed. By the time she gets up to get to the bathroom, it may be too late and she has an accident on the way. She gets upset and embarrassed, and you have to calm her down as well as change her and wash her, the floor and her clothes. This is not a good way to start off your day. I opted to spend the money to turn on the heater in the morning so my Aunt Mary was comfortable and ready to hop out of bed and start a new day. You could also turn on a small heater in her room but this could be dangerous.
I opened the window curtains to let the sun shine in every morning. It is proven that light makes us feel better while darkness will depress us. I didn’t want anything to make us feel bad so I also turned on some lights to get the day started right. If you are coffee consumers get that go-go juice percolating, as you start to make breakfast. What did you have for breakfast yesterday? Maybe try something new today. Set out her medications and your vitamins. Listen to hear if your loved one is stirring.
Go fetch your loved one. It is better for them to wake up to a smiling face rather than getting up themselves and to be disoriented. You also don’t want them to have any accidents falling, and you want to make sure they make it to the bathroom in time. Wash her face, brush her choppers, brush her pretty hair and tell her she is the prettiest gal on the block and watch her smile in the mirror. Try to start the day off right – with a loving smile.
Get her safely to the kitchen table and put in her hearing aid. Her mouth is probably dry so some water is needed along with some loving chat. Maybe turn on some soft music and listen to uplifting songs and wiggle a bit to the tunes so we can laugh at ourselves and amuse our elders. Focus on ways to enjoy yourself and help others do the same. You need to keep your spirits up and try to maintain a positive outlook at every chance. Starting the day with cheerful spirits can make your whole day better.
Comfy Chair Naps
You will need to ensure your loved one has a nice comfortable chair and foot stool that she sits at most of the day. This chair should be at the right height for her to easily navigate in and out of. You can buy a gel mat for the seat she sits in most to help avoid pressure sores, or you can put egg crate in the chair. Your nurse or doctor may suggest a padded footstool if they have heart problems. Get one that is lightweight and easy for both of you to slide across the floor. This will allow your elder to safely get up alone if she needs to.
One cause for Sundown Syndrome may be lunar activity. Ask any nursing home employee about what her job is like during full moons and you will get an entertaining story. Men and women will be strolling down the hall way in all their glory and not a stitch on, or men hopping in bed with the elderly ladies, etc. As the moon affects the tide, it also affects the level of fluid in our brain and causes reactions. Another cause may be their insecurity at night or the fear of going to bed and dying. At the first sign of any nervous activity I would give Aunt Mary an extra strength pain reliever and that would calm her down. Then I simply held her hand to let her know I was there to protect her and everything was all right. She would give me an understanding smile. But if I had to release my hand from hers to do something, I could see the nervousness rush right back on her. So I’d hurry back and grab that precious loving hand. The power of love is awesome. Allow the pet to sit with her or give her the stuffed animal so she can have her hands on something while you are making a quick trip. Maybe give her a hug and kiss before you run off to refresh both of your drinks and tell her you will be right back. Otherwise she is going to be nervous and get up alone and come tracking you down like a bloodhound. I took Aunt Mary for a short walk around the house to use up some nervous energy and show her that everything is alright and that we were safe.
If they have problems sleeping a pain reliever before bed should help. You may need to increase their activity during the day if they can’t sleep. Consult a doctor if it happens on a regular basis. You can’t afford to allow your elder to roam alone in the dark at night. There were a few times that I laid down in bed with her and held her hand until she went to sleep. I’d gently pat her on the head to let her know I loved her and was right there with her. During her final days if needed, I’d spend the night with her. Our nurse recommended the herb Valerian to help Aunt Mary sleep. It works, I used it also. A daily routine helps alleviate these problems sleeping. Sundown syndrome can cause elders to be irritable and the best cure is love and reassurance. You should consult a physician to ensure pain relievers are safe for your elderly loved one, prior to use.
Pain Relievers & Arthritis
As we age our bodies get pains from arthritis that makes it hard to do everyday movements. If your elder is in pain you will want to fix that. If I am in pain I naturally get grumpy and I imagine your elder will too. In the evening time my aunt would get nervous. I’d have to hold her hand as we watched TV and that would calm her down. The extra strength pain relievers were given to her mostly in the evening when she got nervous and this would also aid her during sleep. If Aunt Mary had pain during the day from arthritis I would give her just a regular strength pain reliever and in the evening close to bed time for sundown syndrome I would give her an extra strength pain reliever. The reaction from the different strengths was noticeable. An extra strength pain reliever during the day could adversely affect Aunt Mary’s daily routine and sleeping schedule. This could disorient Aunt Mary and cause unpleasant situations, which I always tried to avoid, to limit stress. So using different strengths of pain relievers for daytime pains versus the evening is advisable.
Chapter 3: Home Safety
This section offers the caregiver practical information on how to use ergonomics, caregiver tools, tips and preventative measures to offer safe loving elderly care in every room of the home. It offers statistics showing the high rate of emergency room visits due to the elderly falling, with fall prevention tips to avoid this trauma. The caregiver tools and tips listed for every room offers a person who has suddenly become a caregiver with a list of items to acquire or steps to take, to ensure a smooth transition. It informs the reader of how to prevent problems and the stress they create by taking safety precautions to ensure the health and happiness of their elderly loved one.
Anti Germ Community
If somebody was ill, I made it clear that they weren’t welcome in our home when I cared for Aunt Mary. Reason is; if your elder gets sick it could be life threatening or the very minimum make her feel miserable, which will make your life much more difficult. If you get sick and feel lousy you can’t properly take care of your loved one. There are no off days as a primary caregiver. If you do get sick you should try to get some relief and stay away from your elder by obtaining caregiver relief. If anybody was sick in our home I would thoroughly clean the house trying to remove germs.
A caregiver needs to be aware of germs, where they are and how to eliminate them. If you blow your nose with tissue, it is better to flush these tissues versus letting them fester in a garbage can. My Aunt had a tendency to feel around in the bathroom trashcan as she rested on the toilet so we washed all four hands after assisting in the bathroom. I pretended I was at war with germs to make disinfecting the home more entertaining. Anything I thought could contain germs I got rid of. I would empty the bathroom trashcan often and use disinfectant regularly. I kept a clean table and counter top in the kitchen because food crumbs draw bugs and bugs have germs. I did not allow germ-contaminated people near me or my Aunt. Items that you rarely clean will contain the most germs such as the phone, keyboard and remote controls. The refrigerator door handle and kitchen sink handles were also cleaned often. The faster a person moves the more calories they burn so I was getting healthier as I quickly eliminated germs with disinfectant wipes. I found it was good cardiovascular exercise to stay ahead of cleaning chores and disinfect the house, which helped me lose weight and feel better. I enjoyed doing two or more things at once which made me feel better. Your elders’ health and well being are your responsibility. When we get sick we become weak. If you stumble while you are walking your elder and fall, your whole world will spin out of control. Insist on a safe environment for you and your loved one. Demand it.
Entryway Caregiver Tools
- Motion sensor light,
- Non skid floor surface,
- Coat hanger or closet near door entrance,
- Lever door knob,
- Large address numbers,
- Post a “Anti-Germ Community” sign on front door,
- Deadbolt and door lock,
- Wheelchair ramp,
- Interior Alzheimer’s Sign “STOP” and/or a bell on the front door,
- Illuminated light switch,
When you enter your house a closet is convenient for you to hang up your coats and put away your other outer wear. When you have to remove your own coat and your elders coat while being concerned about safety from falling, it helps to have a coat rack or closet near the door. You can install a coat rack if you don’t have a closet. An illuminated light switch at the entryway is very beneficial because when you walk into a home with no lights on, it is difficult to see the light switch. Make sure the floor area doesn’t contain any lose rugs or obstructions so that you can both pass through safely. If you do have a welcome mat make sure it is a heavy durable kind not prone to slipping. Consider non skid adhesive strips at this location if it is slippery when wet. An exterior motion sensor light is convenient as well as a good security precaution to prevent falls. Consider changing the average round doorknob to a lever type handle. These are very convenient especially if you have your hands full of groceries as you enter.
If you decide to upgrade the entrance area for security reasons you want to also consider handicap options at that time. Is the door wide enough for a wheel chair or do you want to have a slotted door mailbox to prevent identity theft problems? View your house from the street and look for your address numbers on your house. Do they stand out, are they reflective and are they big enough to be easily recognized by emergency vehicles? If not consider buying new larger numbers and make sure no bushes or tree limbs block the view. If you have a roadside mailbox, you may want to consider buying a keyed lock for your mailbox to prevent identity theft. If you have a mailbox on the road make sure the numbers are big and possibly reflective. Walk around your home in the evening at dark and see if there are any areas that need a motion sensor light to deter criminals. These are great crime deterrents. I bought a 911 emergency light switch for our front light fixture. It is simple to install and a big help to emergency vehicles trying to locate your house. It is a 3 way switch; on, off, and blinking. When you have an emergency simply flip the switch to the middle position to add precious seconds for a rescue team to locate you. These tips can help ensure your safety and comfort. It can prevent problems before they happen to eliminate stress and it will make you feel better.
You may want to ensure there is sufficient lighting throughout the house. As people get older their vision dwindles and they require twice the amount of light they needed when they were younger. For safety reasons it is important to have enough light, but not too much light that would hurt your eyes. Compact florescent light bulbs are energy efficient but offer a limited amount of light. However, they rarely need changed which I find convenient. Light bulbs use very little electricity compared to other items in your home and may cost you a few cents in electricity a day.
The Patio & Yard
Patio & Yard Caregiver Tools
- Bird feeder,
- Insect repellent,
- Comfortable lounge chair,
- Shaded area,
- Weather gauges,
- Self moving lawn sprinkler,
You will both be spending many hours together indoors. Occasionally you need to slide out the door and breathe some fresh air, to wave to the mailman and watch people drive by. The fresh air and sun are healthy for both of you. Aunt Mary surprised me with her knowledge about flowers which we would discuss while outside on the patio. I’d put my Aunt on a padded lawn chair and after we chatted a while and she was comfortable, I’d tell her I was going to do some chores. We took cold drinks outside on a hot day and sat in a shaded area. I’d pick weeds, pick up twigs, and even partly mow the front yard while Aunt Mary enjoyed the outside. I’d wave to her as I drove by on the mower. If you have to cut your grass you need to be careful nothing shoots out of the mower that could injure your elder. I would always make sure the shoot was pointed the other direction. Another thing is you have to keep an eye on your elders the whole time. Concrete is not soft and Aunt Mary could fall if she had a quick urge to get to the bathroom. It only takes them a few seconds to be out of sight. The mower is so loud it wouldn’t do her any good to yell for your assistance. So I would mow the small front yard in a hurry and keep a close eye on her while we were outside. Then when she was napping in her comfy chair in the scenic room, I would mow the back yard constantly riding by the scenic window to make sure she was sitting in her comfy chair and safe. Going outdoors will brighten the day for your elderly loved one.
There are many ways to enjoy the patio area. We had flowers and a little garden. The bird feeders offered regular activity from the local squirrels and the birds. To make watering the yard a little more simple and fun we had a decorative tractor water sprayer that rolled across our yard so I didn’t have to manually move it. My Aunt would enjoy watching the little tractor sprinkler strut across the yard, which brought back her childhood memories of living on a farm. Mosquito’s carrying West Nile disease is something to take serious for the elderly. Use of deet and other mosquito repellents can irritate your elder. We used a gentler product with less chemicals.
Bathroom Caregiver Tools
- Sterilized plastic or latex gloves,
- Raised toilet seat with arm rails,
- Night light,
- Non scented lotion,
- Stool softeners,
- Pain reliever,
- Foot massager,
- Plastic drinking cup,
- Shower seat,
- Electric toothbrush,
- Portable heater (Follow safety precautions),
- Illuminated light switch,
- Non locking door knob,
- Hand held shower extension,
- Handicap rails,
- Motion sensor light and exhaust fan,
- First aid kit,
The bathroom is a dangerous room and needs to be given extra attention. The list of caregiver tools can help you with some items you may need for the health and safety of your elderly loved one. When the standard sheet vinyl flooring in bathrooms get wet it is dangerous even for a physically capable person. If our bathroom floor got wet I would dry it up immediately. Putting throw rugs on this floor could be unsafe as well. I worried about different scenarios such as if Aunt Mary woke up in the middle of the night, barefoot, and didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. She makes it to the toilet, does her business and then on her way back to bed she slips on the wet floor and hits her head on the porcelain tub. It is a terrible thought, but a mental exercise that I had to guard against. My job was to keep her safe. If something bad happened to her, I wasn’t worried about what the other family members would think, I just focused on how bad I would feel. Luckily neither my Aunt nor I ever had a spill but we almost did. Had I not been in great physical condition, we would have had a bad fall. I discovered diarrhea is more slippery than water. This displays the importance of a caregiver to exercise and stay physically fit. I hope you and your loved one never have a dangerous fall either. If you have a regular problem of the floor being wet you may want to consider putting some sand paper strips on the floor or a thin exterior wall-to-wall carpet. You could also consider handicapped rails in the bathtub and by the toilet. A person falling could try to grab the towel rack to prevent their fall and they are not sturdy enough to carry our weight.
I believe in respecting privacy but you are going to have to use situational ethics. Once I peaked in the bathroom door and my Aunt had my toothbrush and it looked like she was going to put it down her pants. I don’t know if she had an itch or if she was retaliating against me for some reason, but I’m sure glad I poked my head in the bathroom. Secure the toothbrushes.
Another way to prevent problems would be to change the lockable doorknob on the bathroom and replace it with a door knob that can’t be locked. Your elder could lock the bathroom door and not be able to get out. I heard stories about my Great Aunt locking herself in a bedroom and she climbed out the window and some neighbors got her home safely. So it is best to remove lockable doors from every room in the house.
Some basic child safety precautions are advisable. You may not want to keep cleaning products in the bathroom and to keep any medications out of reach. A night-light is good for midnight visits as well as an illuminated light switch. They have motion sensor lights and bathroom vents that are also convenient for the elderly. Some elderly housing areas are eliminating bathtubs from the bathrooms so that the elderly only have the option of taking a shower. This may be due to the high number of elders who are falling while getting in and out of a bathtub. These handicapped showers allow the elderly in a wheel chair to roll straight into the shower with no ledge to hurdle. There are many safety products available to keep your elder safe in the bathroom.
Our bathroom was a cold room during the winter and we sometimes used a portable ceramic heater to add extra heat during baths for Aunt Mary during the winter. Being wet and cold is a quick way to get pneumonia which can be deadly to an elderly person. I also bought a first aid kit which had instructions on how to do the Heimlich maneuver and mouth to mouth resuscitation which I found to offer valuable information in addition to the convenience of having everything I needed for medical care in the same place. I believe those instructions helped me to preserve Aunt Mary’s life when she fell limp at the kitchen table and the Heimlich maneuver revived her. We are always misplacing where we put our box of band aids and you don’t have that problem with a first aid kit.
The items listed in the Bathroom Caregiver Tools will help you to decide which options to take to make visits to the bathroom more convenient and safe. The bathroom tips below offer some general advice as to safety and convenience but a caregiver will always need to be cautious in the bathroom area and to balance privacy issues with safety.
- Keep the floor dry,
- Exchange locked interior doorknobs for closet doorknobs,
- Remove medications and cleaning items from reach,
- Place a clock in bathroom to closely monitor and time visits,
- Install an arm rail close to toilet for assistance standing,
- Consider preventative methods to maintain safety,
- Consider upgrades and ergonomics to make the room safe
Kitchen Caregiver Tools
- Gel Pad,
- Place Mats,
- Tissues and Hearing Aid,
- Fire Extinguisher,
- Smoke Alarm,
- Lime Juice,
- Weekly Pill Planner,
- Pill Splitter,
- Jar Openers,
The Kitchen is definitely one room that you want to keep your eyeballs pealed on your relative at all times. You don’t want her around sharp objects. Their chair should be the easiest chair to get to as soon as she enters the kitchen. I didn’t like the idea of Aunt Mary walking around in the kitchen which may be good advice for every caregiver. That was Aunt Mary’s spot and since she was the eldest she had seniority. Make sure the chair is comfortable with some kind of cushion, not all wood. If you have wood chairs you could buy a Gel pad to add comfort and prevent pressure sores. You also want to make sure she can maneuver the chair around and it might be best if the chair had arms for her comfort. Although we had a tablecloth, I later removed it when we almost had an accident. Consider using decorative place mats on the table. I used a farm scenery place mat with cows, chickens and a barn which was a lot of fun. I’d say, “Mooooo” in the morning and tell Aunt Mary it was the cow on the place mat. She would smile and point at the different animals. When you arrive at the table your elder is going to be thirsty so water and/or coffee are the first order of business along with some personal chat. I always put an ice cube in the coffee or hot soup for Aunt Mary to cool it down for her when it was too hot. I would give Aunt Mary a tissue if she had a stuffy nose or use it to get the sleep out of her eyes. This helped get Aunt Mary fully awake and comfortable before I gave her the medications, fluids or food, because she could choke or spit up her medicine because she couldn’t swallow it. Some people have trouble swallowing pills even when fully awake. Aunt Mary would put the pills in her mouth, drink some water, then lift up her chin allowing the pill to fall down to the back of her mouth and then swallow. If Aunt Mary couldn’t swallow pills I would crush them up and add it to applesauce with a little sugar to cover the taste. I found it more comforting to wait for Aunt Mary to wake up before she took her pills so she would get every milligram of what the doctor prescribed and not spit the pills out later. Not eating all of the applesauce was a cause for concern and I tried to avoid this method. Some elders can be quite crafty and stubborn by hiding pills in their mouth and acting like they swallowed the pills only to spit them out later when you are not looking. They may convince themselves that the medications are harmful to them or that the trusted caregiver may be trying to harm them. I avoided these problems by always giving Aunt Mary lots of love so she would trust me and the pills that I gave her. The insecure elders need to feel certain that they are loved and well cared for, to develop a barrier of trust. If that barrier is breached where they begin to distrust the caregiver, you will have a very difficult task everyday – with infinite stress levels. I opted to be attentive, enthusiastic and silly to shower Aunt Mary with love to avoid these stressful problems.
I took my vitamins as Aunt Mary swallowed her pills so she didn’t feel alone. Our doctor prescribed a small easy to swallow multi vitamin for Aunt Mary. Multi vitamins at the local store are normally the size of horse pills and I was glad to get a smaller multi vitamin from her physician. If she had medications that were to be taken after the meal, I put them to the side and then brought her breakfast. I monitored her closely at all meals so she didn’t choke. Sometimes the mind and the mouth motor skills skip a beat. I constantly told Aunt Mary to chew her food well to keep her focused to prevent choking. I ate beside Aunt Mary and I would tell her that, “My breakfast is the best there is.” I tried to create humor at every chance to lift our spirits.
I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning and preparing meals. I discovered that simple luxuries in the kitchen made my chores a whole lot easier and it also allowed me to gain more needed time. Simple things like larger salt and pepper shakers, more small trashcans, a revolving kitchen cabinet, jar openers, a dishwasher, or an ice machine were appreciated. I had empathy for the struggling caregiver who didn’t have these luxuries. Simple things like a taller trash can so you don’t have to bend over as much can add precious seconds to your day. These luxuries saved me precious time and allowed me to better focus on Aunt Mary and myself, for mental clarity. Instead of being forced to react to situations out of my control and having tremendous stress, I was in control. I discovered that it was well worth the time and effort to study the ergonomics of the kitchen area and obtain any kind of gadgets or rearrange this area to make my life easier or safer. I also noticed that a fast moving caregiver could easily make mistakes and injure themselves in the kitchen. I was fortunate that I never cut myself with submerged knives while doing dishes in a hurry. A caregiver has to guard their hands from injury because they are instrumental in taking proper care of your loved one, such as walking them. A caregiver has to use their hands for everything and doesn’t have time for doctor visits that can be avoided. So I was also conscious of ways to make the kitchen and every other part of the house safe and more organized. By taking better care of myself, I was taking better care of Aunt Mary.
We had a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and luckily we never had to use it. If your elderly relative receives home health care where nurses come to your home, I believe federal law mandates that the nurses inspect your home to ensure you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and smoke detectors. They are not that expensive and it offers added security and comfort in the event the need arises.
Although the pharmacy has many different versions of a pill splitter, I was never able to find one that worked well. Many times the pill splitter would shatter the pills into crumbs. The nurse taught me that I could do a better job splitting the pills with my fingernails and it was also quicker. We bought a weekly pill planner and every week I filled up those containers from her medicine containers. I found it very convenient. I have noticed that they now have a monthly sized pill planner for four weeks which would help save time for the caregiver. However, sometimes the doctors will alter the dose of certain medications and require the care giver to add or subtract to the dosage. If that happened the caregiver would have to alter that one pill from every box in the container which are sometimes difficult to locate and get out of them small boxes.
- Throw away any chipped or broken dishes because of bacteria and cuts,
- Use a dishwasher because it sterilizes dishes and makes life easier,
- Put a slice of bread in plastic container with cookies to keep them soft,
- When you crush pills and add to applesauce add a little sugar to cover the taste, (non-diabetics)
- Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit easy to reach,
- If they don’t like veggies such as corn add a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten it, (non-diabetics)
- Keep a bottle of lime juice in the kitchen for hiccups,
- Upgrade, organize and use ergonomics to make the kitchen safe and more efficient
- Allow elder to help with light chores to make her feel worthwhile,
Food Safety Tips
Eating meals can be an endeavor for the elderly. It takes a lot out of them because the stomach competes with the heart. Allow your elder to rest comfortably after meals to digest her food. If they have a lot of activity after a meal the elderly may spit up some food and their medication which was something I tried to avoid because I would have to decide if I had to give Aunt Mary her medication again or not, which was a risky decision. You want to monitor them closely during meals. I was eating dinner with my Aunt Mary one evening and she just fell limp and lifeless. I rushed behind her chair and gave her the Heimlich maneuver twice and she came to. I immediately called an ambulance and they determined that she had a small heart problem and took her away. Later as we were leaving the hospital the heart doctor said she had congestive heart failure and the heart compensates for itself. He also said, “Just let her live her life.” I appreciated those kind words and the wisdom they held.
During meals I would tease my Aunt by converting my hand into a slowly moving spider by rapidly clicking my nails on the table and moving toward or around her plate trying to get her food. At times I would have the spider crawling up her arm to tickle her neck, just to surprise her and let her know I was thinking about her. I tried to give Aunt Mary a variety of food so she would always enjoy her meals. Below are some variations we used that may or may not be suitable for your loved one especially if they have diabetes and not permitted to have sugar.
- Pink cinnamon and regular applesauce,
- Baby Food (Yum Yum) its good plus vitamin packed,
- Cinnamon Toast – Mix sugar and cinnamon and add to buttered toast,
- French toast – A soft & healthy meal that creates needed energy,
- Waffles – Cut up into small squares for them,
- Pancakes – Home made is very fresh versus the store bought mix,
- Fresh Fruit (Cut into small pieces to avoid choking),
- Fruit cocktail (Watch for choking on grapes),
- Sausage & eggs with buttered toast,
- Sausage gravy & biscuits,
- Variety of juices; Tomato, Orange, Cranberry, Apple,
- Cinnamon Rolls – Consider home made versus store bought with preservatives,
- Hot Cocoa – Make with milk or half & half for tasty hot cocoa,
- Pop Tarts – Warm up in toaster,
- Soft or soaked cereal – Let sit to get soft before eating,
- Grits – Some people love their grits,
- Dough nuts – Chocolate dough nuts will get her motor running with a smile,
- Egg Sandwich – Break egg yoke and cook thoroughly,
- Smashed Jellatin with sweetened condensed milk is delicious,
- When preparing food slice the food into small easily chew-able bites to avoid problems,
- Make small portions of different food groups – add more as needed to keep her food warm,
- Ensure they drink water between bites to wash down the food,
- Never rush their eating to shovel food down their mouth. Allow them to decide how fast to eat,
- They will eat slowly and the food may need to be reheated for them,
- Slice off any part of the meal that you wouldn’t want to eat such as hard egg edges,
- Different color foods is a good rule of thumb to ensure proper vitamin and mineral intake,
- Don’t encourage too much chat while they are chewing food to avoid choking,
- Repeat the phrase; “Chew your food good,” during meals,
- Cook meat and store in water in the refrigerator to remove fat on the top to make meat tender,
- When choosing meat you want a marble texture of fat – not too much or too little,
- Have napkins and paper towels handy at all times,
- Use non-breakable small plastic cups for water and juice for easy lifting,
- Place a cute bib on her and/or you, to make meals more entertaining,
- Pretend you are a gourmet chef and always make their meals attractive as well as tasty,
- Pat yourself on the back when your relative smiles as she says, “This is GOOD!”
- If she regurgitates medications you should ensure she takes the pills again or takes new ones, (consult physician)
Bedroom Caregiver Tools
- Night light,
- Cow Bell,
- Egg crate bed cushion,
- Extra pillow for bed positioning,
- Portable toilet,
- Illuminated light switch,
- Footsies and pull over gowns,
- Talcum powder to keep sheets dry,
- Extra blanket for cool nights,
- Intercom or baby monitor,
- Emergency assistance toddler window sticker,
If your relative is going to move in with you, the first step is to choose which bedroom your relative gets. Your best bet is to give her a room either with a bathroom or a bathroom close. If you think your brain is foggy when you get up, try adding another 20-40 years on top of it. We gave Aunt Mary the bedroom which was directly across the hall from the bathroom to give her a short straight trip to the bathroom. This close proximity may have eliminated some bad experiences. We left the bathroom light on and later we also got a night light for her bedroom and the bathroom. We had self illuminating light switches which also helped Aunt Mary navigate. Our closet doors in our bedrooms had a switch which turned on the closet light when they were open and went off when you closed the door. We removed anything from the room that was breakable and gave Aunt Mary dolls and stuffed animals for amusement. We kept an extra pair of footsies in her night stand in case she had an accident while trying to walk to the bathroom and they got wet. Aunt Mary’s wardrobe mostly consisted of one piece dresses and night gowns which were easy to remove and put on. Aunt Mary would stroll around her room to investigate so we ensured there was nothing that she could touch or move that could harm her such as lamps, hanging mirrors or pictures. The bedroom is where your relative will be with the least amount of monitoring so you need to make sure it is safe.
An egg crate bed cushion placed under the fitted sheet on a bed can prevent the problem of pressure sores because it offers air pockets to eliminate friction and constant pressure on the skin. It also offers more comfortable sleeping and sometimes the elderly have problems sleeping. If your elder is bedridden or spends a lot of time in bed, an egg crate cushion would help prevent pressure sores. A nurse taught me how to use an extra pillow folded in half to prop behind an elderly person in bed to ensure they sleep on their side, which can help allow a pressure sore to heal. A talcum powder or shower to shower sprinkled on the sheets can offer less friction and it smells good.
In the winter we gave Aunt Mary an extra blanket for cool nights and we bought thermal curtains which helped keep the heat in her bedroom from escaping through the windows. If it was too dry or Aunt Mary became sick we would put a humidifier in her room. Elders often complain about itching from dry skin and a humidifier can eliminate some of those problems. I discovered that having a box of tissues in every room saved me a lot of walking to other rooms and allowed me to offer better care to Aunt Mary of being there when she needed me.
- During the winter you can use 2 blankets or a heavy quilt to be sure to keep them warm,
- Thick thermal curtains keep the bedroom warmer and limit fear from thunder storms
- Use a night-light,
- Use egg crate on her bed to avoid pressure sores,
- Consider an intercom system or cow bell to monitor her from your bedroom,
- Install illuminated light switches to help her locate the light switches in the dark,
- Don’t have any lose rugs or lose wall hanging items
- Remove casters or wheels from bed frame to make it safe and sturdy
- Use blocks or pads to elevate her bed if needed to make it easier to get in and out of bed,
- Place extra pair of footies in her night stand drawer,
- Place her nightgowns and dresses in her closet that are easy to reach for her and you,
- Make sure to remove her hearing aid every night,
- Use a humidifier if she gets sick,
- Put talcum powder on her sheets to keep skin dry but consider allergies,
- Clean bed linen and flipping mattress could offer better rest,
- Consider padding on sharp corners of furniture,
According to the dictionary, ergonomics is used to study how to design an area to be more efficient and use less movement and energy to prevent injuries. You need to apply this science to every room and every chore you do. Stop and try to focus on using less energy. Ask advice from lazy people because they are natural experts in this field. Set up each area to use less energy and movement. Think about what you can buy that will improve your life and make things easier. Where is your clock located and how far do you need to crane your neck to see it? Just moving the clock to where I didn’t have to turn my head saved me energy everyday. If you increase the size of both you and your elders drinking glasses you can eliminate some trips to the kitchen. Where can you place the trashcan to eliminate steps, or should you buy another trashcan? Will having tissues in every room save you time walking? Every movement you make uses energy and you should try to minimize your motions. Taking these steps could prevent you from pulling a muscle in your back which could put a caregiver out of commission. Any kind of luxuries that can make your life easier should be put on your Christmas list. It is hard enough to take care of ourselves, let alone another person. So use your energy wisely and be gentle with your body. Try to nurture both your mind and spirit every way you can.
Scenic Room Caregiver Tools
- Gel Pad,
- Comfy Chair,
- Foot Stool,
- Relief Bucket,
- Blanket or Throw,
- plastic cup w/straw,
You will both be spending most of your time in the scenic room so you will want to make it as comfortable as possible. Hopefully you have a picture window or sliding glass doors so you can both enjoy the scenic views of nature outside. This will create fun and opportunities for humorous chat. I arranged our living room with a small table between two comfy recliners. I used this table to place our drinks or snacks on. The table was only 14” wide so I could hold Aunt Mary’s hand in the evenings when she would get nervous, or be able to reach her if needed. I had a footstool that I would place her feet on that made her more comfy and eased the load on her heart. I always had a throw to cover her with to keep her warm. She thanked me every time I put it on her so I believe your elder would appreciate it also. We had a clear walkway from the entrance to our chairs. The TV was in the corner beside the sliding glass doors. So we had the option of watching outdoors or the television. For her enjoyment I placed two Sheppard hooks with bird feeders outside so she could view the birds. I planted perennial flowers and she would help me water them and watch them grow. The local squirrels saw the bird feeders and made a point to come visit us as well. Each time an animal comes into view, you can share an excited or enthusiastic experience with your relative. I would put nuts outside and squirrels would come up to the picture windows which would cause the cats to get excited. This brought laughter and a smile on my Aunt’s face. The eye catches things that move. It keeps you alert and your mind active as well as giving you something to share with your elderly loved one. A scenic room allows your loved one to admire nature, which calms the spirit.
I kept a relief bucket under the table between our chairs in case Aunt Mary had stomach problems. Between meals I would offer Aunt Mary snacks so she wouldn’t be hungry. Popcorn is good for bowel movements and a chocolate doughnut would put a huge smile on Aunt Mary every time. Aunt Mary had a habit of hiding the remote control to the television so I used fishing wire to tie the remote control to the table to eliminate that problem. I also got the hint and spent more time talking to Aunt Mary instead of watching television. If my Aunt Mary did something I always pondered why she did it to help us create a better relationship. My Aunt had a habit of hiding many things and you may want to find some fishing wire so you can keep things where you left them. When we lose items it creates stress and I tried to eliminate stress and problems in any way I could and every caregiver should do the same.
You will do a lot of laundry and need to make sure you design this area ergonomically. You can install shelves to make this job easier. Ideally, you would want a closet rack where you can hang up clothes as soon as they pop out of the dryer. I didn’t have a closet rack but I went and grabbed an armful of closet hangers and found it far easier to hang clothes up on hangers than folding them. This is much easier and less time consuming then folding clothes, besides that, it creates less wrinkles and you and your elder will look better. Try to make sure the poisonous detergents are unreachable. I discovered my aunt enjoyed helping me fold laundry which made her feel worthwhile and gave her exercise. She was also very skilled and taught me a few tricks about folding clothes. Try to allow your elder to teach you new things and compliment her for her genius. This pumps up their self esteem and makes their lives more worthwhile. I would amuse my aunt by referring to her underwear as “bloomers.” Try to create smiles and laughter in every room or activity. The humor cuts down stress levels and enhances your mood. Even folding laundry can be an enjoyable time.
The idea home for your elder will have a garage, especially in cold climates. I walked out to my garage looking for ways to make it child safe in case Aunt Mary went into the garage. After one look around, it was obvious to me that it would be impossible to make the garage safe for Aunt Mary. These can be dangerous areas, and easy to fall, especially when wet. I decided I was just going to ensure Aunt Mary didn’t go into the garage unless I was walking her. If you live in a cold climate or it is raining, you can warm up your vehicle in the garage so your relative won’t be exposed to the elements. I had to rearrange our garage so we could open the doors far enough to get in. The garage is a very difficult area to make safe. Try to keep your elder out of the garage or lock up easily grabbed dangerous items.
Basement Caregiver Tools
- Emergency supplies,
- Night light,
- Battery operated television and radio,
- Backup energy supply,
- Comfortable living quarters,
You may only need to use the basement for emergencies during bad weather. I designed a comfortable living space downstairs in case of an emergency. Some items we included were a bed, pain reliever, refrigerator, couch, chairs, battery operated radio and TV, phone, cell phone, blankets, food, water, medicine, and anything else you can think of. We didn’t have a toilet in the basement so I bought an up-flush pump which cut the cost of plumbing and allowed us to put a toilet in the basement. I remodeled the whole basement and installed walls to make different rooms. I noticed that stairways have a common problem of being too dark so installed more lights. You can design a basement to be a fun and a comfortable place to enjoy yourself and hope you never need to use it. I always tried to reassure Aunt Mary that we were going to the basement for a vacation, not for an emergency. It isn’t good for the health of our elders to be nervous, so it is a good idea to have some way of amusing them during these visits to the basement. Although I never wanted to tell a mistruth to my Aunt Mary, I found it very wise to be aloof or vague at times to keep her stable and happy
- Make sure there is a rail on the steps with sufficient lighting for safety,
- Place a toilet in basement for emergencies,
- Install a submersible water pump and seal any water leaks to eliminate mildew,
- Consider installing insulation in the whole basement or at least one room for comfort,
- Design a comfortable living space to include, bed, couch, chairs, phone, food, water, candles, etc.
Chapter 4: Care Giving Benefits
There are many books and people who will tell you how hard and stressful care giving is. They have a valid point and nobody can deny that care giving can be stressful. However, they are looking at the subject of care giving from a negative perspective that can become self reinforcing. If you are informed that something is hard and stressful, it is difficult to view the matter from another perspective. I had reservations about naming this book, “Care Giving Made Easy – How to Be an Awesome Caregiver,” because it can be a very difficult responsibility. I felt it was important to caregivers and our thoroughbred Americans to view care giving from a positive aspect and I started with the book title. I am an American citizen and I am not so willing to be defeated by the challenge of care giving because others have viewed it as hard or stressful.
I prefer to focus on the positive and beautiful aspects of any situation. The gift of turning lemons into lemonade is precious. There are many different ways to think about any experience. You may think of your self as seasoned, but if we compare our age to infinity, we are all just babies. You could be cut off by somebody while driving and become upset, or you can opt to think the person may have saved your life somewhere else down the road by slowing you down. It all depends on how you decide to look at things. I found my care giving experience to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable times of my life versus a stressful time. There are many benefits to care giving and ways to limit stress, it all depends on how you decide to look at it. Listed below are some of the benefits of care giving and how you can improve your life. I believe there are other caregivers who are not so willing to relent to stress.
Power of Prevention
During the late 1980’s I decided I was going to turn my life around because I had been in trouble with the law as a teenager due to conflicts with my Father and I had a criminal record. I decided to take the negative aspects of my previous criminal mentality and use it in a positive manner by writing a book on home security. I marketed some security products and attended seminars on home security. I was going to accept a job with a security company in Nashville, Tennessee but I wasn’t pleased with the industry as a whole because it really consists of scaring people into buying your product. When I reviewed an article by a security company businessman informing other security companies how to be a millionaire in ten years by over charging each customer an extra $10.00 on the monthly alarm security monitoring station I decided to exit the industry as a whole. I was indoctrinated in customer service and I did not agree with these underhanded tactics by men who were promising to help make your home secure.
However, I learned about the power of prevention. Crime prevention was just beginning to be recognized as a way to deter crime but I learned that many county sheriffs in various states were resistant. The two leading cities in crime prevention were Boston, Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan. But many other cities preferred the traditional aspects of law enforcement and were not interested in taking any steps to prevent crime. I recognized the importance of crime prevention and knew the statistics of a person recovering from a loss from crime was rarely recovered. I concluded that crime prevention is the best method to home security and a happy homeowner. I had financial difficulties and didn’t finish my book on home security, but I have included some home security tips in this book. You should take advantage of crime prevention and realize the value of preventing problems before they happen which can offer you peace and serenity instead of stress.
During the 1990’s U.S. President Bill Clinton introduced a way to benefit every American and lower our medical bills with preventative medicine. Since I was aware of the tremendous value of crime prevention I quickly realized the value of this new concept. Yet there were some who opposed the idea of preventative medicine just as they opposed crime prevention. When President Clinton mentioned how many billions of dollars this concept of medical care would save Medicaid and Medicare, I was convinced of the value of prevention to eliminate problems and stress. If you could get tested for a disease early before it threatened your life such as cancer, it would save lives, money and had other positive aspects for the family. I like to have faith in our government leaders and learn from them, so I applied the power of prevention to other areas of my life, including care giving. Aunt Mary and I had many enjoyable moments due to preventing problems before they could happen so we could control our own lives and happiness versus reacting to what life hands you and having stress. Adopting the power of prevention will help you in every aspect of your life and help to eliminate stress.
At least once a year you need to plan a special vacation to pamper yourself. There is a lot of stress involved as a caregiver and you need some relief. This will enable you to recharge.
The Joy of Learning
Whether you intend to or not, you are going to be learning new things everyday. The doctors and nurses are full of information and your elder is certainly going to give you some thought provoking stories. When we are young at school and forced to learn, it isn’t fun. But as we age we get the benefit of enjoying the thought process. The more we learn, the more confident we become. It is fun to learn and as a caregiver you have plenty of time to stretch your cerebral lobe.
You can quietly take a college course at home and study while your elder takes naps, or sleeps. You can include her in some of this activity. Ask her to point at drawings, words, or diagrams and you have to tell her what it is. Be sure to throw her a curve and tell her that one item is a love bump for sure. Nod your head emphatically and tell her you are certain. Give her a hug and let her know she is loved and appreciated. I discovered that learning something new everyday boosted my self esteem and made me feel like I was improving my life. Try to cherish the joy of learning to improve your well being. My Father stated that you can tell how smart a person is by how old they are which has a lot of truth to it. Your elderly loved one is a fountain of wisdom that you should try to learn from.
What are your priorities in life? We all have the same priorities but sometimes we need to realign them. You can squeeze in time to read some self-improvement books and really focus on your future. During the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life we are always moving and don’t have time to stop and reflect on our life. You now have the option to think clearly. You can look at your life from the sidelines and make some adjustments. You can start below by finding out what’s most important to you. Establishing some goals can also help you align your priorities to make you feel better.
- Spiritual beliefs,
Another great pleasure in my life was tracing my family history. It takes you through history and you will be amazed what a thrill this is. You learn about your forefathers and their values as you begin to understand yourself better. Our ancestors actually blazed a trail through the Cumberland Mountains with Daniel Boone and lived in the same Southeastern Kentucky area with him for many years. It was close to Hazard County, Kentucky. Since many of our large families lived in the borderline state of Kentucky during the Civil War, it appears that some of our family were on opposite sides during the War Between the States. I am proud to say that none of my direct ancestors had any slaves according to census bureau reports. Researching your family history makes American history come alive and far more enjoyable.
You have a valuable resource sitting right next to you – your elderly loved one. The family bible is a good starting point. It may have notes such as birth, marriage and death dates going back for generations. I could give you more information on where to start, but I’m going to make it challenging for you. I encourage you to explore your family history to appreciate your ancestors and our nation.
Peace of Mind
I have read a few studies that mention many caregivers feel isolated and alone. It is true that many of your friends will not feel comfortable around your elder. Maybe they think aging is contagious. I had a few friends that would come in the house and I’d introduce them to my Aunt Mary. Others stayed away, but they would call. I had to listen to their problems and stressful situations for the most part. It appeared they had more stress then I did. I told a few of them that I was going to have to send them a bill for therapy sessions. I found myself much more comfortable visiting with my Aunt, or focusing on my priorities rather than talking to friends. There are many benefits to being able to focus on yourself and your goals rather than listening to other people’s problems. On the flip side, nobody wants to hear caregivers always talking about our problems either.
Once my Aunt was inspecting her hands and noticed a bump and inquired as to what it was. I informed her that it was a “Love Bump.” I told her that she was so full of love that it was popping out all over her. That satisfied her and she never mentioned it again. It was probably an age spot, but the word age isn’t always the right word to use. When curious about another person’s age, I ask, “How young are you?” I try to shy away from the offensive term of, “old.” Senior citizens and especially women do not enjoy hearing the word old. I always tried to offer my Aunt Mary peace of mind and sometimes it helps to be aloof or humorous, versus serious. Try to evade stress or worry when you can.
I have discovered that life is far more enjoyable when we use humorous terms instead of average words. Referring to teeth as “choppers” offers a realistic humor and creates smiles. The boring term of underwear becomes more colorful by referring to them as “bloomers.” Try experimenting with creative terms for boring words to lift up your spirits and create a humorous atmosphere for your family.
You are going to have to use your time very wisely. It is hard enough to take care of ourselves, let alone another person. You will have to focus on doing 2-3 things or more at once. It isn’t that hard and it can be kind of fun and stimulating. Right now I am washing dishes, drying & washing clothes, watering the grass, downloading a computer program, talking on the phone, and writing this chapter.
If you have ever been a waiter or waitress then you have multi-tasked. Your mind just “clicks” as one waitress described it to me years ago. You have many different things (tables) on your mind at the same time and various people to take care of. If you can take care of five tables of customers you can surely take care of household duties and your relative.
Household chores aren’t that hard after you have gotten the deep cleaning taken care of. But the main thing is to stop – focus – and think before you move from one room to another about anything else you can do at the same time. As you learn to do various things at the same time you can add other items to do. This will make your duties as a caregiver much more tolerable by easing your workload and stress. You will become an organized and efficient machine and there isn’t anything you can’t handle. You will be able to tolerate daily stress levels like it was nothing. There are many advantages to being a caregiver that can improve your life. Use some retrospect and analyze your life and your future. This will allow you to hit the ground running when your care giving chores are finished. The average job will be a cakewalk for you. You are an Awesome Caregiver.
Chapter 5: The Entertaining Caregiver
There are some books that include creative activities to enjoy with your loved one. I have listed some ways we found to enjoy our time together. I realized that my responsibility was not to be just a caregiver. I learned to become an entertainer and you should too. One day I was vacuuming the floor and eyeballed my Aunt to make sure she was comfy and happy. I noticed she was watching my every move. She no doubt had many memories of vacuuming floors herself and maybe she was monitoring me to make sure I did it right. So I started doing a little side step here and a twist there and sure enough, I got what I wanted. My Aunt was grinning ear to ear. It made me feel good to see her smile. I reasoned that if I could keep her happy and smiling, my job as a caregiver would be much more fun and enjoyable. So I included Aunt Mary in everything I did. I would put my feet under her footstool as I did sit ups and she would count for me. She would count my reps as I lifted weights and did other exercises. This also helped keep her mind active to fight off dementia symptoms. I would go out on the porch and skip rope and she would just smile. It must have reminded her of days gone by when she enjoyed that activity as a little girl. Or she may have been laughing at me for being a male skipping rope. It didn’t matter to me either way, as long as she was happy – I was happy. This idea worked twofold. It made my exercises more enjoyable so I did more. Losing weight and feeling better was the result. This created a chain reaction of me feeling better so I could make my Aunt Mary feel better.
Being an entertaining caregiver alleviates stress, makes your time together much more enjoyable, filled with more love and laughter, and in general just makes you feel much better everyday you get up for work. It’s not just a job – it’s a joy. You don’t need to read books to discover activities to do with your elder. Just include her in everything you do and find a way to let her help, or join you in your fun. Pretend you are the most famous clown on earth and let your elder know it. Who cares what others think. Just focus on putting a smile on that pretty face. There is nothing wrong with expressing love. These are philosophies I learned from a nurse with 30 years experience caring for the elderly.
As we get older some things become less important, such as diamonds or gold. Age brings wisdom and we become more interested in comfort and enjoyment, instead of vanity. We also become far more concerned about security including back up energy supplies to keep us safe. I realized that some people were having problems picking out gifts for senior citizens and I have made a list below of things we bought that made our lives more enjoyable and offered entertaining moments.
Great Gift Ideas
- Family Bible,
- Jar Openers, cooking oil sprayer,
- Scarf, hat and gloves,
- Warm coat,
- Organized file holder for important papers,
- Fire safe lock box for important papers,
- Egg crate mattress pad,
- Photo Albums,
- Large Photo Frames for family wall collage,
- Illuminated light fixtures,
- 100 watt light bulbs,
- Night Lights,
- Genealogy pedigree chart,
- Organizing kit for important papers,
- Lever type doorknob,
- Large house address numbers,
- New energy efficient electrical appliances,
- Heat sensors & smoke detectors,
- Gel pad seat mattress,
- Generator or propane heater
- Shower seat,
- Padded and or raised toilet seat,
- Gentle mosquito repellent,
- Pressure sore medicine,
- Handicap remodeling,
- Electronic toothbrush,
- Sheppard Hooks,
- Bird Feeders,
- Decorative Place Mats,
- Medicine Pill container and organizer,
Checking the Mail
If your mailbox is on the road just down at the end on the drive way it would be good exercise for your relative to take the short walk with you. She can get fresh air, feel the sun, hear the birds, wave to neighbors driving by, and feel like she is a responsible person and helping to take care of her needs. As you are walking her, talk about the weather; point out the squirrel stashing his goodies, or the bird making her nest for her babies. Maybe joke with your relative and accuse the mailman of trying to seduce her. I used to tell my aunt that she was the prettiest gal on the block and she was surely going to catch her a fellow. Make sure to update their new mailing address with every publication they used to get. She may have donated to a political committee, or she may get a retirement newsletter from where she worked. She needs to get mail too. It will make her feel good. Walking is good exercise for seniors that can help prevent pressure sores and checking the mail can help make your loved one feel worthwhile.
Magazines & Books
Your elder may not be able to read books but she can read the big printed words in magazines. Now large print books are available so if she has her faculties and enjoys reading inquire at the library about this option. Let her have some reading glasses and flip through the pages. She will probably point and comment at pictures of cute little children or babies. You can find things to share and talk about. Try to stimulate their mind at times by asking them to read the headline or ask what the article is about. If she has a magazine that she has always subscribed too, be sure to continue that subscription if she still enjoys it.
I enjoy traveling and like to keep an atlas handy. One day I shared my fun with my Aunt and let her browse through it. I could see her mind twirling and a smile so I started pointing at places talking and asking questions. I started with where she was born. She pointed right at it and expanded on the subject. Then I asked where she had lived and what landmarks she had been to. Where was she at when John F. Kennedy was shot? She told me, “That was sad – he was a good man.” I learned to start sharing everything I was looking at or had an interest in with my Aunt. Remember your elder is always watching you, so take every chance you get to entertain her and keep her happy while you learn. We live in a society that persuades us to trade in the old for something new and it makes us appreciate our history and our elders less. Both history and our elderly loves ones are important and there are many benefits of exploring the mind of our wise elders. When they are gone, so is their wisdom.
Gardening & Flowers
You may feel overwhelmed with responsibility and wonder how in the world you can squeeze in more chores, but it may be worthwhile to grow a little garden. As gas prices rise it will cause inflation and the cost of all goods that are delivered will increase. You can ensure that the food from your garden isn’t full of insecticides or some type of cross breed experimental food. It is enjoyable because you both have planted something that is now alive. You can watch it grow, protect it from varmints and have many pleasant conversations about the plants. Besides that it is FREE food, minus the expense for water, seeds and fertilizer.
There may be times that you can’t get away to the grocery store and all you have to do is walk outside. If you have too much food you can give it to family and neighbors. You can also enjoy time with your elder canning food for the winter. You may not know a thing about canning food and you don’t need to because your elder will. You can learn something new and be taught by a pro. Chances are good that your elder knows all about a potato patch. Ask your relative what type of food they had in their garden as a child. Why not plant a garden with items she is familiar with so she can teach you how to successfully grow them? You may be learning some new tips and she will feel good that she is helping you with your future. She doesn’t ever want you to go hungry. Make your elder feel valuable.
Find a spot where your relative and you can see the progress of your plants growing everyday. You can buy large plastic bins such as a baby pool and plant in them so you don’t tear up your yard. There will also be fewer bugs this way. Use a fertilizer and give them water regularly. They need love too. You can place plastic on the soil and only cut holes where your plants are located to avoid weeds. Placing mulch or leaves around the plants will help deter bugs and keep moisture in. I planted our garden between the Sheppard hooks and bird feeders along the edge of our porch patio. I planted flowers near the front porch so we could always see and talk about the plants we grew and cared for. To avoid planting flowers every year consider perennials that will pop up annually.
You can decorate your home with low maintenance indoor houseplants. These will be conversation pieces, add beauty as well as creating oxygen in your home. Maybe plant some edible herbs in an aquarium. Adopt a frog. Keep life all around you to remind you how precious it is. A fun art project for both of you would be to design a creative scarecrow contraption. Your elder may have some unique ideas and proven ways. You can have loads of laughter with your creative scarecrow, whether it works or not.
You can enjoy many memorable moments with a photo album and learn a lot about your family history. Your elder will smile as she wanders back through her life. Be sure to take plenty of photos of your elder enjoying Holidays & Birthdays. Take memorable photos of you and her smiling together and don’t forget to include the family pet. Peek in the closets or attic and find them old family photo albums. You may learn some very interesting things about your elder or family. Let your elder get exercise by flipping the pages herself. Having a voice-activated tape recorder or video camera during these moments are priceless for you and future generations.
While your elder is still able, you should get your relative to a portrait studio and have family photos taken. Place a big 81/2 x 11” photo close to where your elder sits everyday so she knows she is loved and still has her looks. Make sure you tell her too. Maybe get her all dolled up for glamor shots too. Take notes from the photographer on how to charm and make people smile. It is their job requirement to make people smile and they are quite good at it. You may even catch yourself smiling. You need to learn the skill as well. Keep a current photo of your loved one available for use in an emergency.
A photo collage can be a simple and fun project for you and your loved one and something you create together. You can buy a large 3’ frame for your relative and start saving some family photos, recent and old. Think of your family tree and include photos of many different family members. Allow your elder to be creative and come up with her own ideas. When you attach this large item to the wall in the home make sure you secure it thoroughly. Your relative may want to touch and admire it and it could be a hazard if she tries to use it to catch herself from slipping.
Hobbies & Collections
Talk to your relative and find out what her interests and hobbies are. My Aunt collected stamps and had an interest in health and further education. So at times I’d go buy her a few stamps to add to her collection and allow her to put it in its proper place. Once I got a stamp that was about education, and we had a talk about the importance of further education. I was fishing her mind and I let her tell me her beliefs on the subject. I listened and learned how a beautiful mind works. Visit an art-hobby store and see what is available in the way of art or craft projects that you and your elder can enjoy. Ask her what she likes. Bird feeder kits can be a fun activity that brings life to your everyday.
Your relative may have grown up doing 10 chores before she was even able to eat breakfast such as feed the chickens, the pigs, the cows, fetch a pail of water; gather eggs etc. Ask her about her chores so you can quickly see that your job as a caregiver is a cakewalk. She led a hard life compared to ours and is used to doing her part to help her family. She will want to help you and you should let her. It is exercise that makes her feel worthwhile and happy.
You are going to have to evaluate your elder and choose what acceptable chores she can do. If she insists on doing something, then she feels capable of doing it. You are going to have problems if you fight her on this. Your best bet is to monitor the situation, take away any objects that could obstruct or be a danger and help her as much as allowed. Try to suggest ways to make it easier for her.
My Aunt helped me fold clothes. She was very good at it. She was 91 years young so I mostly just let her do chores that she could do sitting down. You may want to brush up on old terms for a little humor during chores. For instance when I was folding her panties I would refer to them as her bloomers. She would be amused every time. At the kitchen table she would peel potatoes. At the age of 95 she could skin a tater in no time and never once cut herself. I could tell she had plenty of practice. I was helping her once and she gently scolded me stating, “Don’t peel it away doll.” So tell me she didn’t have a hard life being concerned about just a sliver of a potato. You can let them fill up the bird feeder giving the bird’s life & love. Allow her to feed the pets. You can joke with her and tell her she needs to do her chores or she isn’t getting no vittles. Be creative, use your imagination and enjoy this wonderful time in your life together. Here are a few suggestions of acceptable chores. Add to the list and keep your elder as busy as she wants to be.
Light Chore Tips
- Filling up the salt and pepper shakers,
- Peeling potatoes,
- Setting the table,
- Wiping counter tops,
- Emptying small wastebaskets,
- Cut a lemon and leave the juice so the enzymes can clean the cutting board
- Stirring deserts (licking the beaters),
- Feeding the fish,
- Watering the plants,
- Folding Clothes,
- Helping remove germs by wiping down items you bring her,
- Wrapping gifts,
Be prepared to play hide and seek with your elder. She is going to be quite crafty and will be able to outwit you, so you have to stay one step ahead of her. You need to observe her hiding places. I have a simple rule I use that often helps me locate things that I have lost. I first look in the area that the odds of it going wouldn’t happen in one in a million times. Normally that is exactly where I find it.
One morning I was getting my Aunt up and the hearing aid wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I couldn’t find the hearing aid in her bed sheets. I was looking hard and kind of getting frustrated. Then calm came over me as I got a creative idea. I decided Mary and I was going to play a game of hide and seek. So after breakfast I initiated the game and gave her something small to hide. I cheated by peeking in on her and discovered her hiding spot. I found the hearing aid in a basket with the magazines. So you may want to play this game occasionally so you can stay abreast of all of her clever hiding spots. This can help relieve the stress that comes with trying to find something you need. A good habit to prevent this type of stress is to have a family rule to always put something back from where they got it from. This habit can make you more productive to eliminate problems and stress.
The Family Television
To put things in perspective when your elder was growing up she probably didn’t have a TV for entertainment. Her entertainment was sitting at the dinner table talking to family about their day, reading a book, or maybe listening to a radio. Since they were not raised with a TV they may not be all that excited about it. She may prefer to talk and watch nature. If she is talking and you are watching TV, she is going to feel ignored and that isn’t going to work. She will retaliate. I was smart and always loved, respected and cared for my Aunt’s every need. The love and respect came back tenfold and there were only a few times that she objected to my TV viewing. Of course you can give up watching any scary shows, I’ll tell you that right now. They will let you know what they are comfortable with. Be sure to hold your relatives hand during evening shows. This will calm her down considerably. During commercials chat with your elder and make sure she feels loved and is content. I would comment to Aunt Mary about the commercials or the movie.
Ask your elder about their favorite movies or actors. You can make a list and take it to the local library and see if they have these classic movies. If your library doesn’t have the movies you would like to rent, you can ask them to get it from another library. They may charge you a few dollars to help with postage such as $2.00. Surprise your relative with a movie she loved. Make her feel young again. You may have watched these movies as a child but have you tried watching them as an adult with more knowledge, so you understand the movie and vocabulary better? I have been surprised by how much I missed the first go around. You may enjoy them more then your relative. Sometimes old things aren’t so bad at all.
Pets and Stuffed Animals
If you have a pet it will be good therapy for you and your loved one. They bring life to the house along with a lot of love. Of course you wouldn’t want any big pets that could knock your family member over. You also want to be sure that the pet doesn’t have a tendency to get in your walkway. I just had a friend who fell down stairs because his cute kitty was resting on the stairs as he was strolling down for a drink at night. You need to be aware of dangers like these. A cat can be a lot of fun. I would buy the cat new toys and my aunt would enjoy watching him play. The cat used to like to sit next to my aunt in her chair and she put the clamp on him with both hands if he tried to escape. Luckily the cat affectionately known as chubby never clawed her. I would take a string with a paper clip on the end of it and attach a shrimp to it. If you slowly drag the shrimp the cat is going to come running. Aunt Mary and I would play with the cat and eventually reward him with the shrimp. When the squirrels and birds came to the picture window the kitty was on hunt mode, and quite entertaining.
If you want to make your relative smile, get her a soft easily held doll or stuffed animal. My Aunt would protect her doll from the jaws of the kitty cat and would take her beloved doll everywhere she went. That was her responsibility that she loved and cared for. I’d ask for the doll and give her a big kiss. Caregivers become silly as a self defense mechanism to defeat the enormous stress.
If appropriate, get a pet. Your local shelter or humane society has many nice pets available for adoption. Take your elder to the humane society and allow her to pick out a pet she likes. Tell her she can grant one pet a pardon. Your loved one will probably remember this gift she offers the animal and this pet surely will, and hopefully a loving loyalty will form.
You can also just adopt a neighborhood pet. As a cat strolls through the neighborhood allow your elder to offer it food. It will be back again and repeat the process. If you and the animal develop mutual feelings invite him inside. Fire up a BBQ grill and the local pets will pop out of nowhere. I got a good laugh several times as a neighborhood big black lab would come to visit me when I was cooking on the grill. He about knocked me down once trying to get in the house. He thought he was part of the family. Pets offer life, laughter, and love.
If your relative has been going to church most of her life and enjoys doing so, I suggest you take her if she is able to go. There will be a time when she can’t go to church anymore, but until then get her jazzed up and let her shine. My aunt was 93 years young and we strolled into church all dolled up like the rest of them. You should have seen the smiles on my aunt’s face as she beamed at all the other people. The congregation was very respectful and nice to her and we never had any problems. I’d always sit us at the rear of the church to stay away from germs and to make a quick exit to the bathroom if needed. You may gain some friends and alliances at church. Understanding people who may want to offer assistance if you ever need it. Don’t pass up a chance for some needed help. At least get to know them better and hope you never have to rely on them. I don’t like to impose on other people but if it came down to my Aunt’s safety and well-being – I’d be at the front of the church with a bullhorn asking for help.
Make your relative smile all you can. I used to joke with my aunt and tell her the fellas almost twisted their necks plum off trying to look at her. “I’m gonna have to fight the men off of you.” Make her feel special because she certainly is.
Aunt Mary had a hair on her chin and I wanted to make her feel better so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take my electric razor and quickly remove it. My poor Aunt Mary started to cry and my whole world fell apart. I collapsed on the bed next to her after she said, she wasn’t happy. We had a heart to heart talk right then and there. She said, “Don’t shave me,” and I never made that mistake again. I learned the proper way to remove female facial hair is with tweezers. I had made the most important person in my world unhappy and I asked her what makes her happy. “What can I do for you to make you happy?” Well she told me that she liked to go get ice cream and we went often. It cost me a fortune in butterscotch sundaes, but the smiles on her face were priceless. Be sure they don’t eat it too fast though. You don’t want your elder in any pain. As you sit there maybe enjoying a hamburger, ask your relative if she wants one. I have witnessed some people so concerned about the health of their elder that they won’t allow them to eat fast food hamburgers. I am of the opinion that a few burgers are not going to hurt them. You need to have a balance of health and happiness. If she wants a hamburger why not allow her to enjoy herself? If you’re going to the doctor or wherever you are going with your loved one, be sure to stop at the local ice cream shop. A smile is almost guaranteed.
I regularly took my Aunt Mary to get her hair done. They would trim and color her nails and make her all pretty. I would get my hair dolled up too. The ladies at the salon were always very considerate and loving towards her. Mary had them laughing more than once. If your elder can’t make it to the beauty salon you can find beauticians that will come to your house to do it. Make sure they use caution and don’t get anything in her eyes or make her uncomfortable in any way. It is customary to tip them especially if they make your loved one happy.
Holiday Tips and Special Occasions
During Halloween be sure to let your elder enjoy the smiling faces of the visiting children and maybe allow her to give them the candy. You may want to wash both your hands after this activity to make sure you won’t get any germs and get sick. This activity will be a thrill to your loved one. You can opt to let the children come in the house to where your family member is located at, to keep her comfortable and away from the cold weather by the door.
Make sure you get your relative something special such as chocolate if allowed and see if she will share. If she is stingy and hoards the chocolate you need to charm her more. If she is diabetic, you may have to find an alternative other than sweets. It may be best to inquire about what she prefers. We would talk to Aunt Mary in an enthusiastic and excited manner which helped keep her cheerful.
Christmas & Thanksgiving
These holidays should be a loving time for family. Be sure not to over eat, and serve cranberry sauce since it is healthy. As we get older some things begin to interest us less, such as jewelry. Be sure to buy her items that will make both your lives easier, more comfortable or more efficient. You can have your elder do her Christmas shopping through catalogs. Allow her to help wrap up the boxes that come in the mail. No peeking.
Hopefully you have enjoyed Care Giving Made Easy – How to Be an Awesome Caregiver and it created a few smiles. There are different ways to view all things. I chose to remember all of the beautiful times my Great Aunt Mary and I shared together. I knew Aunt Mary was
with the Lord and was happy. Although she has been gone 12 years now I still send a little prayer to the Lord to ensure she is getting good care. I hope you find this book helpful and that it will make your lives more enjoyable to eliminate problems and the stress that comes with care giving. May you learn to focus on the brighter side of unfortunate events and enjoy making your loved one feel the same joy. Happiness is contagious. Life is hard and it doesn’t make any sense to make it harder on yourself or others. In any situation, you have the option of focusing on the negative aspects or you have the ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Although caring for Aunt Mary was a challenge, it was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I hope you also benefit from your care giving experience to enjoy the love and wisdom your elder has to share.
I am not an expert caregiver. There are many people who have dedicated their lives to caring for others who are much more knowledgeable about this subject. However, I was an expert at caring for my sweet Aunt Mary. Your goal is to become an expert at caring for your loved one, to let her live her life. Hopefully by using the uplifting tips in this book, it will elevate the spirits of care givers to limit the immense stress involved and the increased health risks that come with care giving. The statistics related to the widow effect and the health risks to caregivers, display just how dangerous stress is to our health and why we must all try to make this endeavor more amusing and pleasant to the intrepid caregiver.
Copyright ©2000-2017 by Dale B. Adams d/b/a Majestic Publishers