Tag Archives: Caregiver

Renewal, Rebirth and Regrowth…Hope for Caregivers

Despite our disappointments, struggles, and unknowns, we must cling to hope – for renewal, rebirth, and regrowth.  This season brings hope as we witness new blossoms, trees budding and renewed faith.  Caregivers need to above all, cling to their hope that this journey you are on will bring new blessings, opportunities for personal growth, and strength to carry on your important work.

I certainly know from personal experience that this is not easy, and the journey is often long, hard and often anything but hopeful.   I have a dear friend now who is going through the depths of darkness in her own caregiving journey with her husband and life partner who is losing his battle with stage 4 glioblastoma.  Being there as a friend, mentor, confidant and soundboard is probably one of the most helpful roles I can play right now.  I certainly cannot fix today, but I can lend small nugget of hope and assurance to her that she needs to get through today and the difficulties that she may face tomorrow.

As caregivers, we belong to a larger community.  When we connect with others we can lend that ear, or hug, or shoulder to cry on or laugh with.  When we do that for others, we offer one another the assurance that they are not alone on this often lonely journey.

This simple message today is to encourage all of you to reach out- to a family member, neighbor, friend, colleague, or even a stranger.  We all know someone struggling.   Just your presence can brighten another’s day, whether they are caring for someone else or themselves.  Just your presence, warm smile and a gentle touch can lend strength to another in ways that are often immeasurable.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older and adults and those who serve them.  www.AGEucate.com

 

How to Improve Communications via Empathetic Listening

Empathetic listening is defined as a method via which you can prevent or manage disruptive or challenging behaviors.  Caregivers can benefit from practicing empathetic listening, especially with people living with dementia.   The result will be improved communications and reduced stress for both care partners.

  1. Be present, and attend the conversation at hand. If you’re multi-tasking, or preparing your response instead of listening to the speaker, then you will only experience the conversation at a superficial level. You’ll miss cues as to what the other person is feeling, and your cognitive empathy will feel forced or faked. Attend the moment.
  2. Don’t be judgmental. If a person has taken the time to share their personal experiences with you, honor that vulnerability by being open to their perspective.
  3. Pay attention to the speaker, their facial expressions, and their body language. Your understanding of these cues is instinctual; you simply have to allow yourself to be open to them. If they’re happy, sad, afraid, or upset, take note of that emotion, and respond to it. Your response to their emotional state is even more important than your response to the words they use, because the majority of communication is non-verbal in nature.
  4. Be quiet and patient. Don’t jump into any break and begin speaking, because not every statement needs an immediate response. This is never truer than in a tense situation that involves the speaker venting over some hurt. You’ll often find that if you simply allow the silence to linger after a break in the tirade, they’ll break the silence themselves and offer a solution.
  5. Make sure you actually understand the issue at hand. Ask questions, attempt to clarify their meaning, and restate the message you perceive them to be communicating.

As we enter this holiday season of family gatherings and changed schedules, it’s important that families and friends practice these tools.  Remember  that someone living with dementia thinks, feels and acts differently, especially under stress.  As caregivers it is ultimately our job to change how we think, feel and act!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.  

www.AGEucate.com

 

What’s all the Talk about Mindfulness for Caregivers?

Call it awareness, attention, focus, presence, or vigilance. It’s proving to be a powerful and effective practice in coping with stress.  Caregiving can easily top the charts on stress, especially for caregivers of elders with chronic illness and dementia.  Mindfulness for caregivers means learning to live in the moment, accept the reality of a situation, and filter out distractions.

Mindfulness is not necessarily about a constant state of meditation, or practicing yoga, although these are both proven tools in helping one to better cope with life’s challenges.

We can practice mindfulness by sharpening our focus.  In our Compassionate Touch® training, we call this centering.  For a caregiver it might be deep breathing or focused meditation before entering the room when an older adult is agitated, confused or combative.  Learning to leave your other worries at the door will help to focus on how you can help the person you are caring for.  You have, for that moment, stepped into their world.  By being engrossed in that person and the present situation, there is a higher probability you will have a heightened sense of empathy and understanding, thus be able to tap into tools that will improve care.

By practicing mindfulness in caregiving, the benefits go far beyond improving care.  The stress reduction benefits the caregiver as much or more than the care receiver.  When this happens, everyone wins! Like anything else, mindfulness must be practiced.  Nothing becomes second nature until it is put into regular use.  If deep breathing exercises  works, then practice this throughout the day.  Journal the difference in how you are able to handle situations.  If brief moments of meditation work, try these… but do it every day and many times a day.

Centering ourselves through mindfulness allows us to accept that we are most often not in control, which is often a huge challenge for care partners.  We want so much to make our loved ones happy and healthy again, but this is sometimes not possible – certainly not all the time.  In a world that is always on full speed, with soaring expectations, sometimes the most valuable gift we can give our loved one is this:

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  Passionate about creating transformative change for older adults and those that care for them,  Pam is honored to work in the field of caregiver education and training and lead the AGE-u-cate team who are changing lives with innovative programs for family and professional caregivers. 

www.AGEucate.com

Hospice Care: Can Compassion be Taught?

hospice-care compassionSome think compassion is an attribute reserved for people like Mother Teresa. But compassion isn’t just reserved for those who travel a moral high ground.  Hospice care professionals cultivate compassion for when they are called to the bedside.

Compassion is Good Medicine
Compassion has many qualities, most noteworthy loving-kindness and heart-centered. Therefore, compassion is a heartfelt concern for suffering coupled with wanting to ease the suffering. Scientists show interest in the impact of compassion. As a result they’re finding that it’s good medicine. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education conducts scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior. Scientists look beyond Western “hard science” to learn about human behavior and emotions.  Neuroscientists conduct brain studies to discover how compassion affects us biologically.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that 40 seconds of compassionate communication from a physician reduced anxiety and increased confidence among breast cancer patients.  In hospice care compassionate communication may enhance the experience for the patient. But it may also help hospice care professionals find greater satisfaction in their work.

How to Cultivate Compassion
Compassion is a human quality. With intentional practice it arises spontaneously.  Many heart-centered practices exist. Anyone serving people in hospice care can integrate such practices. Especially  relevant is the following example.

Sit comfortably. Be in your body and focus your attention upon your breath. If you wish, place one or both hands over your heart.

First, direct loving kindness to yourself.

Picture two or three people who care about you. Imagine them looking lovingly at you. These might be people in your life now or in the past or even spiritual figures. What would they wish for you? Repeat these simple phrases imagining they were saying them to you.

May you be filled with kindness and compassion.

May you be safe in every way.

May you be well in body and mind.

May you be happy.

May you live with ease.

How do you feel? Notice what arises trying not to judge thoughts, but simply let them pass through your mind.

Next picture someone you would like to send compassion to. It could family or a friend; a co-worker; a stranger; or even  someone you find challenging. Repeat the same phrases except this time direct them to this person. Again, sit for a few minutes simply noticing anything that arises in your mind.

To end, take in a deep, cleansing breath and bring your awareness back into your body. In conclusion, offer thanks for the experience in whatever way you wish. Perhaps a simple “thank you” will do!