Leaving a Legacy: Laying Bricks or Building Cathedrals?

As the story goes, a traveler sees three bricklayers. He asks each one what they are doing. One says “laying bricks,” another states that he is “building a wall,” and the third person says, “I’m building cathedrals.” What an interesting view of work, purpose, and legacy.

What are we doing?

These days, at this time, many of us may be thinking about our work, our purpose, and our legacy. Why do we do what we do? What do we see as our place in this world? If you are working in long-term care, it is an especially valuable question to ask, especially when our role in long-term care is already difficult.

Choices and challenges

There are challenges in balancing safety versus quality of life. These challenges compel us to think about existing versus thriving, surviving versus living. The choices we make on behalf of the older adults we serve have a significant impact on their lives. For those who are the most vulnerable, we have to take the most caution. But how do we decide? And, at this time, are we able to make those decisions? Or are we required to follow some other guidance, more stringent regulations, in order to promote physical health?

Living or Surviving?

No matter what decisions are made, the people who serve and work with older adults living in long-term care communities still make a difference. Even as they adhere to guidelines that may emphasize protection and create social isolation, their role is even more important. They are not just keeping people safe, they are responsible for keeping older adults alive and thriving, while maintaining their wellbeing under some of the most difficult circumstances. And the end is not in sight.

Leaving a Legacy

We need to support our caregivers in long term care with a living wage, more respect, and more empowerment. Direct care workers provide the largest balance of care for older adults. We should consider our collective legacy in how we treat and care for the most vulnerable people in our population. We cannot afford to treat long-term care workers feel like they are only laying bricks when they are  responsible for building cathedrals.

What do we want our legacy to be?


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

Are We There Yet? Waiting on a Pandemic To End

One of the best things in life is a road trip. Taking a drive to a new place, or a familiar one, can be an adventure. One of things you can always expect is to hear during a road trip is the question, “Are we there yet?” It can seem to take an eternity to reach a destination, especially when we can’t wait to get there, wherever that is.

How are we getting there?

Another familiar travel-related phrase is, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” That phrase is supposed to help give us perspective, to help us focus not just on where we are headed, but on how we get there. In this time of the coronavirus, we are compelled to focus on where we are going, as well as how we are getting there. But what is there? How will we know when we will get there? And how long is that supposed to take?

Where are we headed?

For people working in long term care and the residents they support, wherever “there” is, we cannot arrive fast enough. There have been some restrictions lifted, some changes, but everything is seemingly the same. We do not really know where the finish line is. We have some ideas, like being able to go out without being socially distant. It might also be that we do not have to wear masks everywhere.

Will we really get there?

Will we really know when we are past this quarantine? There is a lot of conversation about the new normal. It should mean that we can visit loved ones in the nursing home without restrictions. It should also mean we recognize how we got here, to the place of isolating people from loved ones in order to maintain safety. Or making formal caregivers work harder and longer just to maintain a safe environment.

In thinking about the journey during the COVID-19 quarantine, we really do need to think about how we get to the other side. We must also think about what led to this quarantine. We need to know what we should do differently if we are ever in this situation again.

What do we do when we get there?

We need to value older adults and their caregivers. We must consider our response to the coronavirus and put in place the necessary structures to prevent the social isolation that resulted. There must be better measures than that. More importantly, we should provide better support for residents in long term care, as well as their formal caregivers. It means valuing caregiving enough to honor and preserve it, and not sacrifice those who provide it for the sake of safety.

We need to not only enjoy getting past this time, but especially focus on where we go from here.


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

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.

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