Category Archives: Hospital Professionals

A Special Grandparent’s Day

Lessons from an old tree.

You might be wondering why a picture of an old tree? This tree caught my attention while on a walk through a nearby forest preserve. I studied its shape, holes, splinters, and ragged edges. I didn’t know then why it captivated me so, but it did.

This tree, such as it is, a shell of itself from long ago still stands. How miraculous is this? Despite the trauma over the years, damaging winds, hail, heavy snow and ice, it still stands. Indeed, time is stamped on this tree, and its roots are weaker and deteriorated.  But it stands proudly, majestically demonstrating its resilience and strength.

I’ll call her Matilda (my grandmother’s name). Imagine the experiences she lived through and the stories she could tell. If only we had the opportunity to learn from this wise old oak. I would love to know what this forest preserve was like 50 or maybe even 100 years ago.

I speculate that sometimes Matilda had to dig deep for water and call on strength to brace against the hard times. But, she also got to bask in the glory of the nourishing sun and gentle rains and was probably thankful for the good times.  Her wisdom is unmatched in the forest, I am sure.

Matilda likely housed many critters over the years and created a safe space for them to call home. How many different species did she encounter over time? Insects, rodents, mammals, birds, canines felines, all in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some may have taken advantage of her, but hopefully, most treated her with kindness and respect.

A Little Extra for Grandparents Day

This tree personifies grandparents for me, and that’s why I admire it so much.  I think it is true that you don’t know what you had until it is gone.  Three of my grandparents didn’t see me graduate from high school, and the last, my grandfather, died when my daughter was six years old.  She has only a faint memory of him.

It’s not too late to extend Grandparent’s day.   I know I would if I could.

I attribute my love for working with and advocating for the welfare of older adults to the loving relationship I had with both sets of grandparents. The memories I have of them all fill my heart with that longing to have just one more conversation.

Grandparents deserve to be celebrated! Congress had this right in 1978 when Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.

If you have the good fortune to have a living grandparent, learn all you can from your beautiful, wise tree.

 

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.  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.

A Reflection: The Comfort of Touch for Family at End of Life

 

Touch is is a comforting gesture for both the dying and their loved ones.

My friend Andrew shared with me his reflections on the care his family received while his mother was in the hospital dying. He poured out his heart on paper to discuss how frequent expressive touch was a comfort to his mother, and himself.

He writes, “We would kiss her forehead, touch her shoulder or hold her hand with varied responses. Holding her hand was the clearest communication and the best way to tell if she was with us or not. Most days she would squeeze our hands or lift them to her face for a kiss. At times, these actions were silent, and other times accompanied by grunts or whispers or even an attempt to speak.”

“The staff were lovely and compassionate people who understood her needs, but also our needs as family members. I saw many nurses and aides greet Mom on a good day with a hug or try to wake her gently with a hand on her shoulder, but there were also hugs for us.”

“We craved something to do, some way to comfort her and let her know she wasn’t alone. These small gestures of touch were all we had in her final days and the only way we could communicate with her.”

Touch:  A Final Connection

“In the end, she no longer responded to touch because hospice was doing their job correctly. We will never know what she understood and felt in those precious moments, so we continued to touch her. That small amount of physical contact was as much a comfort to us as we hoped for her.”

“Holding her hand, the hand that comforted me as a child, was again comforting me as an adult.”

Andrew’s words flew off the page at me because it gets to the heart of the work we do at the AGE-u-cate Training Institute with Compassionate Touch training. Touch is the first sense that develops in the womb and is a fundamental human need throughout our life course.  Through touch, care-giving professionals who work with families of dying persons can positively impact end-of-life care for both patient and family.

Thank you, Andrew, for reminding us of the impact that touch can have on the living, and the dying.

 

Shared by permission from Andrew Azzarello, a person with a personal and professional passion for eldercare.  Andrew continues caregiving responsibilities for his father and is the former Director of Human Resources for two aging services organizations.

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 to private and professional caregivers.  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.

Employee Education = Engagement = Quality Care

Employees at Emerald Health and Rehab in North Carolina are immersed in education about the positive effects of expressive touch.

We understand the negative impact on quality care as a result of high employee turnover.  However, more elusive is an understanding of how lackluster engagement of employees with longevity impacts quality.

Much of the focus is on recruiting new employees, and rightly so. Estimates show employee turnover nationally at 45%-66%.

At the same time, it is important that we also maintain the spirit and engagement of current employees. However, scare resources have forced employers in Aging Services to make tough decisions.

Cuts into the marrow of the employee education budget in light of the current staffing challenges could be devastating.  In doing so, we inadvertently create a more disengaged workforce and impair quality.

Defense Against Declining Quality Care

The vital connection in health care is that employee engagement drives quality of care. To that end, one of the best ways to engage employees is through ongoing hands-on education and training.

Guard against what could become turn-over induced decline in quality with a robust and engaging employee education program for your experienced and dedicated employees.

Employees with longevity have also felt the devastation of workforce challenges.  Fatigue with over-time and the constant flow of new employees in and out impacts the spirit of our dedicated workers.  All the more reason to dedicate resources and efforts towards their ongoing growth and engagement.

The absence of training appears on this list of reasons for poor employee engagement. Employees with longevity also need to continue to learn and adopt best practices. In doing so, we ensure the evolution of our quality of care and service.

In conclusion,  a corporate culture that supports growth and education for long-term employees will promote engaged workers and defend against declining quality care and service.

 

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 to private and professional caregivers.  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.

Is it Possible for Doctors to Provide Compassionate Care?

The Physician’s Oath promises to approach all patients with integrity, candor, empathy, and respect.  I believe that most doctors take their oath seriously.  I believe most doctors study very hard because they truly want to help other people and make a positive difference in the field of medicine.  Doctors have a tremendous responsibility in today’s messy healthcare environment.  They work long hours, have many patients and deal with lots of complications to ultimately deliver the care that their patients need.  So, is it really possible for doctors to provide compassionate care?

I will speak only from a patient and patient advocate perspective, after having been a caregiver to my aging parents for many years.  Most doctors want to listen to their patients and get to know them beyond their medical conditions.  I really believe that.  I think most doctors would agree that the complexities of healthcare take away from the time they would like to spend with their patients and families so that they can be a source of compassion and guidance.

For doctors to provide compassionate care, they must have time.  Unfortunately,  this is rarely a luxury, if at all.  Treating patients medical needs is first and foremost when it comes down to it.  Having the time to converse and get to know their patients is almost unheard of these days.  So how can doctors provide compassionate care when the odds are stacked against them in so many ways.

In dementia training, we teach the importance of eye-to-eye contact,  slowing down, speaking with respect to another person, gently holding one’s hand to provide comfort among other simple gestures. These are signs of compassionate care that take no more time than the alternative.  Sometimes a smile or caring concern is all it takes to quickly make another person feel like they are important to another person – even if it’s brief.

Doctors are fixers, and it’s natural in their hurried days to be focused on fixing what’s wrong.  And no doubt that is monumentally important.  As healers, though, a doctor can and should practice compassionate care even though the odds are often stacked against you.  Compassionate care can be taught, learned and passed on to others. It’s an emotional, spiritual and transformational gift that you give another person shown with the simplest of gestures.

Compassion can be felt by another just by the gift of your genuine presence.

Pam Brandon is President of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the Dementia Live® Simulation and Awareness Program.