Your Parent Forgets Your Birthday

You didn’t expect your parent to show up on your birthday with a gift and a card.

After all, you sometimes wear a name tag so they remember your name. And yet, the first time your elderly parent

parent with dementia forgets birthday :(forgets your birthday, well, it can be painful. It amplifies the loss happening right in front of you and is a very personal reminder of the new relationship with your parent. For many people, this strikes a painful chord.

To support you in this, here are 5 ideas to help you weather the next forgotten birthday.

  1. Expect your senior to forget and mourn the loss that represents, but don’t stay in that sad place too long.
  2. Print the letter below, put it in an envelope and give it to yourself—from your parent. 
  3. Gather all the memories of times your birthday wasn’t forgotten and take time to savor those memories. Maybe take a few minutes and write them down. 
  4. Put an extra candle on your dessert, from your parent.
  5. Remember that you are loved, today, tomorrow and yesterday. 

Celebrate YOU by sending yourself this card!

The Unsent Birthday Card. . . From Your Parent

You transformed my life with your birth. Hidden in the recesses of my mind, I know it’s the anniversary of your birthday. Somewhere in my mind, I remember your birthday parties, your smiles, your fingers in frosting, the brightly colored cards, your gifts, the yellow crepe streamers, the balloons bouncing, the flickering candles. My love for you was on full display in the way we celebrated your birthday. 

Today is the same as two yesterdays ago or two days from now—I don’t know. I count on you to know what day it is. I want to celebrate this birthday for you, but I don’t know where the candles are. So will you find them for me? Will you put an extra candle on—from me to you? (You should probably light it for me too since people get nervous when I have the matches.) And then, when your wish-breath blows the candle out, know that in that hidden place in my mind, my love for you is on full display.

Happy Birthday!

May you find joy in loving one another well today and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.


Her mom’s surgery became a caregiving trial run

Exercises all the time, great home designer, smart as a whip . . . her 79-year-old mom embraced the knee surgery as a ticket to more action. Being the daughter and her mom’s best friend, Cheryl prepped to provide post-surgery care . . . and then the side effects began . . . Listen to the lively interview HERE. You’ll love these two 🙂

The One Thing You Need in Order to Always Smile at Your Mom (or Dad or MIL)

A caregiver’s super power

Why am I talking about super powers here? Because being a family caregiver is hard. You not only need healthy habits— you deserve them—in order to show up as the best version of yourself.

A key study

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, researcher, author and perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components: 

  1. It’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.
  2. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Dr. Emmons performed a study where all the participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. The second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. The third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). 

After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on things that irritated or disappointed them.

Claim gratitude as your super power

I’m thrilled that my 80-year-old mother-in-law agreed to join me in a joint gratitude list this year! (It’s just a google doc. that we can both access.) My secret goal is to get to a list of 1,000 “gratitudes” before the end of the year, but I’m holding that loosely since I don’t want to weigh down the activity with rules. 

Read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts for beautiful writing and more inspiration about WHAT to be thankful for.

Have you ever made a point of practicing gratitude?

If not, maybe this is your nudge. There are many journals and apps which provide some structure. Some just have a spot for the date and then a few lines while others have inspiring prompts and adjectives boxes to check which may be helpful if self-awareness is difficult for you. 

I’ll tell you who is grateful for you. Your senior. Even if they cannot or will not express it, they are grateful for your kind-hearted, imperfect care in their season of waning.

So what are you grateful for today and . . . will you join me in focusing on gratitude this year?

Grateful for you,

How to Keep Track of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Your senior may not get the COVID-19 vaccine right away, even if they live in a long-term care facility. It all depends on the amount allocated to your county by the state. 

According to the CDC, once a week, the federal government

senior with daughter getting vaccinated announces anticipated allocation figures for each state. The number of allocated doses provided by the federal government is a projection and subject to change.

For instance, my county was given 3,000 doses by Jan. 13. This allocation doesn’t meet the need as our vulnerable population totals two times more than the state average. 

Keep a record of  the vaccinations with this.

The CDC is recommending that the vaccine be administered in three initial phases:

  1. Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents
  2. Frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older
  3. People aged 65—74 years; People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers.
Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents Frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older People aged 65—74 years; People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers.
What should you do next?

1. Check these resources for local information.

    1. Call your local 2-1-1 (county-funded resource information line) and ask how to get your senior a COVID-19 vaccination.
    2. Check in with your senior’s doctor’s office.
    3. Contact with your state health office and see how and where they are administering the vaccine.
    4. AARP provides state-specific vaccine information.

2.Make sure your senior’s advance directive and medical proxy form is accessible by storing it in a medical document planner. Partners administering the vaccine may require verbal, email or written consent from recipients or their medical advocate/proxy.

Number of weeks until vaccine recipient is immuneThe CDC states that with most COVID-19 vaccines, you will need two shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first one, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot. 

Keep track of your vaccinations with a medical document planner.

Download the CDC’s vaccine fact sheet for more answers.

May you find joy, even amongst the pricks. 

Author Debbie McDonald is founder of Ways & Wane and lives in Norther California with her husband.


Five Creative Ways to Advocate for Your Parent in a Nursing Home

Understanding the world of assisted living and nursing homes can be like learning a new language. Add a bit of dementia and a worldwide pandemic to the mix and the recipe becomes messy. Advocating for your senior under these circumstances requires creativity and perseverance!

5 strategies to advocate for your senior in an assisted living facility or nursing home

1. Make use of “compassionate care visits”, available under certain circumstances. These may include end-of-life situations, but those are not the only circumstances that qualify. According to the Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, compassionate care situations include, but are not limited to:
• A resident, who was living with their family before recently being admitted to a nursing home, is struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support.
• A resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently passed away.
• A resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking, previously provided by family and/or caregiver(s), is experiencing weight loss or dehydration.
• A resident, who used to talk and interact with others, is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently (when the resident had rarely cried in the past).

Allowing a visit in these situations would be consistent with the intent of “compassionate care situations.” Also, in addition to family members, compassionate care visits can be conducted by any individual that can meet the resident’s needs, such as clergy or lay persons offering religious and spiritual support.

2. Don’t hesitate to speak up as your senior’s advocate. This is not the time to worry about being “liked”. Just remember to be courteous. Dozens of times I specifically spoke up about an IV. I usually say something like, “I appreciate you, but he’s an impossible stick so we need the specialist.” I imagine how I’m going to feel if I don’t stand up and ask for what my senior needs.

woman in nursing home looking outsideIn general, try to understand the situation before you begin expressing your concerns. Let’s say you are concerned that your senior isn’t getting their physical therapy. Bring it up with the most appropriate person by commenting in a neutral way: “My dad said something about not having PT. I’m curious to understand his current PT schedule and how that’s going.” You’ll likely get a much better response than, “Why is my dad not getting his PT?!”

3. Establish one point of contact at your senior’s residence. Discover the best time of day for them to talk with you regarding their updates and observations. Specifically ask, “Do you see any changes that concern you?” If you can regularly talk to the same person, consider setting up a 1-5 scale regarding how your senior is doing overall. This way you can more objectively compare day to day. Keep good notes about these conversations with dates and the names with whom you’ve spoken.

4. Set up a time to talk to your parent using video technology. It’s very hard to advocate for your senior if you cannot see them. When you see them (even if it’s just over video call) you can pay attention to things like: is their hair combed, have they lost weight or simply do they look like themselves or not. Nursing home or assisted living staff should be able to assist you with setting up these calls. Some places have a tablet for video calls that can be sanitized and shared between residents.

5. Should you have concerns about the care your senior is receiving, first ask to talk to the director of the nursing home. Keep good notes about what exactly was discussed. If you feel that the issues or concerns are not being addressed despite your continued attempts, contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in your state to assist you.

What is a Long-Term Care Ombudsman? 
An ombudsman (pronounced aam·buhdz·muhn) is a trained volunteer who acts as an advocate for residents of nursing homes, adult family homes, and assisted living facilities. Their purpose is to protect and promote the Resident Rights guaranteed these residents under Federal and State law and regulations. They are trained to receive complaints and resolve problems in situations involving quality of care, use of restraints, transfer and discharge, abuse and other aspects of resident dignity and rights.

May you find joy in loving one another well, even if it has to be from afar!

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-Founder & President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.

How to Balance Work With Your Parent’s Medical Procedure

woman waiting for senior having medical procedureDo you take PTO at work to help your aging parents? Medical procedures like joint replacements, heart procedures and cancer treatments are common among those over age 65. 

Your aging parent may exude health, especially for their age. But it is likely they will experience a serious medical procedure.

Do you need to take time off work in order to help? 

Potentially, yes. But you may be able to show up for your parent while getting some work done using the tips below.

Six Tips to Waiting Room Productivity
  • Prepare to be your parent’s medical advocate.

Before the procedure, discuss what role they would like you to play in different scenarios, both if it goes smoothly and if there are complications.

  • Create a medical document planner with your parent.

Ensure you have copies of their driver’s license, insurance cards, advance directive, medical history and medication list. Make sure you know which pharmacy they use. Both digital and paper copies are useful. Download a free starter kit here

  1. Recognize post-surgery support will take more time than you expect. Transportation to follow-up appointments, support through medication reactions and personal assistance may be needed. Enlist other family members to help ahead of time. If you are providing the physical follow-up care yourself, remember self-care so that you can show up as your best self.
  2. Research outside help, even if you think you won’t use it. 

Knowing where and how you would get additional care support gives you peace of mind and allows you to meet your other work and family commitments. Consider getting a home health aide or checking into a rehab facility. Either one takes the physical burden off family members and offers built-in physical therapy. Research providers and read reviews at the unbiased Care Compare.

Many employers offer caregiver support as a part of your benefit package. Ask your HR department to offer the Ways & Wane benefit.
  • Be present in order to honor your parent.

Try to avoid scheduling critical meetings on the day of the procedure, even if you are working in the waiting room. You don’t want to be on an important call when the doctor comes out to give an update. 

  • Prepare your hospital “go” bag. 

Take your work with you. Procedures can be delayed or prolonged. Make sure you have power cords, earbuds, snacks, water and a sweater or light blanket in case your waiting time gets extended.

Download a free guide “How to Balance Work with Your Parent’s Medical Procedure” to share on your company’s Slack or with your HR team.

Care well; work well.

Debbie McDonald is the founder of Ways & Wane, simplifying eldercare decisions for working professionals. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

How to Help Your Senior Dress with Success: These Shoes Won’t Let Me In!

Age-related health challenges like arthritis and reduced mobility mean that many seniors struggle with getting dressed.

Adapting your senior’s clothing for their current capabilities creates a win-win situation. The ability to dress themselves reduces frustration, helps maintain their independence and gives them a sense of control.

senior in assisted living trying to get shoe on
Surprising Options

The world of adaptive clothing offers things like:

  • Pants with side zippers which are easier to use than front zippers
  • Magnetic belt buckles 
  • Front-closure bras
  • Extra wide slippers that velcro completely open/shut, accommodating swollen feet
  • Socks with extra wide tops are easier to put on
  • T-shirts that snap in the back so they are put on from the front without arms being having to be raised above the head
  • Snap back duster-style dresses, eliminate the challenges pants can pose
  • Non-binding elastic waistbands on roomy and stretchy pants allow for fewer adjustments after transfers
  • Wheelchair pants with discreet flaps on the backside make bathroom trips and incontinence easier to manage
  • A wheelchair blanket that snaps to the arm handles so it won’t slip off
Adaptive Clothing Companies

Several companies specialize in adaptive clothing:
1. Canadian-based Silverts allows you to shop based on your senior’s specific condition and has a wide range of colors and patterns.
2. Buck and Buck, a 40+ year old U.S. based company, features items with simple, basic styling.
3. Authored sells streamlined stylish clothing specifically adapted as easy-to-dress.


Alternatively, a tailor or alterations person (usually drycleaners have this service) modifies your senior’s current clothes. For example, buttons become permanently sewn to the outside of a shirt/pants and velcro attachments are hidden right behind them.

Altering existing clothes proved the best option for my dad. He donned the same kind of button-up shirt for 40 years and didn’t like pullover shirts. Adapting his favorite shirts so that he could velcro the buttons maintained his independence and made him feel “like himself.”

If you are up for a simple sewing adventure or have a friend who is, here’s a tutorial showing how to replace buttons with velcro. 

Simple Solutions

Lastly, these 3 tips help a senior get dressed by themselves:

  1. A dressing stick makes putting on shoes, socks, shirts and pants less of a struggle.
  2. A visit from an occupational therapist maximizes your senior’s current strengths and abilities.
  3. A paperclip looped into the hole in a zipper handle makes it much easier to grasp and pull.

    May your new year be filled with joy, your zippers zipped and your velcro firmly attached!

Eight Caregiver Gifts that Cost Little But Make an Impact

Show Your Immense Gratitude

It can be complicated to say thank you to caregivers who see your senior at their most vulnerable, possibly even at their worst whether in an assisted living facility, nursing home or at home. 

They carry on with diligent care despite the circumstances or challenges.
They do what you cannot.
They are helping you honor your senior through this season.
They give so much!
How can you thank them?

Whether your senior lives in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, a small adult family home or is at home with care help, I have several thoughtful gift ideas for you to give your senior’s caregivers.

Three group gift ideas
Some assisted living facilities or nursing homes have a policy that prevents individual staff members from accepting personal gifts. However, you can give a gift to the staff as a whole. If that’s your situation, consider these group gift ideas. (Packaged separately, each of these gifts provides minimal contact.)

  1. For about $23 you can send a box of 20 healthy snacks 
  2. A beautifully packaged box of pears from Harry & David is a stylish surprise
  3. One dozen holiday bakery cupcakes (packaged separately) would be a fun treat 

Five individual gift ideas
For smaller facilities, like adult family homes or individual caregivers, you have more options:

  1. These stylish soy candles come in sets of 3 and say “What you do matters, thank you”
  2. The bottoms of these cute socks say: “If you can read this, this nurse is off duty.”
  3. A stylish keychain & poem that says thank you. 
  4. A coupon to a food delivery service like Uber Eats or Grubhub would allow them to have a meal without having to cook or go out to pick it up.
  5. A gift card to a coffee/tea shop would surely be put to good use!

Find other gift ideas by reading Seven Fun Gift Ideas for the Senior Who Doesn’t Need Anything. Whatever you do, the most impactful gift is likely going to be the note you add expressing your heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. Be more than generous with your words; they will soak in and encourage your caregiver in the sweetest of ways.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

How to Fill Your Senior’s Mailbox with Love


Plan a Christmas Card Signing Party with your Senior!

We’ve been sending Christmas cards for about 145 years. Well, I haven’t personally been sending them that long, but that’s when the first Christmas card originated in the United States. 

Most of the seniors in our lives look forward to getting their mail from the mailbox, finding personal notes and sweet cards from generations of friends. Even now in the electronic communication age, we can all relate with the pleasure of finding personal mail in the mix of bills and solicitations.

Would they love to receive cards (especially in assisted living or a nursing home) and value mailing them out? If your senior is no longer able to send Christmas cards themselves due to dementia or physical limitations, you can help make that happen! Even if your senior doesn’t need help, you’ll enjoy this activity together. 

My senior is independent

Make it a “card party”! Either over zoom or in person . . . put on some holiday music, both of you mix up some hot chocolate with extra whipped cream (I won’t tell if it has peppermint schnapps too). For fun, help them seal, address and stamp the cards. 

Here’s the key—and it works over Zoom too—encourage them to share memories about the people to whom they are sending the cards. Make a point of listening carefully and asking questions. 

My senior needs some help

Show up with:

  1. Cards: This pack of 24 cards has 4 different designs in a traditional style. An alternate is this set of 12 peace dove cards with a general holiday message. 
  2. Stamps: Did you know you can order holiday stamps from Amazon?
  3. A holiday beverage: Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte (just add hot water)
  4. Queue up your senior’s favorite festive music on your phone.
  5. Once completed, drop them in the mail for your senior.
My senior needs (a lot of) support

Show up with the supply list from above and maybe choose a 12 card pack so it’s not too tiring for dementia patients. Consider coming with 12 print outs of a favorite poem of your seniors or a special recipe of theirs and include that with the card. 

Add music and a fun drink to the process and it’s a party! Maybe all they do is sign the card and/or lick the envelope, but they are able to send a personal holiday message that will be a sweet gift to those that care about your senior. 

Add some silly and fun . . .

Get a pack of festive Christmas headbands and do a photoshoot for your senior! You can easily print a 4×6” collage photo at your local Walgreens, CVS, etc. in an hour. The photos can be the cover for a set of blank cards (attach the photo with double sided sticky tape) or be slipped inside the card. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you search time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link.

May you find joy in loving one another well, even if you aren’t wearing a reindeer headband.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.

Seven Fun Gift Ideas for a Senior Who Doesn’t Need Anything

dog perfect gift for dementia patientPerfect Gifts for a Nursing Home Resident or Hospital Patient

The neighbors get a plate of brownies.
The dog gets the 10-inch rawhide bone.
Friends get a bottle of wine.
Co-workers get . . . nothing. You’re not with them in person and you don’t have their address anyway.

Your mom receives . . .  Hmmmmm. She’s hard to shop for anyway and these days it’s even more complicated. 

We hope to make things a little easier for you with seven fantastic holiday gift ideas for your senior, even if they are in a nursing home or hospital.

  1. Especially if your senior has a good sense of humor or a solid desire for mischief, these stick-on mustaches will likely bring far more entertainment than you can imagine.
  2. You can easily gift an audible book from These three audiobooks are fun:
    1. In Such Good Company” Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox By: Carol Burnett
    2. “What’s So Funny?” My Hilarious Life By: Tim Conway, Jane Scovell
    3. “Murder Under the Sun” 13 Summer Mysteries by The Queen of Crime By: Agatha Christie
  3. Have a picture of your senior printed as a canvas wall print (choose a photo from a season in their life they loved). Shutterfly and Canvas World have lots of options and they are easy to hang, especially if you include some “no damage” sticky wall hangers.
  4. How about a butterfly or frog temporary tattoo pack? How can you not smile at the butterfly on your arm? There are usually enough in the pack for the entire nursing home staff or visiting family to be covered in butterflies and frogs too.
  5. Fill out a Ways & Wane “Who I Am” printable to hang up in their room. We created one of these for my dad and it always sparked conversation with the staff who enjoyed a glimpse into his life. 
  6. This heart shaped warm/cold pillow is soft and washable. Older people frequently have cold hands so a microwaveable pillow can be a good way to warm one’s hands without trying to manage a cumbersome mitten design.
  7. A diffuser with essential oils offers aromatherapy. This compact diffuser comes with 6 different oils and has a waterless auto shut off. (Not recommended for shared room situations.) 

Maybe this year your budget allows for a nice Hallmark card. That’s just fine too! Remember, people may forget what you did or the gift you gave them, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder and president of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you search time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link.