Tag Archives: compassionate touch

Careers in Aging – Proactive Approaches to the Looming Crisis

March 3 -7 is Careers in Aging Week and an appropriate time to talk about the importance of this topic.  No longer are the shortages of direct care staff and others in long term care a subject of the future.  The crisis is looming and it is serious.

The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to grow to 98 million by 2060, more than double the number we had in 2016.  According to the Population Reference Bureau, between 2020 – 2030, the number of older adults in America will grow by 18 million as the youngest baby boomers hit 65.

Like me, the baby boomers that are marching forward are asking ourselves, “Who will take care of me?”  While families have and will be forced to take on the caregiving tasks for their loved ones, it simply is not the answer or reality for many Americans.   Boomers and GenXers are working,  families are not geographically close enough to take on the role of primary caregivers, the numbers of widows and widowers are growing and many elderly are childless.

According to Government statisticians, home care is one of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations, with an additional million workers needed by 2026!  That is an increase of 50% from 2014.

Without pouring through any more statistics,  growing careers in aging is no longer an option – it must become a priority that starts with our government leaders and is embraced by stakeholders across the spectrum.  It is not a US-only challenge – it is a worldwide crisis that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Work in long term care, especially direct care workforce has long been associated with low wages, often inconsistent work schedules, limited company benefits, and poor training.  The economic boom has pulled workers from long term care into retail, restaurants, hospitality and other similar businesses that are paying higher wages.  It’s been a catch-22 but the fact that the shortages are colliding with an unprecedented demand is especially frightening.

Without pouring through any more statistics,  growing careers in aging must be a priority that starts with our government leaders and is embraced by stakeholders across the spectrum.  It is not a US-only challenge – it is a worldwide crisis that must be addressed sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately, advocacy and lobbying take many years, of which we simply do not have time to wait.

What are the solutions?   There are not any easy ones, but perhaps looking at what we can do locally to turn the tide is going to result in positive outcomes.  We see our partner providers taking our Dementia Live® training to nursing schools, high school students and even out into communities who are embracing Age-Friendly and Dementia Friendly initiatives.  Raising awareness of the growing elderly population and their needs is huge.  Intergeneration programs among schools and churches and the elderly are setting an early example with children that respecting and taking care of our older adults is our duty.

Building awareness is a grass-roots effort and home-grown.  It means take creative efforts to work with others that include public entities, community-based organizations, political leaders and the private sector.  It means elevating the professional standards for those who choose careers in aging.   Careers in Aging is a field that is extremely rewarding.  We can do a better job of conveying this to our younger generation, and even an older generation who is looking to keep working and giving back.   What better way is there to give back than to serve others.

I’d like to hear what you are doing to bring awareness and educate others in your community!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  You may reach out to Pam at pam@ageucate.com.

Why State Dementia Training Requirements Are Expanding

More than 5.5 million people across the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  As the baby boom generation ages, the numbers are projected to grow at alarming rates.  Although state dementia training requirements vary greatly, overall requirements are expanding for certified nursing assistants, administrators, licensed practical nurses, health aides, personal care assistants and law enforcement and emergency personnel.

People living with dementia are living in a variety of settings – nursing homes, independent and assisted living communities, adult day centers and at home.  Professionals and families provide daily care, but beyond that, the community at large is touched by dementia.  Our police, firefighters, and emergency personnel come in contact with persons living with dementia.  Hospitals are treating more persons with dementia every day.  Social workers, too are helping a growing number of persons with dementia and their families.  Volunteers in a variety of settings are assisting persons with dementia and their families.  the need for dementia training is growing and state requirements are expanding to meeting the demands across the healthcare spectrum.

Until just a few years ago, state dementia training requirements were minimal, with the exception of a few states that were leading the charge, thanks to visionary leaders that saw the when those caring for persons with dementia had little or no training, the quality of care is greatly compromised.

Although states are deciphering best practices in dementia care, as we understand more about the needs of persons with dementia and how to best serve them and their families,  more defined training requirements and being implemented quickly.  Person-centered care practices, when integrated properly, can lead to a transformational change in the quality of care.  Quality dementia training leads to reduced care partner stress and equips caregivers with effective tools to better respond and meet the needs of persons living with dementia.

Improving state training requirements is incredibly important work as we prepare for the fast-growing numbers of people who will be entering long term care.   As we move forward, it is our hope that states are expanding training requirements for those who serve people in all settings, not just those facilities that market themselves as serving individuals living with dementia.  Adult day centers,  assisted living and independent living communities are all seeing a dramatic rise in serving persons with dementia.

When communities train all of their staff who interact with their residents, person-centered culture change is possible.  This includes dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, administrators and others.

And finally, states are looking at programs that are effective, feasible and lead to sustainable change.  This is not easy, as program implementation across large entities requires training providers who are adaptable, understand the needs of that organization, and are equipped to partner with organizations to effect positive change.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® empathy training program and led the development of Compassionate Touch®, a clinically proven skilled touch program for those living with dementia and at end-of-life.  Pam may be contacted at pam@ageucate.com.

 

 

 

Is Stress Reaction a form of Behavioral Expression in Dementia?

Stress Reaction is a term being used more often to describe communication in persons living with dementia.  Behavioral expression, too, is communication.  In a growing number of circles, the term behavioral expression is being replaced by stress reaction simply because behaviors sometimes leans toward being a negative descriptive of how persons with dementia express unmet needs.

Stress reaction is communication that is caused by changes taking place in the brain caused by the progression of dementia.  These changes can cause behaviors such as:

  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Pacing or wandering
  • Withdrawing
  • Resistance to care
  • Crying
  • Yelling

It is important for care partners to understand that stress reaction is always caused by an unmet need.  The most common causes of unmet needs can be categorized in the following areas:

  1.  Physical discomfort – perhaps caused by pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue or other barriers.
  2. Nonsupportive environment – this might include noise, chaos, inadequate lighting, temperature changes or excessive clutter.
  3. Unmet social needs – boredom, lack of sense of purpose, lack of companionship, touch deprivation are some examples.
  4. Ineffective care partnering – examples include unrealistic expectations from caregivers, distrust from either care partner or inappropriate care (care that is not conducive to caring for persons with dementia)

Now that we’ve discussed stress reactions from persons living with dementia, we must then look at stress reactions from caregivers.  Understanding that it is how we as caregivers react to their stress reactions, is a core value of person-centered caring practices.

We cannot control their behavior, but we can control how we respond to their behavior.   Healthy care partnering means we understand that they cannot change what’s going on in their brain.  Their behaviors or stress reactions are a response to unmet needs, and it is the care partner’s responsibility to put the puzzle pieces together to help their care partners meet their unmet needs!

A few basic guidelines for care partners to keep in mind when there is a stress reaction:

Allow adequate space (in other words, step back if necessary)

The rule is always safety first for both care partners

Observe the environment, and what can quickly be changed, such as taking the person from a noisy room to a calm atmosphere

Observe body language and facial expressions, especially if the person is non-verbal.  What might they be trying to express?  And care partners, observe your own body language and expressions, as your stress reaction can either cause the situation to escalate or de-escalate

Watch your tone of voice!  It’s amazing how a calming voice will immediately bring calm to another person.  And just the opposite is true.  If stress reaction is met with similar behavior, it’s almost always a certainty that the outcome will not be positive.

And finally, learn techniques and tools that can prevent stress reactions.  Touch, music, redirection techniques, companion pets or dolls and more can have amazing outcomes and are simple to implement with the correct training.

Pam Brandon is the President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, creator of the Dementia Live® Sensitivity and Empathy Training program and directed the development of Compassionate Touch® for persons living with dementia and end-of-life.  She is a passionate advocate for older adults and those who care for them.

 

 

 

 

Creating a Sustainable Culture of Compassion

I have to be direct in asking – isn’t this every elder care community’s goal?  After all, we should be in the compassion business, and sustainability is the hot topic today.  Creating a sustainable culture of compassion – makes sense right?

As I write this I can see my readers head shaking.  “It would be ideal, however…….”.  And the list starts adding up quickly of all the barriers to creating a sustainable culture of compassion.

Let’s break this down a bit, starting with Creating.  To create is to bring into existence;  to bring about a course of action or behavior;  to produce through imaginative skill.   Creating should be a blend of many and in elder care, that means everyone from our residents, dining staff, front-line caregivers, housekeeping, clinical staff, administrators and right “up the line” to the CEO.  It’s not a top-down mechanical procedure.  We create things and ideas by listening to each other, churning ideas and then embracing it all with passion.

Sustainability if the ability to be maintained;  In elder care, maintaining a high level of care for each resident is critically important.  High levels of satisfaction from residents, families, and staff are benchmarks upon which our business either succeeds or not.  Sustainability takes a strong commitment from leadership and perseverance to maintain standards even when the going gets tough.

 Now we look at a Culture of Compassion.  Wow, now we’re getting to the real meat here.  Compassion is simply empathy and concern for others.  Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a group of people.  It’s a collective whole that creates a certain environment.
Aren’t we in the compassion business?  
Most certainly we are in the compassion business and I believe most of us found our way to senior or elder care because somewhere in our life experiences we found that this caring business is pretty dog-gone important to others and ourselves.
Why, then do we struggle with creating a sustainable culture of compassion?  Are we not looking at the vision we must create as leaders?  Are we not listening enough to those who are really doing the work that makes our business?  And, goodness knows, are we forgetting to listen to the very people who live in our communities?
I believe that creating a sustainable culture of compassion is not only doable but essential.  So many good things will happen when compassion cultures are created and maintained.  It is a domino effect of great leadership, teambuilding, happy residents, staff and families.  It’s getting down to the basics of why we do what we do every single day.
To coin a phrase, Just Do It!
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She led the development of the Compassionate Touch® program.  She may be contacted at pam@AGEucate.com.