Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

A Special Grandparent’s Day

Lessons from an old tree.

You might be wondering why a picture of an old tree? This tree caught my attention while on a walk through a nearby forest preserve. I studied its shape, holes, splinters, and ragged edges. I didn’t know then why it captivated me so, but it did.

This tree, such as it is, a shell of itself from long ago still stands. How miraculous is this? Despite the trauma over the years, damaging winds, hail, heavy snow and ice, it still stands. Indeed, time is stamped on this tree, and its roots are weaker and deteriorated.  But it stands proudly, majestically demonstrating its resilience and strength.

I’ll call her Matilda (my grandmother’s name). Imagine the experiences she lived through and the stories she could tell. If only we had the opportunity to learn from this wise old oak. I would love to know what this forest preserve was like 50 or maybe even 100 years ago.

I speculate that sometimes Matilda had to dig deep for water and call on strength to brace against the hard times. But, she also got to bask in the glory of the nourishing sun and gentle rains and was probably thankful for the good times.  Her wisdom is unmatched in the forest, I am sure.

Matilda likely housed many critters over the years and created a safe space for them to call home. How many different species did she encounter over time? Insects, rodents, mammals, birds, canines felines, all in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some may have taken advantage of her, but hopefully, most treated her with kindness and respect.

A Little Extra for Grandparents Day

This tree personifies grandparents for me, and that’s why I admire it so much.  I think it is true that you don’t know what you had until it is gone.  Three of my grandparents didn’t see me graduate from high school, and the last, my grandfather, died when my daughter was six years old.  She has only a faint memory of him.

It’s not too late to extend Grandparent’s day.   I know I would if I could.

I attribute my love for working with and advocating for the welfare of older adults to the loving relationship I had with both sets of grandparents. The memories I have of them all fill my heart with that longing to have just one more conversation.

Grandparents deserve to be celebrated! Congress had this right in 1978 when Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.

If you have the good fortune to have a living grandparent, learn all you can from your beautiful, wise tree.

 

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.  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.

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Would Maslow Say?

Human needs remain intact regardless of age, situation, or condition.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who taught that survival needs must come before social or spiritual needs. Alzheimer’s disease impacts all these needs, for instance, as in a woman named Faye.

The need for physical survival. Faye relied on caregivers to assist with physical needs. 

The need to have personal security and to feel safe.  Faye didn’t recall recent events, so she didn’t realize where she was. Memories of past experience faded.

The need for a sense of belonging and connection to others. Faye had been active in her church.  The move to a nursing home separated her from familiar people and consequently became withdrawn and anxious.

The need to express feelings and have them acknowledged.  Alzheimer’s decreases a person’s ability to express thoughts. Faye was frustrated because care-partners didn’t understand her.

The need to give to others and to be treated with respect.  We all need to feel useful. We thrive with mutual understanding and respect.  However, people with Alzheimer’s may believe they have nothing to contribute.

The need for a sense of self and a connection to spirit. Many assume that Alzheimer’s robs people of their identity.  Although memory and cognition become impaired, it appears that the person living with dementia seems to retain a sense of self—the essence of who he or she is.

In conclusion, understanding human needs may help us to be a little more empathetic with people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

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 serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Sandwich Generation Realities

The sandwich generation reality is in full force as more men and women are caught in the middle of work, raising a family, and caring for their parents.

My friends and I often contemplate how we got to this point in life so fast. It wasn’t that long ago that we talked about babies, toddlers, and teenagers. Now, we find ourselves in that sandwich generation place. Our kids are older, and so are our parents. Caught in the middle of work, young adult children’s life events, and aging parents.

The aging-brain is complex, and my friends scramble to keep ahead of the curve-ball.  There are good days, and then the bad days for no apparent reason. A solution that works one day doesn’t work the next. They work hard to anticipate and prevent the next crisis.

I am often baffled to find the right words to help my friends. It is not easy to explain-away their parent’s irrational behaviors and illogical thoughts. The guilt that my friends experience as they try and make things OK for their parents is so hard to see.  My heart aches for them because they feel like they should be doing more despite the fact that they are extraordinary caregivers.

Always Parent and Child

I know from my own experience that parents don’t wish this for their children.   Parents who once provided the caregiving are now the care-receiver, however, the roles are not reversed.  My friends know that they will always be their parent’s child, and their parent isn’t a child.

Anger can also be a factor in this turbulent time. My friend shared today that her mother yelled at her for not understanding what she is going through.  That doesn’t feel good, for sure.

The remarkable thing is the resilience that my friends demonstrate. They are grateful to still have a parent in their life.  Frustration and exacerbation are factors, but bitterness and anger are not.

So what can we do for the friends among us who are in this role of elder-caregiver?  The Alzheimer’s Association has a long list of suggestions, and here are mine.

    • Listen. Let them tell you their stories- sometimes venting is just what they need
    • Avoid issuing unsolicited advice
    • Support with words of affirmation that they are doing a good job
    • Be a friend, not an expert (my lesson)
    • A brownie delivery every once in a while doesn’t hurt!

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 to private and professional caregivers.  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.

How to Listen to a Grieving Friend

In recognition of Grief Awareness Day August 30, here are five tips for how to listen when someone you know is grieving.

Listening from the heart requires self-awareness. Intend to listen more authentically. What follows are considerations for becoming an authentic listener.

  1. Listen without judgment. Judgment is reacting based on our own experience. As you listen simply receive without judging what is said. This opens a space for deep trust.
  2. Commit to patience. We live in a rushed world and tend to move on to the next thing rather than attending to what is in front of us. Authentic communication can’t be rushed. Be patient with yourself and the other person.
  3. Listen first, then respond. We tend to mentally form our response while the person is still talking. Focus first on what the person is conveying then reply.
  4. Listen to the silence as well as the words. Sitting in silence with another is one of the most potent forms of communication. Silence allows our hearts to connect.
  5. Let touch speak for you. Sometimes a compassionate touch says “I care and I’m here for you” better than words.

In closing, I offer a quote from Rachel Naomi Remen. “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes on the people around us.” And if our paths should cross, I’ll do my best to listen to 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 serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.