Posts Tagged ‘caregivers’

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Loved Ones who Live with Dementia

Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday that carries many memories and not a little nostalgia for the past.

I remember riding in our family car with my sisters to visit Grandparents for Thanksgiving, and singing “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go!”  It’s a warm memory, infused with laughter and excitement.

Memories are at the heart of this holiday, which is focused on gratitude.

This year for Thanksgiving, you may want to consider a shift in your traditional way of looking at your Loved One who is living with dementia, and the ways they contribute to your family.

Consider your Elder’s strengths, and the gifts they offer, and actively express your Gratitude for them.

Instead of just remembering with sadness the grand meals your Elder used to make, be sure to experience gratitude for the memories, the recipes, and the ways your Loved One contributes to this years’ experience.  It will give her great pleasure to “teach” her favorite dishes to the younger set, and to help at whatever level she can and in a way that ensures success.

Autumn Tree SunsetInstead of focusing on illness, have the family create a list of gifts your Elder has given over the years and continues to give.  For example, a grandchild might write “I am grateful for the way Grandma has helped me with college, and for her encouragement in my studies.”

Share this list with the Elder in a packet of notes, so she can refer back to them.  This will make the moment last!

Focus on Laughter; it’s the greatest gift we can share among family and friends.

Consider a smaller group to cut down on noise and confusion for your Loved One.  Your Elder’s strength might now be to enjoy more intimate gatherings.

Provide a place for the Elder to step back and rest whenever she feels the need.  This might be a comfortable room where she can nap, or a second living space, such as a family room or den, located away from the bustle of dinner preparations or rowdy football games.

Remember the other care partners in your Elder’s life, and show your gratitude for them.  A card of thanks is a valuable gift to home health aides or the neighbor who keeps the walks cleared in the winter.

Stimulate memories and conversations by starting a story with, “I remember when we (did such and such…) It was always fun to be with the cousins,” instead of asking the Elder “do you remember…?”  The former is more likely to generate shared stories, while the latter can lead to frustration and increased confusion.

Seat your Elder next to someone who knows them well and is patient and kind.  They can watch for needs the Elder may have difficulty expressing, such as “pass the rolls, please!” or “may I be excused from the table.”  They can slow the conversation down so the Elder can participate.  Sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed.

Perhaps different family members can take turns attending closely to Grandmother or Grandfather, 30 minutes or an hour at a time.  This ensures that no one feels left out of that rowdy football game!

Some family holidays are day-long affairs.  Is this what works best for your older Loved One now, or should she come for the part of the day that is most meaningful and manageable for her?

Speaking of “meaning,” a guideline to help you decide what and how much to do for the holiday should be to ask what is meaningful for you, your Elder, and your family.  Stretching yourself to do extra cleaning or make everything from scratch might leave you feeling too tired to enjoy the gathering.

Where can you cut back on work, or delegate tasks, while keeping the most meaningful parts of your time together intact?  Is there a ritual your family does for Thanksgiving that you want to honor?  Figure out how your Elder can participate easily.

For example, a family who has always had each member read a verse or passage at the table might shift the custom to showcase the teens or the younger kids.  If your Elder’s reading is good, but recall is poor, she may be OK with reading something rather than reciting from memory.

What ideas do YOU have for enjoying Thanksgiving with your family, and for adapting to the needs of a Loved One who is living with dementia?

Please share your comments below, and have a Blessed Holiday.

Eden at Home Trainer Certification Workshop: September 25-27, 2010

Coming to Pennsylvania!

EDEN at HOME

Creating Quality of Life for Care Partner Teams

Training Certification Workshop

Host: Community LIFE

702 Second Avenue, Tarentum, PA

September 25-27, 2010

Eden at Home Educator: Lisa A. Kendall, LCSW-R, CSW-G

Register NOW!  Space is Limited

 

Working together, empowered care partner teams help to ensure the independence, dignity, and continued growth and development of our Elder care partners and each other. 

What does EAH Trainer Certification offer?

After training, Certified Trainers inspire care partners, both within their organization and out in the community, to:

  • Reframe perceptions of aging and disability
  • Work together to reduce stress & burnout
  • Build strategies on strengths, rather than limitations
  • Develop meaningful connections with each other
  • Create opportunities for all to give as well as receive
  • Communicate effectively & thoughtfully       
  • Share joy, hope, wisdom, spontaneity, & respect
  • Prevent loneliness, helplessness, & boredom for all on the care partner team

To learn more about Eden at Home, join us for a free informational webinar: 

September 14th

Click HERE to register 

 

Who may want an EAH Certified Trainer on staff?

Non-profit organizations, state agencies, home health organizations, faith-based organizations, Area Agencies on Aging, hospitals, hospices, senior centers, care management, adult day services, independent living communities, and long-term care organizations with home health outreach or an interest in supporting ongoing needs after rehabilitation.

 What is the workshop cost?

Early Bird:      $385 per person until Sept. 14, 2010

Group:           $360 for multiple attendees from same organization

Regular Fee:  $435 per person, after Early Bird deadline

 

Fees cover 3 days of training, our scripted EAH Trainer’s Guide, additional reference materials, and food.

 

Questions?  Contact Meredith Burrus at education@edenalt.org

 

*** CEUs available with the National Association of Social Workers and National Association of Boards ***

 

Register HERE or by calling 512-847-6061

Rural Gold

Photo by Rory Martin via Flickr

Do you have a Caregiver Backup Plan?

Mary (not her real name) had only left the house to make a quick run to the drug store.  She didn’t like to leave her bed-bound husband alone, but on this rare occasion felt he would be OK for the ten minutes it would take her to pick up the prescriptions and get back to him.

Then someone rear-ended her car.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/

Photo by David Fulmer via Flickr

Mary didn’t think she was hurt, but she had to be taken to the local hospital to make sure there were no serious injuries to her neck or back.  From her stretcher Mary was able to let the Paramedics know about her husband, and a call was made to her neighbor, who quickly went to his side and remained for the five hours Mary waited in the local Emergency Room to be assessed and released.

Mary realized she was lucky this time, and that she needed to make a comprehensive plan for her husband’s care should something happen to her, whether a bout of flu, a fall in the house, a loss of consciousness while away from home, or her unexpected death.

The love, care, and hard work Family Care Partners do is so important it can be hard to think about the possibility of something happening to you and your ability to care for your loved one.  It’s because your job is so important that you must plan now to have a back-up plan for your illness, disability, or even unexpected death.

You can get assistance with this kind of planning from a Geriatric Care Manager, someone who is skilled at assessment and who could even step in to support you and your loved one in the event of an emergency. 

You can find a Geriatric Care Manager in your area through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

Make your back-up plan today; please Take Care and Take Action!

When is a Crutch not a Crutch?

In our culture, we shrink from signs of weakness or disability, preferring to see ourselves and each other as strong and capable.

Often, the very tools that might keep us independent, such as a cane or walker, are refused because they seem to represent frailty.  In reality, these assistive devices can make walking safer and prevent falls, allowing the greatest possible independence!

I was thinking about how hard it is for many Elders to accept the need for a walker or cane, or even the use of a wheelchair for trips out and about, and how troubling it is that our society has such strong prejudices about the use of such devices.

Then I realized that I have held the same deep biases about self-care and doing the things I need to do to stay healthy and strong.

As a health care professional, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to practice what I preach about taking good care of my mind, body and spirit, or I won’t be able to care for my family, clients, and friends.

Photo by Nick J Webb via Flickr

  • Have you ever felt guilty about getting a massage, considering it a luxury rather than part of your stress management strategy?   
  • Do you take time to plan and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals?
  • Are you getting regular, enjoyable exercise?
  • Do you have hobbies outside of work or caregiving that delight and inspire you?

These things are not “crutches,” they are important tools to keep you healthy and strong and able to stay in service.  Give them the priority they (and you!) deserve, and schedule time for them in ink on your calendar.

We’ll continue to talk about this, because too many professional care partners and family caregivers are suffering from over-load and are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Please write me a comment (below) to let me know what you will do to take care of your SELF this week!

Will Oprah Embrace Aging? Will you?

Have you ever thought about Aging as a good thing? 

We tend to think about Elderhood as a period of decline and loss, but Dr. Bill Thomas, co-founder of the “Eden Alternative” philosophy of care, has worked for years and all around the world to bring a new message about the gifts of Aging and Elderhood.

Elders and the people who care for them have a voice, but it is often not heard in a culture that values youth, productivity, and physical strength.

Listen to Dr. Thomas and his message for Oprah, then check out the beautiful videos that many ordinary people have posted to YouTube to honor the Elders in their lives! 

Let me know what you think — can we embrace Aging and change the culture of care together?

"It's Just Stress"

It’s time to look more deeply into the very real impact of prolonged or severe stress on our physical and emotional health. If you have been caring for an ill Elder or other loved one, you are especially vulnerable to caregiver stress, which studies show can lead to depression or make you more prone to a range of chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Read the rest of this entry »

Mandalas for Elder Caregiver Stress?

by Felipe Venâncio via Flickr

A few years ago I was preparing for surgery, and a therapist colleague suggested I get some Mandala coloring books to color during my recovery.

Mandalas are circular designs, often associated with Hindu or Buddhist meditation, and the designs can be quite intricate.  Once I started looking, I realized that many cultures from around the world have beautiful circular designs connected with their spiritual practices.

I was especially drawn to the more complex designs, and found that I felt serene and my mind seemed to calm while I filled in the tiny spaces with colored pencils, and it was also an easy, no-mess project to set aside if I got tired.

Once back at my caregiver counseling job, I started suggesting the idea to family members who often struggled to find ways to relax during their stressful days.  Several were very intrigued with the idea and immediately recalled long-unused art supplies or neglected coloring books already on-hand.

If you are taking care of an older or ill loved one, or are just looking for a way to calm your mind in the midst of a hectic day, try coloring Mandalas.  You can find the books through your local bookseller, local arts & crafts store, or print some pages online for free at  http://www.coloringcastle.com/mandala_coloring_pages.html

Let me know if this works for you, too!

Stormy Weather

A lady at the garage told me there was a tornado warning in our area this morning, a rare thing in Ithaca.  I couldn’t confirm it, although we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon.  It reminded me of another July day several years ago when a summer storm took down about a third of the huge, beautiful maple tree that graces our side yard, breaking our hearts, but thankfully, not our cars or our necks.

The same storm had blown over a favorite flowering tree in a neighbor’s farmyard.  She and her husband had lived on their property their entire married life, raising cows, pigs, children, and grandchildren.  Now Jean* was the full-time caregiver for Bob,* whose stroke left him in bed and unable to care for himself.

Whenever I visited, Jean lamented the loss of her tree, talking about how strong it had been, how tall, how sturdy.  She just couldn’t believe it was gone, uprooted by the summer wind.  Her grief for the tree continued; she mentioned it every time I called, and seemed unable to get over it.

Jean was a doting wife and meticulous care partner for Bob, and it was clear she was as madly in love with him as the day she met and married him.  Bob was often confused, but always liked to flirt with female visitors, and in his occasional confusion would tell me that he’d been out cutting wood that day, or tending to the pigs.  In his mind he was as strong and as busy as ever. 

One day I watched Bob lying in his bed and Jean hovering over him, adjusting his blankets and teasing him. 

It was in that moment that I realized I was looking at the Great Tree on the farm, the one that had been felled, and for whom Jean was grieving in the deepest, most hidden part of her heart.

*All names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect privacy.  Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker who works with Elders and their Care Partners, and is an Eden at Home Educator.

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