Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: One Icon Out Of Many Icons

The first Monday in October is the day the Supreme Court begins its new term. On October 5, the Supreme Court will begin another term. Unfortunately, this year’s term will begin without Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

A Heroine and More

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for her tenacity, strength, and resilience. She fought for gender equality. Ginsburg became a caregiver to her husband when he had cancer, and had her own experience with the disease.  She also had a daughter and a son.

Ginsburg graduated at the top of her class. Despite serving on the law review, she had difficulty getting a job. She had two strikes against her: being a woman and a mother.

Despite the challenges she faced, Ginsburg became the second woman to become a justice of the Supreme Court.

One Woman Like Many Others

We celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a woman who used her expertise and talents to make a difference in gender equality. She is notable for her accomplishments, and rightly so. In reflecting on her accomplishments, we can think of many other women we know who also succeeded despite challenges.

Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were also challenged but survived. They lived through the Depression, World War II, and other major historic events. My grandmother raised children after her husband’s death and made sure they all received a private school education, while working as a nanny. She has been my motivation for getting my education. Another friend of mine had several careers, including working on computer databases, starting a women’s investment group, and becoming a pilot. She did all of these things before it was common for women to do so.

Celebrating Icons

We honor and acknowledge Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her accomplishments and successes in fighting for gender equality. Celebrating her should also cause us to remember our personal icons. These family members and friends have overcome challenges and survived. We thank them for serving as an inspiration and for encouraging us to continue on. Let’s celebrate the women who inspire us.

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

Grandparent’s Day: Learning From Those Who Came Before Us

This month we observed Grandparent’s Day. In the media, there have been stories and videos of families connecting with their loved ones both virtually and in-person, although with masks and socially distanced.

As states begin to loosen restrictions and schools reopen with in-person teaching, we have a glimmer of hope that life may be getting closer feeling more like a new normal. Despite this feeling, there are so many other challenges happening. The news headlines remind us that all is still not well.

Chaotic Times

There are fires raging on the West coast. The loss of life and property continues. Firefighters battle to contain the fires.

Civic unrest continues across the country. Political battles that are part and parcel with elections are ongoing, and likely to increase as the November election day nears.

Even now that we have been existing in Covid-19 mode for several months now, there are still disputes over wearing masks.

So, what does all of the above have to do with Grandparent’s Day?

Honoring a Grandparent’s  Life Lived and Lessons Learned

Our grandparents are living reminders that we can survive. These are people that lived through the Depression. They witnessed the polio epidemic and iron lungs. They have fought in wars and know the pain of losing friends and loved ones. These are the people who have helped shape our country.

They have walked the path before us. They can encourage us and help us manage in these times. We need to acknowledge all they have to offer as a natural resource.

As the character Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip from November 11, 1976 states, “We need to study the lives of great women like my grandmother. Talk to your own grandmother today.  Ask her questions. You’ll find she knows more than peanut butter cookies!”

Let us learn from them as we care and support them.

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

Ambiguity Times Three: Coping With Loss, Grief, and Relief

We have been coping with the ambiguity of COVID-19, the resulting restrictions, quarantine measures, and social distancing. Healthcare workers, essential workers, and all of those involved in the service of caring for others have coped with and continued through difficulties and challenges.  Older adults in long-term care, their families, and their care partners have also really borne the brunt of this unprecedented time.  They have lived with ambiguity on more levels than should be possible.

Ambiguous Loss

First, residents have lived with social isolation, changing routines, and lack of interactions with those they love. The residents and their care partners have been coping with ambiguous loss. Everything is not the same, but it might look the same. There is loss, but how is it defined? It can be hard to understand.  Residents are still living, care partners are still providing care, but in a much more regulated way. Care partners continue supporting those residents with dementia who likely have the most difficulty understanding the losses they have endured. It is not a ‘typical’ loss, but a loss nonetheless.

Ambiguous Grief

Second, there is ambiguous grief following the losses. Mourning the loss of time with loved ones. Grieving the loss of activities and routines. Care partners having to sacrifice time with family. Essential workers have had to work overtime, and then self-isolate to protect their family. All of these experiences cause grief that might feel ambiguous. Grief is usually associated with death, so it might seem unnatural to grieve. However, it is a valid grief.

Ambiguous Relief

Third, we are now at a time where some states are reopening their long-term care facilities. Residents are now, in some states, able to experience more freedom. One of my friends who lives in a long-term care community was finally able to get a haircut after more than six months. Needless to say, he was relieved. But, for the most part, he is still confined to his surroundings. The activities he enjoys would put him and others at risk. He also noted that people have moved out of his community, and some have died. There is ambiguous relief in being able to do normal things, like getting a haircut. That relief is tinged with sadness over the changes that have come.

What Now?

Ambiguity is hard to live with, but we have managed. Some  of us have had it harder, and others have dealt with it longer.  We need to honor the losses  and grief of others, as well as our own, even when or if we do not understand any of it. We should give ourselves permission to acknowledge loss and grief, and take relief as it comes.

Let us continue to support and encourage each other. We need to keep going and carry on, washing our hands, wearing our face coverings, and continue to manage our lives in these ambiguous times.

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

Heads I’m Right, Tails You’re Wrong: Adapting to Changes….Again

Have you ever known you were right about something? You were so sure you were right, but everyone else made you feel you were wrong?  It is a terrible feeling to know you are right, but everyone else says you are wrong. It is even worse to have to do something that feels completely wrong.

How has it felt to be a person with dementia at this time? If wearing masks, continually washing our hands, and being socially distant feels wrong to us, how must it be for a person with dementia? When wearing a mask feels wrong, what do they do? What happens when routines change again? Whether they are at home or in a community, the restrictions and changes have been a lot to take for those with dementia. It is also stressful for their care partners.

Making Changes

Now that the restrictions are slowly being altered, it may be even more uncertain for the person with dementia. These changes also affect those who care for them. Both care partners are trying to adjust.

If a person with dementia is confused about these changes, they may be trying to understand what is changing. They may feel uncertain, becoming combative, agitated, or withdrawn.

Making the Best of It

What do you do when someone you care for, someone you love, feels so strongly about something, but you cannot agree? Or, what if  you have something in mind to help them, but they are resistant? How do you resolve the impasse?

Saving Sanity, Reducing Stress

The Family Caregiver Alliance offers some communication tips. It is also helpful to think about the person with dementia and what the trigger points are. Remember to ask yourself if the argument is worth agitating the person with dementia. Also, think about your own sanity, what your stress level is, and how important it is to convince your loved one or resident. Any time a person with dementia can be reassured and feel secure is the right choice. That option always feels right to both care partners.

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