Well hello there, Careblazers!
I hope you are having a wonderful day. It’s November in Arizona so it’s the best time of year. We don’t have trees that change color in the city, but we do have license plates that change color. We often joke that we know it’s fall in AZ when the license plates change because there are a lot of people who live in AZ for half the year when the weather is really nice, we call them snow birds. Then when the summer comes and it’s triple digits everyone leaves. So the roads go from super busy and congested in the fall and winter to open space in the summer. It’s fun. I really just enjoy feeling like pumpkin pie is an acceptable breakfast and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Okay, let’s get to today’s topic. Today, I want to talk about respect in dignity when providing care tasks to your loved one. Last week, I talked about respect and dignity when speaking to or about your loved one with dementia. But today I want to talk about when your are providing care. I specifically go over 5 tips for you to keep in mind when you are giving direct care to your loved one. Plus I offer you a special challenge at the end.
Providing direct care to your loved one is often the most difficult and thing for careblazers. I’m talking about helping them when they go to the bathroom, wiping their butt, washing their body in the bathtub, putting on and taking off their clothes. These are all very personal things that are not only physically demanding, but are often emotionally difficult. They tend to be the times when the most difficult dementia behaviors rear their ugly head. This is when someone with dementia is most likely to punch, pull, hit, resist, and then eventually refuse your help all together, often leading to the - I’m not going to shower and not showering for weeks/months at a time.
I hope today can help prevent a lot of that for you and if you’re already experiencing that, I hope it can start to get things to a better place.
Whatever care tasks you give to your loved one...try to have things as ready as possible BEFORE the task:
If you bathe them- have the towel to dry them off, the robe or clothes, the soap, everything you need in arms reach. This prevents you from having to leave them in a vulnerable state while you go hunting down whatever it is you are trying to hunt down.
Be matter of fact. The more uncomfortable you are, the more they will feel uncomfortable. Remember you are a mirror. So try in your mind to view this as just caring for an infant, or doing a job, or as if you were a healthcare provider doing work.
Have conversation. Think of a topic you can discuss or a story you can tell while you do the task. So if your loved one needs help with toileting and you are wiping them, you can start a conversation about the tv show you just watched or a funny joke you heard. This gives them something to think about besides the fact that some of the most private and basic things are no longer so private and basic.
Be gentle. Whether it’s because it’s so uncomfortable for the caregiver or because they are so stressed out, sometimes we want to rush through everything as quickly as possible. This always increases the chances of behaviors such as hitting happening, but it also sends the message that you don’t have the time, you don’t want to do what you are doing, and you just want it over with as much as possible. While all those things may be true, it’s not helping the situation and it can have a negative effect on your loved one. Be gentle. In your mind, try to picture that you are giving care to a baby. Or picture there was another family member with you observing. Would you be as rough and fast with your loved one?
WHAT FEELING ARE YOU GIVING?
This reminds me of one of those quotes that I’ve always loved and it’s SOOO true in dementia care. “People don’t always remember what you say or what you did, but they always remember how you made them feel.” This is so true in dementia care where it is very likely that they won’t remember what you said or did. BUT chances are they will remember how you made them feel and if you are rushing, not having things handy, showing signs of being really uncomfortable, they will feel the same way and that will make it all the more likely that the next time you go to help your loved one shower, bathe, or toilet they will resist and have some difficult behaviors.
Actually, one of my favorite experiments. It’s called the pinprick experiment. A french doctor was evaluating someone who had severely impaired memory. The person couldn’t remember the doctor no matter how many times they met. Each time it was as if it was the first time. So one day, the doctor put a pin prick in his hand and when the patient went to shake the doctor’s hand who he thought he was meeting for the first time, the patient pulled away quickly from pain because of the pin prick. The next appointment, the patient refused to shake the doctor’s hand. Even though her memory was so bad she couldn’t remember meeting the doctor. This was one of the first indications of multiple types of memory, a type of subconsicous memory.
So even though you think your loved one will forget anyway, there is a level of subconscious memory that is there and has an impact. What kind of impact is your approach, your behavior leaving for loved one.
Now I want to throw in a bonus tip. I’ve mentioned it in past bathing and toileting videos, but it’s so easy, practical and helpful, I want to mention it here as well. When you are bathing your loved one or helping them on the toilet, it can be helpful to give them something to hold. Ask them to hold a washcloth or some toilet paper, or anything at all. Keeping their hands busy during these sensitive activities reduces the chances they will use those hands to hit or pull.
So here’s your challenge:
I know that many of the tasks you do are extremely demanding and difficult, but I hope some of the tips above and ways to think about your situation can help.
Could you imagine if when you went in for a doctor checkup and they needed to do a prostate exam or a gyencological exam, the doctor felt awkward, tried to rush through it, didn’t want to talk to you, squirmed, etc. Or if they were so frustrated and annoyed that all day they’ve been doing care tasks when all they want to do is go home and watch Netflix so they were short with you and impatient? It would make a difficult situation SOOOO much more difficult.
How can you channel more calm, respectful, and dignified energy in your care tasks?
Alright Careblazer, I’ll be back next week.