In home care, getting the whole team together can be quite the project. We have caregivers who work mornings, afternoons, evenings, overnights, live-ins, and just about every hour of the day. This is the service we provide to our local families, but we also need the opportunity to get together to build and support our team through some of the challenges they may face out in the field.
About the Workshop
Last Friday, May 17th, we rallied the troops together over at 25N Co-working in Arlington Heights for a special workshop created and presented by Allison List, LCSW, PC, entitled: When Truth is Stranger than Reality: An Experiential Program on Communicating with People Who Have Dementia. In her presentation, Allison addressed many of the questions my caregivers face on a daily basis:
- What do you do when someone who has dementia is resistant to showering?
- How do you communicate with someone who keeps forgetting a loved one has passed away?
- How do you as a caregiver deal with the “boredom” you may face when repeating the same conversation for countless hours?
Review of the Workshop from Allison Hadlock
Rather than giving you my own takeaways, I thought I would share a reflection on the day written by our lead caregiver, Allison Hadlock:
Having a caregiver training is one of those special opportunities we don’t get all the time. In addition to the actual training itself, we are able to connect with our fellow caregivers and share our common experiences. I usually come away from group events with new insights and a greater sense of community, and this month’s training was no exception. Because of our dynamic speaker, and our enthusiastic caregivers, I would add that this month’s training was also an afternoon of theatre, one of the best ways to learn in my opinion!
Our speaker, Allison List, LCSW, PC, started out her presentation by arguing with our fearless leader, Daniellah! The argument was staged, and I had even heard about it ahead of time in the office, and I still fell for it. Which was lucky for me, because I was able to experience Allison’s experiment first hand. Me and my fellow caregivers weren’t entirely sure what was going on, but we could sense the tension in the room and we were very uncomfortable. Allison was relating our feelings and our experience in that moment to a way that someone living with Dementia may feel and experience the world.
Allison‘s presentation was all about perspective shifts, as you may be able to glean from the title of her presentation: “When Truth is Stranger than Reality: Communicating with People Who Have Dementia.” The first perspective switch is understanding and empathizing with the experience someone with dementia may be living. The next switch is finding new ways to communicate, and not always in ways that are intuitive!
Working with Dementia: Communicating in the World they Live In
I think one of the biggest take-aways from Allison’s presentation was that a person with dementia can be free to live their own truth. Arguing with or correcting a person with dementia can cause unnecessary trauma, even when our instinct may be to be completely truthful or accurate according to what we know. Communicating with someone with dementia is often about focusing on their feelings and communicating based on the world they live in, not forcing them to fit into our reality.
For example, if someone insisted they would like to call their mother who is deceased, it would be very traumatic for them to experience learning that their mother is no longer with us, something they have likely already lived through before. Perhaps we could respond with, “Oh, she knows where you are and she knows you’re safe,” and maybe, “She sounds like an amazing lady, could you tell me more about her?”
The Importance of Knowing the Client
Allison offered us some wonderful communication strategies to treat people with dementia with dignity and respect while meeting them where they are right now. One of Allison’s memorable sayings is, “Remember we are seeing a snapshot of this person’s life, and they’ve lived a whole movie.” Indeed, knowing about a client’s past can help you communicate with them today.
Our zealous caregivers were only too happy to role-play through some example situations where we may use these tools. It was inspiring to connect with other caregivers over these situations. Indeed, our caregivers collectively have many years of experience, and many have dealt with these situations before, but as caregivers we are always ready to learn more, and be reminded how we are all in this together, doing our best every day for the good of our clients!
Want to learn more on communicating with those who have dementia? Contact Assisting Hands Home Care in Arlington Heights, IL at (847) 462-4402.