Tag Archives: Care Partners

Aging Services Future Focus

On the brink of a new decade, I contemplate what the next ten years will look like for the aging services industry. Reflecting on the past provides me some hope for the future. In some respects, we have come a long way.  By the same token, we should maintain a future focus and continue to develop more strategies that support the quality of living of frail elders.

One future focus could be to equip our caregivers with best practice strategies to respond to resident behaviors utilizing therapeutic approaches. 

We realized years ago that physical and chemical restraints weren’t the answer. The emergence of Compassionate Touch, Music & Memory, and Joy for All Companion Pets are best practice possibilities. All of these interventions provide a non-pharmacological approach to improving quality of life.  Expressive touch, music, and pets to love address basic human needs of connection, inclusion, and purpose, to name a few.

A second future focus could be to educate our employees about the process of aging and dementia to demystify, normalize, and create an environment of understanding and acceptance.

Can we say that our caregivers understand the process of aging? In addition, do they comprehend and empathize with the struggle of living with memory loss and sensory changes?  To that end, employee education creates empathetic caregivers, and that leads to better care. In the same way,  this is also true for family members.  More understanding leads to better care partners.

As one example, the educational program Dementia Live provides caregivers with an inside-out understanding of what it is like to live with dementia. It is a powerful experience for employees and family members.


A third future focus could be to cultivate a revitalized workforce.

The workforce challenges that face the aging services industry seems overwhelming and hopeless.  But keep this in mind, nurses did not take care of post-heart transplant patients twenty years ago in skilled nursing.  We rose to the challenge. Nothing is impossible.  Providers alone cannot entirely solve this problem. However, there are things to do that can get the ball rolling.

In conclusion, while the future may look daunting, consider how far we have come over the previous 10-20 years. Celebrate the evolution of an industry that was once “warehousing,” and face the future with boldness and ample self-care, we will need it.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  In addition, she is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

How Care Partners Can Embrace Wellness and Joy

I was privileged to speak yesterday to the Dallas Area Parkinson’s Society (DAPS)  about how care partners can embrace wellness and joy.  For persons living with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological conditions, finding wellness and joy in everyday life can be challenging and elusive at best.  I know this first-hand, as my mother lived with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  Speaking from experience as her partner in this journey, my words of wisdom for embracing wellness and joy encompassed some simple steps.

  1.  First, pat yourself on the back for the bravery and courage it takes to face PD.  It’s not always a friendly companion.  I love the hummingbird as a symbol of tireless joy and accomplishing that which seems impossible.  Care partners remember every day how special you are.
  2. There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path, but don’t allow yourself to become one of them.  Accept your faults and imperfections and move on with.  Those who linger on imperfection will never experience wellness or joy.
  3. Be like the sun,  and shine even if no one ever thanks you for it! Expecting of others is almost always a road to disappointment, so shine your light if for no one else but yourself!   Others will see it, I promise!
  4. Live for today and only today.  We spend far too much time worrying about what could happen tomorrow and missing the precious moments that this day brings.
  5. When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate;  when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.   We’ll be better people for embracing both as a gift.
  6. Do all in your power to reduce stress.  If you are getting on your own nerves, it may be time for re-grouping!  Stress affects our physical, social, emotional and spiritual well being.  Learn ways to cope with and reduce stress such as:
    • Practice deep breathing throughout the day.  Fully fill those lungs and then a long, slow exhale through the mouth.  Deep breathing reduces stress, improves posture, relieves pain and boosts energy, among many other health benefits.
    • Keep moving.   When you don’t feel like moving do it anyway.  Your body, brain and well being will thank you.  Find exercise groups specifically for PD.  You’ll have the added benefit of connecting with others while improving your balance, energy, and stamina.
    • Laugh…often!  Laughter changes the chemicals in our brain and makes us feel good all over.  And it’s okay to laugh at ourselves.  In fact, you might start there!
    • Get creative.  Research tells us that persons living with PD often have more creative brains.  Think about this.  You have to find ways to do things differently.  So start a new creative adventure and embrace it.  You might just surprise yourself!
    • Connect with others.  Intentionally hug and touch (all brain boosting, chemical changing things happen when you touch!).  This will add meaning to your life that has immeasurable benefits.
    • Embrace the Journey.  It was not what you had planned, nor one you would have chosen, but it’s yours.  Sweet, precious moments of joy, happiness, and wellness will come out of this practice.  You will enrich your life and the lives of those around you.

Pam Brandon is the President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institut and a passionate advocate for those living with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners.  She feels blessed each day for the Parkinson’s journey that she and her mother Jeanette shared for almost 10 years.   

The Dallas Area Parkinson’s Society is celebrating almost 40 years of impacting and improving the lives of those affected by Parkinson’s Disease.  The work they do and others across the country is helping to create transformative change.





How do Caregivers Walk in the Shoes of a Person with Dementia?

Walking in the shoes of someone living with dementia is challenging at best, especially since every person, like shoes –  is different!  There is an urgent need to help professional and family caregivers communicate and respond to the needs of their care partners.  A walk in their shoes is a powerful and very needed training and education tool to help others develop understanding, empathy and improve care.

Like shoes,  people with dementia all are different.  In fact, what makes the caring journey so very stressful for many care partners is that their care partners ARE so different – sometimes changing moods, personality, needs and temperament many time within a day or even within an hour.

So what is the solution as we face the exploding numbers of people who are living with dementia be better understood, accepted and cared for?  

The experience of living with dementia will help care partners feel the anxiety, fear, loneliness and agitation that accompanies living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.  By literally walking in their shoes for a short time, they gain empathy and understanding that is unlike anything else.

What do care partners really learn once they have gone through such an experience?

In order to create change… lasting change that is, care partners must have tools that accompany the “aha” moment of walking in their shoes.  Some of these tools include:

Better communication skills.  Believe it or not, simple and effective changes in how you speak to and with someone with dementia can have a profound effect on building their trust and moving to healthy engagement and relationship building.  These tools include speaking clearly, eye to eye contact, slowing down and never arguing are just a few effective changes that can make a positive impact on both care partners.

Improving care processes by taking the time to understand a person’s daily habits, gaining input from family members, and focusing on key areas that often are stressful for persons living with dementia:  bathing, oral care, dressing, toiling and eating.

Creating a dementia friendly environment accommodates for the changing needs of a person living with dementia while at the same time creates opportunities for independence.  Checklists to access the home and perimeter can create a safe environment while at the same time small changes in creating signage vs. writing will help with prompts that may help a person live more independently.

Understanding caregiver burnout is a tool that every care partners, whether they are professionals or families must take seriously.   Caregivers of persons living dementia face upwards of a 60% increase in risks associated with high levels of stress.  In order to improve care we MUST help caregivers remain healthy.

Sensory changes that affect persons with dementia include hearing, visual perceptual change and tactile processing.  By learning to walk in the shoes of someone living with dementia, these sensory changes are key elements for caregivers to understand.  Learning these changes from the inside-out will have profound effects on caregivers, those who work with older adults, those in the healthcare professions, students and more.

Learn more about the internationally recognized Dementia Live® program at www. AGEucate.com.  .  

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGEucate® Training Institute and creator of the Dementia Live® Simulation program being used throughout the US and internationally to transform care partners understanding of those living with dementia, leading to improved care.   


The Healing Power of Nature for Elders and Caregivers

IMG_0731Nature heals.  Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.

I was able to retreat to the Colorado Rockies recently after leading a dementia training in the Denver area.  The further I drove from the city traffic the more relaxed I became, as the mountains surrounded me and hustle and bustle subsided with each mile closer to my destination.

Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

I’m excited to see that more care communities are integrating raised beds, gardening activities, serene courtyards and interspersing scenes of nature in their decor.  Not only is it helping residents but care partners also are benefiting from the restorative power of nature.

According to research by the University of Minnesota,  we are genetically programmed to find tress, plants, water and other nature elements engrossing, thus we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.

This was demonstrated in a classic study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery;  half had a view of tress and half had a view of a wall.  According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a  hospital.

In another study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.  Other studies by Ulrich, Kim and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with positive mood, psychological well being, meaningfulness and vitality.

With a mission to transform aging for our elders and those caring for them, we are constantly seeking tools that will enhance lives.  To know that a simple plant can have such healing effects is truly amazing and should be an inspiration for all of us to take steps to integrate nature into our daily lives.

We don’t all have access to the mountains, but a garden stroll with an elder can change one’s mood, reduce stress, pain and enhance engagement.  It is an activity that can be shared with families and other care partners.  It’s simple person-centered care at its best.