Coaching Family Caregivers, Because Caregivers Need Care Too!

Many caregivers, especially family caregivers, experience feelings of loss, guilt, and stress. However, it is a natural reaction to feel scared when living and caring for someone with so many uncertainties. Therefore it is important to coaching family caregivers and alleviate any overwhelming feelings that can lead to burnt out. If you saw what they went through day in and day out, you would certainly understand their feelings.

When it comes to the care of an Alzheimer patient (that is also a family member) the commitment can be daunting and devastating. Statistics show that many Alzheimer caregivers will die before the patient. Therefore coaching family caregivers is extremely important. They need to understand that they can reach out for help and support when they need it. Furthermore, it is important for family caregivers to understand that they need to take the time to care for themselves as well.

Platinum Select Nursing held a Caregiver Lunch & Learn seminar last month. We invited anyone who is currently a family caregiver of an Alzheimer or cognitively impaired patient. Our special guest was Dr. Jamie Brodarick PhD . She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Dr. Brodarick worked for the Alzheimer’s Association of SE Florida and prior to that, worked within the senior living industry.  Dr. Brodarick is a certified Level 1 and Level 2 dementia trainer. In other words, she has helped many families through the toughest job they ever had; caring for a loved one with Dementia.

Caregiver Coaching & Training

Above all, the hardest part of being a caregiver is managing the challenging behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. For instance these can include refusing personal care, paranoia, anxiety, agitation, repetitiveness, and many other symptoms.

Learning how to better communicate with your loved one will decrease frustration for both of you. Dr. Broderick emphasized the importance in learning how  to “speak Alzheimer’s.” She believes, if you learn to create better communication with your loved ones, you will reduce frustrations for both of you.

Here are 10 NEVER Instead DO THIS Tips:

Never Argue, Instead Agree.

For example, instead of saying “what do you mean you want to go home? You have been living in this house for 25 years. You are home.

Say this – “I want to go home too. While we are waiting, why don’t we have some lunch?”

Never Reason, Instead Divert.

For example, instead of saying “You did not take a bath today and you need to because we are going to the doctor. We have to go in here to take our bath and we have to hurry ”

Say this – “Let’s go see, come in here. You are right but come inside here. Oh, I know, let me help you take off your shirt. I think the water is warm enough. You are in charge, just step right into the shower.”

Never Shame, Instead Distract – 

For example, instead of saying “How can you accuse John of stealing your things after all he has done for us?”

Say this – “John is here to help us find your wallet. Let’s have a cup of coffee and then get started.”

Never Lecture, Instead Reassure – 

“You have to go back to bed and get some sleep. You have been up half the night and why the heck did you empty those drawers. Who is supposed to clean this mess? I suppose tomorrow you will want to sleep all day and not go to Carol’s. I am just too tired to deal with this now, so you need to get in bed and go to sleep right now. We cannot keep going like this, no one can live this way, and we both need to get some sleep!”

Say this – “I can’t sleep either. Let’s go to the bathroom. I need something to drink (give them a drink). Try to lie down (pat the bed). No? How about some milk and cookies? Try to lie down again (sit beside them and pat bed again.) Doesn’t that feel good? (Stay with them until settled, rub their back or hands.)

Never say “Remember?” Instead Reminisce – 

“Do you remember who this is?” or “Did Mary visit you today?”

Say this – “Hi Tom. This is Sara who is visiting with me today. Sara is a friend of the family for years.” Or “Mary is such a pleasant person who visits often.

Never say “I told you” Instead Repeat and/or Reassure –

“I just told you we are not going to the bank today. It is Sunday and the bank is closed. How many times do I have to tell you we are not going to the bank?”

Say this – “Wouldn’t you know it, it is too late for Church and we have to go to the bank tomorrow. Since it is Sunday, let’s have fried chicken. Yes, we will go to the bank when it opens tomorrow.”

Never say “You can’t” Instead Do What You Can –

“You can’t wear two shirts” “You can’t eat with your hands.” “You can’t go outside because it is raining.” “You can’t GO home because you ARE home.”

Say this – “Try this one on, it looks nice.” “See how the spoon works? We can eat these fries with our fingers. Isn’t that fun?” “Yes, I want to go home too.”

Never Command or Demand, Instead Ask or Model – 

“You have got to change your clothes.” “Sit down right here and stop walking around.” “Why would you take this, it doesn’t belong to you.” 

Say this – “This one looks so pretty, let’s see how it looks on you.” “Sit with me for a minute (pat the chair or get up and sit back down in the chair.) “Yes this is nice, may I hold it? Since it is not ours, we have to pay for it.”

Never Condescend, Instead Encourage/Praise –

“Don’t give your caregiver a hard time like you always do. Don’t spit out your medication and be difficult like you always are.”

Say this – “I decided since you like when your caregiver gives you your medicine and you do so well with your baths and breakfast that we will wait for her to get here.”

Never Force, Instead Reinforce-

“Stop fighting, these people are here to help you!” “Give that to me right now! This is not yours!” “You cannot go into that room, you have to go into this room.”

Say this – “I asked this lady to come here to help me today.” “That is so pretty, but here is an even prettier one and this one is for you.” “This is a nice room. Let’s go in and have a cup of coffee.”

Ways to Make it Easier Caring for Anyone with AD

In conclusion, taking care of anyone can be challenging. However caring for an Alzheimer or Dementia patient can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. Consequently, the patient usually doesn’t want anyone else around but you. But at the same time, they voice that they don’t think you “do anything” or “help them.”

Understanding that this disease is unpredictable and cruel, is the first step in making it a bit easier. You may need to make a list for yourself of all the things you do for them. After all, this will reassure you of the wonderful, yet thankless job you do. Most importantly, please understand that your loved one is not intentionally giving you a hard time. In other words it is the disease that is speaking.

Remember…

Remember, this one WORD should be avoiding whenever possible.  Simply put, they do not REMEMBER. It is so easy to say; “Mom… Don’t you remember you don’t live there anymore?” But the simple truth is THEY DON’T. Reminding them or asking them if they remember only adds to their frustration.

In other words, it would do you well as a Caregiver or even just a family member, not to use the word REMEMBER.   

Recommended Books for Caregivers:

The 36 Hour Day (Mace & Rabins, 1981)

Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s (Coste, 2004)

Ambiguous Loss (Boss, 2000)

Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making (Kind, 2011)

The Alzheimer’s Playbook by Coach Broyles

Still Alice (for younger-onset Alzheimer’s)

Reach Out for Support

In conclusion, it is very important that a Caregiver is supported in all their efforts. As well as having someone to talk to or “vent” so they don’t keep their frustration or anxiety inside.

Please feel free to reach out to Platinum Select Nursing at (561) 998-3211 to see when our next Caring for Caregiver Support Seminar will be.