Family members and professionals alike struggle with how to interact with a person living with the bewildering condition of dementia. As a caregiver, it’s easy to forget that this person can often answer and follow much more of a conversation than given credit for.
These are two “magic phrases” that many times will get the person’s attention and foster meaningful interaction: “Would you help me with this?” and “I need your help”. Individuals still long for a sense of purpose and when engaged in this way, he/she indeed feels that they are still a part of things.
We all feel valued and respected when asked to give advice or to help with something. As a caregiver, we feel we matter. The same is still true for people with dementia. Although the advice or help may or may not be quite on track, they will notice that we asked and are willing to listen to them. The same feelings of value and respect remain.
Actually, more times than not, I’m surprised by the response that tells me the person not only knows what I’m talking about, but offers spot–on insight. I saw this first-hand when I recently visited my brother who has mid stage dementia. I was lamenting, mostly to myself, that I will be turning 60. I said, out loud, “Sixty! How did this happen?” Without missing a beat my brother replied, “Well, we grow older every year and wiser and then it just comes around to that.” I was shocked and it made me smile. I was given a reminder that he was still with me.
So, next time you are at a loss for how to connect, you might say, “Tell me your thoughts on…” (Recipes, a favorite season, songs, politics, or anything about just plain life). See what gems, humor, and stories you discover. The person with dementia will thank you for it.
I use the term inside-out a LOT. It just seems to fit many descriptives for me. I also like transformative change. When you look at these together, I believe that so much of what we are doing as educators in the elder care field should be focused on helping organizations bring about inside-out changes that lead to transformation or deep culture change. I love the work being done through such organizations at Pioneer Network, Leading Age, Eden Alternative and so many others that have stepped up to create out of the box initiatives and thinking. It’s not an easy task, but I’m privileged to be a part of this movement and work alongside organizations across the country who are taking bold steps in person-centered care. It’s exciting, challenging, sometimes daunting – but the efforts of just one person can have exponential effects across an organization. Hats off to all of those who are blazing new trails!
Touch. Imagine not being touched. Imagine for a whole day no one touches you in any way. Imagine no one shakes your hand, pats your arm, gives you a hug, or clasps your shoulder. Now imagine that for a whole week, a month, a year.
People of advanced age can experience this lack of touch – the children are grown and may live far away and their partner may have died. People living with dementia are especially prone to physical contact deprivation leading to a feeling of isolation and depression and ofttimes agitation with them selves due to frustration and apathy. Continue reading
Our work is fascinating, isn’t it? I find the senior care industry to be filled with people with passion and compassion. So many are just like me, coming to this field because of a personal experience in helping an older adult in their life. I love helping caregivers with challenges, and I believe deeply in the value of education. With caregiving, that’s a big bite – because there is so much to learn. And we should all look at this from the standpoint of the often over used phrase “It takes a Village”, shouldn’t we? I find it quite amazing to observe the “feel” for a senior care community. Beyond the fancy décor, and new impressive buildings, what matters is the care that is provided. When you have both, it’s an added bonus, but certainly the passion and compassion of the team that takes care of your precious loved one is the most important – it is what’s on the inside. Continue reading