Category Archives: Compassionate Touch®

Broken Heart Syndrome: Another Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As if life could not get worse. A recent study suggests more people are suffering with stress cardiomyopathy during this COVID-19 pandemic. Stress cardiomyopathy is also called broken heart syndrome.

SYMPTOMS OF BROKEN HEART SYNDROME

Symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack. There is chest pain and shortness of breath. Low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat are other symptoms. There are not usually any blocked arteries.

CAUSES

The causes of stress cardiomyopathy are not fully known. However, stressful events can cause broken heart syndrome. As a result, a person can be affected in both their body and heart.

The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously stressful. Additional stress comes from restricting visitors in nursing homes.  Stress also comes from changes in residents’ routines and activities.  Residents are experiencing increased stress. Direct care workers are also dealing with their own stress, their residents’ stress, and family members’ stress.

ESSENTIAL AND NONESSENTIAL

At this time, only essential workers are allowed access into the nursing home. Why are family members not considered essential? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is starting to allow nonessential personnel into nursing homes, under specific guidelines. What about family members, friends, and other loved ones? Safety is important. Unfortunately, safety does not always ensure wellness or wellbeing.

Allowing family members to visit, either as essential or nonessential personnel,  can improve the wellbeing of direct care workers and staff. It gives them a break from needing to support the entirety of each resident’s emotional needs. It also helps the residents feel less isolated and stressed.

Balancing safety against wellbeing is a challenge. Until we support residents’ health, safety, and wellbeing, we will see the illbeing and other negative effects continue even after this COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is a Grant Manager 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

Creating Feelings of Belonging Through Touch

Several months ago, pre-COVID 19, I took a dance class. There were only about 8 or 10 women in the class. For the most part, we did not know each other. Although I have no identifiable dancing skills, I had the feeling of belonging there.

When it comes to completing technical dance moves, I have two choices. I can either coordinate the movement of my hands or my feet, but not both. But there I was, moving and grooving with other women. I was trying something new having fun. Each class, the instructor would put us all in a line facing the mirror. We danced together, performing the same moves. Now, I have never been mistaken for a professional dancer at any time in my life. When that moment came, I felt like I was enjoying a moment like performing and of belonging.

WHERE DO I BELONG?

The feeling of belonging can be easy or hard to get. In my dance class, I chose the time and activity. I was with other women around my age and ability. The instructor encouraged us. We all enjoyed the time together. For residents in a nursing home, how do we help them feel they belong? How do we know they feel they belong? It’s especially hard for residents with dementia, and more so if they did not select the nursing home. They likely have questions: where am I? Why was I moved from my home? Why am I here? Who can help me? Residents might not recognize family members or friends. They can have trouble communicating their needs. Also, understanding the answer they get may be difficult, especially if the answer they get does not help them.

WHAT MATTERS MOST- THE FEELING OF BELONGING

According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, feelings of love and belonging comes from friends and family. It is having a feeling of intimacy and connection. It comes after meeting physiological needs and the need for safety and security. For those of us caring for loved ones, especially those with dementia, we can provide shelter, food and water. It can be hard to help our loved ones feel safe and secure when feelings of fear and uncertainty about their reality spring up. Even with the physical environment being set, the social environment also takes an important place.

HELPING RESIDENTS BELONG THROUGH TOUCH

Finding ways to connect with residents and loved ones is crucial, especially at this time. One way is through touch. The power of touch supersedes all other forms of communication. It expresses what cannot be said. Touch communicates peace, acceptance, care, and support. It can be as simple as holding a resident’s hand or a back rub. Repeated forms of touch provide reassurance and support. It is more uncomplicated than any dance move and provides more joy. As the recent blog by Julie Boggess states, it is more important now, more than ever.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects 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

Touch for Elders is Needed Now More than Ever

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute supports aging services providers as they respond to the isolation crisis facing their elderly residents and clients.

The title of this article seems counter-intuitive during this time of quarantine.   Touching an unrelated person is not a popular notion right now.  But, caregivers for the frail elderly are becoming more aware of the effects that isolation has on those in their care.

Human contact now consists of gloves, gowns, face shields, and masks.  The frail elderly live in an unfamiliar world.  Also, many do not possess the cognitive ability to make sense of it all.

Family members and friends can’t be with loved ones in elder care communities. The term “skin hunger” was new to me, but now I understand.  Touching others through a hug, holding a hand, a stroke of the arm or shoulder is virtually non-existent these days.

Consider this with the fact that touch deprivation is already a reality for the elderly.  Now we have a bigger problem on our hands.

Touch in Quarantine

The great news is that we can reduce the effects of extreme isolation with expressive touch.  We need not be afraid to offer a back, shoulder, hand, or foot rub to those in our care.

More than ever, touch is essential and life-giving for both caregiver and receiver, especially during this quarantine.  With infection prevention protocols,  we can and should offer touch as a way to ease anxiety, fear, and loneliness.

“The current COVID-19 Pandemic is creating an isolation crisis for the vulnerable elders of our country.  We need the transformative power of human connection and touch now, more than ever,” Pam Brandon, Founder and President of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

Touching Moments Scholarship

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute is awarding a Compassionate Touch Certified Community training to one Assisted Living, Memory Care, Nursing Home, Home Care, or Hospice Agency in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

That’s 51 organizations that will have a powerful tool to meet the isolation crisis that is happening in elder care nationwide.

The online application process is simple and the form along with more information can be found at  https://ageucate.com/index.php?main_page=touching_moments.

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.

The Trauma of Relocation for People with Dementia

 

 

A sudden relocation from home for a person with dementia can be traumatic.

My husband and I have made the decision to right-size our lives and sell our house of 23 years. For many years now, I have anticipated this moment wondering how I would feel.   Surprisingly, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.  However, I recognize that moving day could be a different story.

The decision to relocate is one we made being of sound mind and body.  As overwhelmed as I sometimes feel about our move, it must pale in comparison to what people with dementia feel when they are moved to a different environment.

Easing the Trauma of Relocation

My husband and I will adapt to our new surroundings.  I will find a place for all of our things and make our new house into our home.  The people I love most will be with me,  including my fur-babies.  I’ll drive to visit my friends and attend the same church.  All will be right in our world.

This mile-marker in my life makes me think long and hard about what moving day must be like for someone with dementia.  I can’t even imagine.  The sudden loss of leaving the familiar and the people you love must be horrifying.

Stop and think for a moment how you would feel if someone walked into your home and said that you had to leave for a new place that you had not chosen for yourself.

Imagine your behavior.  Would you be crying, screaming, punching, kicking?

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute program Compassionate Touch begins with looking at life through the lens of someone with dementia.   We discuss the grief and loss that often accompanies a person with dementia when they move into a long term care facility.

Realizing that people with dementia communicate with us through their behaviors is a pivotal moment in Compassionate Touch and Dementia Live Training.

So how can we ease a transition into a long term care facility for someone with dementia?  Here are a few tips:

    • If possible, set up their new space with familiar items prior to move-in day.
    • Remain positive and keep your personal emotions in check.
    • Minimize chaos on move-in day by limiting the number of family members present to no more than two.
    • Allow the staff to immediately begin bonding with your loved one.
    • Refrain from prolonged day-long visits until your loved one is settled in and comfortable.
    • When your loved one says, “Take me home” don’t say, “this is your new home.”  Rather, “I understand how hard this is, and I love you.”

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.