Grief During the Holiday Season: Making It Through

This year has been a challenging one to say the least. Grief over lost time with loved ones in long-term care is understandable. Also, not being able to say goodbye to a loved one due to quarantine restrictions certainly causes pain and anguish. The holiday season can amplify these feelings.

Making It Through

It may seem that the holidays are a time to survive, not enjoy. The sounds that accompany the holidays, including songs and bells ringing, can help or hinder. Sometimes it may feel helpful to have all of the distractions that the holidays bring. In other ways, it makes the loss of a loved one more obvious.

In getting through the holidays while grieving, there are some important things to consider. How many social appointments do you have to keep? Give yourself permission to stay home if that helps. Keep in mind that there may be friends and family members who do not understand your grief. There may be those who cannot handle your grief. Attending events with a friend who can support you can help.

What to Expect

You might experience unexpected moments of grief. Remember that grief does not resolve itself in a linear way. Even if there has been several months since your loss, grief can emerge unexpectedly. Be kind to yourself if or when this happens.

If possible, talk to your family members about ways to acknowledge the loved one during the holidays. Be patient with them as they encounter grief. They might not be willing to acknowledge the loss. Remember that we all grieve and recover in our own ways.

Even though it has been several years since my mother died, I still miss her and grieve her loss. I have my own ways to acknowledge her. During the holidays, I typically buy a package of her favorite holiday candy. Just having it in the house helps me remember her. Despite how strange that may sound, it brings me comfort. Once you give yourself permission to grieve and honor loved ones in your own way, you can help the healing process.

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;

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team. Phil Jackson

AGE-u-cate Training Institute is a team that works together to create real change in elder care. Each person is integral to the mission of the organization with their unique knowledge and talents.   We recently asked our team a simple question – Why ATI 

Ann Catlin, Training & Education Consultant/ creator of Compassionate Touch®– Six years ago, Pam and I convened in Tulsa to explore how we might work together.  We shared a desire to uplift elders in assisted environments by elevating care-providers’ skills—and Pam had a vision of how to make that happen. I’m proud that the program I developed, Compassionate Touch®, now lives with AGE-u-cate, and I’m delighted to be a part of an enormously talented team, as together we create positive change.

Heidi Benard, Client Success Advisor – Passion is just one of the many reasons I joined this team!  When I came across Age-u-cate over 2 years ago, something inside of me knew I needed to learn more.  Being an educator myself, and having firsthand experience with both in-laws with dementia, I felt like I had been directed to “the right place”.  Now, I am honored and privileged to be a “smiling teammate” of this amazing and talented group.    Passion drives…empathy connects…and Age-u-cate delivers amazing programs.

John Brandon, Information Technology & Video Production – I love working for AGE-u-cate because it gives me the ability to be truly creative and responsive to the needs of others within the company.

Julie Boggess, Director of CMP and Consulting Projects – Through a string of unplanned and unexpected encounters, I was introduced to AGE-u-cate Training Institute.  I learned about their educational programs, met the people, and the deal was sealed for me.  Working for a company where I can apply my 30 years of Aging Services experience means everything.  We are all encouraged to be creative, share ideas and work together to build educational programs that get at the heart of caring for older adults.  Working for ATI fulfills my longing to be a part of transforming how we care for older adults, and that begins with relevant and impactful education that changes attitudes and actions.  I’ve found my encore career, and I could not feel more thankful.

Kathy Stevens, Accounting and Finance – I love working with such an amazing group of people! It’s so nice to be around people that are truly passionate about their work. I am a better person because of my AGE-u-cate family!

Mary Petersen, Director of Client Engagement – The corporate philosophy at AGE-u-cate aligns with my belief that customers are not just customers, but partners.  I admire and respect the people I work with.  We all share the same goal, to create an environment that fosters creativity for the development of motivational dementia education programs.

Michelle Terry, Marketing Manager – At AGE-u-cate I have the opportunity to work alongside a passionate, empathetic and intelligent team and live out a marketer’s dream – represent quality programs that truly make a difference and that I am passionate about.

Pam Brandon, President/Founder, AGE-u-cate Training Institute – It is an honor and privilege to work alongside such outstanding individuals who share a passion to make a positive difference in the world.  We’ve accomplished so much together, and we have so much more to do – it’s all very exciting!

Tammy Craig, Training Operations – I am grateful to be a part of a family (AGE-u-cate) that is genuinely passionate about helping the aged care community. It was evident from the beginning that empathy and care are driving forces behind creating programs to enhance the lives of care partners and the people who they care for.

V’Ann Giuffre, Senior Vice President Growth and Operations – ATI has brought together a group of professionals with individual knowledge and experience who share a desire to make a difference in our world. Being part of a company from its early days and watching it grow and develop has been a fantastic experience. I am continually intellectually challenged, pushed from my comfort zone, encouraged to grow professionally and learning from each member of this dynamic team.

Learn more about these professionals here.

Written by V’Ann Giuffre, VP Operations, AGE-u-cate.

V’Ann has been an education specialist in school, business and conference settings for over 20 years. She finds great satisfaction in making learning come alive for people, whether aged 3 or 93. She brings her energized teaching style to her role as Master Trainer for Dementia Live™ and Compassionate Touch® and is a Certified Ageless Grace™ Educator. As AGE-u-cate’s Vice President of Operations, V’Ann keeps the balls in the air, juggling logistical details. Born and raised in rural Central Texas, V’Ann now lives in Fort Worth.

Dementia and the Holidays: Managing Celebrations and Expectations

It’s that time of year again. The holiday and the accompanying celebrations are nearly upon us. Christmas is already up in most stores, just after Halloween. Thanksgiving is a little over two weeks away.

What’s the Plan?

After everything that has happened this year, we are in need of security and routine. The holidays are an opportunity to celebrate. It is a time for being with family and friends. Unfortunately, celebrating the holidays will take a little more planning and patience. That is especially true for those who have a family member with dementia.

First Things First

First and foremost, think of your energy level, especially if the holidays happen at your house. Keep celebrations to a minimum if you are feeling exhausted, and who wouldn’t be. Make it easy on yourself. If you are feeling up to more, do what you can.

Also, manage your expectations of others. Your family members may not feel up to having a huge party. They may be depressed, tired, and frustrated for a lot of reasons.

Helping Out

If someone in your family typically hosts the holidays, offer to help where you can. Also, let them know they are doing the best they can. Additionally, encourage them to downsize wherever possible.

Dementia and the Holidays

If your loved one has dementia and is in a long-term care community, visiting outside may be the only option. Find one activity that is meaningful and easy to do. For example, would looking at pictures be helpful? How about listening to holiday music? Reminiscing about previous holidays may be helpful.

For a family member with dementia who lives at home, minimizing visits and activities is beneficial. They may be frustrated with too many people being around. Trying to interact and remember faces can be stressful. Again, keep it simple for your loved one and yourself.

Above All, Enjoy

Most importantly, remember that the holidays may be challenging for your loved one with dementia and you. Do not expect too much. Find support from those who understand.

Take care of your loved one and yourself. Keep breathing and do the best you can. Enjoying the holidays will help your loved one enjoy the holidays, too.

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;

Caregiving in COVID-19: Honoring Caregivers Through Policy Changes

Last week’s blog looked at caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, choices for caregiving for a loved one in long-term care or at home has been difficult. It is never easy under the best circumstances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the challenges faced by caregivers, both formal and informal. This week, we review situations faced by caregivers and potential policies that could help alleviate the caregiving burden.

Caregiving Challenges in Long-Term Care

For the formal caregivers who work in long-term care, COVID-19 has made a challenging work environment more so. For example, the shortage in personnel, exacerbated by a high turnover rate, made a difficult situation worse. It is usually an ‘all hands-on deck’ environment. With COVID-19, the need for personnel to take on additional responsibilities increased. Staff work overtime, and then some.

Addressing the Needs of Long-Term Care Staff

If direct care workers were paid a living wage, the turnover rate could be lessened. Career ladders would also offer an incentive to stay. Better training and support for caregivers would help make their jobs easier. Long-term care staff can use tools to help support their work with residents who have challenging behaviors. Medication to chemically restrain residents is not a feasible approach. Using alternative methods such as music, pet, and touch therapy need to be provided through long-term care staff training.

The Challenges of Family Caregivers

Family caregivers face multiple challenges. First, caregivers may be working outside the home in addition to being a caregiver. Second, they may also be caring for children as well. Third, they have to be concerned and vigilant with any possibility of exposure to COVID-19 and the implications that follow. Balancing work and family responsibilities is always stressful, but adding COVID-19 as a factor makes it so much worse.

Supporting Family Caregivers

Work environments need to offer more flexibility in caregiving for family members. Paid leave, similar to that for new parents, should be extended to family caregivers. Also, offering pay for caregiving may also offer support for caregivers who cannot work outside the home but need to earn wages.

While the policies are not inexpensive, and not all companies or states are currently positioned to offer these benefits, they are still valuable. We need to value the work given by both family and long-term care staff. Enacting and paying for these policies would accomplish that.

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;

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