Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Finding Home Helpers for the Elderly

I know, I know. I haven't written in a long time! That's because it's been an interesting experience for me ... trying to keep this blog and make it pertinent ... useful ... I have actually deleted a few posts that were, perhaps, a little too personal. I really didn't intend to make this blog be about the trials and tribulations one encounters when helping to care for their elderly parents. No, instead, I had hoped to provide resources and information to help us all along the way. I think I kind of got side-tracked a little.
So, here I am, back in full force and hoping that the links for suggested products and services might help somebody else!
The past month has been particularly taxing while we try to locate just the right cleaning service for my parents. We didn't want the type of service that comes in and turns your house upside-down, rolling up carpets, dusting ceiling fans, etc. We wanted the kind of service that Alice from the Brady Bunch gave every day ... we would have been quite satisfied with Hazel. In short, we wanted a domestic person who could keep the house tidy and do the chores that are too exhausting for my parents at this point.
Do you know how difficult it is to find this? To find someone willing to do the dishes, the laundry and vacuum and mop floors? Sigh.
We've finally settled on another agency. Let me say; however, that the agency is only as good as its employees. And, so far, we've been very happy with the person who has been sent to my parents' home. Another agency we tried did not work out at all ... I think the agency might have downplayed the cleaning aspect of the job to the potential employee ... and, as we all know, that was the only reason we wanted someone! We didn't need a companion (my parents are perfect companions for each other); we didn't need a "sitter." We just needed someone to load and unload the dishes and change the linens on the bed! You wouldn't think that would be so hard to find, would you?
I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New York Strip and Oncovite!

We ordered the Oncovite vitamins for my Dad. I wish I had done so sooner, but we can only go forward from here. Again, I'm so amazed at Dr. Lamm's generosity of time in answering yet another letter from me! I really hope the vitamins help.
Meanwhile, my husband went grocery shopping this morning and bought my Dad a nice, big, fat, juicy New York Strip steak!!! He loves steak, but my Mom does not, so my husband thought: Why not get a steak for your Dad and your Mom can have something else? DUH! Why hadn't we thought of this before?
He's been very weak and tired and just lacking appetite. I surely hope the steak (and a lemon-meringue pie for dessert) will cheer him up!
I feel so helpless at making them happy. I wish they lived with us, instead of three miles away ... but they were quite adamant about wanting their own house when they moved here two years ago. Who knew these two years would be so full of changes in their health.
Yes, I need to take a breath. One day at a time. Today will be a good day, please God.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Crock-Pot Meals Revisited

A couple of years ago, when my three children were younger, I found the crock pot to be a real lifesaver. I certainly had more energy to chop vegetables, brown meat, etc. in the morning than I did at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Having that warm, wonderful smell of food cooking filling up the house made me feel like I had someone in the kitchen cooking for me. It was a really great feeling.
Unfortunately for me, the kids really hated every meal I ever prepared (well, that's not entirely true. They did like the enchiladas and spaghetti and meatballs). They didn't like stews or roasts or anything else I could come up with. I even joined a wonderful e-list online: . Everybody had new and interesting dishes to prepare. They were tried and true!
Well, to make a long story short, my parents LOVE crock-pot meals! This has really been a blessing.
You see, they don't eat properly. Sometimes they just seem too tired to think about fixing anything. Even the thought of meal preparation sends them both back to bed. SO, for the past few nights, I've been throwing something into the crock pot in the morning and then bringing it to them for dinner. It's been working wonderfully!
They definitely are of the "comfort food" generation!
Here are a couple of really easy recipes that are no fail.
Chicken with Cream Sauce over Rice
2 frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (still frozen)
1 can cream soup (for example, cream of chicken or cream of mushroom or cream of anything!)
That's it! Don't add anything else. No water, no nothing. Just put the lid on; set the cooker to low and walk away! The chicken will be very tender and easy to eat (especially good for the elderly with chewing difficulties) by about 5 or 6 p.m., if you've put it on by 10 a.m. Cook rice to serve along with this. I usually spoon the creamy sauce over the rice and place a piece of chicken on top. You could serve vegetables or a salad and that's all you need.

Here's another good one I got from the Slowcooker list.
Cola Roast
Potatoes (the red kind do very well)
Onion, if you like
1 small roast (like London Broil, Flank Steak, Chuck Roast, Round Roast, etc)
1 packet of either Lipton Onion Soup mix (dry) or 1 packet of brown gravy mix (dry)
1 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola. That's right. A whole can of Coke. NOT diet!!! Must be regular.

Peel several potatoes (depending on how many people like to eat. I usually peel two a piece) and wash them and place them (whole)on the bottom of the crock pot. Throw in some carrots. My parents especially like the little baby carrots. They come pre-cleaned in a bag in the produce section. I put in quite a few of these on the bottom. Slice the onion in wedges and throw it in. You can add whatever vegetables you and your parents enjoy. Put the roast on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle the gravy packet over top. Pour on one can of regular Coca-Cola. Put the lid on. Turn the pot on low and again, walk away! Before serving, add dissolve two tablespoons of corn starch in a tiny bit of water, then add this to the gravy in the pot. It will thicken in a minute or two. Then serve!

These are just two of many, many simple and easy-to-eat meals that can be prepared. If you're watching sodium, use the low-sodium soups, gravies, etc. You can tailor anything you make to suit your parents' tastes.

It makes me feel so good to see them eat something! My Dad has lost a lot of weight and doesn't seem to take any initiative when it comes to meal preparation. If I put it in front of him; however, he eats!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Samsung Jitterbug is a Huge Hit

WOW! The Samsung Jitterbug is as good as it seems! It's true! My parents have been able to use it! They love the dial-tone feature that lets them know the phone is truly "on" and ready to use. The buttons are really big and are lit up, too. Although it's a bit expensive to begin (as you have to buy the phone for $147), it's already been well worth my peace of mind.
For some reason, they always think of places they want to go about 8 o'clock at night (not 8 in the morning ... not even 2 in the afternoon)! It's always about that time they decide to head out to the pharmacy or Target or the grocery store. It makes me feel so much better when they call me to let me know where they are ... and when they've gotten back home again.
I'll take a picture of their Jitterbug in use soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bathtub Support

My Mom was sure she could never use the extra-deep, luxurious garden tub in the master bathroom of their new home. It was simply too deep! She was certain she'd never be able to climb out if she ever got in ... well, I found the Harriet Carter catalog and this great bathtub support bar
Now, she starts most mornings with a hot, epsom-salts bath. She soaks a long time and it really makes her arthritis aches and pains melt away! She's so glad she has this bar. I double check it to make sure it's still attached securely. Be sure to check it at least once a week. The screws do loosen after awhile.

Commode Helper

This is a great help! My Mom is very thin and frail. She has balance issues. I found the Improvements Catalog and they have the perfect thing!
It's a toilet-seat safety support May sound weird, but believe me, it really works. She tried to steady herself once with the toilet-paper holder and it came out of the wall! (What's worse, she fell!)
Once I put this support around her toilet, she hasn't fallen since. *Sigh
This is so important! She's broken her ribs twice in falls ... and slashed her cheeks twice, too, needing stitches/glue. AAACKK! We just need to keep her from falling!

Diana Dyer's Diet Recommendations

Here is a link to a cancer survivor's diet recommendations. Her website is chock-full of interesting tidbits.
Take a look here

Swimwear for Incontinent Adults

Here's a great-looking resource for adults who would still like to be able to swim or take arthritis fitness classes, but are afraid to do so because of possible "accidents."
Take a look at this swim diaper
There are others on the market, as well. Here are a few more links.
The Netti Combo
and Discovery Trekking Outfitters has one, too.

We've not tried any of these yet, but if you have and have any comments, I'd love to hear them.

User-Friendly Cell Phone

Take a look at the Samsung Jitterbug
After another "evening of terror" when I couldn't find my parents out there ... I convinced them to purchase this cell phone.

It hasn't arrived yet, but after we've tried it out thoroughly, I'll post our findings! It's got to be better than the small cell phone they have right now. Unfortunately, too many cell phones, newer, shinier, smaller, etc., don't cut it for the elderly!

Let's take the cell phone they have right now. It's small. The screen fades to black very quickly as a battery-saving feature; however, they always think it's turned off when this happens. Most cell phones do not feature a dial tone. You simply punch in your numbers and hit "send" or "call" or whatever key word that particular style phone has. The other ill-planned feature of their current phone is the fact that the small red handle icon means: TURN ON, HANG UP FROM CALL and TURN OFF depending on when and for how long you depress it. This has been very confusing. They've often turned off the phone when only meaning to hang up, thereby not allowing any future calls to get through. YIKES!

I can't tell you how many times I've said to my son, "Get your shoes on quickly! We have to go find Grandma and Grandpa!"
"AGAIN?" He'll usually ask as he's tying up his shoes as fast as he can.

Hopefully, the Jitterbug will put an end to the lack of communication!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bladder Cancer Web Cafe

The other day, I discovered the Bladder Cancer Web Cafe. It's an open forum where people discuss their bladder cancer -- their treatment options and experiences -- their doctors' attitudes, etc. But most of all it's a place for support, encouragement and hope.
The members really helped me prepare for my father's appointment with his urologist. It's always a good idea to be armed with as much knowledge as possible.

As it turned out, we didn't have the "battle" with the doctor as I had expected. We quietly mentioned that my Dad did not want to have the BCG treatments again. That, at 83, he didn't want to spend the next three years of his life feeling terrible all of the time. And at the end of the three-year treatment plan? What is there on the other side? Realistically, the next three years may be the rest of his life. He'd much rather feel good most of the time and still try to enjoy what life he has.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Overwhelming

I am in the shower, with the hot water hitting me and feeling pretty good ... and I pick up the shampoo bottle and squeeze some out and suddenly I find myself crying. I rub the shampoo into my hair and I'm still crying.
Later, I'm doing the dishes and the tears start up again. I just can't stop. I'll be fine one minute and the next, say, I'm in the grocery store picking up a can of tomatoes and guess what? I'm crying again.
I've never before felt so close to life and death at the same time.
My Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer (although his urologist didn't bother to tell him that) back in November of 2004. He didn't really find out that's what was wrong until he and my Mom moved here in 2005 and he saw a new urologist. Copying his records, I saw the words: Diagnosis: Superficial Bladder Cancer.
Since then, he's been having TURBs done about every six months to remove new growths. Now, the urologist wants to start something called maintenance BCG ... where the live turberculosis bacteria is put into the bladder to stimulate your own immune system ... which somehow seems to help retard the growth of new tumors.
The only problem is, the treatment ... 6 initial weekly visits, then three weeks more three months later, etc., continually for three years ... involves the person feeling tired, getting flu-like symptoms, etc. My Dad is 83 ... going to be 84 in November, please God.
What sort of a life would that be?
None of us knows how much time we have, but I feel my Dad's time very keenly.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Maybe It's Not Alzheimer's Disease

Many elderly people who show any signs of confusion are quickly stamped "Alzheimer's Patient." However, simply because your parent shows signs of forgetfulness or dementia you mustn't necessarily assume he has Alzheimer's.

There are so many other conditions that may be contributing to odd behavior ... including urinary-tract infections!

One thing to keep in mind: Elderly people metabolize drugs much differently from younger people.

If your parent is acting oddly, first check the medicine cabinet. Is he or she taking any kind of sleeping pill? Anti-anxiety pill? Anti-depressant? These can often be the culprit of confusion, vivid dreams and/or hallucinations. Exactly what are the prescriptions your parent's doctor has offered? Be pro-active. Do a thorough research (the internet is a great source) of all the possible side effects of every prescription. Many of the prescriptions my mother first received were definitely NOT for the elderly. Now, I make it habit of researching the medicines before filling the prescriptions. If we come upon something that says, "Not for use in the elderly." or "Not effective in persons over 65" or anything else such as this, we don't fill them and we have a talk with the doctor.

If you find your parent's doctor continually prescribing things that are not appropriate, consider finding a geriatric specialist. You wouldn't think of bringing your baby to an internist ... you'd find a pediatrician who has studied extensively effects of medicines and diseases and disorders in children ... so why bring your elderly parent to an internist? A geriatric specialist has studied the aging body and should be more aware of how your parent is suffering ... and when prescribing drugs, the geriatric specialist should be more aware of what is suitable and what isn't.

If pills are not the problem, have you ever had your parent's blood checked for the hereditary condition called Pernicious Anemia? This disease does not allow the body to absorb Vitamin B12 and, while the cure is easy enough, it presents a myriad of symptoms, including very definite behavior changes, even hallucinations.

Again, if this turns out negative, be sure to check the thyroid, too. An overactive thyroid can be just as much a cause of strange behavior as anything else.

Be sure to check the physical aspects first ... through brain scans, blood and urine tests, etc. Please don't simply assume it's Alzheimer's.

There are many other causes of delusions/hallucinations in the elderly, as well ... for instance, one is called "paraphrenia" -- which is thought to be a late-onset form of schizophrenia experienced by the elderly who are isolated and lonely. The cure can be as simple as getting out and doing things, meeting people and taking part in specially-designed exercise classes for the elderly. If your parent's doctor prescribes anti-psychotic medicines, do a little research on their side effects and monitor your parent's behavior. Sometimes the side effects are worse than the disease! Check your local YMCA for arthritis water aerobic classes, chair exercises, stretching, etc. Exercise and socialization are often the keys to wellness.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why I'm Starting This Blog ...

When my parents, both in their 80s, moved from California to North Carolina to be closer to me, I had no idea what was in store for them.

A move, for anyone, can be traumatic, but for my parents, it seemed particularly so. I hadn't thought about the move, itself, presenting such hardships ... especially for my parents who had moved often through their married life together. I thought it would be a piece of cake ... a walk in the park. Instead, it was a nightmare.

In trying to find solutions to many of their problems, both psychological and physical, I've had to spend lots of hours doing research. I'm hoping that some of the research I've done might be beneficial to others who find themselves in the same place I am.