A-Z Caregiving Tips (P & Q)

Here’s the next in a series of Tuesday’s Caregiving Tips posts inspired by A-Z Caregiving Tips (an article in Alzheimer’s Today pictured below). A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. You can read my previous posts for my personal tips on A – O. Today I am sharing my thoughts about “P” and “Q.” Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. Readers, you are most welcome (and encouraged) to share your own tips and observations about dementia caregiving in the comments below.

If the generation before me said, “Mind your p’s and q’s”, it was usually said in a firm tone of voice. It meant be polite and mind your manners–it might also mean to watch your language. Today we have come to the letters ‘P’ and ‘Q’ in our alphabet-inspired suggestions for dealing with loved ones with dementia. Both letters speak to watching what we say–‘P’ encourages us to fashion our conversations in an encouraging way, and ‘Q’ reminds us to omit certain words in order to help our loved one avoid the embarrassment of not being able to remember a person or specific event. Both are equally valuable tools in the toolbox for good caregiver communication.

Please affirm what I contributed and still do contribute.

I feel like I’ve covered this in previous posts, but it probably can’t be overstated. For as long as my sweet Momma was able, it was important to let her tell and retell her stories of her years as a nurse. The day would come when she could no longer recount those stories. At that point, it became my turn to tell her the stories I remembered her telling me. One such conversation went something like this:

Momma, I remember when the whole city of Milwaukee was snowed in and you stayed at the hospital and worked three days in a row because no one could get to work on the deep, snow-drifted roads. Then someone gave you a ride home on a snowmobile. First, you had them take you to the grocery store so you could buy your family food to eat, then he took you the rest of the way home. I remember that, even though you were very tired, you fixed us supper, then slept for a very long time.

Momma would tell and retell the story of her watch.

The story was actually a confabulation — a mixture of truth and her own version of the truth. As a nurse, she had always worn a watch with a sweep-second hand so she could take pulses the old-fashioned way. Momma still liked to wear the last watch she owned as a nurse. There came a day when neither story lingered in her mind. It was my turn to point to her watch and help her recapture that story, if only for a moment.

Oh, how my mom loved to work with children–her own and the children of others. In addition to being a very involved mom, she was also a leader of a local Brownie troop. Later, she would work for many years as the secretary for the Awana girls’ club. Her grandchildren adored her. No doubt the open-fridge policy had something to do with their love of spending time at their grandparents’ home, but their teenage years were nurtured and fed in more ways that food because mom and dad gave each of them a housekey and made sure they knew they were always welcome.

For my part, I loved to reminisce with mom about some of the special ways she blessed our family. I would show her photos of some of the fun times she had when working with kids in the Awana program.

One way I helped mom feel like she was still contributing something valuable was by inviting families with young children to come and share a meal with us. I would tell mom that the kids were hoping she’d teach them something about coloring, or help them with a hard puzzle. She delighted in those times around the kitchen table. As they colored, she’d proffer her wisdom in how to hold the crayon or colored pencil in such a way as to shade the color onto the paper evenly. If she was working on a puzzle with her little friends, she’d share a tip and demonstrate how to put puzzle pieces in color groupings to make it easier to find the piece needed.

Quit quizzing me with Who, What, Where and When questions. I would add Why to the questions we needn’t ask.

In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, mom seemed to struggle with the Who questions the most, followed by Where. Names which had been familiar would drop off her radar. As I spent more time with my mom, I learned not to ask her who she had lunch with on Sunday, or who taught the discipleship class she attended. As the names of family started to slip, I learned to slip the name of the person we were with into the conversation so that mom could be reminded of the name.

For instance, as her neighbor and friend, Gisela, was approaching to have a chat with mom in the front yard, I’d greet Gisela by name. Later in the conversation, I’d say something like, “So, Gisela, you and mom have lived in this neighborhood together for over 50 years, haven’t you?” Then the conversation could continue with mom and Gisela reminiscing about old times.

Minding our p’s and q’s in dementia caregiving helps ensure a smoother passage on the labyrinthian road in life marked by memory loss. Thus far in medical research, there are no fixes for this formidable detour of the mind. Caregivers with a well-equipped “caregiving toolbox” can bring roadside assistance and a little extra joy along the way.

Faded Valentines and Undying Love

My husband knows I would much prefer a new plant for my garden over cut flowers–but the fragrant bouquet he gave me on Valentine’s Day was certainly a lovely way to remind me of his love for me and fill the wintery gap between now and the time when I can play in the dirt outside.

A breath of Spring and the hope of barefoot gardening days ahead.

As my Valentine’s Day flowers begin to droop and fade, I am reminded that Valentine’s Day can be difficult for some. In my personal circle of friends and family, several were bereaved of a loving spouse in the past year or two. Others are going through a valley experience in life and wondering whether their Valentine will be there to love on next year. None of us knows whether we have the next breath. Romantic love is wonderful, but temporary. Finding ways to express Christ-like love is the best. I love Paul Tripp’s article filled with 23 ideas for sharing love with others in 2023.


There are people in my life I am having great difficulty loving as I should. This list reminded me of ways I can show Christ-like love to these prickly-hard-to-love people. I plan to print it and put it in my prayer journal as a guide, not only to prayer, but for putting love into action.

My hope and prayer is that this post will encourage someone who reads this to greater love in your circle of people who need His love.

Rewind: The Family that Cares

In talking with other caregivers, I realize all the more keenly how incredibly blessed I was to have an amazing support system. In a recent post, I (re)shared with my readers how my loving church family came alongside me to help me in caring for my sweet mom. Today I am (re)sharing another note that I wrote and published on Facebook in 2017–which was the year mom’s Alzheimer’s disease dramatically advanced.

Continue reading “Rewind: The Family that Cares”

Pressing the “Play Button” Again

You’ve put years of your life on “pause” so that you can provide the care your loved one deserved during the worst years of their life. Then, all at once, it seems, what you’ve known would happen all along finally happens.

They’re gone.

Yet, when it comes time to hit the “play button” and get on with your life, you discover you’re not the same person you were. The all-encompassing caregiving experience has changed your life.

So, you may ask, what has changed?

In addition to knowing more about Alzheimer’s than I ever dreamed possible, I have a whole new skill set. I work with certified nursing assistants and am continually amazed at how much of what they have learned in their training I learned by necessity.

I’m much more assertive than I was prior to caring for my mom. I learned this by being an advocate for my mom and my brother with their physicians and healthcare insurance providers. I learned to speak up for what was right while making countless phone calls to people and organizations who were preying on mom and helping her spend her modest pension and Social Security income. My newly acquired boldness helped me to relentlessly insist upon a refund from the companies taking hundreds of dollars from her every month.

Another thing has changed too. My eyesight. My physical vision is changing due to a pair of cataracts, but the vision I’m talking about isn’t physical.

It’s an internal ability to see the caregivers around me more clearly than ever.

Not long ago, my hubby took me out for lunch. I saw the caregiving granddaughter sitting in the corner with her memory-challenged grandma. While others probably tuned it out, I heard her gently answering her grandma’s myriad questions — over and over again. I heard this precious granddaughter sharing and resharing the “news” of her pregnancy and the baby who would arrive in July – to the beautiful and heartrending delight of that baby’s great-grandma. I could see that granddaughter rewinding bits and pieces of her conversation: that she lived just down the block from her grandma, the names and ages of her children, what they were doing in school, and all of the details about which her grandmother was curious.

With caring for Momma behind me, and eyes that are now wide open to the world of dementia caregivers, it’s my heartfelt desire to press life’s “play button” again—this time purposefully engaging with and caring for the caregivers I encounter all around me.

I am a caregiving daughter forever changed by Alzheimer’s.

Rewind: Caring for the Caregiver

Facebook occasionally reminds me of things I wrote in my pre-blogging days. It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since I wrote “Caring for the Caregiver,” a post born out of my personal experience in being the primary family caregiver for my sweet mother.

It is my prayer that this photo-filled memory of mine will inspire many to look for ways to love on caregivers “with actions and in truth.”

To read my ‘Caring for the Caregiver’ post, please click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/419229092400187/

Many: Five-Minute Friday

God is faithful in His patience and love toward us. My readers might enjoy this post by someone special who shows much godly patience and faithfulness in his love for me. Meet my husband, Wayne.

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How Many Times Do I have to Tell You?

How many times do I have to tell you? Hebrews 1:1-2 How many channels do you need?

If you are a parent (or if you were someone’s child), then you are probably aware of something many parents say. They ask, “How many times do I have to tell you?” This is followed by, “to do your homework, to clean up your room, to stop teasing your brother or sister, to stop fighting, or (you can put something here too)!

Imagine the Patience of God

Clearly, as a parent or as the recipient of such a question, you are probably thinking “many, many times.” That is only a small fragment or fraction of the total times God has spoken to us. He speaks to us through his creation, through the words recorded in the scriptures and he has spoken to us by…

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Baking at the Hive: Banana Split Dessert

I am blessed to be a part-time baker at BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care in Oregon, Wisconsin. It’s my joy to see my desserts put a smile on the faces of our residents. I thought it would be fun to share a few recipes with my readers. Enjoy!

Recipes which begin with a graham cracker or cookie crust are some of my personal favorites to create. Banana Split Torte is actually a no-bake recipe, so perfect for summers–but I make it once a month all year-round because it’s a BeeHive favorite. Since I bake for residents who are in memory care, I like to choose vintage recipes they might remember from their younger days. This one fits the bill. Most of the ladies remember taking this classic to potlucks and family gatherings.

There are three days each week where refrigerator space is available (the days just before grocery shopping day), so those are the days I choose to prepare dessert recipes which require refrigeration. It can be prepared one day in advance. Making it too far ahead will mean the bananas will begin to brown–still tasty, but not as appealing to the eye.

The pineapple can be sweetened or unsweetened, according to your preference, but make sure it is well-drained. Don’t just dump it in a colander and call it done. Press the juices out. I also like to count out the number of cherries I need for garnish and drain the juice off of them too by setting them on a paper towel so that the juices can bleed off. It makes for a prettier presentation later.

I’ve included the recipe I use as a guide. I make two 9×13 pans and cut each dessert into 16-18 servings. You can most certainly divide this recipe in half for a single 9×13 dessert.

Recipes are a guide. Use your common sense, personal experience and tastes to tweak the recipe, as you’ll see in this photo of my recipe page (above).

The Graham Cracker Crust

Kudos to you if you can make a decent graham cracker crust out of 1/3 cup margarine and 3 cups of graham crackers crumbs like this recipe states. I personally want a dessert crust that’s not going to fall apart when cut. If that’s your goal too, use 2 sticks of melted butter, 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Toss the mixture well. Split the buttery crumbs evenly between the two pans. To get a firmly pressed and smooth crust, I use a wide spatula to press the crumbs into place, then pop them into the fridge to firm up a bit while I prepare the filling. [Note: you can substitute crushed Nilla Wafers for the graham crackers–just omit the 1/2 cup of sugar.]

Cream Cheese Filling

Here’s my tweak on the filling. I cream 3 packages (8 oz each) of softened cream cheese with 1 stick of softened butter. Then I add at least 2 teaspoons of vanilla…probably more like 1 tablespoon (because I’m really into vanilla). Next, I dump about 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar) into the bowl with the creamed butter and cheese. Turn the mixer on very low to stir in the powdered sugar then turn that mixer up to medium-high and let it do its thing for about 5 minutes, scraping that bowl a few times to make sure all of the ingredients reach the super-fluffy and wonderful stage. Yep, it’s kinda like a thick layer of frosting. Yes, you can leave the butter out, but be forewarned. If you do something as crazy as that to save calories, you’ll sacrifice a lot of amazingness and will probably need to add the milk I crossed off the recipe to get it to a good spreading consistency.

For maximum fluff, beat at medium-high speed at least 5 minutes

Once you have a bowlful of silky cream cheese fluff, remove those crusts from the fridge. I then use a cookie or ice-cream scoop to evenly distribute globs of that cream cheese fluff around in the pans, then smooth it around with a small silicone or offset spatula.

A different dessert, but this is the technique I use for distributing the filling.

Banana Split Topping Layer

Now’s the time to slice those bananas into little coins and sprinkle a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over them. Toss the bananas around a bit in the lemon juice (this helps prevent browning). Using 3 bananas per pan (4 if the bananas are small), I lay the banana coins all over the top of that yummy cream cheese filling. [As you can see in my scribbles on the recipe, I sometimes make a “patriotic” version of this dessert, substituting fresh blueberries and strawberries for the bananas. Equally delicious.] Once you’ve got those bananas distributed evenly, cover the top with crushed pineapple.

Don’t cheat the people who like the edge pieces–get that fruity goodness to the edge of the pan!

The last layer

The last layer is your whipped topping. At work, I use Cool Whip or something of that nature. This dessert is extra-delicious if you top it with sweetened whipped heavy cream. If you go the homemade route, be sure to stabilize the whip cream if the dessert will not be served the same day.

The last thing I do is drag the tip of a knife through the whipped topping to create a grid for the cherries. Not everyone has mastered the skill of cutting 9×13 desserts into equal pieces, so I like to give the kitchen staff a little visual guide. The grid also helps me in placement of the well-drained maraschino cherries. Cover this dessert and tuck that amazingness back into your fridge again to chill for a few hours if you’re serving same day, or overnight for something to look forward to tomorrow.

The grid varies depending upon how many servings I need

At serving time, follow the grid marks and cut your pretty dessert into servings. I guarantee, there will be no leftovers. That is, unless you’re making it for yourself. If that’s the case, you might want to save a piece or two for tomorrow.

Becoming a Child Again

Mom is so focused on her coloring. I’ve been sitting at the table with her as she colored for the past few hours. I just stood up to move a bit and she looked up and said in a tone of surprise,
“Oh hi! When did you get here?”
Sad, but sweet. Today I’ve been her mom. When I told her it was time to put her coloring away and get ready for bed, she stalled and pouted just like a child. “But I’m not tired! You always make me quit when I’m having fun!”

Cindie’s Caregiving Journal, February 11, 2018

There are those who wonder why caregiving children speak to their memory-challenged parent like they are a child. Some also believe it to be a bit demeaning to provide child-like things for them to do as activities.

I get the concern. I’ve had that concern in the past too.

Not anymore.

Now that I have journeyed alongside my mother (who had Alzheimer’s), I totally get it.

As Alzheimer’s claimed more and more of her cognitive abilities, it seemed that mom traveled backward in time to a time when she was much younger. Toward the end, she became very childlike. She often thought I was her mom. There was no use in fighting the role reversal—it was part of the disease progression.

Like a child, mom enjoyed coloring. When I first introduced adult coloring books, her coloring was magnificent and her eye for color was impeccable. She stayed within the lines and had the art of “shading” down pat. Now, as I look through her coloring books, I can see the obvious regression in ability. In the beginning, mom would use all of her colors; toward the end, she settled in on yellow and green. In the beginning, mom’s color choices would closely approximate the true color of the object she was coloring. As the disease advanced, the coloring books I purchased for her were simpler, in keeping with her diminishing artistic abilities and instinct for color. Ultimately, in the last few months of her life, much like a child who colors everything in their favorite color, she would color everything yellow or green.

Correspondingly, mom’s behavior changed. She’d have times when she was unhappy about something and would throw a childlike tantrum. Tears, pitiful pouting face, crossed arms and all. Mom reverted to baby-like play on the floor, preferring to crawl about on the floor, rather than tootle around in her wheelchair. Like the child running out into a crowded room butt-naked, inhibitions over inappropriate public behavior goes by the wayside too.

On those days when mom thought I was her mom, I soon learned it was in mom’s best interest if I would just play that role. Putting on the soothing “mom voice” was part of it. Likewise, when encouraging her to do what needed to be done (like changing her clothing), it was necessary to communicate with her as I would with a young child or (sometimes) like a toddler, using what I’ll call “simple speak.”

So, dear reader who has never experienced the role of caregiver, please be gentle and understanding with the caregivers you know. Your caregiving friend is living in an upside-down world juggling sippy-cups, adult-size diapers and discreet diaper bags, mealtime feeding issues, and lack of good sleep. Believe me, your prayerful encouragement and friendship would mean the world to them.

(Not) Six on Saturday: Winter Thaw

Winter is waning here in southern Wisconsin. According to the groundhog, it’s certainly not over, but we’re inching our way to its inevitable end.

The days are getting brighter, for which I am glad. The sub-zero weather is finished (for now) and warmer temps are moving in to melt the snowy, icy mess dumped on us on Thursday.

Though it’s not exactly gardening weather yet, I did go outside today to tidy up a few things.

Halloween Gourds 2022

It was definitely time to get rid of these gourds leftover from fall decorating. I had already tossed most of them, but found a stray buried beneath the snow. The gourds pictured (and more…24 in all) were all grown on one volunteer vine that pretty much took over an entire flowerbed in the front yard. It was novel and fun, but I don’t want a repeat performance, so out it goes.

I also surveyed a clematis vine that needs pruning back. I hope to tidy this one up on one of my days off next week.

Unfortunately, I left my galvanized watering cans out in the snow this winter. I pulled them both out of a drift of snow and was saddened to see how much the bottoms had buckled. I’m kicking myself for that negligence, as the bottom of both cans is now bulging, so the cans rock when you set them on a flat surface. One was my dad’s watering can, so it makes me especially sad that I didn’t take good care of it.

Joining in with Jim and the SOS gardener-types on this spring-like, yet snow-covered Saturday from my Wisconsin garden. Somewhere underneath our blanket of snow, I know things are gearing up for Spring, but there’s not much going on right now that’s worth photographing. If you want to see some real garden color, visit the gardens around the world represented on our Six on Saturday host’s site at https://gardenruminations.co.uk/

Books: Access to Knowledge

One story my mom told of her childhood sticks out in my mind today, but is a bit fuzzy around the edges — how I wish I had paid closer attention and written down the details while I had the chance.

Mom told of an aunt and uncle who owned a restaurant. When mom would visit, this auntie would let mom explore the former bookstore on the other side of the building she owned. When her aunt unlocked that door, mom had personal access to all of the books that were still nestled on each shelf of that now abandoned bookstore. A whole new world opened up to her as she fingered the pages of each book that she read. It is no wonder that mom carried the love of reading with her throughout life, until Alzheimer’s would overshadow her ability to read in her last year of life.

In 1964, a new branch of the Milwaukee public library opened up on Capitol Drive, in a neighborhood very familiar to my parents. Just a handful of years earlier, I had been born in the Capitol Drive hospital (where mom was a nurse) just a few miles east down the road, and my parents had lived in the house just behind that hospital for the first years of my life. Looking back, it’s no wonder my mom would be one of this library’s early patrons, or that some of my earliest memories are of her helping me choose books from its shelves. What a wonderful feeling it was when, a few years down the road, I received my very own library card, giving me my very own access to countless adventures in books, plus the resources I would need for school research down the road a few years.

Yours truly in kindergarten, the year my adventure in reading would begin. Note: mom was much better at helping me choose books to read than she was at cutting my hair.

Fast forward to 1969 when another library opened up to me. This library of just 66 books was contained within one greater volume. Yes, the Bible. It was during the 12th year of my life when I, by faith, met the Author of this book. In the very moment that I placed my trust in Christ, His Spirit came to dwell within me, unlocking and giving me full access to the truths within the pages of my Bible.

I learned a verse during that year which helped me understand the importance of this Book of all books in my new life as a believer and why it continues to speak to my heart and change me from within each and every time I spend time within its pages.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
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