Category Archives: Aging in the Workplace

You Know What They Say About the Weather…Wait Five Minutes

Dramatic Image of Scruffy Man Freezing in Cold Weather

At least that’s what they say here in Texas, when it’s 80 degrees one day, and hitting the freezing mark the same night.  We’ve barely had a winter to speak of this year, so my recent trip to experience the Boston blizzard was an adventure and a treat.  So what does the weather have to do with aging and dementia you ask?

Yikes –  I think it’s a great analogy!  Have you walked the floors of a Memory Care Community lately?  The sun is shining and people are happy.  But wait 5 minutes… maybe 5 seconds… and the weather  can all change.  The blizzard can move in quickly and chaos panic and disorder can soon be the order of the day.   Time for deep breathing and some quick meditation.    Person centered care… what’s that?!

I love the term  PERSON-CENTERED THINKING. That takes person-centered care to a whole new level.  To me, person-centered thinking implies that our first response, our actions, our thought process is focused on another’s well being.  When we have tools in our belt that allow us to respond to behavioral expression that look like rain, snow, blizzard or tornado – we’re ready.

Are we equipping our care partners in senior care with the right tools to weather the storms?  

I’m going to venture to guess that most of “us”, because we’re all in this together, could do a better job.  After all, there is always room to grow, right?  Innovation, creativity and the will to want to be better at what we do is a part of life.  We all want to be better equipped to weather the storms.

That blizzard that hit Boston a week ago was followed by a bright beautiful sunny day.  Everyone got back to work and life.   I was able to do what I had travelled there to do (training), flew home the next day….

…and the storm hit again!

For information on the University of Minnesota’s Person-Centered Thinking program:

http://rtc3.umn.edu/pctp/training/intro.asp

 

 

 

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.

http://twin-cities.umn.edu/

The Urgent Need for Airlines to Become Dementia Friendly: A Case in Point

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik off.

As we all know society is aging… fast.  Aging people travel- more than ever, as do aging people who are living with dementia.  Airlines listen up – this trend is not going to slow down.  The question is, how are you going to better serve your aging customers and improve the flying experience for all of your passengers?

Here’s a summary of my recent experience that supports our call to action:

On a recent trip from Florida, the plane was delayed due to fifteen people in wheelchairs who had to pre-board.  As I was one of the last to board, I chose a window seat next to two ladies.  One of the passengers was 97 and traveling with her daughter.  Being a dementia educator and passionate advocate for the elderly, I was especially keen to the conversation between them.  Throughout the flight, mom would ask her daughter to call people and the endless loop of questioning “how much longer” never ceased.  The daughter was patient but I could certainly sense frustration brewing.

Across the isle was a women with  Parkinson’s disease.  Somehow her husband managed to keep her occupied by playing cards despite the fact that she was constantly in motion.  Again, I observed a patient husband as long as status quo remained intact.

I was not able to observe the other 13 people who had pre boarded, but I’m assuming the scenario played out similarly.

When we landed, the lady with Parkinson’s attempted to reach up and get her bags.  Not one person assisted, so her husband switched places with her so he could reach them.  In doing so, she fell on the floor of the empty row across from her.  Only then did the flight attendants come to assist as the front of the plane yelled “She fell!”I felt a tinge of embarrassment for that couple.

The 97 year old lady woman was attempting to get up and several passengers squeezed around her almost knocking her down.  I finally interjected asking the other passengers to PLEASE giver her a chance to get out.  Again, a flight attendant finally came to assist.  The daughter very gently stated that her mother needed a wheelchair to which the flight crew member responded, “Well I’m 55 and I don’t need one”.  I’m still not quite sure what the meaning of that statement was supposed to be, but it was neither respectful or kind.

Dementia avoidance, lack of knowledge and communication skills  from airline employees and the flying public is creating havoc on the ground and in the air, and diminishing those living with dementia (and their families) as second class passengers.

Airlines, like other customer oriented businesses need to invest in training employees to better understanding aging, dementia and how to properly communicate with their aging consumers.  In doing so, they will gain a unique competitive advantage.  Even more importantly, they will be doing the right thing – showing kindness, compassion and respect for our elders.

What is your training plan for this year?

www.dementialive.com

Why We Must ALL Build a Sphere of Senior Care

urban-parkThe dictionary describes a sphere a place or environment within which a person or thing exists;  a particular social world or stratum of society.  How does this relate to how we approach society’s challenges on caring for our seniors?

I’ve had the great privilege over the years of working with many organizations who serve older adults from community based organizations, churches, eldercare providers and more.  As an advocate for education and training and the needs of society to embrace our aging population and their needs, I see opportunities at every corner.   Building a sphere takes all of these organizations in a community to work together.  Make no mistake – we have BIG challenges ahead.

Baby boomers don’t want to admit it, but the march toward old age is upon us (I’m one of them, so including myself here!).   Collaboration and coordination at all levels within our local communities is a must for building a successful sphere of senior care.  None of us can do it alone.  To make this happen it takes:

  1.  Leadership and Visionaries – those people who see beyond today and know how to pull the champions together for a singular cause.
  2. Education – we vastly overestimate public’s knowledge of age related issues from preparing for old age to chronic illness, understanding services and how we can reach out to our elders and those who care for them.
  3. Teach compassion and understanding to our younger generation, allowing them the privilege of growing up to honor and care for older adults.  Include them not as a bystander, but rather as an integral link in the aging of our world.

Healthy spheres don’t just happen.  Now more than ever, we need to see the growth of rural, suburban and urban communities coming together to address the real issues of aging and how to build a sphere of senior care that ultimately will benefit all.