Tag Archives: compassionate touch

COVID Recovery: Rebuilding Human Connections

We can restore human connection and relationships post-COVID by understanding the importance of re-awakening the senses through the simple act of touch.

For nine months, we’ve been under COVID-19’s siege.  People residing in care communities are still confined to their rooms, cared for by overwhelmed team members shielded in protective gear and with no outside visitors.

Most certainly, this is devastating blow to any sense of well-being. Now we’re looking ahead to what changes 2021 may have in store. We may finally see a glimmer of hope as we anticipate our collective recovery from COVID.

Before looking forward, let’s glance at the toll on those the precautions keep safe. We’ve all seen first-hand or heard reports of social isolation and loneliness.

As humans, we all have a deep-rooted need for connection with others. We connect through voice, facial expression, body language, touch. Cut off from this bond, anxiety, depression, futility, decreased function, falls, and worsening dementia may set in. Some frail elders stop eating and wither, losing their desire to live.

Of course, every person is unique. Some are naturally resilient and able to better roll with the changes and find meaning in reading, music, and computer or phone calls.

However,   others don’t have the reserves to carry them through, as we see in elders with advanced dementia or other conditions, placing them more at risk for decline.

Our hats are off to all of you working so hard to try to create a connection. Arranging window or porch visits with families, distanced communal activities, video chats, and more.

Our Way Forward

Although we haven’t turned the corner yet to see the end of COVID, now is the time for conversations about how to open the doors again and rebuild lost human connections.

Going straight from “lockdown” to the “old way” probably isn’t an option. Creativity and flexibility is needed well into 2021.

Perhaps the basics is a good starting point. The senses offer a way to reach through the fog of prolonged isolation.

Compassionate Touch is a universal language of the heart that will help fill the void for elders, families, and the care team alike. Even now, a caring touch on the shoulder or a few kind words will help.

Physical closeness without the barrier of a window will make for better hearing and verbal understanding. And one day ahead, when protective equipment isn’t standard garb, facial expressions will be seen again.

Some states created an “essential caregiver” designation for family members, allowing them to help with care and provide companionship for loved ones.  This is a good step forward.

Regardless of how things unfold in your community, let’s keep the conversation going about how we will navigate the next phase—collective recovery.

These two links have powerful videos about the impact of isolation on elders, families, and care staff.

This Article was written by Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT, founder of Compassionate Touch, a program offered by AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

Touch for Elders is Needed Now More than Ever

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute supports aging services providers as they respond to the isolation crisis facing their elderly residents and clients.

The title of this article seems counter-intuitive during this time of quarantine.   Touching an unrelated person is not a popular notion right now.  But, caregivers for the frail elderly are becoming more aware of the effects that isolation has on those in their care.

Human contact now consists of gloves, gowns, face shields, and masks.  The frail elderly live in an unfamiliar world.  Also, many do not possess the cognitive ability to make sense of it all.

Family members and friends can’t be with loved ones in elder care communities. The term “skin hunger” was new to me, but now I understand.  Touching others through a hug, holding a hand, a stroke of the arm or shoulder is virtually non-existent these days.

Consider this with the fact that touch deprivation is already a reality for the elderly.  Now we have a bigger problem on our hands.

Touch in Quarantine

The great news is that we can reduce the effects of extreme isolation with expressive touch.  We need not be afraid to offer a back, shoulder, hand, or foot rub to those in our care.

More than ever, touch is essential and life-giving for both caregiver and receiver, especially during this quarantine.  With infection prevention protocols,  we can and should offer touch as a way to ease anxiety, fear, and loneliness.

“The current COVID-19 Pandemic is creating an isolation crisis for the vulnerable elders of our country.  We need the transformative power of human connection and touch now, more than ever,” Pam Brandon, Founder and President of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

Touching Moments Scholarship

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute is awarding a Compassionate Touch Certified Community training to one Assisted Living, Memory Care, Nursing Home, Home Care, or Hospice Agency in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

That’s 51 organizations that will have a powerful tool to meet the isolation crisis that is happening in elder care nationwide.

The online application process is simple and the form along with more information can be found at  https://ageucate.com/index.php?main_page=touching_moments.

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.

The Trauma of Relocation for People with Dementia

 

 

A sudden relocation from home for a person with dementia can be traumatic.

My husband and I have made the decision to right-size our lives and sell our house of 23 years. For many years now, I have anticipated this moment wondering how I would feel.   Surprisingly, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.  However, I recognize that moving day could be a different story.

The decision to relocate is one we made being of sound mind and body.  As overwhelmed as I sometimes feel about our move, it must pale in comparison to what people with dementia feel when they are moved to a different environment.

Easing the Trauma of Relocation

My husband and I will adapt to our new surroundings.  I will find a place for all of our things and make our new house into our home.  The people I love most will be with me,  including my fur-babies.  I’ll drive to visit my friends and attend the same church.  All will be right in our world.

This mile-marker in my life makes me think long and hard about what moving day must be like for someone with dementia.  I can’t even imagine.  The sudden loss of leaving the familiar and the people you love must be horrifying.

Stop and think for a moment how you would feel if someone walked into your home and said that you had to leave for a new place that you had not chosen for yourself.

Imagine your behavior.  Would you be crying, screaming, punching, kicking?

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute program Compassionate Touch begins with looking at life through the lens of someone with dementia.   We discuss the grief and loss that often accompanies a person with dementia when they move into a long term care facility.

Realizing that people with dementia communicate with us through their behaviors is a pivotal moment in Compassionate Touch and Dementia Live Training.

So how can we ease a transition into a long term care facility for someone with dementia?  Here are a few tips:

    • If possible, set up their new space with familiar items prior to move-in day.
    • Remain positive and keep your personal emotions in check.
    • Minimize chaos on move-in day by limiting the number of family members present to no more than two.
    • Allow the staff to immediately begin bonding with your loved one.
    • Refrain from prolonged day-long visits until your loved one is settled in and comfortable.
    • When your loved one says, “Take me home” don’t say, “this is your new home.”  Rather, “I understand how hard this is, and I love you.”

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.

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.

Workforce

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.