Let’s imagine that you have dementia. What would you miss? What would you forget about that you enjoy? We all forget the details of our lives and often take the little things we enjoy for granted. People living with dementia can rarely seek out enjoyable activities independently and often even forget what used to bring them pleasure. That is unless memory is triggered. Knowing that, how might you activate pleasure linked to past experiences?
One great resource is the small book titled, 14,000 Things to be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. She gives us hundreds of things that make us smile because they conjure up the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of what it’s like to experience them. Dairy farms, fresh flowers, the sound of tap dancing, a camping tent, finger painting, candy apples, the smell and color of fresh fruits, bubble gum, bridges, and puppies are a few examples. You can pick up her book at any bookstore or even thrift stores to prompt memories.
Or, along with elders, come up with your own “Happy Book”. Then think of ways to bring those experiences back again for people living in your community. For example, we put up a tent in the backyard at our community and had a campfire in a small charcoal grill. That changed the whole feel of the backyard; it became a campsite that one family had enjoyed on vacations. The stories shared around that fire were priceless and they would never have relived the time together without the simple trigger of a tent and campfire. From such stories you will find even more things that you can use another time to bring enjoyment to so many people.
I’m not a big fan of reality TV shows. The “supposedly” unscripted real-life situations to me are far from a virtual tour through life. That said, I do find myself entertained from time to time at the subject matter some creative person comes up with to actually create a show. Unbelievable…
I visited with a dear friend recently who has been caring for her sweet mother for many years. Once healthy and mobile, age and illness is slowly taking its toll Painful neuropathy, crippling arthritis and diminishing eyesight have teamed up to challenge her spirit and soul. My friend is tired and I often see glimpses of resentment, despite her deep love, respect and genuine concern for providing the care she deserves. This scenario could easily be a true reality tv show, however the ratings would struggle.
The senior care work force of tomorrow should be at the top of discussion topics for eldercare leaders. Investing in development and retention of great workers, along with competitive wages and benefits is vital. Many areas of the country are already facing critical shortages in front line staff and this trend will no doubt spread quickly as baby boomers need increasing aging services.
The eldercare sphere offers young workers growth in a dynamic field that will continue to open doors of opportunities for decades ahead. Beyond that, it’s critically important that the altruisitc side of the “business” provides avenues to provide purpose in our lives.
Creating forward-thinking workers means creating ways for their voices and ideas to be heard; tools that empower them to grow and flourish as team members in your organization; and lastly to guide them in their path of being the best they can be in the challenging work that they do each and every day.
In his article, The Senior Care Workforce-Raising the Floor of Job Quality, Steven Dawson tell us, “…stakeholders must recalculate their economic self-interest and begin to compete for those workers whom they have heretofore presumed – by making direct care jobs more attractive relative to competing occupations. This can be achieved through higher pay and benefits, predictable hours, better training and greater support.”
Stop, look and listen to those who carry your business mission out every day; build teams of idea makers, and recognize the accomplishments and miracles that take place each and every day by those that work and live alongside your residents, patients, clients or customers.
Invest first and leaders will follow.
It’s no wonder that we have an ever growing quest for simplicity. Not just in our personal lives, but this phrase surrounds many conversations within the business community – especially with those of us in senior care. There is a recurring plea from senior care professionals today with regards to education.. keep it simple. Teach us by showing, because we know that when we learn by doing, we’re going to retain that knowledge.
Why is that teaching those who care for those with dementia often is everything but simple? Dementia (and other cognitive impairment) in older adults is anything but simple. A complex web of identifying and managing symptoms is no easy task from any level within the care spectrum. Yet much of what we teach direct care staff has little to do with these 2 basic needs: Understanding and Empowerment.
“We need tools. We need solutions to behaviors. We need simplicity”. These are words that I hear almost daily as I speak to administrators, memory care directors, marketing staff and clinical professionals.
AGEucate provides such training programs. We provide the tools to understand the plight of dementia, sensory loss, cognitive impairment. Once you understand what an aging person’s life is really like, then here is a tool to empower you to provide better care. To help ease agitation, engage that person with a caregiver or family member. These programs are not complicated, but extremely powerful. Evidenced based programs with the clinical research to back up the methodology and outcomes.
Bring back simple to your communities and see what extraordinary changes will take place in the lives of your residents, patients, staff, caregivers and families. We must all consider the far-reaching consequences of complex medicine in our society today.
Pam Brandon, founder AGEucate LLC, providers of the Virtual Dementia Tour and Compassionate Touch programs.