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,
Elizabeth

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.
PHASE #1 PHASE #2 PHASE #3
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.

 

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.

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 audible.com. 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. 

 

Three Sweet Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Though Apart

A Thanksgiving like no other. 

How can we gratefully celebrate together, though apart? Many people are foregoing the typical meal with a table full of extended family in the interest of keeping our seniors safe. Let’s seize the opportunity to creatively adapt, not abandon, our traditions. 

Serve up these 3 fresh ideas to create a shared Thanksgiving experience.
  • Enjoy dessert together on Thanksgiving day—over a video call.
      • If a zoom, facetime or a video call on messenger isn’t a possibility, just use a phone on speaker.
  • Eat the same thing so it’s a shared experience.
      • Food & Wine has a list of some amazing bakeries that deliver pies. 
      • Harry & David will deliver a single exquisite pear in a fantastic box.
      • Amazon Fresh can deliver a huge range of options. 
      • How about a wine glass filled with whip cream and topped with sprinkles?
  • Ask fun or thoughtful questions to engage your senior.
      • Consider an app or deck of conversation cards with games like “Have you Ever?” or “Would you Rather?” It’s a simple and fun way to get people to share. If you choose the “Have you Ever” game, you might get some really interesting (yikes!) stories. As though this Thanksgiving isn’t going to be memorable enough. 
      • Ask the traditional “what are you thankful for” question. Who doesn’t need a dose of gratitude.

Thanksgiving ideasFor more yummy tips, check out the full video!

However you celebrate, I hope you express and feel LOVE since that’s all that really matters anyway.

Well, dessert matters too. 

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the President and Co-founder 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. 

 

Dementia Activities: 5 Fun, No-Fail Projects

Whether your senior is in memory care, a nursing home or at home with you, you know the challenge of finding dementia-friendly activities you both enjoy.

Gardener. Photographer. Former Dentist. 80-Year-Old with Dementia.

A creative perfectionist with a solid sense of humor and a huge heart. 

Loved to keep busy.

Sound like someone you know?

Meet John–our dad. 

When his body and mind prevented him from doing all the things he did before, we dug deep to find worthwhile activities.

Here are 5 wildly satisfying projects we pursued with our dad after his traumatic brain injury. All of them can be enjoyed while sitting and by someone with compromised fine motor and cognitive skills. Download your free guide to 5 Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia.

  1. Coin sorting

When there’s a lot that cannot be made sense of or organized in one’s mind, sorting coins can be very satisfying. 

  • Senior engagement time = 5-60 min. 
  • Supplies: A pile of various coins. Tray for sorting and rolling coins OR clear plastic cups. Optional: paper sleeves for rolled. Use this if you want all the coin rolling gadgets.
  • Helpful: I kept a plastic container of coins and (when my dad wasn’t looking) kept putting the coins we’d rolled back to resort and roll. 
  1. “No Fail” Watercolor

My dad was frustrated when he couldn’t get the paint color right or would paint outside the lines. These watercolor sheets have picture outlines that come alive with color when they get wet. Once dry, they are reusable. 

  • Senior engagement time = 10-30 min. 
  • Supplies:  Reusable water painting sheets. Water container (low and heavy works well so it’s not tipped over), watercolor paint brush, flat work surface, a few paper towels.
  1. “No Fail” Puzzles

These puzzles are wonderful for people who aren’t successful or even interested in typical  jigsaw puzzles. My dad would match them and his roommate would just stack matching pieces on top of one another. My son made his own designs. 

  • Senior engagement time = 10-30 min. 
  • Supplies: Puzzle, flat work surface.

I’ll never forget the look of pleasure on my dad’s face when he dug his hands into the potting soil. He loved to garden and working with the dirt and plants, even in this simple project, was very rewarding for him.

John potting some flowers after he experienced a traumatic brain injury.
  1. Potted Gardening

I’ll never forget the look of pleasure on my dad’s face when he dug his hands into the potting soil. He loved to garden and working with the dirt and plants, even in this simple project, was very rewarding for him. 

  • Senior engagement time = 30-60 min. 
  • Supplies: Large garbage bag or tarp (to cover flat work surface), a few small plants to and new pot(s) to transplant them into, extra potting dirt, spade shovel, small pitcher filled with water. This mini indoor gardening set and carrier provides simple tools and easy clean up. Optional: gardening gloves, apron.
  1. Pasta Making 

My son helped my dad feed the rolled/flattened dough through the press while my dad cranked the handle. It was a great group project with the satisfaction of getting to eat fresh pasta afterwards. If you don’t have a crank pasta machine, they aren’t too expensive or perhaps you can borrow one. 

  • Senior engagement time = 1 hr.
  • Supplies: Crank pasta maker, fresh pasta dough (premade pizza dough works too), extra all purpose flour, aprons, cookie sheet (for drying noodles), flat work surface.
  • Helpful: Fresh pasta should be refrigerated and used within a few days.

Save these ideas by downloading your free guide to 5 Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia.

May you find joy in loving one another well!

Note: We recommend these products because we loved them for our own dad and we wanted to save you time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link.

You may also enjoy reading: The One Local Secret to Finding In-Home Care

Four Tips You Need to Choose a Walker

Tennis Balls Needed; Not for Tennis

Walker

I don’t have the exact date my dad became initiated into the Tennis Ball Walker Club. I do know it wasn’t something he aspired to join and he didn’t opt for any of the swag.

You can buy the walker, but it doesn’t come with the tennis balls for the two back legs. You get to add those yourself and hope that the utility knife used to slit them open doesn’t cost you a finger.

My dad thought the shiny black kind with wheels would be better for him, but his physical therapist said he’d have to work up to that kind. It turns out there are several different kinds of walkers for different kinds of situations and needs.

So in case you thought all walkers were created equally, here’s some valuable information on walkers as well as where and how to choose one that will help keep your senior mobile and safe. 

  • Understand the different kinds of walkers

Mayo clinic has this very helpful slide show: “Tips for choosing and using walkers”

  • Educate yourself about best practices for using walkers (as well as gait belts, canes, etc.)  Watch this 20-min training video
  • Find gently used walkers and other equipment at a local nonprofit. With a quick online search I found Bridge Disability Ministries. It’s local and has equipment available for a suggested donation.
  • You can also post your need on a local “buy nothing” type of Facebook group or your neighborhood Facebook group. Neighbors are generally glad to gift or loan equipment.

May you find joy in loving one another well!