This is the fifth post in our 5-part dementia CARES series. Click here to start at the beginning of this series.
In the final post of our CARES series, we’re covering an often overlooked topic – sharing what works with the people who need to know. After you’ve worked through each of the previous steps and determined what tactics and methods of caregiving are most successful for your loved one, it’s time to share what works.
Anyone involved in the care of your loved one should be on the same page as you to eliminate as much stress from the caregiving process as possible. But beyond that, don’t be shy about sharing what worked for you in forums where other caregivers often crowdsource for advice or at your support group. It is important to celebrate wins and your situation may be similar to someone else’s who could benefit from your advice.
One of the hallmarks of dementia care is constantly thinking outside the box. Having a great pool of resources to consult is an incredible asset to new and experienced caregivers alike. It helps us quickly pivot from one technique to the next until we find the one that best suits the situation at hand.
Some of this advice may only be relevant to one specific challenge, but could still be useful for the future. Other advice may be applicable to broader categories and very helpful to anyone who interacts with your loved one under these specific circumstances. For example, behaviors that revolve around activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, and personal hygiene may be consistent as they happen every single day, often multiple times a day. So a technique that may work for feeding your loved one breakfast will likely be useful at other meal and snack times. Or if you know your loved one is especially resistant to bathing, which is not uncommon in dementia, but is more receptive when they’ve just had a positive interaction, any caregiver would be in a better position knowing the ideal situation for that person to get in a bath if it has been several days since they bathed.
Think of all these bits and pieces of information like the latest cutting-edge tools and technology. We all love when someone shares a new tip or trick with us that will make our lives easier! When you’ve shared with your direct caregiver support team, consider also sharing with support groups or forums you may be a part of, because it could be just the solution that a caregiver miles away in a completely different situation needs to hear. The more you share, the more awareness you raise for dementia and dementia caregivers. That increased awareness will eventually have the effect of making life better for more and more individuals living with dementia, the more readily available this extremely helpful becomes common public knowledge.
Why is this important? Because in order to be effective dementia caregivers, we must be able to think fast on our feet and interpret clues that come in the form of behaviors, postures, words, emotions and other behaviors. After all, behavior is communication; it’s just a form of communication that requires us to adjust our problem-solving skills accordingly in order to decipher what message is being communicated to us.
Knowing what works and freely sharing that information is at the heart of person-centered care. When we know what works best for a specific individual in a specific situation, we are able to connect, assess, and respond quickly, kindly, and effectively in the moment. The person feels validated and understood, which only serves to strengthen the trust and confidence an individual living with dementia will instinctively feel for their care partner.
But as caregivers, we also know that we cannot do this alone. Being an effective care partner means knowing when you need help and seeking it, and knowing when you just need a break and must find another trusted caregiver to step in while you take care of yourself. It is crucial to keep the lines of communication open and flowing between all elements of caregiving. Be sure to include caregivers, healthcare professionals, and anyone else with whom the person with dementia regularly interacts. This will do wonders to ensure a less disruptive and chaotic environment for that individual. And that, in turn, will go a long way in making them feel safe, comfortable, and supported throughout their dementia journey no matter the setting or circumstances.
The phrase “sharing is caring” has never been more appropriate and applicable.
In addition to sharing what works, we must also remember to share what does NOT work. For example, if we know that Mom was bitten by a dog as a child and is very afraid of dogs, this information would be very helpful for a caregiver to know. A day of pet therapy or a trip to a pet adoption fair at a nearby park might not be appropriate activities for her.
As we come to the end of our CARES series, let’s review our simple steps for success on final time:
S – Share What Works
If you keep this helpful acronym top of mind, you will be well on your way to becoming a more empathetic and effective caregiver no matter the circumstances.
As we discussed previously, it’s not uncommon to repeat the first two or three steps more than once before finding the solution that best fits.
When you focus your caregiving techniques on a more person-centered level, you will find that you are able to think and react more quickly; minimizing the stress on both yourself and the individual with dementia. Sharing what works will go a long way to help improve a person’s life and/or outlook on life.