Dementia-Friendly Faith Communities: Let’s Get Started

Faith communities should start to think about creating a culture of acceptance for persons with dementia.

Many faith communities find themselves investing in worship experiences that will attract younger members.  However, it is just as essential to keep older members engaged and attending worship services, including those with dementia.

Faith often plays a vital role in the lives of persons with dementia and their family members.  But, the presence of dementia can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to actively engage in their faith community.

Becoming a dementia-friendly congregation will create an open and welcoming environment for all.  It is an initiative that can be embraced by all members, regardless of age.  Faith communities are stronger when they recognize the value of multi-generational connection and interaction.

Dementia-Friendly Transformation

Church leaders can begin by calling upon professional community resources to educate congregational members about the needs of persons with dementia.

We should dispel notions that people with dementia are incapable of benefitting from worship.  As a result,  persons with dementia can be more easily understood and accepted with compassion and lack of judgment.

Recognizing when someone stops attending is a good first step.  Leaving the house alone as the disease progresses is very overwhelming and leads to isolation. Mobilizing volunteers to reach out and offer transportation could help them hold on to their faith a little longer.

Start with Small Changes

Begin with simple changes to assist persons with dementia to better navigate their way around the church. Therefore, consider forming a group of volunteers, with specialized training, to serve as ambassadors to escort or sit with someone in need.

Create opportunities for purposeful engagement to keep them connected.  Serving as a greeter, wiping down tables after fellowship, or telling a bible story in Sunday school may be a possibility.

Dementia-friendly worship is best when it is inclusive and engaging.  In doing so, we help them stay close to God and honor the mothers and fathers of our faith.

Beth is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a compassionate professional with decades of experience as a Registered Nurse, caregiver, patient advocate, educator, and trainer.  Early in her career, Beth found her passion for working with elderly populations and their caregivers.  Living in the Green Bay/Fox Valley area with her husband, she enjoys driving a ski boat for barefoot or slalom water-skiers, playing board games or creating a new quilt.

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.

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