Category Archives: Faith Community

How Can We Embrace the Fact that Death is a Part of Life?

We all know that the only thing certain about our life is that someday it will end.  And yet death continues to be an elusive topic in most families and social circles.  Someone recently shared with me that she felt if she brought up the topic with her parents,  they might feel like she wanted to hurry things along.

Do we fear the inevitable that much?  Or do we instead fear the journey to that “end” point?

Kelvin H. Chin, Executive Director, Overcoming the Fear of Death Foundation says the fear of the PROCESS of dying is not the same as the fear of death. It is a common fear, and is closely related, but it is not the actual fear of death itself.

 

Studies do in fact verify that people fear that their pain, symptoms, anxiety, emotional suffering, and family concerns will be ignored. Many critically ill people who die in hospitals still receive unwanted distressing treatments and have prolonged pain. Many fear that their wishes (advance directives) will be disregarded and that they will face death alone and in misery. Physicians may use confusing or vague medical terms and talk briefly about treatment options when the patients are too sick to participate. Most people want to discuss advance directives when they are healthy and often want their families involved.

Attitude are changing about end-of-life care and death with many forward thinkers aiming to empower people  facing the end of their lives.  The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization explains this movement as an effort “to de-medicalize and re-personalize the end-of-life experience.

As more families are educated on hospice and palliative care and the holistic approach that emphasizes acceptance, comfort and counseling over deployment of life extending medical measures, I believe more of us will be less fearful of the process, seeing it as more humanistic and gentle.

While the tide is turning slowly, it is my hope that health professionals and families will approach death as a part of life and one that when discussed openly and honestly will change our culture and attitudes about how we honor wishes, create moments of joy and lift unnecessary burdens along the way.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  A passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them,  she embraces transformative change in elder care.  

www.AGEucate.com

www.nhpco.org

The Art of Caregiving – Can it be Mastered?

Artist and blogger Phil Davies say the reason most frustrated artist stay frustrated is that they don’t know how to practice their drawing and painting skills.  Each time they draw or paint a picture, they just hope it turns out better than the last one.  If we approach caregiving skills as an art, the question then is can it be mastered?

Davis says art is supposed to be a rewarding hobby, when most of time one is stressing over every pencil mark and brushstroke, desperate not to make a mistake.  Could it be that many artists don’t have the skills, techniques and confidence to enjoy what they are doing?

Like artists, caregivers need to break down the big, difficult skills into smaller building blocks.  The problem is that very few caregivers (or artists) do this.  Depending on your current skill level of caregiving, whether you are a professional or family member – you want to practice with smaller building blocks first.

Artists must first learn the art of color mixing.

Additive mixing is used  to produce a wide range of colors using only three primary colors additive mixing of colors is unintuitive as it does not correspond to the mixing of physical substances (such as paint) which would correspond to subtractive mixing. For instance, one can additively mix yellow and blue by shining yellow light together with blue light, which will result in not green but a white light. As in this example, one should always have the mixture of light in mind when considering additive color mixing as it is the only situation where it occurs. Despite being unintuitive, it is conceptually simpler than subtractive mixing. Two beams of light that are superimposed correspond to additive mixing.

By convention, the three primary colors in additive mixing are red, green, and blue. In the absence of color or, when no colors are showing, the result is black. If all three primary colors are showing, the result is white. When red and green combine, the result is yellow. When red and blue combine, the result is magenta. When blue and green combine, the result is cyan.

Like color mixing, caregivers blend many skills (that first must be learned) so that the outcome is a well blended hue of providing safety, security, trust and enhanced quality of life.  In order to achieve this, it takes dedicated practice –  understanding and accepting that mistakes will be make along the way.   There are so many variables to the art of caregiving that when blended together can result in a beautiful (not perfect!)  care partner relationship, healthy care receiver and empowered care giver.  Like art, it’s a work in progress.  Can it be mastered?

I believe that caregivers can gain enormous confidence with exceptional training, continued education and the will to keep learning.   Caregiving, like art, is an every changing range of color and feelings, and for that I would say our mastery is in the journey.  Like artists, if this approach is practiced, it will transform quality!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.  Pam seeks to empower professional and family caregivers, faith communities and organizations in better understanding older adult and caregiver needs. 

www.AGEucate.com

 

Why are my parents suddenly so stubborn?

The Big “S” word.  It comes up more often than you would think and for good reason.  Adult children who are in any phase of caregiving for their parents, even in the very beginning stages share their frustrations of their parents suddenly being stubborn.   Why is this happening?

Let’s think about the role reversal that is taking place, either gradually over time or suddenly due to a  change in physical or cognitive health.  This role reversal leads to confusion and is never a natural shift for adult children, spouses or other loved ones.  As difficult as this is for the caregiver it much harder for the care receiver.

What is actually happening and why does stubborn behavior from even the most agreeable of people send shock waves through the family?  Imagine if you will, what it might feel like to witness yourself the lack of independence taking place in your own life.  It might be in the form of having someone telling you that it’s time to stop driving, that someone may need to start helping you bathe, “helping” pay your bills or accompany you to regular doctor visits.

It doesn’t matter what the level is at which children, spouses or others find themselves in the position to help out, all of these point to one huge signal to the one needing assistance -loss of independence, decision making and privacy!  For older adults that have had a lifetime of child-rearing, careers, active lives of giving and nurturing others, imagine what it feels like to have someone ( a loved one no less!) tell you that it’s time to turn in the keys.

Like all behaviors, there is an underlying reason.  Underneath a stubborn older adult is someone clinging to what independence they can shelter for themselves, the fear of what tomorrow will bring,  and sadness for what they are leaving behind.

As families struggle with this stubborn syndrome, please step into the shoes of the person you are trying to help.  Kindness, gentleness and empathy go a long way in dealing with difficult life changes.  Family meetings that include the care receiver (if this is possible) is always advised.

Above all, caregivers should be educated and seek help from others who are traveling the same road.  Be prepared for this stubborn behavior to be a new normal, but also know that with the right approach, you can get through the hurdles together and get through this journey with strength and grace.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  A passionate advocate for older adults and those that care for them, Pam is a dynamic speaker, trainer and facilitator and has worked with thousands of caregivers, older adults and hundreds of organizations to help others through the caregiving journey.  

www.AGEucate.com

 

Boomers Optimistic about Their Future – Until They Need Care

A survey form the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today concluded that most Boomers are optimistic about their future.  That is until you ask them about needing help as they age.  When it comes to the issues surrounding who will provide caregiving when they no longer are able, optimism turns to fear.

The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a New York-based nonprofit that supports the home care industry, has created a new campaign to address and solve the chronic shortage of health care workers in the United States.
The “60 Caregiver Issues” campaign points out the country needs five million caregivers in the next seven years in order to keep pace with the growing demand from a rapidly aging society. The first issue briefing, The Future of Long-Term Care, lists eight signs the shortage in paid caregivers is getting worse. Those signs are:

  1. The population of older adults in the U.S. continues to rapidly age, igniting demand for long-term services and supports.
  2. A sizable growth in elders and people with disabilities means a growing demand for paid caregivers: home health aides, nursing assistants and personal care aides.
  3. The primary labor pool for direct care workers isn’t keeping pace with national trends, raising concerns about the broad appeal of this occupation.
  4. Direct care workers are leaving the occupation in droves.
  5. The workforce shortage in paid caregivers might be affecting areas of the country differently.
  6. Policymakers, long-term care providers and the general public are hampered by the lack of available data and research on the direct care workforce.
  7. Home care providers and other long-term care entities cite the workforce shortage as a top concern for delivering quality care.
  8. The shortage in workers extends beyond long-term care—and is garnering public attention.

Now let’s look at the state of family caregivers.  A report by the Public Policy Institute (2013) researched the statistics for family caregivers, who provide the majority of long-term services and supports (LTSS).

The Caregiver Support Ratio is defined as the number of potential family caregivers (mostly adult children) aged 45 – 64 for each person aged 80 and older – those most likely to need LTSS.  The caregiver support ratio is used to estimate the availability of family caregivers during the next few decades.

In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than 7 potential caregivers for every person in the high-risk years of 80-plus.

In 2030, the ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1;  and is expected to further fall to less than 3 to 1 in 2050.

Steep rising demand as the population rapidly ages, combined with professional caregiver shortages and shrinking families requires more than policy action.  Every stakeholder (and that takes in to account ALL of us) must take it upon themselves to be better educated on aging issues, plan for their future and make healthy aging a priority.   Just as healthcare has created the need for us to be our own advocates for our health,  we must certainly take this same position with decisions that we make as we age and may eventually need care.

http://www.nahc.org/NAHCReport/nr170213_1/

www.AGEucate.com

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and passionate advocate for older adults and those that care for them.