Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Essential Tips for Dementia Caregivers (part 2)

Activities directors and other healthcare professionals here is a great dementia resource for caregivers and healthcare professinals.Benevolant Society

Here is information on being the best caregiver you can be

Here is a way for nurses administrators, social workers and other health care  professionals to get an easyceu or two

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Marguerite Manteau-Rao

6. Put your emotions out, either in writing, collages or other expressive art forms.When emotions run strong, and you don't know what to do anymore, one practice is to put your emotions out through simple, expressive art techniques. No need for fancy supplies. You can journal, you can write poetry. You can do self-collages, tearing images that grab you in old magazines and placing them on a sheet of paper, without giving too much thought to it. You are turning off your rational brain and letting your heart speak through words or found images. The point is not to be a poet or an artist -- it is about you literally "expressing" what is inside of you.
7. Share your joys and struggles with other care partners like you.
There are plenty of support groups out there, where you can find emotional relief in the telling of your story and the sharing of your joys and your struggles. You need to guard against the temptation of isolation, however. As a family caregiver, you are at high risk of depression and consequently are more likely to be tempted into retreating and not reaching out to others for emotional support. A good rule of thumb is this: The less you want to socialize, the more you need it for your own sanity and also the well-being of your loved one.
8. Get others to help you.
If it takes a village to raise as child, it takes a whole care team to provide good care to a loved one with dementia. It is not humanly possible for a single person to do this, particularly as the years unfold and your loved one requires more and more assistance cognitively, emotionally and physically. If you are someone who has always prided herself in being self-sufficient, you will have to shift your attitude. Getting the help you and your loved one need is a sign of psychological strength. There are many who are there to help you: geriatricians, neurologists, geriatric care managers, nurses, home health agencies, other family members, physical therapists, psychotherapists, financial planners, volunteers, etc.
9. Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise.
As important as your emotional health is keeping your body strong and healthy. With the stress from dementia caregiving, one may be tempted to eat not enough or too much, or stop exercising altogether. Worries about your loved one wandering or accumulated nervous fatigue from a long day of care may dampen one's ability to sleep. Associated with these lifestyle changes are recent statistics from the Alzheimer's Association showing that caregivers are at a substantial increased risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. You need to remember that your physical health comes first. Make it a point of having only healthy foods in the home and of walking as much as possible.
10. Validate the person's reality.
The person's experience of the world and their relation to it has changed, and there is nothing he or she can do about it. You, on the other hand, have it in you to make some adjustments. Not doing so will only cause more suffering for your loved one and more trouble for you, since your loved one will have to act out his or her suffering in one way or another. Yes, you may be attached to the idea of your loved one as your husband, but if he insists on calling you his daughter, go with the flow and remember that for him, you have fallen into the more general "love" category. The fine distinctions we usually make between various roles no longer apply.
11. Still see the person as a whole person, and behave accordingly.
Beware of falling into the trap of positioning the person as incompetent, as a child or someone who is no longer there. Holding these ideas will act as a self-fulfilling prophecy and influence your behavior in such a way as to cause the person to behave more and more as if there is no one there. Rather, operate from the premise that the person is still very much there, no matter what it may look like from the outside. Do not expect anything and welcome the surprises when they come, as they often times do with persons with dementia. A smile, a word, a sentence, singing an old song, dancing -- you never know.
12. Meet the person's five universal emotional needs.
Regardless of their cognitive, emotional, physical state, human beings all have five universal emotional needs: 1.) to be needed and useful, 2.) to have the opportunity to care, 3.) to love and be loved, 4.) to have self-esteem boosted, 5.) to have the power to choose. When caring for your loved one, make sure that each of these needs is being met. Failure to do so will negatively impact his or her well-being and will lead to either shutting down or agitation. For someone who no longer speaks or moves, honoring that person's need to be needed may mean telling them how sitting next to them brings you a sense of peace.
13. View the person's difficult behaviors as expressions of unmet needs.
Adopt the point of view that any behaviors, particularly difficult ones, are the person's attempt to communicate distress, using the limited means of communication at their disposal. They are not being difficult, they are simply telling you that something needs to be attended to urgently. Too much noise or not enough, a brief that needs to be changed, being thirsty, not being "seen" for the person they are, pain somewhere in the body, temperature that's too hot or too cold, a sense of personal space that's being invaded, words that don't come out as intended ... so many possible reasons to get upset that may not be obvious to you. You need to become a detective and figure things out. But before you do, take your loved one's distress seriously, not personally.
And remember, this is not just for you alone to practice. Instead, get the whole care team to join you, and together become more mindful and understanding. It will be good for you, and it will be good for your loved one.

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