A-to-Z Caregiving Tips

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America puts out a fine publication aimed at providing helpful information for those who love and care for others with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia including vascular dementia (what my brother has), Lewy Body dementia, Parkinson’s, alcohol-induced dementia, and others. Their purpose is stated in this way:

Mission: To provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide, and fund research for better treatment and a cure.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I have a similar mission or purpose in writing. In addition to sharing the fun stuff in life that comes from my joy in barefoot gardening, grandkids, and following Christ, I have a deep desire to encourage those who are in the trenches of caring for a loved one or friend with Alzheimer’s. We call them caregivers. Some caregivers are paid to do the job (and I’m SO thankful for them), but most are not financially compensated.

They just care. And give.

Today, I’m sharing an article from Alzheimer’s TODAY which should be of great help to ALL caregivers. Tiny Gifts That Are TREMENDOUS is a thoughtfully written A-to-Z list of caregiving suggestions compiled by Mary Kay Baum of Time for Us Camp in Dodgeville, WI. [Click to access Alz.-Today-Vol.-15-No.-4-LR.pdf]

This article resonated with me. As I read each point the article made, I could think of several examples from my own caregiving journey with my mother. Over the next few weeks, with the permission of Alzheimer’s TODAY, I plan to share a few of the things I learned along the way. It is my hope and dream that by sharing my own experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful – someone else will be encouraged in their life as a caregiver. Sometimes, just one unexpected word of encouragement can help someone have the courage to keep going. Sometimes, sharing just one caregiving idea will give another caregiver the hope that they can DO this hard thing.

So, caregivers everywhere, come along with me as I share how these tips played out in my own caregiving journey. We’ll start with ABC.

APPROACH me from the front and avoid startling me.

Gracious, this is so important! Many people do not realize that as the brain deteriorates, the field of vision and the ability to interpret what is in that field of vision becomes increasingly limited. I learned early on to approach my mom slowly from the front. Swooping in from the side, or reaching around her from the back, even if it was just to give her a hug, would cause her to jump. When she was frightened, she was less likely to be cooperative and sometimes even became combative. When mom entered into assisted living, those who followed this guideline had greater success in encouraging her to take medications, get dressed, eat…whatever. Those who would approach from the side and hurriedly shove a cupful of meds or a spoonful of food into her mouth could almost count on resistance.

BEND DOWN or sit down near me if I am in a wheelchair.

Even if a loved one is not in a wheelchair, no one likes to be hovered over. In addition to being seated in a wheelchair, imagine trying to understand what is being communicated when your field of vision is so small. Before you read any further, please put your hands in front of you. Next, touch the tips of each thumb and each index finger (the pointer) together. Your hands have created a small circle. Now, put your eyes up to that circle and look through that small circle. That, my friend, is the field of vision through which the typical person afflicted with Alzheimer’s interprets their world. Let that little exercise, imperfect as it is, inform the way you approach your loved one.

My mom needed to see my smiling face, read my lips and facial expressions, and observe my actions. I would try to have lunch with her every day that she was in assisted living. Mom had a tendency to wander away from the table during meals. Having me there eating with her helped her stay at the table and gave her the visual and social cues she needed to eat.

CALL my name gently and with a smile.

I’m notorious for talking to my husband from the other room, or worse yet, as I’m walking away from him. It’s a bad habit – lazy on my part, and disrespectful, actually. Precious caregivers, we can NOT do that with those who have Alzheimer’s.

We need to practice the art of getting close and putting a gentle smile on our face as we speak to our loved ones. When I needed my mom’s attention, she needed to hear AND see me say her name. A smile made communication more pleasant for both of us. Mom could read frustration on my face even when she could not hear my voice well (she was profoundly hard of hearing). I could save both of us frustration by just remembering the ABC’s.

  • Approach her from the front
  • Bend down or sit near her (get my smiling face in her field of vision), and
  • Call her name gently.

For more helpful information about Alzheimer’s please visit:

My Garden Frog

One day while wandering through Pier1 Imports, a ceramic frog called my name from atop a sale rack. My sweet hubby bought him for me and Mr. Frog has stayed with us ever since. He customarily sits on our kitchen countertop and keeps busy much of the year holding oranges or apples for us. At Christmas you might even spy him holding a few especially pretty ornaments.

I looked at my frog today and decided he needs to make a return engagement to my garden this summer. He’s been so happy there in the past.

I have been nurturing a few garden succulents over the winter months, so planted the survivors in the little leafy bowl this afternoon. I think he looks rather spiffy.

“Mr. Frog” just doesn’t suit this dapper guy. I think he needs a name. What shall it be?

A Garden Memory to Savor

Our local weatherman says we’re in for a few days of chilly temps, so I decided to take advantage of today’s fleeting afternoon warmth to rake leaves out of the flowerbed on the east side of our home. This flowerbed has never been a show-stopping focal point of our landscape and few people actually see it, so it’s usually the last flowerbed to garner any attention whatsoever from me. With a little more effort, I mused, I could create something eye-catching and special in this particular garden space.

I thought about that as I gingerly pulled the rake through the bed, gently coaxing last year’s leaves and debris toward the edge of the bed. Moving more slowly than usual because of a grumpy shoulder, I raked very carefully, slowly uncovering the new beginnings of unfurling leaves and flowers yet to bloom. Among them, a dozen or more clumps of hosta push their spikey heads above the earth; a Siberian iris and a daylily send leafy blades skyward; and a huge clump of sedum I wish I had divided long ago.

Beauty yet to come…

But there, in the far corner of this plot of earth was the plant I treasure very much. A few gentle pulls of the rake uncovered the red tips of one of my dad’s peonies inching their way out of the warming earth. A twinge of pain reminded me to take a little break, so I pulled my garden stool into the corner next to dad’s peony and surveyed the work I had accomplished thus far. It was looking good.

A brisk breeze tossed my hair in my eyes. Closing my eyes for a moment, I just listened to the nearby windchime’s frenzied melody and the sweet call of the cardinal in a neighboring magnolia tree. Opening my eyes again, I focused on carefully weeding around dad’s peony. As I pinched and pried, I thought about my dad and how much he nurtured and enjoyed his peonies. Few things brought him greater joy than snipping a few for the passersby who stopped to admire their beauty. That memory of him made me smile.

My parents: Charlotte and Jerry Boyles

The wind was growing colder and a niggling of pain suggested it was time to gather my tools and call it a day. It’s hard to give thanks for the painful things in life, but I found myself offering a prayer of thanks to God for slowing me down enough so that I could savor the quietude of memories and the simple beauty of an emerging garden.


One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind the Five Minute Friday community. Today’s free-writing word prompt: SAVOR

When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen

If my great expectations of gardening goals were met at all this week, it was through no effort of my own, but by the loving efforts of my dear husband. I had two projects in mind and he took care of one of them for me. It had been my desire to rake the flowerbed on the east side of our home and clean up a winter’s worth of birdseed hulls from underneath my bird-feeding station. The later was quite handily accomplished by my husband, who also took the time to relocate that feeding station to a spot a little further away from the fountain.

Continue reading “When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen”

Garden ‘Great Expectations’

I have been re-reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations this week. I remember reading it many moons ago when I was in junior high school. As a teen, I struggled with getting into the story. Truth be told, I didn’t put much effort into reading for comprehension and enjoyment. Well, I’m thoroughly into it this time through. Though it has absolutely nothing to do with gardening, I just love the title of the book and have found myself viewing my garden through the lens of great expectations.

Nothing show-stopping happening in my garden this week, but the snow has melted and there are definitely some great expectations and emerging signs of beauty to come…and a whole lot of grunt work needed to tidy up the flowerbeds.

Continue reading “Garden ‘Great Expectations’”

Promising Signs of Spring

I love to see the tips of my spring-blooming flowers poking their weary of winter heads above the earth. First to emerge and then open in my garden is the lovely crocus. At the very first sight of the flower buds forming I begin listening for robins. Just about the time the earliest crocus flowers open, the robins return from their winter migration and begin announcing spring’s arrival with their song.

Crocus – my garden’s herald of spring

Another sure sign that spring has sprung is when I begin seeing a lot more activity in and around the various birdhouses and nestboxes in our yard. The one pictured below was painted by my grandson Charlie. I cleaned this nestbox out a few weeks ago so the new tenants would have a fresh start. As you can see in the photo collage below, the side of the box hinges open, revealing the fact that new tenants are making good use of our neighbor’s pine needles in their cozy abode.

The old-fashioned bleeding heart is another harbinger of spring’s arrival in my garden. As Dicentra Spectabilis’ leaves push their way out of the earth to begin their yearly show, their fuschia colored leaves remind me of old-fashioned feather dusters and are always a welcome sight. They’re one of those plants which you plant one year and then they take up residence wherever they want in your garden.

Tulips like the sun, so I’m always surprised (and extra thankful) to see the tips of tulips pushing their way up into sight on the shady north side of my house. Here are a few which have emerged right next to my only remaining swath of snow.

I inspected my yellow peony for buds and was overjoyed to see lots of signs of spring growth (see the photo on the left below). If the blog space I’ve used to write about any given flower in my garden is any indicator, it’s definitely a favorite in my garden, I wrote about this charming peony here, here, and here, and am very much looking forward to seeing its enthralling beauty again (see the photo on the right below).

Paeonia Itoh ‘Bartzella’ – What is now and the promise of what is to come

I look forward to having you join me in the weeks to come for more little walks through the little plot I tend in my little corner of God’s beautiful earth.


The Propagator provides a virtual garden plot each Saturday where gardeners and all those who like to write about playing in the dirt can gather and plant their respective garden-related missives. Known as “Six on Saturday,” it’s a virtual show n’ tell where each tiller of the earth shows off six photos of that week’s garden happenings (or anything garden-related). You’re invited to click on The Propagator link and begin your own personal tour of gardens around the world. Such fun!

The Crocus: spring’s herald of beautiful possibilities

I have about a foot of snow left in my Wisconsin garden. Not a foot deep, mind you, but a little swath of white stuff on the north side of the house that’s about a foot wide and an inch or two deep. Another warm spring day and all the snow will be gone–and I am glad of it.

Continue reading “The Crocus: spring’s herald of beautiful possibilities”

Six on Saturday: Awaiting Spring

I’m joining The Propagator and his entourage of Six On Saturday gardeners for a little six-photo tour of what’s going on in the garden. It’s a fun little adventure. So put on your boots, come along with me, and let’s take a peek at what’s going on in my garden!

Continue reading “Six on Saturday: Awaiting Spring”

For the Love of Green

One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind the Five Minute Friday community. Today’s free-writing word prompt: GREEN


What’s your favorite color?

As a gardener, I find that question hard to answer. There are so many pretty colors in my world of flowers. It’s hard to pick just one, but there is one captivating color which God tends to use liberally in His world of botanical beauty. It’s a color I find both restful and invigorating.

Green.

In all its magnificent shades, green complements all of the other colors in God’s creation, allowing each floral masterpiece to point to its Creator looking its exquisite best.

A Passion Enabled ‘Yes’!

Phew! I’m dead last (#56) in submitting my writing for the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up. FMF is an opportunity for writers of all abilities to gather each week around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes flat, then share our work and encourage one another. If this sounds like fun, you can learn more here.

This week’s FMF writing prompt is: ENABLE

The weather is trending warmer and my garden is calling me from underneath that ever-thinning blanket of white stuff. I am getting excited about once again feeling the earth beneath my feet as I meander through my flowerbeds pulling weeds, amending the soil, and getting my hands (and feet) dirty as I tend to the flowers thrusting their heads above the sun-warmed soil. Getting time in the garden will be a little trickier this year, as I just made a commitment which will ensure that I will wash my hands and feet a few days per week. A job. I wasn’t looking for a job, but my eldest granddaughter sent me a text about a job opportunity at her place of employment anyway. Her message said,

“PT cook?”

Violet works for BeeHive as a CNA (certified nursing assistant). If the name of her workplace sounds familiar to you, perhaps you may recall that my mother spent the last year of her life living in the care of BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care. I spent a lot of time there too, mostly loving on my mom, but helping where I could too. It was all little stuff that I could do when mom was napping: filling birdfeeders, pulling weeds, cleaning out cabinets, and an occasional organizational or word-processing project.

Every now and then I would get in a bake-someone-happy mood and would bring a big batch of cookies along with me and leave them in the kitchen for the staff to use as a snack for the residents (or themselves). Before long, I had a reputation for my baking. One resident loved cookies more than anyone I have ever met. I loved secretly tucking a cookie or two into June’s walker bag. Seeing her face light up when she discovered the treat made any effort on my part so worthwhile.

A week ago on Tuesday my phone rang. It was Gina at BeeHive and she wanted to let me know that there was a job opening assisting the cook with baking duties (yep, the same job Violet told me about). Gina wondered if I would be interested.

Interesting how God used my love for baking and my passion for the mission of BeeHive to enable me to say “yes” to this opportunity without a moment’s hesitation. I didn’t need to say, “Let me pray about it.” I pray for them often and I knew that God was blessing me with this chance to make a difference.