Category Archives: Hospital Professionals

The Impossible: Doing the Hard Things with Resilience

Alan Packer said, “We can do hard things—it’s the impossible that takes a little longer.” Well, we have been doing hard things for quite a while now. In fact, it seems that we are in the ‘impossible’ phase now. Truly, I believe we have been working on accomplishing the “impossible” for quite some time now, aided by resilience.

Who are WE?

‘We’ are made up of health care workers, direct and indirect care workers in long term care. ‘We’ also includes essential workers in service industries, people who have lost their jobs or are currently furloughed, and those who are balancing work and family responsibilities.

The ‘we’ also includes all of us when we wear masks, wash our hands repeatedly, and remain socially distant. ‘We’ are making sacrifices.

To be honest, some of us are definitely being called to make more sacrifices than others. People working in nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals and hospice, to name a few. Not only are they giving it their all at work, they also sacrifice time with family and interactions with loved ones.

How do they do it?

Keeping up and keeping on is one of those hard things. One of the ways to keep on keeping on is through resilience.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the capability to spring back into action, to recover quickly after adversity. In physics, Merriam Webster defines resilience as ‘the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape.” If that doesn’t describe essential workers, especially those in the health care and long term care industries, I don’t know what does.

How to Build Resilience

You can’t give energy after something happens if you have no energy to spare. Self care goes a long way in helping to build resilience.

Having some control in your environment also contributes to maintaining resilience. Genetics and engaging in healthy habits play a role in building resilience. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has additional suggestions and ideas on resilience.

In the meantime, thank you to those still fully engaged in caring for the mental and physical health of others. Please keep on doing the hard things. “We” appreciate you.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Persevering During the Ongoing COVID-19 Triathlon

The sustained presence of COVID-19, including the fluctuating easing and reinstating of restrictions, makes it difficult to feel hopeful. As a result, it is critical to identify ways to support our mental and physical wellbeing. It will help us as we work to keep persevering.

Wishful Thinking

When the shelter-at-home orders were put in place earlier this year, the thought was that life would get back to normal anywhere from a few weeks or months. We thought things could get better in the fall, possibly the summer. At that time, the COVID-19 quarantine felt more like a sprint.

As time progressed, we might have thought that the COVID-19 quarantine was more of a marathon, and not a sprint. At this point, we now know that the COVID-19 quarantine is more of a triathlon, not a marathon.

Planning ahead

Preparing for a triathlon would be daunting at best, to say nothing of actually competing in one. As a result, athletes who compete in a triathlon must prepare in advance, somewhere between three to six months at least. For caregivers, both family members and caregivers in healthcare, having any lead time to prepare  would have been helpful. Unfortunately, there were limits to being able to prepare adequately. Who knew exactly what we needed to prepare for? Moreover, who knows how long this quarantine will continue?

Persevering

How can we persevere during this uncertain time? There are some parallels in training and preparing for a triathlon and persevering during the COVID-19 quarantine. Some of the ways to persevere can be beyond our control, like making sure you have the right equipment for competition. Other ways to persevere include keeping your body fueled and properly hydrated. Another way to persevere is to find someone to support/coach you when you hit a wall. Also, finding what works for you can help refresh and renew your spirit.

According to the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, the journey of one thousand miles must begin with a single step. While we don’t know how many steps we must take until this COVID-19 journey concludes, we know we must keep going.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Validation in Dementia Care: Thank You, Naomi!

Validation helps caregivers step into the world of a person with dementia, creating understanding and empathy.

The most powerful communication tool I’ve learned is Validation. Created by Naomi Feil, Validation is a method of communicating with people with dementia. Stepping into the world of the elder leads to understanding, therefore easing distress.

I’ve distilled the concepts of Validation into two questions.  They help me respond to someone with dementia who is confused and distressed.  First, I ask, “What is this person’s reality at this moment?”  The answer gives me a clue into her world at the moment, and then I can be with her in her world.

Then I ask, “What is she feeling right now?”  I can’t see a motion picture of what’s going on in her mind, but there are clues about how she is feeling. What is her facial expression, body language, or voice intensity telling me?

Now comes the action part.  First, I reflect her reality and then acknowledge the feeling.

Let me illustrate with a story about a woman in a skilled nursing facility where I provided Compassionate Touch® sessions. At around four o’clock, she fretted about getting home to make supper for her family.  Pacing the hall, she asked everyone how to get back home. As time passed, the more anxious and upset she became. The staff was expected to take her to dinner at five o’clock, not an easy task when she was so determined to leave.

What is her reality?  It’s time for her to get home to make supper for her family.  In her mind, her family would be back soon, and she needed to be there for them. Now that I understood where she was at the moment, I could be with her in her world.  What is she feeling? She seemed frustrated and increasingly angry and fearful.

I walked with her, asking simple questions about her family and what they liked to eat for dinner.  I acknowledged her feelings, saying, “it’s so frustrating to be late.” I used humor, “my son thinks he will just starve if I’m five minutes late with a meal!” She nodded and laughed with me.  At one point, I reassured her with touch by gently stroking her back and holding her hand. She became more present in the immediate moment, and she let go of her fixation on getting home.

What created the shift in her was not so much what I said, but rather that she felt seen and heard, therefore, validated. We walked again, but this time to the dining room where she joined her friends for dinner!

How do you feel when someone validates you?

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and now serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

World Alzheimer Report: Private Sector Response

Let’s not wait for the public sector to develop plans to address the dementia crisis. The private sector can and should play a large role.

This expert is from the Alzheimer’s Disease International website referencing the World Alzheimer Report of 2019.

“The report reveals the results of the largest attitudes to dementia survey ever undertaken, with almost 70,000 people across 155 countries and territories completing the survey. It spans four demographic groups: people living with dementia, carers, healthcare practitioners, and the general public.”

Further, the analysis of the study was carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Specifically, some of the key findings of the report include:

  • Almost 80% of the general public are concerned about developing dementia at some point, and 1 in 4 people think that there is nothing we can do to prevent dementia
  • 35% of carers across the world said that they had hidden the diagnosis of dementia of a family member
  • Over 50% of carers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities even while expressing positive sentiments about their role
  • Almost 62% of healthcare providers worldwide think that dementia is part of normal aging
  • 40% of the general public think doctors and nurses ignore people with dementia

Call to Action for Private Sector

In addition, the report lists several calls for action, many of which rest with local, state, and national governments and agencies thereof.  However, the private sector can do a lot to address the disheartening vital findings. People are hurting, suffering, concerned, and uneducated about dementia.

Conversations at my faith community are under-way about how to minister to persons with dementia and their caregivers. Educate citizens about dementia to demystify, normalize, and create an environment of understanding and acceptance.  This is an excellent place to start.

In conclusion, call upon local experts to help start the conversation within your circle of influence and ask questions.  Success will come with each small step.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  In addition, she is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.