08 Aug WHAT I HAVE LEARNED WORKING WITH INDIVIDUALS WITH DEMENTIA
I have always focused my attention on helping individuals with various forms of memory loss, whether guiding families on the difficult journey that follows a diagnosis of Dementia or actually helping the patient throughout the progression of the disease.
After 15 years I continue to learn something new from my clients each time I visit with them and/or assist them with their needs.
One may say, how can you learn from someone who no longer has a memory? My answer to them is that I don’t look at my client as someone with memory loss, rather as a person who has experienced many things that I have not.
Although they may not remember me week to week and I may hear their stories over and over, I still make a point to learn something new that I didn’t know the week before.
The following are some valuable lessons I have learned from my clients:
- THEY DON’T ALL WANT HELP: I use to assume that all my clients embraced the notion of having a home healthcare worker assisting them with their various needs; personal care, meal preparation, medication management, escorts out in the community. The fact is, that yes some of them do, however, not everyone. One of my clients once said “that the most difficult thing about aging is the need to rely on others. The idea of needing someone to bathe me and assist me with wiping my bum is extremely humiliating”. Oddly enough, when I first started working in home healthcare, I assumed that all of my clients would find it very helpful. However, once I was able to put myself in my clients shoes, I could better appreciate that not all of them would be as enthusiastic to receive assistance.
- THEY STILL HAVE AN OPINION: We have a tendency to take over when someone no longer remembers. We take control and no longer include them in the decision making process. I believe that most families act in the best interest of their parents, however, it is extremely important to include them in all material matters. By including them in decisions, small and large, they will feel as though they are still contributing and have control over their well being.
- HAVE PATIENCE: I know this is a lot easier said then done, however, know your own limitations and boundaries. It is very difficult to care for someone with memory loss, so it is important to know when you are no longer providing a positive environment. If you are not going to bring a positive energy when you are assisting your family member it is best to visit at another time. There are instances when I postpone a visit because of how I felt at that particular time.
- DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE PERSON IN FRONT OF THEM: Throughout the years I have often seen people talking about their parents and/or client as if they were not present. While they may not be able to remember what was said, that doesn’t lessen the humiliation and sadness when they hear someone talking about them as if they were not in the room. Doing so, can have the effect of making them feel invisible, incapable and invaluable. Many still have functioning intelligence, and may grasp the conversation.
- CRY and LAUGH: There are many times where I have left my clients home and cried or let out a good hardy laugh. No one can understand what you are going through, so be free and let out all your emotions.
- SENSE OF TOUCH IS SO IMPORTANT: As the disease progresses the sense of touch becomes increasingly important as an alternative means of communication. It allows you to connect with your family member in another way. I had a client who’s entire demeanor changed when I held her hand, she relaxed and felt safe. Your facial expressions, body posture and mood are easily identified and felt by the person you are assisting.
When I walk into the homes of my clients my goal is to enhance their life that day. However, I can honestly say, I think they add more to my life then I to theirs.
See what you can learn from your loved one today.