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Always Best Care: Certainty and Hope

"Creating certainty & hope for seniors, by helping them stay active, healthy and in touch with loved ones." 5421 Old Poole Rd. Raleigh, NC cell:919. 600.1679 Office: 919.724.4297 fax :919.724.4888 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  1. Stars & Charts and Activity Aprons
    Did your elementary school teacher put a sticker on your papers when you had done a particularly good job? Was there a classroom chart which featured stars to record progress? Do you own a Little League award, a sports jersey, a framed commendation from work?

    From childhood through adulthood we are hard-wired to respond to physical demonstrations of appreciation and praise; the more personal and sometimes conspicuous the better. Ponder the array of award shows on air today.

    Motivational styles vary, but it is a rare person who does not appreciate a physical expression of recognition for work well-done.

    How does one chart progress, growth, or accomplishment when caring for someone whose abilities are in decline?

    You have to unwind the chart mentality. By this I don't mean resigning yourself to going backwards. I mean intentionally sitting with the star of a present moment to celebrate a present day victory.

    Recently a caregiver and her family introduced the use of an activity or sensory apron. Activity aprons are garments made with sensory tasks sewn on; zippers, buttons, textured materials, pockets. They are designed to reduce agitation in person suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

    When this particular client had the apron placed upon her lap, she immediately became engaged in the tasks provided. She quieted and then became receptive to other directions. She ultimately allowed her caregiver to give her a bath, something she had been actively resisting for some time. I know we are disinclined to celebrate giving someone a bath. But for this family and their caregiver, this was a star moment. Shiny for the day. I've observed that caregiving brings joy to those who can collect those stars of mostly unobserved victories, and place them not on a chart, but in their hearts.
    Activity Aprons can be bought or made. Sew Fishsticks shows you how to make a pretty one and Pinterest has various examples of activity pillows and lap blankets that serve the same purpose. Amazon features a few companies that sell them.

    I would love to hear about your star moments.
  2. Tell your story and laugh
    In the second month of my new job as activities assistant and art teacher in a nursing home; I was arranging materials and tools on a long table. Directly in front of me, on the other side was an articulate and chatty gentleman who I knew had been the CEO of a large corporation. We discussed a current event while I prepared for the craft class.

    I turned around to speak to someone and when I turned back I saw Mr. CEO using the scissors that I had placed in front of me to cut the pants he was wearing right along the thigh, slightly above the knee. Horrified, I hustled around the table and said "maybe that isn't a good idea, may I have the scissors back?". He cheerfully returned the scissors. As I returned to my spot at the table, I wondered how was I going to explain how Mr. CEO came to cut his pants. Then I glanced over to see he was now in the process of tearing his pants up to his crotch. A beautifully tailored pair of pants had just become an accessory to a strange strip-show. I put up my materials and suggested that we take a return ride to his room. He cheerfully agreed.

    We exit the activity room, turn the corner, and greet the Administrator who arches her eyebrows in a question mark fashion. "Mr. CEO was using scissors to cut his pants, I explained, but we have decided not to use scissors anymore." "An excellent idea," she dryly observes and continues on while I wonder if this is my last day on the job.

    Later I spoke to the gentleman's wife who simply laughed. "I asked him what he was doing and he said he was making cut-off shorts because it was so hot!"

    I've told this story on myself many times because it illustrates how fast behaviors can change with someone suffering with dementia. Mostly though it reminds me that a sense of humor saves your life as a caregiver. Surprise behaviors can derail your day if you lose your ability to laugh. A caregiver recently told me how she jokes and teases her client into laughing and mid-smile puts medicine on her tongue. Mission accomplished without the combative contest of wills.
    Twilight Zone meets Buster Keaton when you care for someone suffering from dementia. On the days the front wall of your storefront falls down (Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928); maybe it's best to stand in the ruins and laugh.

    Nearly everyone who has worked with others with chronic illness has a story of how sad intersects the hilarious. What's yours?
  3. 5 Ways to help the caregiver.
    Photographer unknown Collection of National Media Museum. "One of the benefits of having help is that Mom has been able to read again", a client recently informed me. "Mom" is the primary caregiver of her husband who suffers from long-standing ill health. Her children have lovingly come around her to support her, gently insisting she take care of herself as well as her husband. Because she has accepted help, she has time to return to her life-long pleasure of reading.

    So much has been written about the importance of taking care of yourself while care-giving that I hesitate to address the subject. When you take care of someone chronically ill, it is dangerously easy to ignore your basic needs. Easy because the task of marshaling resources during a lengthy illness eclipses your normal awareness of physical and emotional needs. This is a reality I have personally observed and experienced. A disregard for self-care can lead to a decline in your mental and physical health.

    Here are 5 questions I have learned from others long practiced in the art of caring for others.

    Are you sleeping?
    "Are you kidding? Of course not!" one friend exclaimed when I asked. Taking care of someone ill may remind you of taking care of a newborn. Your loved one moans, gets up often, wanders around the house, or stays up late then sleeps in. You awaken with tension or anxiety. If you need convincing that chronic sleeplessness can seriously harm you, Web Med lists 10 reasons how poor quality rest leads to accidents, depression, and seriously impairs decision making. Brainstorm strategies to recover from inevitable sleeplessness; get professional help, take naps, sleep in another room, arrange to spend the night with a friend or other family member.

    Are you eating?
    I was waiting in the hospital while my husband underwent major surgery when a good friend called and said "can we come over with dinner?" They brought in an amazing picnic dinner, cold fried chicken, fresh berry pie, homemade pickles and we ate together. I remember this kindness partly because I realized I had hardly eaten in 3 days. Paying attention to when and what you are eating is crucial to maintaining health in the long-haul of caregiving.

    Are you breathing?
    She burst out laughing when I asked a client this question, "last I looked, I’m still living." Yes, the shallow breathing we do normally, especially under stress keeps us alive but sometimes just barely. When you breathe deeply, the air comes in through your nose fully, fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe deeply allows you to tap into one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms. It is foundational to many meditative disciplines. Take a deep breath and ask yourself; Am I breathing?
    Are you getting out?
    Normally I would disqualify a medication run to the drug store as getting out however I know
    someone who gives herself a small treat each time she picks up drugs; nail polish, seasonal items, a magazine. She has transformed a frequent task into an outing for herself. Getting out doesn't have to cost money. Any pleasure that takes you away from your daily stress such as going outside to read will work. Finding ways to have pleasurable outings reduces stress, fights depression and in the end makes you a more effective caregiver.

    Are you being honest?
    You can't honestly relay the state of affairs to everyone, but being able to honestly express your needs and emotions to someone is critical to staying emotionally and physically strong. Who is your support? Do you need to join a support group, see a professional counselor, or simply tap into your existing network of friends and family? Are you honest with yourself? Try examining your emotional landscape a little bit each day so you can acknowledge the sadness, the loss, the anger and yes, the joy that caregiving brings.

  4. Technology for Seniors, on the Ray Lucia Show
    Grateful to get an opportunity to be on live radio yesterday on The Ray Lucia Show (Easier to listen on iTunes: Hour 1 on 2-June, at approx 31.30 minute mark in this podcast). Wasn't nervous as such, but certainly gulped a few times at various points :) Listening to it after the fact, there is so much more I could have shared, but...

    The Ray Lucia Show - 2-June, Hour 1; 31.30min mark

  5. AlzNC 2015 JOCO Walk - Clayton Square
    We were at the AlzNC 2015 Johnston County walk in downtown Clayton today. Dawn Rozzo, our Client Liaison answered questions at the Always Best Care table, and explained what we do, and most important why.

    What a fantastic turnout; Gabriel Manor and the Brian Center did most of the heavy lifting to make it happen, along with contributions from multiple others. Pete Perrino and Sarah Middendorf were the chairs of the committee for the walk. Sarah has been doing a fantastic job keeping everyone's energy up, and also did an awesome job running the event today!!!

    Here are a few highlights:

    ROTC flag bearers

    Selma Mayor speaking at the event, highlighted hope and the continued commitment to research to fight this terrible disease afflicting millions...

    The Zumba Lady was so much fun; she really did get us moving to the beat, and easily...