A-to-Z Caregiving Tips (D-E)

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.


I hope my second article will be an encouragement to caregivers. My little series is based upon an article from Alzheimer’s TODAY called Tiny Gifts That Are TREMENDOUS, where Mary Kay Baum shared a helpful A-to-Z list of caregiving suggestions [Click here to read the original article]. My caregiver friends, come along with me as I share how these tips played out in my own caregiving journey. Last week I gave you my spin on A-B-C; this week, I’ll share my thoughts regarding D-E.

Do mention your name, looking at me.

One day I was helping my mom look for her checkbook (a frequent activity in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s). As I sifted through the contents of her purse, I pulled out a list of names. Taking a closer look, I could see that the names were those of some of her closest friends at church. Each name was written out several times, as if she were practicing, trying to cement the names in her mind. I could imagine my mom sitting in her Bible study trying so hard to recall the names of people she had known for years.

It was during this period of time that I realized just how much mom was struggling with the names of the people she knew and loved. In retrospect, it was probably the reason she began declining invitations to social events and had not been regular in her church attendance.

One way we tried to help my mom was to create laminated photo cards which listed the names of the people in the photo and how they were connected with mom. I would get that photo out for her when that individual came for a visit. It helped mom save face by prompting her with the visual cue she needed to remember the names of her guests. As her dementia progressed, she just liked carrying all of her laminated cards around in her purse and seemed to enjoy sorting them and reading the captions.

ENJOY quiet times with me like reading to me.

Reading to my mom was a bit tricky. She was pretty hard of hearing, but I’m so proud of my grandkids (her greats) who did their best to include their great-grandma by reading with her. My youngest grandson George was amazingly good at this. He knew how to put on his loud voice and would snuggle up to her and look at books with her whenever he would visit.

Mom had a special spot at our kitchen table. Whenever the great-grands would come, they would try to do something at the table. Sometimes she’d join in the fun, other times she would just watch.

I’m not going to lie. Having a front-row seat to the heartbreak associated with mom’s onset and advancement of dementia was a hard place to be, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a blessing to her during that time. My bank of memories is full to the brim with more special moments than difficulties.

As dementia progresses, the ability to interpret the words written on the page becomes more difficult. Since mom enjoyed coloring, we purchased adult coloring books with simple devotional thoughts and Bible messages so that mom could continue to read. Members of the family also created photo albums with brief descriptive captions–she truly enjoyed looking through those too. Those same photo albums gave less familiar friends and paid caregivers something to do with her too–a connection and something to talk about and enjoy together.

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, sharing just one caregiving idea will give another caregiver the hope that they can DO this hard thing.

For more helpful information about Alzheimer’s please visit:

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:

I See You

Today I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given word prompt. This week’s word is OBSERVANT.


My eyes followed the two women as they pushed a cart together through our local Aldi – the younger woman guiding and steadying the older. There was something endearing and precious about the scene…and personally familiar.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Even though my eyes are growing weaker with age (cataracts are forming, I am told), my eyes have become more observant in their ability to pick out the caregivers I encounter in everyday life. I believe this deeper level of awareness is one of the hidden graces of my personal journey in being an Alzheimer’s caregiver for my sweet mom.

Because I have been there, I see this loving daughter guarding her mother’s dignity as she slowly guides her through the store. My eyes see the mask of confusion in her momma’s eyes, and see the gentle way the daughter helps her mom choose groceries to put in their cart.

Because I have been there, my eyes see the caregiver in the waiting room of the dental office trying to convince their forgetful loved one that they just went to the bathroom and didn’t need to go again. I can show empathy because I remember that taking a loved one to the bathroom is not a 5-minute job.

Because I have been there, I see the caregiver in the parking lot trying to help their agitated and combative loved one buckle their seatbelt. I see and know the sheer exhaustion of it all.

My Alzheimer’s-aware eyes see the frazzled caregiver trying to go through the Culver’s drive-through as her daddy repeatedly unbuckles his seatbelt and tries to exit the vehicle. I see her anxious eyes in her rearview mirror as she waits to place their order. Tears are pooling there, ready to spill because she feels hopeless and alone.

May my eyes never be blinded to the needs of caregivers God places in my path. I pray God will help me see each caregiver through His loving and compassionate eyes.

Putting Away Christmas

I had planned to keep my Christmas stuff up well into January because it just felt like this year needed a little extra sparkle for just a bit longer. I’m not a perfectionistic white-glove housekeeper (by any stretch of the imagination), but I do like a certain level of tidyness and order. Before I knew it, the niggling longing for order won out and those green and red plastic tubs were making their annual trek back up from the basement storage area so I could begin putting back all those pretty Christmas-y decorations.

Each ornament goes back in its original box, or gets wrapped in newsprint or tissue and placed in a protective box or tin. As I carefully stacked those boxes filled with fragile baubles into one of the three larger bins, there was a sense that I was, in a small way, packing up and setting aside some memories that would be unwrapped and remembered once again in the hope of next Christmas.

“Putting away Christmas” is theologically impossible. Christ’s advent, God’s gift to the world, cannot be wrapped up in tissue paper and set aside the day after Christmas. Emmanuel, God With Us, cannot be stuck in a box to be forgotten about until unwrapped again next year. When I “put away Christmas,” it is our somewhat clouded by glitz and glitter attempt to remember his advent each year that we are really putting away.

As I filled the third bin with my tissue-wrapped baubles, I noticed the corner of an envelope hiding in the bottom of the bin. It was tucked under a box of lights I haven’t used in years. I pulled it out and discovered a gift I hadn’t opened this year. It was a letter addressed to me in my mom’s familiar cursive script.

Years ago, Mom had taken the time to write out the words to the poem “My First Christmas in Heaven.” I’ve read it many times before — maybe you have read it too. I know that a few of you, my friends and loved ones, experienced the fresh sting of grief in your heart because a loved one was missing at your celebration this Christmas, so I will include an image of the poem here for you.

It says “Author Unknown” but I think most sources now attribute the authorship to Wanda Bencke, whose daughter died just after Christmas in 1997.

The postmark on the envelope was clearly stamped 10 DEC 2009, so it was fitting that when mom copied the poem’s title, she neatly crossed out the word “First” and wrote above it, “Second.”

Mom’s little personal post-script penned beneath the poem sheds light upon the reason why.

Last Christmas, I kept running the last line through my head but could not remember the rest of this old poem. This year in Reminisce Magazine it was printed in their December-January 2010 issue.

Love, Mom

I just love this little find, yet another of God’s little grace gifts in my life. You see, she sent it on my dad’s second Christmas in heaven, and here I was re-reading it 12 Christmases later, just after she celebrated her first Christmas in heaven.

An ornament commemorating my momma’s last Christmas on this side of Heaven

A Family Story Found in an Unexpected Place

According to my Facebook post on January 1st of 2015, on that date in history I found one of my mother’s memories from January 1st of 1955!

How cool is that?

I had been going through mom’s jumble of paperwork, trying to find the important documents I would need as her power of attorney. Mom’s once neat filing system was a jumbled-up mess, due to the confusion of her mind caused by Alzheimer’s. I recall I was making good progress taming that paper tiger and that I found a few delightful surprises in the process.

One such surprise was a file folder labeled “Peet Family.” This file contained many treasures. Old black and white photos. Letters and cards. Newspaper clippings. Obituaries. Genealogy timelines. Tucked into this file category was a simple green pocket folder. I flipped it open, fully anticipating that it had something to do with the Peet family genealogy.

And it did – sort of.

It was a cookbook filled with favorite family recipes which had been compiled for a family reunion in 2000. I had fun taking a break from my sorting project to page through the recipes. The faces of family I had only seen when I was a young child came to mind as their names popped up on the righthand corner of each page. It was exciting to see the name “CHARLOTTE PEET-BOYLES” pop up here and there.

“Charlotte’s Layered-Spinach Salad” was in there, as it should be. It was one of those salads she made often for potlucks or when family would gather at her house for birthdays or holidays. Another family favorite was “Charlotte’s Dream Whip Torte”! My sister would often request that dessert for her birthday. It was not a surprise to find her “Never Fail Pie Crust” recipe was in there too. She never liked making pies until her friend from work shared that recipe with her.  

As I flipped through the cookbook, I noticed that some of the recipes had a family story included. Once I realized this, I went back through the recipes attributed to mom to see if I could find a recipe where my mom had contributed a story. And there it was included under a recipe called “Clara Gall-Peet’s Upside Down Cake.” Clara was my grandma, so I felt like I had found a double-treasure with this recipe and the giggle I received as I read the sweet little story mom told about her early baking attempts.

  

The date confuses me a little, as mom and dad were married in July of 1955, but, at the bottom of the cake recipe, my mom had reminisced,

“My Mom was a good cook and if you arrived unexpected at dinner-time she always had room for you at the table and enough food to go around. This is the first cake I tried to make after I got married. In fact, the date was January 1, 1955. Total disaster for there was no cake – all bottom or top, depending which way you look at it. I had copied 1 ½ tablespoons flour instead of 1 ½ cups. It took me three tries before I got it right.”

Charlotte Peet-Boyles

The Christmas Photo


It’s the last Five Minute Friday blog link-up of the year 2020. Join me and this beautiful community of writers and bloggers who gather on Fridays around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes. This week’s writing prompt is Conclude (check out the other posts here). I suspect most of us are really looking forward to the conclusion of the year 2020, which held no shortage of disappointing losses. I could write a few chapters about losses myself, but let me instead share with you about a special lesson I learned…a lesson from a Christmas photo.


Christmas is coming, so I take my cherished photo from the drawer where I keep it the other eleven months of the year.

Boyles Family of Three – Christmas 1957

It seems like just yesterday when I found this photo. In reality it was about five years ago. As I recall, I was busy helping my dear mom sort through life’s accumulation of things, when I found a shoebox tucked away in the corner of the laundry room near the place where mom would iron the wrinkles out of my dad’s shirts. Removing the slightly dusty lid, I found this box to be filled with fascinating photos of years gone by, each filed standing on edge waiting to one day be added to a photo album. As I thumbed through each time-worn photo, I concluded that Momma had at one time been busy putting the years of her life in order, one loose photo at a time.

That was before Alzheimer’s. Before her mind could no longer put anything in order.

My treasured photo, filed under “Christmas 1957”, captured a moment in my life and a memory I was too young to keep without it. We were a family of three seated in my great-grandparents’ living room. A well-tinseled Christmas tree was in the background, and I was sitting in 3-month-old chubby cuteness on my beautiful momma’s lap. My handsome daddy was seated on the floor next to us, arms casually crossed around his knees. If you look carefully over my dad’s left shoulder, you might spy a portrait of my mom in her wedding dress.

Gracious reader, you probably recall that Jesus took my momma home to heaven this year, which makes this photo more meaningful than ever. Now, as my fingers trace the little gold frame on this precious keepsake, something hits me straight in the heart, making me pause and think about the brevity of life.

Our Christmas present in 1979

I was young like my momma in this photo, just 22 years old when my own daughter was born. Except for the years I spent in junior high school, those first 22 years whooshed by in a flash, and the years from then until now are a blur too. Doing the math, if I live to be 86 like my mom, I conclude that I have 23 years left to spend (a mere 13 years if I live to be as old as my daddy).

The Bible speaks figuratively of our lives being like a mist or a vapor – here one moment and gone the next (James 4:14). It’s so very true. How will the story of my life conclude once the last chapters of my life have been written?

As I set my special photo down in a place of Christmas-y honor, my heart wells with gratefulness for this photo’s poignant reminder to invest these final years God has in His plan for me in what matters most: loving people and pointing them to Jesus for the glory of God.  

The Gift of ‘Present’

Well, it’s Tuesday already, but this post is part of the Five Minute Friday blog link-up ( check it out here) where I’m joining up with a community of writers and bloggers of all ages and stages who gather around a single word prompt to freewrite for five minutes without editing. This week’s prompt is [Present}.


Facebook has a feature I enjoy called “Memories.” One click on the memories tab gives me visual reminders of things I have posted on that site a year ago or more. It’s a virtual photo journal reminding me of special times in my life like birthdays, vacations, Bible verses that spoke to my heart, time with the grandkids, or what was blooming in my garden at that time. Many of the photos from the past decade feature my sweet mom. Those photo memories of my mom generally bring a smile, or a hearty laugh, and (only sometimes) a few tears sprinkled here and there. But this week, the fact that I was able to take so many photos of her served to remind me of the amazing opportunity God gave me to give my mother a very special gift in the last years of her life.

The gift of being present.

Present. The gift I’m thankful I could give.

A Prayer for Grace

It brings me joy when I find a little prayerful note written in my mother’s handwriting. Seeing what was on her heart and mind at certain times of her life gives me insight into the depth of her trust in the Lord.

I recently picked up a little spiral notebook in my stash of things which once belonged to my mom. Giving the pages a quick flipping through, I noticed most of the pages were blank, so I decided to make use of it as my own journal. I thought the journal was blank, but then her handwriting caught my attention on the very last couple of pages.

Let me share with you one of those entries.

Today is March 12, 2016. Life goes on and God has provided. I am so thankful for all who have cared for me.

Jim Meiller – Snow removal; also mow grass.

My caregivers – Cindie and Vivian

Wayne – takes care of my bills. PTL!

And so many more to list.

Lord, I know that I do not have much longer. I ask for grace for these times. It has not been easy, but you have provided for all my needs and so much more. Please give me grace for my remaining time before you call me home.

I do hope Jerry remembers me!

Take care of my family and my friends!!!

So many more but, oh yes, thank you for ice cream!

Charlotte P. Boyles

Looking at the date on her journal entry, I am surprised by her clarity of thought for writing out what was on her heart, as Alzheimer’s had dealt some harsh memory-robbing blows. I recall we were in the midst of packing her belongings and getting ready for her big move at that time. In just over a week, she would leave the place she had called “home” for the past 55 years and move 90 miles away to a little place near me, and I was having trouble with mom unpacking the boxes that I had spent hours packing. Finding her prayer for grace during what was a very stressful time for her, well, it just speaks to my heart about how I can trust God for my future too. Even if it includes Alzheimer’s.

Best Dementia Staging Explanation EVER!

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I love to write about gardening and share some of the 4,987 pictures of flowers I have on my phone.

You also know that I cared for my mom in the last years of her life while she battled Alzheimer’s. I documented and photojournaled our journey on my blog (and a bit on Facebook too).

You may not know that I have also been overseeing the care of my brother who has significant medical needs, including a form of short-term memory loss called vascular dementia, due in part to unchecked diabetes.

Having both a mother and a brother with dementia weighs on me. Add a grandparent from each side of my family to the equation and every forgetful moment takes me to the edge of tears every time I forget something more significant than where I left my car keys.

"Caregiving is a constant learning experience."

Because dementia has struck so close to home, I have diligently sought to educate myself about the subject and have made it my goal to share with anyone who is interested any knowledge I glean or resources I discover.

I honestly think I have read nearly every book ever written for dementia caregivers. This book is my personal favorite.

If you check my Google activity log, you’ll know why the ads that pop up on my Facebook account relate to items specific to dementia care. I belong to two Facebook groups for caregivers. I even have a Pinterest board related to Alzheimer’s. I listen to podcasts and follow the blogs and Instagram feeds of others who write or photo-journal about Alzheimer’s and caregiving. I belong to a caregiver support group sponsored by Agrace, the hospice that helped take care of my mom in her final year of life. I have often surfed YouTube channels in search of information related to caring for someone with dementia.

Today I would like to share information from the YouTube channel of one of my favorite medical experts, Dr. Natali Edmonds, founder of a dementia support community called Careblazers. In this video, Dr. Natali discusses the various stages of dementia and the three most common tools for measuring where a loved one with dementia (LOWD) is in the course of their dementia decline. In my opinion, it’s the best explanation you will ever get in 13 minutes and 24 seconds.

If you are caring for a loved one with any type of dementia, I highly recommend subscribing to the Careblazer YouTube channel. Dr. Natali posts informative, compassionate, bite-size videos on most any subject a caregiver might encounter on their caregiving journey.

Measuring Time

This is my mother’s watch.

Momma undoubtedly bought several watches during her lengthy nursing career. But, as she often recounted the story of her watch, she had been wearing this very watch since she graduated from nursing school in 1955. You see, a watch with a sweep second hand was essential in my mother’s era of nursing. It kept you and your doctor on schedule and kept you accountable for the time you spent on breaks. When updating a patient’s medical chart (no computers back then), it provided the time for documentation purposes. Its sweep second hand was the essential tool momma used day in and day out to measure a patient’s heart rate in 15-second increments of time.

Holding my mom’s watch in my hands today, I recalled how meaningful it was to her, even after my mom could no longer tell time (which I wrote about here). A mind clouded by Alzheimer’s loses the ability to measure the passage of time or interpret the face of a watch somewhere in the middle stages of the disease’s progressive march through the brain.

Even after my mother could no longer tell time, I invested a good bit of time in finding my mom’s treasured watch when the paranoia of dementia would cause her to occasionally hide it for safekeeping. I had the band resized when she slimmed down and it spun on her wrist. I even took it in for repairs once and replaced the battery on several occasions. The natural motions of her body would wind the self-winding watch (another clue that it was NOT from 1955), but Momma would wind it anyway because that was what she remembered doing in days gone by. Over time, this damaged the watch beyond repair, but she still loved to wear it.

When my mom moved into assisted living memory care and I saw how she would distribute her things all over the building (and borrow the belongings of others without consent), I decided to take her watch home with me for safekeeping. I hated to take something that was hers, but the story of the watch had also become something I treasured. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to matter much to mom — especially since her friend and BeeHive neighbor Roy didn’t seem to mind if mom (ahem!) borrowed his watch from time to time.

One day I noticed my mom sidle up her wheelchair to another lady friend at BeeHive. She seemed concerned that her friend was slumped in her wheelchair. Here’s the precious thing I was honored to witness with my own eyes. Momma reached over and gently placed two fingers on her sleepy friend’s wrist, instinctively finding that arterial sweet spot nestled between the thumb and tendon. The nurse in my sweet mother looked at her watchless wrist as she felt her friend’s pulse for about 15 seconds, then smiled with satisfaction and patted her sleeping friend’s hand as she said, “You’re going to be okay.”