I have experienced moments of confusion, like being on a business trip and waking up in an unfamiliar place and needing a moment to orient myself. One time (or possibly more than once), I forgot where I parked my car at a large shopping mall. With so many entrances to choose from, I could not remember which one I walked through to enter the mall. Just a few weeks ago, I went through half of a day believing it was Thursday, and it was Wednesday- an entire HALF DAY!
How did these brief and resolvable situations make me feel?
Being in an unfamiliar place: troubled and foolish (wow- really, how could I be so dingy?).
Forgetting where I parked my car: embarrassed, angry (why can't I remember and how could I be so careless?).
Losing track of the day of the week: shocked and anxious (how could this happen, and did I forget something important?).
Now, sit back and really contemplate for a few minutes about how it must feel to live with similar experiences described above that are not brief, and don't resolve? It's almost unimaginable, isn't it?
Today, I visited the offices of Assisting Hands Home Care/Arlington Heights and surrounding area in Illinois. Through the wonderful leadership of owner Daniellah Salario, they are onboarding Dementia Live as foundational dementia training for employees. I met with the team of four who are working toward their Dementia Live Coach certification, and we all agreed: All employees need to FEEL what it can be like to live with dementia.
Empathy training in action.
Assisting Hands Home Care, Arlington Heights, IL.
Caregivers lack the education and training to understand that feelings and emotions are still very much intact for persons living with dementia.
While memories fade, feelings remain. Caregiving is about taking care of the whole person and not just the physical stuff. Feelings are indeed intact and should be at the center of our caregiving actions. Helping a person get from a place of illbeing to wellbeing is the most important aspect of caregiving.
Experiential training that replicates cognitive and sensory impairment.
The best way to transform caregiving actions is to change attitudes, and attitudes are changed with empathy. Empathy is the secret sauce in caregiving. I heard a speaker on NPR talking about leadership, and he described empathy as "the lubricant of change." I love this! It softens the hard edges and helps us to approach situations through lenses other than our own.
Do you desire real change in how your caregiver's care for persons living with dementia?