Category Archives: Faith Community

Can we Age Well through the Challenges of Aging?

Until a miracle cure is found to stop, reverse or drastically slow down the aging process,  the news flash of the day is that we will all leave this earth someday.  In our anti-aging driven society of wrinkle reducers and body re-shaping, the fact is that all of us are, shall I say it – AGING!  The question is not that we are aging, but can we age well through the challenges of aging?

Unlike what many marketers would have us believe, aging is not a disease.  Normal aging is associated with changes, some of these being:

  • Vision – decreased depth perception and ability to distinguish dark colors.  Often this includes decreased night vision.
  • Hearing – loss is gradual;  in the 65 – 74 age group 25% hearing loss is average, with men experiencing more than women.
  • Smell – by age 80, 40% of older adults may experience changes in ability to smell.
  • Touch – the number of nerve receptors in skin decrease and difficulty in the ability to discriminate temperature increases with age.
  • Psychosocial – memory and reaction time typically being to decline at about the age of 70, leading to slower response time, decreased reflexes in the feet and learning time takes longer.

These age-related changes can be challenging, especially if we don’t accept these as a reality of normal aging.  For instance, vision changes require that we see our eye doctor on a regular basis so that symptoms such as cataracts can be corrected.  Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.

Other changes are more complex which can be related to a number of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, medications, and dementia.  The “snowball” effect of age-related changes such as falling, depression, memory loss, loss of peripheral vision, weight loss, for example, is not a normal part of aging and needs to be addressed in order to age well.

To age well we:

  1. Must accept the normal changes taking place as we age
  2. Address these changes with regular health care visits
  3. Understand that an unhealthy lifestyle such as lack of physical exercise, unhealthy eating, over-consumption of alcohol, drug or medication misuse,  and lack of social interactions will have a domino effect on normal aging.

Age is the greatest factor in developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological symptoms, heart disease and other chronic illness.  For the 78 million boomers marching toward old age who want to age well, the best first step is to realize that you have the ability to choose if this will be your course of action.  To age well, we must take on the aging challenges intentionally.  Not by ignoring that we are aging, or allowing ourselves to wallow in the woes of aching joints.

“Know that you are a perfect age.  Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once.  Be comfortable with growing older.”                              ….Louise Hay

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live Simulation program.  She may be contacted at pam@ageucate.com

www.AGEucate.com

Personhood and it’s Value in Dementia Care

Quite simply, the definition of personhood is the quality or condition of being an individual person.  At the core of personhood is the self- who we are are, our values and beliefs.  It’s who makes us who we are.  Being able to recognize the “self” of personhood is key to understanding and practicing person-centered care for persons living with dementia.

Professor Thomas Kitwood was a pioneer in the philosophy of person-centered care from the University of Bradford in England and in the 1990s, connected the beliefs and values of person-centered care specifically to dementia care. His work and research gave voice and credence to the need to realign dementia care practices to a model oriented to the “personhood” of the individual living with dementia.  Although he passed away before his research was complete, his valuable work, and has been built upon throughout the world as the basis and model for providers of dementia care services, advocates and certainly the continued research on this topic.

Personhood doesn’t go away as dementia progresses.  The individual within is what makes up who we are.  In many ways, dementia does change one’s judgment, memory, sensory abilities, language, mood, and behaviors.  But what makes them who they are doesn’t change – it’s their personhood.  Unfortunately, too often our society, families and even professional caregivers treat someone living with dementia as if they have lost who they are.  When we ‘discount’ that person’s selfhood (or personhood), it alters how they think of themselves in the world, their relationships, security, and purpose.

Humans are born to relate, connect and bond.  These needs remain for a lifetime, yet far too often when someone has even mild dementia, others treat them as if those inner needs that keep them whole, are simply not important.  Sadly, those who are often the most vulnerable to this reaction are families.  The root cause of not respecting one’s personhood is often fear,  denial or the need to suddenly take control.  Losing one’s personhood robs them of the ability to hang on those basic human needs – to related, connect and bond.

Respecting one’s personhood in dementia care means that we must move into their world.  Join them where they are, in the moment, with no expectations other than to connect with the individual within.  When doing so, we are practicing person-centered care and their personhood.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and their caregivers.  Pam is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live awareness and training program and worked with recognized expert, Ann Catlin in developing the Compassionate Touch program.  

 

 

 

What did you do on your summer vacation? Tips for Caregivers

Every fall, teachers ask, “what did you do on your summer vacation?” Summer vacations are a rich tradition for many people. But as our loved one ages, memories of family trips — and the hopes of them continuing — seem to fade. As July turns the page into August, summer’s end appears too soon on the horizon, especially if what used to be your favorite family vacation is no longer do-able. Or is it? How do you vacation with — or do you need a respite from — your loved one with dementia?

If you have a trip planned with a family member or friend with dementia, there are a few important tips that should be part of your vacation plan. With a bit of planning, your trip can still be one of recreation and enjoyment for everyone.

  • Consider sticking to familiar destinations that require few changes in daily routine.
  • Keep travel simple. Avoid elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours, which may cause anxiety and confusion.
  • Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia, much like the way a parent plans for a toddler’s nap or meals.
  • Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, your travel itinerary, emergency contact information, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks, and activities. Wouldn’t you do that for the younger traveler among you?
  • If traveling by air, arrange for special accommodations such as a wheelchair escort through security and to the gate, and alert airline staff. Most airlines will work with you to accommodate special needs. Dementia is a “special need.” No shame here, ask for help!
  • Prepare for wandering. Enroll in MedicAlert® or another 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with dementia that wander or who have a medical emergency.
  • Carry a picture of your loved one with you or have one available on a mobile device.
  • Create a business-style card that says, “The person I am traveling with has Alzheimer’s. Please be patient.” Include your contact information on the backside.
  • If visiting family or friends, prepare them by explaining dementia and any changes it may have caused.

Need respite instead?  There is no shame in needing a vacation from your loved one and the day-in, day-out caregiving you provide. Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. Don’t miss your vacation this summer — it will give you the energy to meet the coming challenges of fall and winter. For more information, visit: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-respite-care.

Beth Propp, RN is a Certified Master Trainer (CMT) for AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, CMT Lead Mentor and lives in Green Bay, WI with her husband Scott.  She may be contacted at beth@ageucate.com.

http://www.AGEucate.com

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout Not to Miss

It is a rare occasion when either speaking to or meeting with family caregivers that I do not have tucked away this invaluable list of signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout to share with them before I leave.    My advice to caregivers is to print this list out and place in a plastic sleeve and tape it to your bathroom mirror.  Every single day you should be aware of these signs – often that creep in slowly- and zap our ability to cope, quickly leading to caregiver burnout.

What should you do if you see yourself exhibiting these signs or symptoms?  Be proactive, and seek out a caregiver support group, licensed professional counselor, Stephen Minister or pastoral counselor at your faith community or a healthcare professional.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. … Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.  It can often lead to anger, rage, or guilt that results from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill dependent.  

With over 44 million unpaid caregivers in the US alone,  it is imperative that we are all looking out for others – this fast-growing and vulnerable population who desperately needs support, education, and access to resources.   Caregiver burnout can lead to neglect and abuse for those whom they are caring for.  It is a serious public health issue and too often goes unnoticed as caregivers tend to isolate themselves, especially when they are stressed.

Please print this list out and share with others who are caring for a loved one:

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  1. Altered eating patterns
  2. Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs
  3. Increased smoking or strong desire to start again
  4. Frequent headaches or sudden onset of back pain
  5. Increased reliance on over-the-counter pain remedies or prescribed drugs
  6. Irritability
  7. High levels of fear or anxiety
  8. Impatience
  9. The inability to handle one or more problems or crises
  10. Overreacting to commonplace accidents
  11. Overreacting to criticism
  12. Feelings of anger toward a spouse, child or older care recipient
  13. Alienation
  14. Feeling emotional withdrawal
  15. Feeling trapped
  16. Thinking of disappearing or running away
  17. Not being able to laugh or feel joy
  18. Withdrawing from activities and the lives of others
  19. Feeling hopeless
  20. Loss of compassion
  21. Resenting the care recipient and/or the situation
  22. Neglecting or mistreating the care recipient
  23. Frequently feeling totally alone even though friends and family are present
  24. Wishing simply “to have the whole thing over with”
  25. Playing the “If only” games; saying over and over “if only this would happen’; or “If only this had not happened”

Pam Brandon is President/Founder is AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.   For more information on our training for professional and family caregivers, please visit our website.  

http://www.AGeucate.com