Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

Alone Together: Combating Loneliness in Long Term Care

Loneliness plagues the elderly in long term care.

Promoting quality of life is an essential component for any successful aging services organization.  Many things impair quality of life, but most impactful is loneliness- which I think is one of the most challenging issues to addres

The effects of loneliness amongst the elderly are well documented.  Without a doubt, it is an issue that deserves attention from aging services leaders.

Create New Connections

Jamie Ducharme cites research that indicates meaningful social contact and forming relationships is the best anecdote for loneliness.
To that end, I came across a Ted Talk from an extraordinary young man.  His simple, cost-effective idea for combating loneliness is to take letter writing to a new level.

Imagine the impact on a resident who receives a real-snail-mail letter every day!  Knowing that someone cares is a powerful antidote for loneliness.

Our employees,  neighborhood churches,  fire department personnel,  students,  senior center members all might be willing to become letter-writing partners.  It is such a lovely way to help someone feel special and less alone.

Deepen Existing Relationships

Research reveals that often times, nursing assistants perceive tacit messages from management not get too attached to residents.  Therefore, perceived or real, let’s start working on building deeper bonds.

Creating a culture that supports deep and meaningful relationships between residents and caregivers helps to combat loneliness.  In addition, it improves trust between residents and caregivers.

By no means is this a simple issue, but we can begin by understanding the barriers that prevent deeper caregiving relationships and create opportunities for our employees to more deeply connect with residents.   As a result, it may help to chip away at the feelings of loneliness for our residents.  Additionally, it could  improve the quality of the work experience for employees.

By creative programming and inspiring deeper caregiving relationships,  we may be able to make some inroads in curtailing loneliness and improving quality of life.

 

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,  she 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.

Tips for Seniors Living Well

Seniors Living Well

Seniors today are living longer; however, are they living well into old age? The National Wellness Institute tells us that “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Indeed, the choices we make along the way determine the degree of wellness we’ll enjoy as we age. But how can cultivate a healthy, satisfying life?

The National Council for Aging Care offers some tips. First of all, develop healthy eating habits with whole foods and plenty of water. Next, keep your body and brain active. Find a physical activity you enjoy and challenge your mind in creative ways. Learn something new. Another key is to stay connected with others to avoid the pitfalls of social isolation. Reach out for help when life throws you a challenge. Also, pay attention to your appearance and keep up to date on popular culture and discover what’s buzzing with younger people. Finally, take precautions such as regular health check-ups and fall prevention measures in your home

I once was a passenger aboard a Great Lakes cruise ship. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Great Lakes are big enough to cruise on– and then some. What stood out were my fellow passengers– many of whom are in their 80′s. One woman celebrated her 94th birthday, while a couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  At nearly 60, I was almost the youngest person on board.  Now don’t get me wrong; these seniors did not run marathons. Many had physical challenges.  But they didn’t stop them from going on daily excursions and having a great time. One woman with severe scoliosis went on most tours including going down in a copper mine, complete with hard-hat! Another 92-year-old woman told me that she had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer; however, her doctor and family supported her decision to go on this trip. In spite of her illness, her attitude was sunny and positive. It seemed like she was content to stay on the ship taking in the scenery, smiling all the while.

Both of these women are examples of living well in spite of the challenges that may occur along the way. It was inspiring to be with people who didn’t stop living a fulfilling life in their senior years.

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.

Infection Control and Expressive Touch: We Can Have Both

The healing benefit of expressive touch is lacking in the lives of older adults.

The topic of infection control almost always enters the conversation when I deliver Compassionate Touch training.  This training teaches caregivers the skill of expressive touch.

Hand, back, and foot rubs used to be a part of the care process.  Seasoned nurses consistently confirm this fact.  In contrast,  newer nurses and nursing assistants report that expressive touch was not a part of their training.

This lays the foundation to discuss the reasons why older, frail adults lack expressive touch in their lives.

Glove Culture and Expressive Touch

Infection control is consistently cited by skilled nursing employees as a reason for the lack of expressive touch in the lives of older adults.    Furthermore, employees fear citations from surveyors for not using gloves.

Megan J. DiGiorgio, MSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC  coins the phrase “glove culture”.  In addition to the wasteful use of resources, the over-use of gloves increases disconnection and a lack of trust in caregivers, among other negative outcomes.

Burdsall, Deborah Patterson, MSN, Ph.D.,  identified situations that require the use of gloves.  Touching intact, non-infectious skin of older adults in healthcare settings does not require gloves.

Skilled nursing caregivers do expressively touch their residents.  Indeed, holding a hand or giving a hug communicates how much we care and provides comfort.  We can incorporate more of this excellent medicine of expressive touch in our caregiving practices and still uphold infection prevention standards.

Gloves are not used with Compassionate Touch techniques. I urge those I am teaching to resist the temptation. The benefits of touch would be lost for both the resident and care provider.

Consider evaluating the extent to which gloves are used in your community and understand the unintended consequences.  Even more, it seems like this would be a worthwhile QAPI project.

 

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,  she 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.

Ten Reasons Why Touch Matters in Nursing Homes

Comforting a nursing home resident with a compassionate touch.
  1. Touch deprivation in old age is real. Studies have shown that frail older adults are less likely to receive meaningful touch, but it’s a time when “tactile hunger is more powerful than ever,” As a result, people experience isolation, anxiety, pain, loneliness, boredom, and helplessness.
  2. Touch in caregiving is not all the same. Some touch is necessary during personal care and medical procedures while expressive touch shows care, concern, reassurance, affection, and love.
  3. Why touch matters to the person living in a nursing home. Research shows that touch improves the quality of life by:
  • Decreasing anxiety
  • Improving sleep
  • Easing physical discomfort
  • Increasing nutritional intake
  • Improving skin condition
  • Increasing social interaction
  • Reducing agitated behaviors
  • Enhancing relationship with caregivers
  1. Why touch matters to a nursing home resident’s family. They need assurance that their loved one is safe, cared for, and cared about. Family members need to relate to a loved that may not be able to communicate well because of their condition. They can use touch techniques to connect with their loved one.
  2. Why touch matters to the staff of a care facility. Care staff can learn skilled touch techniques that decrease caregiving challenges. For example, a nursing home resident became more cooperative during personal care following a five-minute skilled touch hand technique. Also, touch helps care staff to enjoy more of a relationship with those they care for.
  3. Why touch matters to the nursing home as an organization. It needs to provide excellent service. It must attract new residents and have a marketing edge in a competitive industry. It needs to retain skilled staff. As one nursing home administrator puts it: “Providing skilled touch for our residents puts us a cut above other facilities—going above and beyond what’s required.”
  4. Why touch matters to you. With a touch sensitivity to care for others grows and your ability to be a compassionate presence deepens. We share benefits of touch uplifting you while making a difference for someone else.
  5. Why touch matters to society. Healthcare in today’s high-tech world has become depersonalized. Medical care focuses on technical information.  Consequently, a person feels lost in the shuffle. We can bring together the world of medical technology with the human side of care only by reaching out and offering the gift of a compassionate touch.

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.