Protecting the Dignity of the Elderly

elderly

Part of feeling good about ourselves as Caregivers is to know we’re doing a good job. We typically take charge of the health and often emotional needs of our loved ones. We need to see that their dignity is respected, also. It’s easier to do when you live in the same home. But, some people are managing the care of a loved one who lives in an assisted or skilled nursing home. They can’t be there twenty-four hours a day.

Two of the three people I took care of over sixteen years lived in assisted living or dementia care facilities. It’s important to be very familiar with the staff at facilities. The management can be lovely people, yet not aware that a staff person doesn’t understand the needs for your loved one. It’s the Caregivers job to know that there is a good relationship with each of the staff people and the resident around the clock. I’ve been told by management that they really appreciate an involved Caregiver who visits often and takes care of some of the little things that it’s hard for a facility to do. Personal touches that make life more pleasant. And, it’s good that the working staff is aware that they are appreciated for doing a good job. Praising them to management is good. On the flip side, staff is going to be more on their toes if they know the resident is watched over closely.

The way I could tell that the dignity of my father or my friend wasn’t being respected was by their mood and attitude. If they’re unhappy when you arrive, or speak to them on the phone, you need to ask questions. They may have a hard time telling you what’s up because the memory may not be good anymore. They might not remember why they’re sad. But, you can say something like: have you seen Mary (the staff person) this afternoon? Was she here cleaning things up? She seemed like a nice person when I met her. How’s she doing? Between each question, listen carefully. It’s amazing what can come up. You can’t be a drill sergeant, of course, and you can’t believe everything you hear. Depending on the level of dementia, what your loved one tells you may not be accurate. But, there’s a reason they’re sad and you need find out how to fix it. It’s complicated. I’ve seen too many people dismiss a mood by chalking it up to old age. As if the sad person doesn’t count anymore because they’re old. Using good judgement, you can ask the staff person who’s been around that day what they think is going on. They’re used to being accused of a lot of things so you have to take them into your confidence looking for a solution, without accusation. But, if your good instincts see a potential problem, you can make suggestions for fixing the situation and stay on top of it. I think management only needs to be told if it persists and you can’t solve it on your own. Finesse is the key word here.

My dad, who had Parkinson’s Disease, was always a sensitive man. When he cried for no apparent reason when I came in to pick him up one day, I could tell that his feelings had been hurt. He couldn’t speak well anymore so it was like a guessing game to figure out what was causing his sadness. After a few questions I learned that another resident at his table in the dining room was making remarks about him being anti-social. He spoke even less at the table because he was embarrassed by his difficulty. I asked if he would like to move to another table, he perked up and said there was a nice lady that he could sit with. I spoke to management and had him moved. Sadly, they would not have paid close enough attention to his mood to know there was a problem. That’s were we come in.

My father was a man with a certain dignity. He was nearly ninety and couldn’t defend himself anymore. I needed to protect him and his manhood. He had protected me all my young life. When he’d come for a visit and stay with my husband and I over the years, he’d check that every door and window in the house was properly locked before going to bed. He was still making sure I was safe. Now it was my turn to take care of him.

Until soon, I wish you love and fond memories.

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All Things to All People

Adult Daughter Visiting Senior Mother Sitting On Sofa At Home

Ok, fess up. You have a tendency to feel you need to be all things to all people. It’s the curse of the Caregiver. People see you as capable, dependable, and willing to help. So, of course, they look to you when they need answers or help. They’re not going to get rejected by you. And the truth is, you enjoy being a problem solver.

But, it takes it’s toll, doesn’t it? Today, starting now, give yourself permission to think of yourself first, more often. It takes practice. Old habits and your nurturing nature are strong opponents. I know, I’ve been struggling with this myself for many years. But, the older I get, the easier it gets to step back and let things run their course. To not volunteer to get in the middle of other peoples stuff, just because you think you can help. You can be a good listener without getting involved.

Your life and your right to live it is just as important as anyone else’s. The time you spend giving where it’s necessary should be balanced by time you make for yourself in whatever way possible. And the unnecessary time you give away is just robbing yourself and those who really need you.

So what are you going to do for yourself today?

Until soon, I wish you love and some spare time.

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Emotions Can trigger Stop Signs

stop sign

Especially as a Caregiver, we’re involved constantly in other peoples emotional states as well as our own. I’ve found that by taking charge of my own emotions, I give the upset person the space to release their frustration, but no ammunition to continue the fight. So often, what an angry/upset person seems to be saying is not conveying the real problem anyway. And they aren’t necessarily angry at the person they’re taking it out on. Sometimes they’re angry at themselves or life. It’s a waste of valuable energy to get into a struggle with an upset loved one. Saving yourself from the drain of your energy is a gift you can give to yourself.

I play tricks on myself mentally all the time. I have daily “alerts” on my phone that remind me to do things like “take a deep breath” and “Don’t make assumptions.” To keep out of arguments, when I realize trouble is brewing, I visualize a traffic STOP sign, mentally (it appears on the right side in the back of my brain). This STOP sign helps me pause long enough to decide to observe instead of react. It helps me to realize it’s them and not me. I feel sorry that they’re upset and know that the best thing I can do for them is let them get it out. If you listen calmly, you can deal with what they’ve said after they calm down, if it’s important. Otherwise, I find it best just to be understanding.

I know this might sound easier said than done. But, with practice, you’ll get good at it and use it more and more. Just see a STOP sign and take a breath. You’ll disarm the emotional person and gain their respect because they couldn’t rattle you.

Do something nice for yourself today!

Until soon, I wish you love and peace.

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Quieting Your Mind

meditating

Taking the time to sit quietly, with no distraction and with your eyes closed, I’ve found is one of the best things one can do for themselves. I’m not talking about when you’re lying down to rest or before you fall asleep at night. You’re too likely to doze off and lose the benefit. I mean sitting in a comfortable chair with your arms by your side or in your lap, with your chin tucked slightly in so your head is not straight up but comfortably relaxed and just slightly forward. In this position you just do nothing, relax and let your mind go wherever it wants to wonder. You can listen to your breathing and distract yourself from your thoughts if you like. Just concentrate on your breath going calmly in and out through your nose. It’s amazing how restful this can be. Twenty minutes twice a day is ideal I’m told. It creates a calmness inside that Caregivers in particular need to relieve stress. It allows your brain to process pent up energy and release it. It’s something you do for yourself that benefits those around you, as well.

This is how I first started meditating. I had no formal training, yet I found myself able to reach a place of relaxation that I later recognized as the bliss meditators talk about. I didn’t reach the bliss very often back then, but even being close was enough to give me the relaxation I needed to reenergize myself. It helped to distance me from my daily routine for a short time. There would be noises outside and sometimes a fire engine blaring away, but that didn’t interfere with my mental state. I was able to ignore it and appreciate the quiet in my mind.

Later I took training at the Transcendental Meditation Center in Los Angeles. Since then I’ve really come to appreciate and understand much more about the value of meditation. There are many ways to meditate. I meet people who’ve trained in different ways who were seeking various results. The idea is the same. It’s a way to relieve stress and improve our lives.

I highly recommend that you take a few minutes for yourself each day and just sit quietly, breath easily, and relax your mind.

Until soon, I wish you love and relaxation.

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Know What to Expect

ask

It’s very helpful if we know what to expect when we’re Caregivers. Most of us take our loved ones to the doctor, go through the routine of checking them in, getting them weighed, taking note of blood pressure and comments by the doctor. We fill prescriptions and follow-up with the recommended care. What’s missing for us, often, is information on what we can expect in the days, weeks and months ahead.

I remember being uncomfortable asking a doctor what I could expect next, so I didn’t. But, I should have. It would have been very helpful if I had known what to expect next from my husband’s congestive heart failure, or my friend Eve’s Alzheimer’s. By the time I got to taking care of my dad, who had Parkinson’s Disease, I knew what to expect. I’d seen so much and felt comfortable asking for what I needed. A doctor, physician’s assistant, or a hospice nurse isn’t going to give you information you haven’t asked for. They have their job to do and don’t know what you don’t know.

By the way, they can’t see into the future. They can only give you guidelines, but that can be a big help. You need information about what stage of a condition your loved one is in so you can be prepared and plan. I had friends who spent a fortune putting in a walk-in shower and an electric chair to go upstairs only to use them for about a month before needing to move the spouse to a bed downstairs in the family room permanently. It’s not just the money, these remodels were very difficult to live with during the process. The frustration takes it’s toll on the whole family.

So don’t be shy, ask questions.

Until soon, I wish you love and peace of mind.

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