Are You Being Supportive?

By Robert Elmer III on December 30, 2015 in Memory, Seniors

Here we are again, about to turn the corner into a New Year. With every New Year we have the opportunity to write a new 365 page book and we should be doing our best to make it the best book ever. This is especially true if you’re a caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s dementia. How did your caregiver book read for this past year and how would you like it to read for 2016?
Being consistently supportive of your loved one is critical and I’ll admit that it’s not always easy. After all, there are people that are really cut out to be quality caregivers and others, not so much. When I lecture my Nursing School students I congratulate them on choosing such a diversified career. I also remind them that if Geriatrics or Pediatrics is not their choice or working in surgery, that doesn’t make them bad people. I have a dear personal friend that I met while she was in nursing school nearly 50 years ago. She became a member of a cardiac surgical team upon graduation and frankly she wouldn’t do anything else. If she had to work as a “Charge Nurse” in a hospital or nursing home, she’d be miserable.
Unfortunately, there are many of you informal, at home, caregivers of loved ones with dementia that don’t have a choice in the matter. For whatever reason, “tag, you’re it.” In spite of that unfortunate roll of the dice, you have a responsibility to be as supportive of your loved one as possible. It is with that in mind that I thought I’d give you a little quiz to see how well you’re doing in being supportive. Geriatricians have identified 15 behaviors which are considered to be supportive of the psychosocial needs of the elderly with dementia. As you go down this list, ask yourself how you’re doing in providing supportive behavior. 1. Do you bring yourself to the residents eye level? 2. Do you greet them warmly? 3. Do you introduce yourself? 4. Do you smile? 5. Do you refer to them by the name they prefer? 6. Are you patient and unhurried? 7. Do you adjust to their pace and not hurry them? 8. Do you adjust to any of their sensory losses? 9. Do you make appropriate physical contact? 10. You’re not patronizing? 11. Are you making sure they are comfortable and safe? 12. Do you reminisce with them? 13. Do you explain procedures and sensations with them? 14. Do you give them a choice? 15. Do you sincerely encourage and compliment them?
As you went through this list were you able to identify any areas where you could improve? Even the best of the best have those days when they need to take a time out. I’ve said it before, there is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. Regardless of your professional “walk in life” we all have those days when we just need to take a “time out” or day off.
I was blessed with two daughters who turned out to be exceptional students and as they grew older turned into exceptional citizens. They worked hard and their mother and I recognized that. We also realized that there were going to be days when they would simply need to “charge their batteries” and we encouraged them to come to us when they needed a day off rather than play hookey. It’s no different for you caregivers.
Being supportive of your love one in the ways listed will go a long way to making your job easier. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the many resources available to you to charge your batteries. Adult Day Centers, other family members or friends and professional at home companion services can all contribute to happier days for all concerned.
As always remember we need to Join the Journey.

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