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.
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.
What is it about skilled touch that decreases distress for those living with dementia that can lead to behavioral symptoms? Common responses include decreased aches and pains; sensory stimulation resulting in increased body awareness; relaxation; aids sleep; decreased feelings of loneliness; uplifted mood.
The following is an excerpt from The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Slow-stroke Back Massage and Hand Massage on Relaxation in Older People (2010) Melodee Harris and Kathy C Richards, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19, 917–926
“In recent years, the nursing profession used technology and pharmacology to relieve conditions such as pain, anxiety and insomnia that were once treated with massage. However, interest in massage has grown with the move to more holistic nursing. This review examines the physiological and psychological effects of slow-stroke back massage and hand massage on relaxation in older people and identifies effective protocols for massage in older people.
Outcomes on psychological indicators are consistent with strong physiological indicators for slow-stroke back massage on relaxation in older people. Statistically significant results and improvements for physiological and psychological indicators are associated with decreasing agitation and promoting relaxation using hand massage in older people. Stronger correlations were found between slow-stroke back massage and psychological responses in older people. The effects of massage for reducing anxiety and increasing relaxation were recurring themes suggesting that slow stroke back massage reduces psychological stress. The studies on hand massage reported a consistent reduction in verbal aggression and non-aggressive behaviour in persons with dementia.”
Hand massage and slow-stroke back massage are a part of the Compassionate Touch® program. Care-partners of all kinds can learn to use touch in a focused way to increase quality of life for those living with dementia.