Care Teams – engaged as investigators, and solution finders

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” ~Dalai Lama

“You are a miracle! You have dropped down from heaven to be here with me.” Those are the words I heard from an elder living with Alzheimer’s disease a few weeks ago. I shared with the team earlier in the day that I am doing aromatherapy research. We sampled a few essential oils on cotton balls during a short morning stand up meeting. Later a care team member came to me and asked to experiment with the oils to see if we could relieve agitation for a woman she was caring for. As I approached the elder, made eye contact, and spoke to her, asking permission to put a drop of lavender oil on a cotton ball to put in her pocket, she said those amazing words, “You are a miracle!”  We held hands and talked for a few minutes….. she made my day.

It truly does feel like magic or a miracle when I connect or I can support a care team member to connect with an elder who is longing for the touch, the voice, and the love of another person.

When I do dementia training in a community, I usually first do classroom instruction teaching an empathetic communication approach that is person-centered and elder-directed.  For several days after the classroom training, I live in the community, doing hands-on coaching and role modeling the methods. I am present on all 3 shifts, and I learn so much from the elders and the care teams.  This is a reciprocal learning laboratory, with real-life situations.

What warmed my heart that day was that the care team members were fully engaged as investigators, and solution finders.  They had learned about the basic human needs as defined by Maslow, and how to identify unmet needs.  They understood the power of touch and being present.  They had learned how to utilize empathetic speech, touch, and approaches. They were using the tools and tips that they had learned on that first day; recognizing that they had the ability to do critical thinking to determine ways to support and guide elders who are trying to find their way in a confusing world.

This work can be empowering to care team members – filling them with joy and the deep knowing that they touched another soul and made a significant difference.

  • The care team member has the opportunity to be instrumental in calming the unknown fears of an elder.
  • The care team member truly makes an amazing connection with a 90-year-old who feels alone.
  • The care team member recognizes that the very nature of caregiving rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intimate and sacred work that brings with it gifts of dignity, respect, intelligence, and kindness.
  • The care team member can be so in touch with another person, that they are seen as a miracle – as a gift from heaven!

I got an email from one of our communities with a note from a family, that said in part:

“Our prayers were answered! Your team  made our mother feel comfortable and loved from the moment she moved in.  As her family, we felt included throughout her stay. Thank you is not enough to express how appreciative we are to all of you for making her last months of her 89 years the easiest it could be as she transitioned to her heavenly home!  Forever Grateful, the family. P.S. Keep making a difference for people who need you.”

This is good work, hard work, rewarding work.   The world needs caregivers and leaders who are enthusiastically supporting families and elders and one another at the crescendo of an elder’s life as they prepare for their next great adventure.  In our communities, we are guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.    It is also important that we are guided by love for one another and for the work we are all called to do.

Love, Love, Love – All you need is Love – All you need is Love, Love. Love is all you need!


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

Empathy – An expression of non-judgemental love

You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. –Harper Lee

All we need is love ~ especially working in eldercare.  The basic human need for  love and belonging is an imperative to life!

According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathize wired into their brains – a capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.

Empathy is a key ingredient of nurturing relationships and can forge loving and safe connections.

Here are some stories of  empathetic communication break-through moments I have observed working with those living with dementia:

Paul is spending the entire morning walking the halls and calling out his wife’s name. “Dolly, Dolly, Dolly!”  A well-meaning care team member says, “Dolly went shopping, she will be back later.”  Paul begins to wail and scream her name, “Dolly, Dolly, Dolly!”   He is looking for her everywhere and is very upset he can’t find her. Another care team member utilizing empathetic communication says, “Tell me about Dolly.  What color are her eyes?  What do you miss most about her?”   After a few minutes, Paul says, “She has been gone a long time, I really miss her hugs.”      

The first well meaning care team member has sympathy for Paul and told atherapeutic lie.  Paul  knows deep inside that Dolly has been gone for 20 years, and he is communicating that he misses her.  He was invited to share and release his deep feelings and heartbreak to  the second care team member who listened with empathy and love.  

Madeline starts pacing at 4:30 every afternoon to go home to her children. “I want to go home! I need to get home to my children!”  A well-meaning care team member  says, “Sit down. Everything’s OK.  Let’s go  have a cookie.” Madeline  gets more and more nervous, agitated, and upset.Another care team member utilizing empathetic communication asks Madeline, “What is the worst thing that will happen if you can’t get home?”  Madeline expresses her vivid memory of having left her children alone. Her fears are expressed to a trusted empathetic listener, and her painful feelings are diminished. 

The first well meaning  care team member has sympathy for Madeline, and she usedre-direction to try to calm Madeline’s fears.   Madeline is reliving a vivid memory of leaving her children alone at home.  She needs to express her fears to an empathetic listener who is willing to enter Madeline’s reality to relieve her fears.

Listening with empathy builds trust, reduces anxiety and restores dignityPainful feelings that are expressed and acknowledged  by an empathetic listener will diminish.

Painful feelings that are ignored or suppressed will gain in strength. The power of empathy to connect and to relieve pain that is pent up inside can bring peace of mind to those living with dementia.  

Empathy is an expression of non-judgemental love and a connection to another human being.  Yes, indeed, love does belong in the workplace! 

If these 8th graders, below, can define and act with empathy, we are all capable of acting with empathy. Listen to the wisdom of these children.

Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes. –Theodore Dreiser


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

“You have dropped down from heaven to be here with me!”

“You are magic! You have dropped down from heaven to be here with me.” Those are the words I heard from an elder with Alzheimer’s a few weeks ago. I shared with my care team earlier in the day that I am doing aromatherapy research. We sampled a few essential oils on cotton balls during a short morning stand up  meeting. Later a care team member came to me and asked to experiment with the oils to see if we could relieve agitation for a woman she was caring for. As I approached the elder, and asked permission to put a drop of lavender oil on a cotton ball to put in her pocket, she said those amazing words, “You are magic!”  We held hands and talked for a few minutes….. that made my day!

When I do dementia training in a community, I usually do a full day of classroom instruction teaching an empathetic communication approach that is person-centered and elder-directed.  For several days after the classroom training I live in the community, doing hands-on coaching and role modeling the methods. I am present on all 3 shifts, and I learn so much from the elders and the care teams.  This is a reciprocal learning laboratory, with real life situations.

What warmed my heart that day was that the care team members were fully engaged as investigators, and solution finders.  They had learned about the basic human needs as defined by Maslow, and how to identify unmet needs.  They understood the power of touch, and being present.  They had learned how  to utilize empathetic speech, touch, and approaches. They were using the tools and tips that they had learned on that first day; recognizing that they had the ability to do critical thinking to determine  ways to support and guide  elders who are trying to find their way in a confusing world.

This work can be empowering to care team members!

  • To  have the opportunity to be instrumental in calming the unknown fears of an elder.
  • To make a truly amazing connection with a 90 year old who feels alone.
  • To recognize that the very nature of caregiving rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intimate and sacred work that brings with it gifts of dignity, respect, intelligence, and kindness.
  • To be so in touch with another person, that you are seen as a miracle – as a gift from heaven!

Today, I got an email from one of our communities with a note from a family, that said in part:

“Our prayers were answered! Your staff made our mother feel comfortable and loved from the moment she moved in.  As her family we felt included throughout her stay. Thank you is not enough to express how appreciative we are to all of you for making her last months of her 89 years the easiest it could be as she transitioned to her heavenly home!  Forever Grateful, the family. P.S. Keep making a difference for people who need you.”

This is good work, hard work, rewarding work.   The world needs caregivers  and leaders who are enthusiastically supporting  families and elders and one another at the crescendo of an elder’s life as they prepare for their next great adventure.  In our communities, we  are guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.    It is also important that we are guided by love for one another and for the work we are all called to do.

Love, Love, Love – All you need is Love – All you need is Love, Love. Love is all you need!


About the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Ede11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nn
Alternative
Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.