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Empathy Plays an Important Role in Care Giving

Empathy and caregivingBe kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle   ~ Plato

Many of our elders who had reached the golden years, find difficult to see the golden part of aging and at least, initially, they are aware of the transitions and respond with a myriad of emotions from shame and anger to depression, anxiety, and fear. Let’s remember theirs was the generation that survived the Great Depression and fought the last “good war.” Aging was not on their agenda, not for this long, not with so many medical issues, and with so little resources for retirement; to care for them we need knowledge, skills but overall empathy.

What is Empathy?

The simplest definition is the feeling of understanding you get when you stop and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. For caregivers this can mean imagining what it must be like to be in constant pain, or to be facing your own death. It could even be picturing oneself as constantly dependent on others, without any privacy. Once you understand what this would feel like you are able to relate better to the patient and will be much less likely to be frustrated by their actions.

Understanding their pain is only the first part of the job. You will also need to overlook your own feelings regarding how they may have arrived at their situation. It is imperative to accept people as they are and help them in any way you can. Empathizing with them will make your job easier as you understand why they need the care and the best way of approaching it.

Edward Francis with Foresthc.com shared with us some of the important points about how relevant empathy s when caring for our elders. He says, “…There are an increasing number of care givers in the world. This is a combination of people living longer and the steady increase of people in the world. Many caregivers fall into the role and can be excellent at taking care of someone’s needs; however this does not mean that they emphasize with them; a good caregiver can simply treat others, as they would like to be treated.

Understanding the Patient

Some patients can seem incredibly rude and make it very difficult to either help them or emphasize with them. In fact these are the ones that need your empathy more than any other. The rudeness is generally a result of severe frustration with the situation they find themselves in. Part of the role of a good caregiver is to understand how the family and friends are coping and to emphasize with them as well.

They may need a break or be struggling with dealing with the issue and a supportive shoulder can work wonders. Understanding their needs and fears can also provide you with the opportunity to help a family member deal with their own emotions and offer a better care giving experience to their loved one. Embarrassment is a common feeling in patients, like all of us they have been used to looking after themselves and doing what they like when they want to.

To have this all taken away and be completely dependent on others is difficult for anyone to adapt to. This often shows as rudeness or aggression but once you understand the patient you will be able to see it for what it is and react accordingly. Be patient and whatever you do make sure you don’t lose your temper in front of them; you certainly don’t want to make them worse, not to mention that it is unprofessional.

Listening can help caregivers empathize more with the patient

It can be very difficult when you are in constant pain and dependent on others to assist you. This can become much worse if you are not able to share your fears with anyone. A good caregiver will see these fears and will listen. Talking to someone allows a patient to lighten the load and this will help them to cope with the situation. It will also prevent either the patient or their family from getting wound up when there are so many factors, which are beyond their control.

Level of care

Caregivers who take the time to understand their patient’s personalities, needs and situation can offer a far better service. You will be able to relate to the patient and this will trigger a better response from them as they register your intentions. A caregiver who can emphasize with their patient will automatically look for ways to improve both the level of care and the general care experience. The best caregivers have empathy, sympathy and integrity, a difficult mix to balance.

Empathy is vital when caregiving for someone with dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. You must find a way to control your negative emotions and focus on the positive. This will help you get a better response from the patient, not to mention that you’ll be more relaxed and willing to help them out too.

Living at Home and Understanding Dementia Symptoms

Understanding DementiaHaving a loved one diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s,  is a very hard circumstance and can be very challenging. Most of the times you want to keep them living at home, and provide the home care for the dementia or Alzheimer’s care they need. However, people get distanced from the one suffering from Dementia since they can barely recognize you; thus it is important to understand the symptoms of dementia and become a step closer to your elderly parents.

Nobody wants to see their aging parent struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Sadly, there are things in life we can’t control, like incurable diseases that could materialize after a certain age. When someone gets dementia, their relationships, priorities, and perceptions on life take an unexpected turn. Nevertheless, certain forms of dementia can be kept under control, reversed and even treated if caught on time. If you have an aging parent, it’s only natural to become concerned with their wellbeing. Are they eating right? Are they becoming more forgetful? Are they in pain? These are questions most concerned children ask themselves on a daily basis.

A 70-year old parent may forget things from time to time, but if you notice that their memory loss becomes intense, then it might be a cause of cognitive decline. Dementia can be identified in many ways. First, you must understand the disease. The more you know the higher chances you have to save your parent and stop the health condition from advancing.

Understanding symptoms of dementia

Dementia is not a sole health condition but a collection of numerous symptoms, and some of the most common are changes in personality, memory loss, and impaired intellectual functions that could result from trauma or disease to the brain. These changes are not normal aging signs, and their side effects are severe enough to impact someone’s daily living, relationships and independence forever. Even though Alzheimer’s is one of the most widespread forms of dementia, there are many others, including mixed and vascular dementia.

If you suspect that your parent may suffer from this dreadful illness, then some of the changes will be noticeable. Remembering, communication, learning and problem solving will become difficult endeavors to accomplish. These are changes that can happen fast, or develop slowly in time. The outcome and progression of dementia differ, but are mainly determined by the form of dementia suffered and side of the brain affected. A specialist in the medical field will provide a complete diagnosis after the patient has undergone a series of tests, clinical exams, and brain scans.

What triggers dementia?

A healthy brain’s mass begins to decline in adulthood. However, this fascinating organ-machine of ours keeps forming vital connections even if we age, thus keeping us sane. When these connections are misplaced because of injury, inflammation, or disease, brain neurons begin to die. The result – dementia; it’s certainly traumatic to see a loved one go through such a horrifying disease. This is why it is important for adults to interfere as soon as the first signs materialize in their aging parent. The faster a doctor understands the cause, the better chances he has to recommend a treatment.

Caring for a parent with dementia

In the United States, there are roughly 10 million people who take care of a parent with dementia. Most of these at-home caregivers are women. It’s tough to do this job and at the same time have a family on your own. But since we’re talking about a parent, you wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of them.

Becoming a caregiver to a sick parent is tough. If you’re an adult and you have kids, you must accept that your aging parent may also have the behavior of a 5-year old. Given that dementia affects the brain, memory loss is not the only disturbing symptom. Many adults don’t want to move their loved one to a nursing home. In general, it’s not because they can’t afford the costs but because they’ve over protective.

Professional care can be good for an elderly suffering from dementia

The option of Home care or aging in pace and caring at home for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s is still an option for some. However, one size does not fit all. Living Well Assisted Living at Home in San Francisco and Marin County recognizes that home care for senior with dementia is an alternative but also, believe it or not, today’s healthcare facilities and nursing homes are no longer what they used to be. Some of these hospices provide exceptional comfort. They also feature all kinds of activities for patients, and they have professional personal taking care of your loved one 24/7. Making the decision and moving your parent to a facility is not something you want to do. But it is necessary.

Only an equipped facility can offer the best care for your loved one. At-home caregiving is great, but it’s still not enough to make the patient feel appreciated. A specialized facility comes with lots of programs, socializing sessions, and other therapies meant to stimulate your parent’s brain and ensure he remains in good physical health for as long as possible.

In collaboration with  Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!

How Families Can Prepare to Care for A Loved One Dealing with a Memory Loss Condition

CaregiverIn recognition of November being National Family Caregivers Month,  US President Barack Obama issue a proclamation recognizing November as the National Family caregiver month. President Obama stresses the fact “…In the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide invaluable strength and assistance to their family members, and as the number of older Americans rises, so will the number of caregivers. Many of these dedicated people work full time and raise children of their own while also caring for the needs of their loved ones. Caregivers support the independence of their family members and enable them to more fully participate in their communities, and as a Nation, we have an obligation to empower these selfless individuals.

Private institutions like The Brentwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Danvers, MA shared some advice for family caregivers whose loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Family Caregivers provide many aspects of emotions, finances, nursing, and homemaking to allow for their loved ones to stay in their own homes comfortably. National Family Caregivers Month allows us to recognize those that put hard work into supporting their loved ones throughout difficult times.  Here are a few pieces of advice for those who are caregivers to loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia:

Become Well Informed
There are programs and classes that caregivers can take to learn more about Memory Loss Conditions. Also, completing your own research to gain as much knowledge about the diseases can help. There is a ton of information which can help you to prepare for the future and what you are going to encounter as your loved ones progress.

Develop a Strong Support Network of Family and Friends
Having a strong support network around you is extremely important as you become a caregiver. Keeping a support system of people you can talk to, get away for a bit with, or a shoulder to lean on helps for caregivers to handle the stress of caring for a loved one who is dealing with memory loss conditions.

Join a Support Group
Caregivers sometimes need to realize, they are not the only ones who are in this type of situation. By joining local support groups, you can gain a trusted support system, talk about your issues, and gain valuable advice about how others have coped with bringing in a loved one with medical issues.

Develop Family Roles
Many times, there are multiple people in the same house acting as caregivers for a loved one. It is important to set family roles so that everyone knows their part and what they are responsible for doing. Someone may be the driver to doctor’s appointments whereas another makes their meals and another could be responsible for their medication. It is important that everyone in the household is on the same page to decrease tension and make sure their loved one is getting the proper care necessary.

Evaluate Finances
Bringing in a loved one will create added costs to your monthly budget. Sit down with your past budget and you will realize you may need to readjust. You will have one more mouth to feed, one more person to drive, medications to order, new furniture or safety accessories to add to your house. Before you bring your loved one into your home it is important to realize what the added costs will be to understand the expenses you will face.

Plan for the Future
From the beginning caregivers have to understand that their loved ones may not be able to stay with them forever. Families need to sit down and discuss what the plans are for the future. Whether that includes part time at home nursing care, part time living situations between different members of the family, or eventually looking into care facilities for your loved ones, it is important for these decisions to be set from the beginning.

Take Care of Yourself
Finally, caregivers need to take a step back and make sure they are caring for themselves. Being active will help keep a caregiver physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Taking time for yourself is important to release the burdens and stresses that come with care giving. Allowing yourself “me time” will keep you fresh and allow you to be a better caregiver.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia are extremely life-changing diseases for both those diagnosed and their loved ones. Those who take on the care giving responsibilities will be taking on a lot in the future, but the patients will benefit from their love and support.

Finally, thank you to all the wonderful caregivers out there, we appreciate all that you do!

How to Assess Your Loved One’s Situation: Review physical, mental, environmental well-being

woman-65675_640Source: AARP

As parents grow older, they face challenges that their adult children may not know how to address. The children may support their parents’ desire to continue living independently, but have concerns about their safety and well-being. One way to help resolve these conflicting emotions, and determine if the parents need assistance, is through an assessment. See what this assessment implies.

Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s Director of Livable Communities, provides tips and guidance on how to do an assessment, as well as on how to evaluate your loved ones’ legal and financial needs. Watch the Video: Assessing the Situation.

If you’re doing an assessment on your own, use the following list as a guide. Gently explore as many of these areas as you can to get a full picture of your loved one’s life. Assessment checklist.

If you are in the predicament of starting to take care of a loved one, check the 8 rules for new caregivers.

Using Mindfulness to Help People with Dementia

Caregivers and dementiaMarguerite Manteau-Rao a San Francisco Bay Area licensed Clinical Social Worker,  and co-Founder of Presence Care Project, works with family and professional caregivers and front-line workers teaching them how to unfold the truth people with dementia have problems expressing. She says “…People with dementia often express themselves in uncharacteristic ways such as a burst of anger, accusations or repetitive actions. Traditional approaches deal mainly with the symptoms, which results in no profound changes to the underlying cause … [Instead there needs to be a focus] on everything that happens below the surface for the person with dementia where we find the true reasons behind their behavior — the five universal emotional needs … These needs are universal and do not change. What does change is the opportunity to have these needs met — especially for people with dementia or anyone else living in an institution where the focus is on tasks and routines rather than on the social and emotional wellbeing of the individual…” Read More