Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

A Traffic Jam and A Quarantine: When Will We Be In the Clear?

Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam? Traveling on the road, either for work or vacation, and slowly you start seeing the red tail lights of the cars in front of you. Then, traffic comes to a complete stop. You might have to wait 15 minutes, an hour, or longer. It depends on the accident in front of you.

While you are waiting, you might see a police car or two attempting to pass on the shoulder of the road. There might be a tow truck, an ambulance, and a fire truck that go by. The more of these vehicles you see, the worse the accident ahead. It also means you might be stuck, unable to move, for longer than you thought.

Traffic Jam Continues, Like the Quarantine

A traffic jam seems to be an adequate metaphor for the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. Everyone was going along, until things started slowing down. Before we knew it, we were stopped. We could not see anything ahead, but had a realistic idea of the problem before us. All we can do is wait until we get the all-clear sign. In traffic jams, when the cars in front of you move, you can move. You can only go as fast as the vehicles in front of you.

Right now, we are seeing some movement in our collective traffic jam. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently provided an emergency use authorization to a COVID-19 vaccine. With the first doses to be administered in the near future, it seems we are on a path to slowly moving forward on getting past the quarantine.

Signs of Hope Ahead?

With a traffic jam, you know you are in the clear when you can move at posted speed. With everything that has happened with the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, how will we know we are in the clear?

There are direct care workers and hospital personnel who continue to work long hours. Also, there are people who are without jobs or are underemployed. To make matters worse, there are people in long term care who are lonely, isolated, and have lost loved ones. Simply ending the quarantine may alleviate some of the challenges. It will not address the pain and suffering, the sacrifices, and the trauma caused. To do that, we need to examine how we got here. Also, we need to look at policies and procedures for dealing with this kind of crisis. Most of all, we need to support direct care workers with a living wage and education to support them as they care for older adults.

 

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

COVID Recovery: Rebuilding Human Connections

We can restore human connection and relationships post-COVID by understanding the importance of re-awakening the senses through the simple act of touch.

For nine months, we’ve been under COVID-19’s siege.  People residing in care communities are still confined to their rooms, cared for by overwhelmed team members shielded in protective gear and with no outside visitors.

Most certainly, this is devastating blow to any sense of well-being. Now we’re looking ahead to what changes 2021 may have in store. We may finally see a glimmer of hope as we anticipate our collective recovery from COVID.

Before looking forward, let’s glance at the toll on those the precautions keep safe. We’ve all seen first-hand or heard reports of social isolation and loneliness.

As humans, we all have a deep-rooted need for connection with others. We connect through voice, facial expression, body language, touch. Cut off from this bond, anxiety, depression, futility, decreased function, falls, and worsening dementia may set in. Some frail elders stop eating and wither, losing their desire to live.

Of course, every person is unique. Some are naturally resilient and able to better roll with the changes and find meaning in reading, music, and computer or phone calls.

However,   others don’t have the reserves to carry them through, as we see in elders with advanced dementia or other conditions, placing them more at risk for decline.

Our hats are off to all of you working so hard to try to create a connection. Arranging window or porch visits with families, distanced communal activities, video chats, and more.

Our Way Forward

Although we haven’t turned the corner yet to see the end of COVID, now is the time for conversations about how to open the doors again and rebuild lost human connections.

Going straight from “lockdown” to the “old way” probably isn’t an option. Creativity and flexibility is needed well into 2021.

Perhaps the basics is a good starting point. The senses offer a way to reach through the fog of prolonged isolation.

Compassionate Touch is a universal language of the heart that will help fill the void for elders, families, and the care team alike. Even now, a caring touch on the shoulder or a few kind words will help.

Physical closeness without the barrier of a window will make for better hearing and verbal understanding. And one day ahead, when protective equipment isn’t standard garb, facial expressions will be seen again.

Some states created an “essential caregiver” designation for family members, allowing them to help with care and provide companionship for loved ones.  This is a good step forward.

Regardless of how things unfold in your community, let’s keep the conversation going about how we will navigate the next phase—collective recovery.

These two links have powerful videos about the impact of isolation on elders, families, and care staff.

This Article was written by Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT, founder of Compassionate Touch, a program offered by AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

COVID Recovery: Developing the Next Generation Aging Services Workforce

COVID recovery: Building the next generation of aging services professionals.

Eight months after the start of the pandemic,  Aging Services providers can barely hang on to enough staff to care for their residents.  Emphatically, The Washington Post exclaims that nursing home workers now have the most dangerous jobs in America, and they deserve better.

Pre-COVID, workforce development, and recruitment in Aging Services was a crisis.  Indeed, if there is a level above crisis, we are now there.  Therefore, it is time to plan for COVID recovery and reinvent practically everything about the aging services industry.

An article in The Journal of the American Medical Director’s Association states, “We, as a global society failed our nursing home community, residents, relatives, and staff.”  The article further states that that future recruitment of staff will be an even greater challenge.

With a vaccine glimmer of hope in site,  we need  to construct the next generation of the aging services workforce.

Cultivate a Vital Workforce

AGE-u-cate Training Institute delved into research about best practices to recruit and retain employees.  We are pleased to present the result of our work in this white paper, “REVEAL Aging.

Solutions are needed to elevate the vocation of the aging services workforce.  To that end, we conclude that it starts with a redesign of the education and training curriculum.  Specifically, content redesign and training delivery methods need to reflect the realities of the aging services worker.

The next generation of workers need essential knowledge and skills to care for all elders effectively.  In addition, a clear and achievable career path should be in view, for this will be a recruitment remedy.

In conclusion, it is time to put Humpty Dumpty back together.  But, one could ask if he ever was.  For this reason,  it is time for a new vision for the aging services workforce.

 

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990.  She is the Director of Grants and Consulting Projects and a Certified Master Trainer with AGE-u-cate Training Institute,  and a Certified Dementia Practitioner.  In addition, she is an instructor in Aging Services and Leadership at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Gifts of the Season: The Best Ones Keep On Giving

It happened every year during the holiday season. My classmates and I would dress up in our coats, hats, and gloves, with gifts in hand. We would walk down the street to the nearby nursing home. When we arrived, we were put into a room with residents and staff members.

In that room, we sang songs and handed out our gifts. Mainly, we had bananas, lotion, and socks. It was somewhat terrifying at first, to see people who were in various states of alertness. Some residents were either happy, silent, or appeared angry.

How Are We Now?

It’s been a few years since I went with my classmates to visit that nursing home. In the time since then, I have had two close family members live out their remaining years in a long-term care community. I have also worked with older adults in all phases of activity and health levels.

In that time, I have come to believe and know that all older adults are not the same. As a matter of fact, we become less alike as we age, due to life experiences. We have different strengths, abilities, and interests.

The COVID-19 Policies and Effects

The effects of COVID-19 go beyond social distancing and social isolation. In the policies and procedures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, nursing home residents have been quarantined. Isolating older adults in long term care may keep them protected, but not necessarily healthier. It may be seen as needing to keep older adults isolated and hidden away.

Without having a realistic perspective on aging, it might seem perfectly fine to isolate older adults, with the same treatment for all. The alternative of not implementing safety measures likely seems worse. We should work on remembering and honoring older adults, having a realistic view of their needs, and addressing those needs. Safety should not come at the expense of mental health.

Giving the Gift of Caring

Long term care workers have been working to care for their residents. They have been implementing the COVID-19 protection procedures and policies. They continue to do their best despite seeing the effects. Even when I was visiting residents as part of a class project years ago, it was obvious the direct care workers were caring and supportive. We gave them gifts but the workers helped add life to their days. The workers in long term care these days continue to do that. Let us continue to support both long term care residents and direct care workers as we endure this COVID-19 pandemic.

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