Tag Archives: caregiver support

Peace Among Caregivers

Peace among caregivers is rare. Some chaos is normal because we have too many duties. But there are times when #dementia takes a weird swing. We face bigger problems in those moments. Then we need tools to manage our own craziness along with our responsibilities.

Peace Among Caregivers

Fortunately some great thinkers have spent their lives seeking ways to be calm during life’s storms. The popular concept of “mindful living” is based on these practices. Although mindful living is now trendy, many ”mindful” practices were created centuries ago. Some of these — including meditation and breathing techniques — are very useful for #caregivers.

Last week I needed this kind of support. Too many aspects of my life were changing at once. I felt I was losing control of the basics. My mother continues to get weaker. We can barely hold her up when we take her to the bathroom — even with two people! The problem got worse when recent snowstorms kept helpers away from our house and I had to care for her alone. At the same time, I’ve been overseeing the renovation of Mom’s old home. Hidden leaks were ruining the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. We rent the place to get funds to help pay for my mother’s care. But we could not engage new tenants before doing extensive repairs.

It was nearly impossible to complete my professional work while managing these matters. I was losing patience with everyone. EVERYONE! An invisible enemy — something like those hidden leaks — was quietly destroying everything. Outside problems were stealing time I needed for taking care of myself. My sense of balance was going down the drain.

As I searched for ways to calm down, I stumbled on a magazine called Breathe that was sitting on my bedroom floor. In it, I found a helpful article by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has spent his life promoting peace around the world.   He was recommended for a Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam.”

A Sensible Way to Regain Peace

This excerpt from #Thich Nhat Hanh’s book At Home in the World offers help for those times when you feel overwhelmed:

“There are days when you feel it’s just not your day, and that everything is going wrong. The more you try, the worse the situation becomes…That’s when it’s time to stop everything, go home, and to take refuge in yourself. The first thing to do is to close the doors and windows. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are the six windows you close when everything feels like a mess. Close everything in on order to prevent the strong wind from blowing in and making you miserable….Create a feeling of warmth, coziness, and comfort by practicing mindful breathing. Rearrange evertything — your feelings, your perceptions, your emotions — they’re all scattered everywhere; it’s a mess inside. Recognize and embrace each emotion…..tidy up everything within yourself. This will help you restore your calm and peace…We need a refuge we can always rely on, and that is the island of self…..Every time you suffer badly, and nothing seems to be going right, stop everything and go to that island right away. It may be five, ten, fifteen minutes….You will feel stronger and much better within.” 

Most #caregivers must struggle to get those few minutes alone. Fifteen minutes may be an unrealistic goal. Yet if we are serious about taking care of ourselves, we can fight for two minutes of precious time on that island of self. Sometimes that’s enough to help us find our way back to peace.


Caregiving and Cooperation

Caregiving and cooperation go hand in hand. We aren’t good at caregiving if we can’t get loved ones to cooperate with us. We also have to coordinate care from many people to keep dementia patients healthy. Our conflict-ridden country could learn something valuable from our approach.

Caregiving and Cooperation

I tried to carry the entire burden of my mother’s care for a long time. This is a common theme with caregivers. Some are reluctant to invite others in because they think they have the right answers. Maybe we also fear losing control when more parties get involved. Last week’s rocky election shows that people resist cooperating on an even larger scale across the country. Everyone believes they know the correct approach so they won’t listen to different views. This type of stalemate doesn’t enhance dementia care and it won’t help our nation evolve. A research project at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine shows how cooperating more can offer benefits to people with dementia. It might provide an example for other aspects of modern life.

Caregiving and Cooperation Among Providers

Students in different training programs at the UNC Department of Allied Health  were required to complete a joint project. They had to create a plan to address unmet needs of elderly people. Some students were studying physical therapy. Others were training to become occupational therapists. The group also included speech therapists. Students had to develop a menu of activities that would engage elderly participants, including people with dementia. Together the groups created a plan that offered physical activity, sensory stimulation, and discussion of current events.

Dementia patients worked with physical therapists on tasks like kicking or throwing a ball.  Elders worked on conversation skills and memory strategies with speech-language pathology students. Occupational therapy students used newspaper articles to get elders talking and tackle cognitive tasks.

Near the end of the project students taught participants and staff members how to continue the activities. Their collaborative work impressed the staff enough to keep it going. In a follow-up survey, 43 percent of staff reported they were still using the strategies of the cooperating students. Families of the participants got some benefit from the project, too. Students made videos and recordings of personal stories collected from participants with dementia. They gave copies of these stories to the families so they could use them at home.

Why Cooperation Matters

Sometimes it drives me crazy when I have multiple therapists scheduling visits with my mom. I feel like I need my own secretary to manage her care. But I have seen first-hand that therapists get better results when they coordinate their efforts. Mom is more limber and relaxed when the nurse, physical therapist and occupational therapist work together. Wouldn’t it be great to see our nation reject the conflict model and work cooperatively to solve problems? It takes more time to listen and plan together. But in the end everyone gets to make a contribution and outcomes improve for us all.