All posts by Ann Catlin

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Would Maslow Say?

Human needs remain intact regardless of age, situation, or condition.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who taught that survival needs must come before social or spiritual needs. Alzheimer’s disease impacts all these needs, for instance, as in a woman named Faye.

The need for physical survival. Faye relied on caregivers to assist with physical needs. 

The need to have personal security and to feel safe.  Faye didn’t recall recent events, so she didn’t realize where she was. Memories of past experience faded.

The need for a sense of belonging and connection to others. Faye had been active in her church.  The move to a nursing home separated her from familiar people and consequently became withdrawn and anxious.

The need to express feelings and have them acknowledged.  Alzheimer’s decreases a person’s ability to express thoughts. Faye was frustrated because care-partners didn’t understand her.

The need to give to others and to be treated with respect.  We all need to feel useful. We thrive with mutual understanding and respect.  However, people with Alzheimer’s may believe they have nothing to contribute.

The need for a sense of self and a connection to spirit. Many assume that Alzheimer’s robs people of their identity.  Although memory and cognition become impaired, it appears that the person living with dementia seems to retain a sense of self—the essence of who he or she is.

In conclusion, understanding human needs may help us to be a little more empathetic with people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

How to Listen to a Grieving Friend

In recognition of Grief Awareness Day August 30, here are five tips for how to listen when someone you know is grieving.

Listening from the heart requires self-awareness. Intend to listen more authentically. What follows are considerations for becoming an authentic listener.

  1. Listen without judgment. Judgment is reacting based on our own experience. As you listen simply receive without judging what is said. This opens a space for deep trust.
  2. Commit to patience. We live in a rushed world and tend to move on to the next thing rather than attending to what is in front of us. Authentic communication can’t be rushed. Be patient with yourself and the other person.
  3. Listen first, then respond. We tend to mentally form our response while the person is still talking. Focus first on what the person is conveying then reply.
  4. Listen to the silence as well as the words. Sitting in silence with another is one of the most potent forms of communication. Silence allows our hearts to connect.
  5. Let touch speak for you. Sometimes a compassionate touch says “I care and I’m here for you” better than words.

In closing, I offer a quote from Rachel Naomi Remen. “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes on the people around us.” And if our paths should cross, I’ll do my best to listen to you!

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Get Ready for Trauma-Informed Care

Beginning November 28, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will require nursing homes to provide trauma-informed care. Consequently, they must  “ensure that residents who are trauma survivors receive culturally competent, hence minimizing triggers that may cause retraumatization.”

What is Trauma?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) describes the “Three E’s of Trauma.” First of all, the person is exposed to an event such as loss, violence, a natural disaster, or abuse. Next, he experiences the situation as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. Finally, she has lasting adverse effects on well-being.

People express trauma differently, and some are more resilient than others. Furthermore, the impact of trauma is often confused with other conditions, such as depression or even dementia. Symptoms may have a delayed onset and include:

  • Physical: Aches and pains, poor sleep
  • Psychological: Anxiety, poor emotional control, flashbacks
  • Cognitive: Difficulty with memory and attention
  • Social: Poor trust in others, isolation
  • Spiritual: Lacks meaning in life

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

According to SAMHSA, trauma-informed care rests on a set of critical concepts referred to as “The Four R’s. These assume that all people within an organization:

  1. Realize that trauma exists and understand the impact and consequences of traumatic experiences.
  2. Recognize signs of trauma.
  3. Respond consistently using the principles of a trauma-informed approach.
  4. Resist the re-traumatization of people with traumatic histories.

Therefore new regulations for trauma-informed care expect facilities to:

  • Assess each resident’s exposure to traumatic events in their life.
  • Train staff in the impact of traumatic experiences.
  • Incorporate trauma-informed approaches into care plans.
  • Use strength-based interventions that maximize trauma survivors’ resilience to avoid retraumatization.

Acknowledging traumatic experiences and providing care that is sensitive to each individual is essential. However, I question how realistic this new regulation is for many nursing homes faced with high staff turnover. As a result, limited resources go to basic care and training in practical approaches.

In conclusion, how do you perceive the future trauma-informed requirements?

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Tips for Seniors Living Well

Seniors Living Well

Seniors today are living longer; however, are they living well into old age? The National Wellness Institute tells us that “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Indeed, the choices we make along the way determine the degree of wellness we’ll enjoy as we age. But how can cultivate a healthy, satisfying life?

The National Council for Aging Care offers some tips. First of all, develop healthy eating habits with whole foods and plenty of water. Next, keep your body and brain active. Find a physical activity you enjoy and challenge your mind in creative ways. Learn something new. Another key is to stay connected with others to avoid the pitfalls of social isolation. Reach out for help when life throws you a challenge. Also, pay attention to your appearance and keep up to date on popular culture and discover what’s buzzing with younger people. Finally, take precautions such as regular health check-ups and fall prevention measures in your home

I once was a passenger aboard a Great Lakes cruise ship. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Great Lakes are big enough to cruise on– and then some. What stood out were my fellow passengers– many of whom are in their 80′s. One woman celebrated her 94th birthday, while a couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  At nearly 60, I was almost the youngest person on board.  Now don’t get me wrong; these seniors did not run marathons. Many had physical challenges.  But they didn’t stop them from going on daily excursions and having a great time. One woman with severe scoliosis went on most tours including going down in a copper mine, complete with hard-hat! Another 92-year-old woman told me that she had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer; however, her doctor and family supported her decision to go on this trip. In spite of her illness, her attitude was sunny and positive. It seemed like she was content to stay on the ship taking in the scenery, smiling all the while.

Both of these women are examples of living well in spite of the challenges that may occur along the way. It was inspiring to be with people who didn’t stop living a fulfilling life in their senior years.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.