Tag Archives: compassionate touch

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.

The Healing Power of Touch. Why are we Depriving our Elders?

It the first sense to develop in the womb and one of the last ones to go during the dying process.

It is one of our most fundamental human needs.  It remains for a lifetime.

As we experience decline of the body or mind due to aging or illness, the need for human touch may be accentuated in the search for reassurance,  comfort, and connection.

Is Touch Deprivation Real?

Touch deprivation in old age is very real, especially for the medically frail elder, persons living with dementia, and older adults living alone.  Despite their need for touch and being especially receptive to touch, they are often the least likely to receive healing or expressive touch from health care providers or family members.  Studies have confirmed that nursing students have been shown to experience anxiety about touching older adults.  This anxiety, along with demands on staff time and duties, lack of training on distinguishing the differences between effective and ineffective touch, and simply society’s fear of touching ill and frail elders has led to wide-spread touch deprivation in our aging adult population.

Touch deprivation leads to feelings of isolation, anxiety, poor trust in caregivers, insecurity and decreased sensory awareness.  These kinds of distress can lead to behavioral responses or expression.

“It is well known in professional circles that young nursing students tend to avoid touching elderly patients, and especially the acutely ill…touching as a therapeutic event is not as simple as a mechanical procedure or a drug, because it is, above all, an act of communication….the use of touch and physical closeness may be the most important way to communicate to acutely ill (and aged) persons that they are important as human beings.” 

-Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

Physiological Effects of Touch

Healing, compassionate touch tilts a person’s response away from stress towards well-being.

Touch stimulates the production of oxytocin, a chemical in our brain that leads to feelings of closeness and security.  When oxytocin is released, feelings of safety, caring, trust and decreased anxiety take place in a person’s body.  Oxytocin has often been referred to as the “care and connection” hormone.  Simply put, when your brain releases oxytocin, you feel good!

At the same that oxytocin is released, another chemical is decreasing when we experience healing touch.  Cortisol is a hormone that increases when we are stressed.  Studies show that cortisol levels decrease after even five minutes of skilled touch.  Apart from the physical relaxation, skilled touch increases our emotional well being.

Is the Tide Changing?  

“The most important innovation in medicine to come in the next 10 years: the power of the human hand.” – Dr. Abraham Verghase

We are witnessing transformational shifts in dementia care across the globe.   No longer is status quo acceptable, as we now understand the importance of person-centered care, the meaning of life enrichment and our responsibility to create moments of joy and purposefulness.

We have the opportunity to get back to the basics of human needs with effective, feasible and transformative tools that are literally in our hands.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and worked with leading Touch expert, Ann Catlin, ORT, LMT in the development of Compassionate Touch® program for eldercare providers, hospitals, practitioners and families.  Pam is a passionate advocate for creating positive change in aging care.  Pam may be reached at pam@AGEucate.com

To learn more about the Compassionate Touch program visit www.AGEucate.com

 

Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s – the Challenges of Diagnosis

Research confirms that by the age of 40, almost 100% of persons with Down syndrome who die have changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Understanding this link and the challenges of a diagnosis of AD in persons with Down syndrome is important for families and healthcare professionals.

Down Syndrome occurs when a person has three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the normal two copies.  Studies show that one of the main genes responsible for AD is on the 21st chromosome and is more active in persons with Down syndrome.  Because of this extra copy of the Alzheimer gene, virtually 100% of people with Down syndrome will develop the plaques and tangles in the brain associated with AD, but not necessarily the same memory loss.  Although research is not complete, it is estimated that about 50% of persons with Down syndrome will develop the characteristic memory problems of AD before age 50.

Testing for AD in persons with Down syndrome is often challenging.  Diagnosis of AD is difficult for a number of reasons:

  • Persons with Down syndrome are susceptible to hypothyroidism and depression, which are both reversible conditions but often go untreated and can be mistaken for AD.
  • Side effects of medications taken for either of these conditions can also mimic AD.
  • Normal AD skills testing are often not applicable for persons with Down syndrome simply because of learning differences.
  • Communication skills of persons with Downs syndrome may affect the results of assessment testing.

Families need to watch for signs of AD, especially as their loved one reaches middle age years.  Diagnosis is important, but also education, resources, and support are especially critical for care partners.  Learning to better respond to surprising new behaviors will prepare families for AD symptoms, such as changes in judgment,  processing speed, memory recall, to name a few.

Care partners, either family or professionals, need to have access to new communication tools, understand that care processes will need to be adjusted as well as home or residential changes to their living environment.  Staff and family training will help care partners better serve their residents and loved ones.

Person-centered care approaches to help persons with Down’s syndrome who have developed AD is key to maintaining a loving, trusting environment, where they feel loved, valued and are treated as individuals.

Pam Brandon is President and Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for culture change, improving the quality of life of aging adults, and transformative training for professional and family care partners.  She is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live® simulation experience and collaborated with expert Ann Catlin on the transformational Compassionate Touch® training.  

References:

http://Dementia.org.au

Home

Is it Delirium or Dementia – Learn the Differences

Delirium is an acute disorder of attention and global cognition, including perception and memory, and is treatable.  Learning the differences between delirium and dementia is important for professional and family caregivers, as the diagnosis is missed in more than 50% of the cases.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.

Persons who have dementia are at an increased risk of delirium, however, it is important to learn the differences.  Risk factors for delirium include dementia, pre-existing brain disease, medications, and age.

Delirium has serious implications for older adults, especially those who are at higher risks.  Sometimes referred to as hospital delirium or post-operative confusion, dementia-like symptoms can be alarming to families and often misdiagnosed by healthcare professionals.

Patients who experience hospital or post-operative dementia may exhibit symptoms such as agitation, experience hallucinations or delusions, and often extreme confusion.  Conversely, they may become extremely quiet.  Often this is accompanied by a rapid decline in one’s mental state.

Older adult patients in hospitals or in rehabilitation facilities who have undergone surgery, had an infection, experienced trauma, or spent time in ICU are more vulnerable to experiencing delirium.

Examples of delirium causes (or aggravators) may be untreated pain, dehydration,  constipation, fear, and anxiety of a changed environment (such as a hospital setting).   Unfortunately, delirium can be aggravated even more in older adults that are hospitalized, then moved to a skilled nursing facility, where they may be at higher risks of infection and other health complications.

Families must be diligent to note any changes in mental state and discuss these immediately with healthcare professionals.  Because families will be more familiar with their loved ones’ “normal” state (whether that includes any level of pre-existing dementia or not), sharing a baseline of that person’s behavior is important to determine changes that are not normal.

Non-pharmacological management of delirium should be the first approach in treatment.  This may include having someone sit with the person to aid in helping him/her feel secure, utilizing soft music and touch to provide reassurance and calm.  Bring in photographs of loved ones or special memories that may help the person divert attention from strange or new surroundings.

Families should always discuss non-pharmacological treatment before a loved one is administered medications.  If they have had any drug previously for such conditions, such as antipsychotic or sleeping aids and their loved one has had an adverse reaction, be sure to let healthcare professionals know this.  Your goal is to avoid aggravating the condition and potential side effects of withdrawal.

While dementia and delirium differ, it is important to note that behaviors may be similar and that proper communications tools for care partners will prove critical in responding to their unmet needs and determining a safe treatment plan with the best outcomes possible.

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 recognized Dementia Live® Simulation Experience and co-developer of Compassionate Touch® training for professional and family caregivers.   Pam may be contacted at pam@AGEucate.com.

References:

Johns Hopkins Medicine

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gec/series/dementia.html#delirium