Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

The Impossible: Doing the Hard Things with Resilience

Alan Packer said, “We can do hard things—it’s the impossible that takes a little longer.” Well, we have been doing hard things for quite a while now. In fact, it seems that we are in the ‘impossible’ phase now. Truly, I believe we have been working on accomplishing the “impossible” for quite some time now, aided by resilience.

Who are WE?

‘We’ are made up of health care workers, direct and indirect care workers in long term care. ‘We’ also includes essential workers in service industries, people who have lost their jobs or are currently furloughed, and those who are balancing work and family responsibilities.

The ‘we’ also includes all of us when we wear masks, wash our hands repeatedly, and remain socially distant. ‘We’ are making sacrifices.

To be honest, some of us are definitely being called to make more sacrifices than others. People working in nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals and hospice, to name a few. Not only are they giving it their all at work, they also sacrifice time with family and interactions with loved ones.

How do they do it?

Keeping up and keeping on is one of those hard things. One of the ways to keep on keeping on is through resilience.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the capability to spring back into action, to recover quickly after adversity. In physics, Merriam Webster defines resilience as ‘the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape.” If that doesn’t describe essential workers, especially those in the health care and long term care industries, I don’t know what does.

How to Build Resilience

You can’t give energy after something happens if you have no energy to spare. Self care goes a long way in helping to build resilience.

Having some control in your environment also contributes to maintaining resilience. Genetics and engaging in healthy habits play a role in building resilience. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has additional suggestions and ideas on resilience.

In the meantime, thank you to those still fully engaged in caring for the mental and physical health of others. Please keep on doing the hard things. “We” appreciate you.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Reopening Nursing Homes: Balancing Needs and Safety

In May 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a memorandum for state and local officials to outline nursing homes reopening. The recommendations provide guidance on evaluating what steps to take to prevent COVID-19 transmission in nursing homes. In looking back to May 2020 and now, what, if anything, has changed? How are nursing homes balancing resident safety and resident needs with the COVID-19 restrictions in mind?

Updates on Restrictions

Lifting restrictions varies by state and communities in each state, as noted here in this AARP map. For example, New Jersey and Indiana are now allowing outdoor visits, with infection control measures in place. On the other hand, the state of Oklahoma is encouraging family members to visit their loved ones in long term care, while requiring masks and following protocols.

Is This Progress?

It is difficult to connect with loved ones on a limited basis. In some cases, a five-minute outdoor visit is the only way families are allowed to visit.  It is painful to see the effects of isolation on loved ones, while unable to do anything about it. According to the American Psychological Association, the COVID-19 restrictions that require social distancing affect older adults and create additional loneliness. As a result, the combination of reduced family caregiver support and social isolation takes its toll. The number of reports of residents dying due to the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine continue to grow.

Balancing Needs

It is difficult to balance the need for safety with the need for companionship. Exchanging safety and protection for social isolation is not a fair deal. On the other hand, families want and need to see their loved ones. In one case, Mary Daniel went so far as to take a job as a dishwasher in the community where her husband lives. Mary has also started a Facebook group called Caregivers for Compromise as a way to influence the process of reopening communities in Florida and other states. It is a positive response and a way to support change in the visitation procedures while maintaining safety.

Happy Medium

It should not take a family member taking on a job in a community to see a loved one. Family members are essential to every resident’s wellbeing, and there must be a way to enable safe visits that mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Calling Attention to Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention

Elder abuse is a growing concern as our population ages and lives longer.

The National Institute on Aging states, “abuse can happen to anyone—no matter the person’s age, sex, race, religion, or ethnic or cultural background.  Hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited each year. This is called elder abuse.”

  • Emotional abuse includes yelling, threatening, or saying hurtful words.
  • Neglect includes leaving a senior alone without properly planning for care or ignoring requests for help.
  • Financial abuse includes misappropriating funds or stealing belongings.

Abuse is a willful act with the intention to harm.  Indeed, we must be diligent to not excuse or look the other way regarding abusive actions towards frail elders.   A complete list of the forms of abuse can be found here. 

Risk Factors

Caregiving refers to attending to another person’s health
needs.

Approximately 82% of the care for frail older adults is furnished by family members, and 18% by paid professionals.   By and large, these numbers represent that the bulk of care for elders is provided in private homes.

Caregivers experience high levels of stress due in part to a long duration of disability and dependence.  In addition, a  leading risk factor for elder abuse is inadequate preparation or training for caregiving responsibilities.  A lack of training and education for caregivers contributes to feelings of frustration and even anger.  Without a doubt,  stress for family and professional caregivers is a growing concern as the population ages.

Furthermore, Americans over the age of 85 have a 33% chance of affliction with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Sadly, elders living with dementia are at an even higher risk of abuse due to cognitive impairment and memory loss.  Consequently, this leaves many elders at risk as the U.S extends longevity.

Prevention

  • Educate yourself and others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.
  • Understand the effects of dementia and how it makes a person more vulnerable to abuse.
  • Seek support if you are a professional or family caregiver. Coping resources are available.
  • Understand your limits and recognize the signs of stress.
  • Protect financial resources early on.

As the U.S population ages and becomes more diverse, focused attention on elder abuse prevention is critical.   For this reason, public and private enterprise programs are essential.

To that end, The AGE-u-cate Training Institute is awarding a Compassionate Touch Certified Community training to one Assisted Living, Memory Care, Nursing Home, Home Care, or Hospice Agency in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  On this occasion,  51 organizations will have a powerful tool to combat the stress-infused isolation crisis that is happening in elder care nationwide.

The online application process is simple and the form along with more information can be found at  https://ageucate.com/index.php?main_page=touching_moments.

In conclusion, please take a moment to apply and join the fight against elder abuse.

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.  In addition, she is an instructor at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Broken Heart Syndrome: Another Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As if life could not get worse. A recent study suggests more people are suffering with stress cardiomyopathy during this COVID-19 pandemic. Stress cardiomyopathy is also called broken heart syndrome.

SYMPTOMS OF BROKEN HEART SYNDROME

Symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack. There is chest pain and shortness of breath. Low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat are other symptoms. There are not usually any blocked arteries.

CAUSES

The causes of stress cardiomyopathy are not fully known. However, stressful events can cause broken heart syndrome. As a result, a person can be affected in both their body and heart.

The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously stressful. Additional stress comes from restricting visitors in nursing homes.  Stress also comes from changes in residents’ routines and activities.  Residents are experiencing increased stress. Direct care workers are also dealing with their own stress, their residents’ stress, and family members’ stress.

ESSENTIAL AND NONESSENTIAL

At this time, only essential workers are allowed access into the nursing home. Why are family members not considered essential? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is starting to allow nonessential personnel into nursing homes, under specific guidelines. What about family members, friends, and other loved ones? Safety is important. Unfortunately, safety does not always ensure wellness or wellbeing.

Allowing family members to visit, either as essential or nonessential personnel,  can improve the wellbeing of direct care workers and staff. It gives them a break from needing to support the entirety of each resident’s emotional needs. It also helps the residents feel less isolated and stressed.

Balancing safety against wellbeing is a challenge. Until we support residents’ health, safety, and wellbeing, we will see the illbeing and other negative effects continue even after this COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is a Grant Manager at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com