Everyone's journey is different, but here is one I see frequently.
Diane cared for her husband all their married life, and became a care partner the day he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. She read everything she could find about the disease, and related topics such as the side effects of the medications. She watched over every aspect of his life with care and love, and a bit of obsession. Keeping him functioning became her purpose in life.
Inevitably, the day came when she couldn't cope. Her own health was affected, and her family insisted their dad get more care. She could visit every day, and was a partner in his care, but she was now part of a team.
From the first day, she went to war with the staff. They had strange names she couldn't pronounce, they didn't do things the way she did or give him the constant attention she had. What galled her the most was that her husband was thriving under their care. When she visited, he seemed happy, and often wasn't in his room, but attending an activity. She wasn't self aware enough to know that her criticism grew from her feelings of insecurity. Her role was threatened.
Not everyone struggles like Diane. Many are delighted to share the caring role, and realize how much they need to divide the load. No matter on which end of the spectrum you land, the ways in which you connect with staff is key. Here are a few simple ideas to enrich your experience.
1) It sounds simplistic, but get to know their names. Find out the names of the regular full time and part time day and evening staff who care for your elder. Write them down, and make sure you are pronouncing them correctly.
2) Ask them about themselves. Not everyone is open to sharing, and if you sense resistance, back off on this one. But if you get information, write it down beside their names. Next time you see them, ask them about their children or their dog.
3) Ask their advice. Care partners have some great ideas, and invaluable experience.
4) Take a picture of them with your loved one. It's a beautiful, non-verbal affirmation.
5) On occasion, take them a small, token gift such as some baking or flowers from your garden. It means a lot.
6) Affirm them in front of your elder. "Dorothy knows how to shower you and she will do a wonderful job. You have nothing to be afraid of."
7) Ask them to tell you stories. Ask what your loved one's day was like, what activity he enjoyed the most in the last week, what meals seem to be his favourite. Staff is a connection to your elder when you aren't there.
8) Affirm them. Sincerely tell them how much you appreciate the impact they are having on your loved one's life, and how much it means to you.
What happens when you have a staff member with whom there is a problem? I'm not talking about abuse, which of course you would report immediately, but personalities which clash. Next week, we'll talk about some strategies for that.
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Care Partner Wednesday--Connecting with Staff