Tag Archives: Senior Care

How to Prevent People in Nursing Homes from Becoming Invisible?

People in care can often feel invisible.

People living in nursing homes become “invisible” when they are regarded as feeble-minded and lacking in the ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

I once met a man named Frank, who lived in a skilled nursing facility, and his memory still haunts me. I noticed him because he wasn’t particularly old, and he was tall and muscular. He was sitting in a corner in the hallway near the nurses’ station. By his appearance, it seemed he had suffered a stroke.   The following day I noticed Frank sitting in the same spot– for hours, just sitting there.  He had no real interaction with anyone and pushed restlessly on the wheelchair footrests. He couldn’t propel the wheelchair himself. Lots of people passed by, but no one paid him much mind. To me, he seemed lonely, frustrated, and, yes, invisible.

I felt drawn to offer him a Compassionate Touch. I pulled up a chair introducing myself. He immediately looked me in the eye. He had trouble with language, but he could, with effort, carry on a conversation. A Vietnam veteran, Frank grew up in Illinois. He believed his age to be 37, moreover, other signs of confusion were there, too.  I held his stroke-affected hand. He was receptive to the touch. I gently rubbed his shoulders and back, and he told me it felt good.

At the end of our time together I asked him if he would like to sit somewhere else. He pointed to a spot about six feet away that was near a table, so, I maneuvered his wheelchair around so he could reach the table with his hands. He reached out took hold of a newspaper, and proceeded to read it. He engaged in something purposeful.  The restlessness stopped.   As I left, he said, “thank you for stopping.”

Frank still haunts me. He likely sat in that same corner spot the next day, invisible again. So, how do we prevent people like Frank from becoming “invisible”? In closing, Alisoun Milne, a gerontology academic in the UK, tells us, “There is evidence that well-trained staff can build up relationships with residents that help to reduce reliance on medication and the need for acute medical care. Because the more you know about the person in that chair, the more likely you are to see them as rounded human beings, and the less risk there is of neglect.”

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Would Maslow Say?

Human needs remain intact regardless of age, situation, or condition.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who taught that survival needs must come before social or spiritual needs. Alzheimer’s disease impacts all these needs, for instance, as in a woman named Faye.

The need for physical survival. Faye relied on caregivers to assist with physical needs. 

The need to have personal security and to feel safe.  Faye didn’t recall recent events, so she didn’t realize where she was. Memories of past experience faded.

The need for a sense of belonging and connection to others. Faye had been active in her church.  The move to a nursing home separated her from familiar people and consequently became withdrawn and anxious.

The need to express feelings and have them acknowledged.  Alzheimer’s decreases a person’s ability to express thoughts. Faye was frustrated because care-partners didn’t understand her.

The need to give to others and to be treated with respect.  We all need to feel useful. We thrive with mutual understanding and respect.  However, people with Alzheimer’s may believe they have nothing to contribute.

The need for a sense of self and a connection to spirit. Many assume that Alzheimer’s robs people of their identity.  Although memory and cognition become impaired, it appears that the person living with dementia seems to retain a sense of self—the essence of who he or she is.

In conclusion, understanding human needs may help us to be a little more empathetic with people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Can Computer Access in Long Term Care Improve Quality of Life?

The importance of computer access for people living in long term care facilities is on the rise.  As the number of seniors using technology increases, so will use of personal computers, smart phones, tablets and social media no matter where they live. One study found that among people 65 and older:

  • Four-in-ten  own smartphones.
  • 67% have internet access in their homes.
  • 32% own tablet computers.
  • 34% use social media regularly.

Those numbers will likely increase as baby boomers age.  Anyone working in senior services see instances where technology access enhances quality of life.

I once volunteered at the Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska,  along the Platte River. Thousands of Sand Hill Cranes gather there on their way north.  People from around the world visit to witness this spectacle.  I was given the task of operating what is called the Crane Cam.  It is a remote camera on the river. Its images are sent to the web through the National Geographic website.  While operating the camera, a couple approached.  I explained how it all worked. The woman said her mother was in a nursing home in another state. She  has been an avid bird and visited the sanctuary several times. However, now that she is in a facility she could no longer bird watch. Her daughter had recently set up a computer in her mother’s room .  Her mother could now look in on the Cranes via the internet!

A man I provided Compassionate Touch sessions to for several years used a PC to write poetry and letters to his family. He was a successful business man in his career. His desk and computer helped retain part of his identity that was important to him.

A young man with cerebral palsy who lives in a facility regularly plays games and records music on his PC . Sounds like a typical 20 year old, doesn’t it?.  His keyboard is modified compensating for his poor coordination, therefore he manages  independently.

I think we will see more individuals in facility care with personal computers.  It might serve to lessen the feelings of isolation and boredom that plague so many who must reside in long term care.

What are your thoughts about the link between technology and quality of life for those in facility care?

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Grief, Guilt, and Anxiety – How We can Help Caregivers

As a long time family caregiver and professional in this field, I can tell you that the myriad of emotions that caregivers face on a daily basis is complex and ever-changing.  That said, grief, guilt, and anxiety are certainly at the top of the list.   How can we, as professionals in this field, better understand family needs and partner alongside them on this difficult journey?

Let’s talk first about the emotions that family members experience in deciding to move their loved one into assisted living or another level of care.  First, families are often focusing a tremendous amount of attention on helping their loved one cope.  This can be overwhelming in itself, and certainly where the grief, guilt, and anxiety begin to kick in.  Grief may be the sadness of realizing that their loved ones are aging.  If there is chronic or serious illness, anticipatory grief might be the realization that death is in the foreseeable future.  If a loved one is living with dementia, grief is felt over the loss of who that person once was.

Families, especially primary caregivers live with guilt.  I often tell caregivers this is an added benefit of the job.  Often second-guessing decisions,  caregivers tend to be overly sensitive to their loved one’s own emotions.  At the same time, juggling family, job responsibilities, and caregiving duties can leave a person feeling like they are not doing a good job in any of those areas.  When guilt piles up, it often spills to feelings of unfounded fear and doubt.

Anxiety, like grief and guilt, can be caused by and can cause a snowball of other emotions.  When a family member is the one “in charge” of taking care of the many tasks associated with moving their loved one to a care facility, anxiety kicks in quite easily.  What often happens is that when one is under stress, rational decision making sometimes goes out the window.

It’s important that as professionals we assure families that, as hard as this process is, it is normal to feel these emotions.  Helping them with resources (movers, real estate professionals, support groups, etc. can ease some of the burdens and also provide a network of people who are experienced and trusted).

While family members, especially primary caregivers are learning, most have not walked this path before.

If there is one piece of advice that professionals need to remember it is that families know far less about the complex world of caregiving, levels of care, chronic illness, Alzheimer’s and other dementia, legal and financial planning and dealing with stress and burnout – than we expect them to!  This is not to diminish the admirable responsibilities that caregivers take on.  There is just so much to learn.  I was years into caregiving myself before I even realized what I needed to know – and then under stress, I’d forget the things I did learn!

Professionals can be a much-needed gentle guide through this process.  Here are a few tips that may benefit the family:

  1.  Give them a checklist of things to do before their loved one moves.  This list may include what to bring in the way of furniture, clothing and personal items.
  2. Invite them for lunch and go over the list and any concerns.  This is a good time to get to know a bit more about their future resident, but also the relationships of the family.
  3. Assure the family that as difficult as this time is, it will get easier and that staff is there to ease the transition for everyone.
  4. Make sure the family feels comfortable with the staff that will be most involved in the initial move and transitioning their loved one.  Knowing and discussing any questions upfront will save day-of moving confusion.
  5. Encourage the family to give their loved one a few days to settle in.  They will benefit by the break, and many times it helps the new resident get acclimated to their new home.

A smile goes a long way, a hug calms fears, and humor eases tension.  

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.