Seeking to Understand: Avoiding A Misunderstanding

Have you ever been misunderstood? You are trying to make your wishes known, but, for some reason, what you are trying to communicate is not understood. If the same miscommunications happened over and over, what would you do? You would probably get frustrated to the point of doing anything to get your point across. It can be hard to understand why there is a misunderstanding.

Seek to Understand

It is stressful for people working in long term care, in the middle of  the quarantine still in effect, with the loosening of restrictions. The stress felt by persons with dementia still looms larger. Residents probably have the same feelings of frustration and sadness, but to a greater extent. They are missing out on their regular routine, which, at this point, has changed. They might be able to visit with loved ones except for in short spurts outside and with masks. It may be more confusing than ever. A person with dementia may be confused about what is happening, while seeking comfort, understanding, and safety.

Being Supportive

What can be done to continue to support those with cognitive challenges, while maintaining sanity? Part of it is showing the person that you care. Workers who are provide the crucial care in this challenging time do care. All of the sacrifices to support persons with dementia can take a toll. The sacrifices and support make all the difference for those who are in their world, but cannot come to ours. We have to come meet them where they are. As  C.S. Lewis noted, a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. This is what long term care workers do every day, with or without a quarantine.

Avoiding Misunderstandings

Persons with dementia take their cues from their caregivers. If you can be calm, and it is not always easy, they will follow. If you are stressed, and that is understandable, they will likely be stressed. It is hard to live in the moment, but that may be the best option. Focus on the person and the feelings. Sometimes, we just need a witness to our frustration. We need to feel that someone is there for us.

May we strive to be fully present for those who cannot be easily understood, and give them the kind of support and understanding they need. May we always find ways to help promote understanding and support. And may we be grateful and supportive of those who consistently support our loved ones with dementia, at their own expense.

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

Five Technology Innovations for Elders Living With Dementia

Technology can support safety and security for elders living in their homes.

Dementia is not only challenging for the person experiencing it, but it is also stressful and unsettling for loved ones.    However, as modern technology evolves, there are more options when it comes to caring for elders at home.

Technology cannot replace in-person care, however,  it can be a tool to help caregivers feel more secure.   Here are the top 5 technological innovations to consider if you have a loved one living at home with dementia.

1.    GPS Location and Tracking Devices

Sadly, seniors with dementia have been known to wander and get lost, placing themselves in danger. GPS tracking devices are an important technology for caregivers to consider.  The tracking device will send an alert when the elder has left a certain area and is capable of locating the person and notifying emergency personnel if necessary.

2.    In-Home Cameras

In-home cameras allow elders to be monitored at all times.  Some allow you to talk to your loved one, and others will alert you when there is movement in the room. In addition to checking in on your loved one, you will also be able to make sure that there are no intruders and that he or she has locked the doors, turned off the oven, and any other minor task that could put him or her in danger. Consider installing these cameras in multiple rooms of your loved one’s home and be sure to get the entire room in the range of view.

3.    Communication Aids

As modern technology evolves, the way that humans communicate has also evolved. For some family members that do not live close to their loved ones, technology will help them stay connected.  Family members should ask their loved one’s caregiver to assist with connecting via Facetime, Skype, or Zoom for a video-chat visit.

4.    Motion Sensor Lights

Motion sensor lights have the ability to save lives as elders,  and especially those with dementia, are subject to falls at night. Seniors often trip and fall in the dark and the injuries that they suffer from these falls can be life-threatening and altering. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Motion lights are a technological solution to this issue.

Motion lights will detect movement in a room and can make getting around easier.  Instead of risking a fall walking to a light switch, the lights will turn on as soon as the elder stands up.  This technological innovation will help to support a safer environment for older adults.

5.    VitalTech

This cloud-based platform is an outstanding innovation worth considering. Launched in 2018, this technology comes in the form of a band worn by the elder. In addition to medication reminders, the VitalBand can also track:

  • Vital signs; heart and respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, etc.
  • Falls
  • Sleep quality
  • Physical activity

In case of injury, or when vital signs are questionable, the band will contact emergency services, allowing for 24/7 safety. Without delay,   information can be tracked and reported to medical providers.

Technology Advantage

It may be helpful to implement technology options to assist with caring for a loved one living with dementia and offer you more peace of mind.

About the Author

AGE-u-cate welcomes Kelsey Simpson as a guest contributor.

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others.  She currently works and writes for Comfort Keepers, in-home senior care.  She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.

The Impossible: Doing the Hard Things with Resilience

Alan Packer said, “We can do hard things—it’s the impossible that takes a little longer.” Well, we have been doing hard things for quite a while now. In fact, it seems that we are in the ‘impossible’ phase now. Truly, I believe we have been working on accomplishing the “impossible” for quite some time now, aided by resilience.

Who are WE?

‘We’ are made up of health care workers, direct and indirect care workers in long term care. ‘We’ also includes essential workers in service industries, people who have lost their jobs or are currently furloughed, and those who are balancing work and family responsibilities.

The ‘we’ also includes all of us when we wear masks, wash our hands repeatedly, and remain socially distant. ‘We’ are making sacrifices.

To be honest, some of us are definitely being called to make more sacrifices than others. People working in nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals and hospice, to name a few. Not only are they giving it their all at work, they also sacrifice time with family and interactions with loved ones.

How do they do it?

Keeping up and keeping on is one of those hard things. One of the ways to keep on keeping on is through resilience.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the capability to spring back into action, to recover quickly after adversity. In physics, Merriam Webster defines resilience as ‘the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape.” If that doesn’t describe essential workers, especially those in the health care and long term care industries, I don’t know what does.

How to Build Resilience

You can’t give energy after something happens if you have no energy to spare. Self care goes a long way in helping to build resilience.

Having some control in your environment also contributes to maintaining resilience. Genetics and engaging in healthy habits play a role in building resilience. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has additional suggestions and ideas on resilience.

In the meantime, thank you to those still fully engaged in caring for the mental and physical health of others. Please keep on doing the hard things. “We” appreciate you.

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

Reopening Nursing Homes: Balancing Needs and Safety

In May 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a memorandum for state and local officials to outline nursing homes reopening. The recommendations provide guidance on evaluating what steps to take to prevent COVID-19 transmission in nursing homes. In looking back to May 2020 and now, what, if anything, has changed? How are nursing homes balancing resident safety and resident needs with the COVID-19 restrictions in mind?

Updates on Restrictions

Lifting restrictions varies by state and communities in each state, as noted here in this AARP map. For example, New Jersey and Indiana are now allowing outdoor visits, with infection control measures in place. On the other hand, the state of Oklahoma is encouraging family members to visit their loved ones in long term care, while requiring masks and following protocols.

Is This Progress?

It is difficult to connect with loved ones on a limited basis. In some cases, a five-minute outdoor visit is the only way families are allowed to visit.  It is painful to see the effects of isolation on loved ones, while unable to do anything about it. According to the American Psychological Association, the COVID-19 restrictions that require social distancing affect older adults and create additional loneliness. As a result, the combination of reduced family caregiver support and social isolation takes its toll. The number of reports of residents dying due to the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine continue to grow.

Balancing Needs

It is difficult to balance the need for safety with the need for companionship. Exchanging safety and protection for social isolation is not a fair deal. On the other hand, families want and need to see their loved ones. In one case, Mary Daniel went so far as to take a job as a dishwasher in the community where her husband lives. Mary has also started a Facebook group called Caregivers for Compromise as a way to influence the process of reopening communities in Florida and other states. It is a positive response and a way to support change in the visitation procedures while maintaining safety.

Happy Medium

It should not take a family member taking on a job in a community to see a loved one. Family members are essential to every resident’s wellbeing, and there must be a way to enable safe visits that mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine.

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

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