These principles are based on the many years of hands-on-experience between Sophya, myself and the incredible team of caregivers we have been fortunate to work alongside since Sophya’s Assisted Living was founded in 1995.
Focus on Quality of Life – There needs to always be a focus on meaningful day-to-day living. Even when the circumstances seem to favor a repetitive, uneventful day… be resourceful and create an atmosphere that values the importance of significant living. Simple tasks that can bring value and importance; helping with baking, folding laundry, washing a few cups/utensils, painting with watercolors, singing worship songs, reading a short excerpt from a book (We enjoy Jesus Calling, My Utmost for His Highest, Girl From Silver Creek, The Sandy Shoreline, Three Things) or even leading the way to some light chair aerobics...Find a meaningful task that is rewarding and relevant to your loved one's current interests and abilities.
Focus on Upholding Dignity – Small gestures can reassure dignity: when providing personal care for a loved one consider the importance of privacy; close the door, turn the blinds, voice your plans and upcoming tasks, show kindness.
Honor Choices – As a caregiver, your ability to encourage independence is vital to preserving self-worth. For hygienic and safety reasons, you may spend extra effort influencing important and necessary tasks like showers and change of undergarments. A wonderful opportunity to promote choices are with meals and activities. Give multiple options whenever possible and honor them. This builds confidence and trust that shows you value your loved one's opinion.
Appearance Matters – As a caregiver, your responsibility will include keeping up with hygiene and appearances. Go the extra mile.. style the hair, add makeup, coordinate the jewelry, button that shirt and tuck it in.. always make the effort to provide your loved one with the “Sunday Best” look. This includes little overlooked details like positioning when in a bed/recliner/wheelchair. Use those lovely colorful blankets, keep the environment tidy and clean.. This attention to detail will not go unnoticed to a loved one that has plenty of time to observe your actions – big and small.
Take Your Time – Be patient and diligent in your tasks, those that are both significant and overlooked. Even when you don’t “feel like it,” keep in mind that you have been entrusted to assist (sometimes even fully provide) the vital tasks of daily living. Make the time to take your time. This is one of the most appreciated approaches in any caregiving circumstance. Whether you are feeding a loved one, helping with personal care, assisting with a difficult task... Always remain aware of the kindness you are extending. Show compassion and love in all you do.
Companionship Opportunity – Be the friend you wish you had. Effective communication will include eye contact, steady-paced verbal communication, gentle tone and a great listening ear! Encourage your loved one towards a positive mindset by guiding conversation to joyful topics. These might include grandkids, a favorite pet, the weather, etc.
Cheerful Outlook – Enter the room wearing your most flattering accessory, YOUR SMILE! A smile can bring reassurance, peace and comfort even when the circumstances are less than ideal. Most elderly adults suffer from depression due to a loss of independence and reliance on others for basic ADLs. Depressive thoughts and guilt can be minimized when (as a committed caregiver) you show cheerful desire to provide extraordinary care!
Advantage of Compliments – Interactions that start with compliments and positive reinforcement are more effective than simple Hello's. Boost the esteem of your loved one with words that will uplift and promote a great day ahead!
Orchestrate the Environment – Create an environment that enriches daily life with comfort and assurance. Add familiar items of comfort to every room. We love colorful flowers, picture books of babies (and Shirley Temple) and Era Music to create a calming atmosphere.
Music Matters – Research has shown that music has significant impact on the mind, both healthy or adversely affected by brain injury or illness. Explore the effects of different genres and styles of music and find what works best for a pleasant atmosphere. We always enjoy 20’s Era and Swing Music and classic Musicals around here!
Importance of Presentation – This is especially true for meal times and desserts. The effort necessary for creating delicious dishes is minimal in comparison to the reward. If your loved one already struggles with loss of appetite, vibrant color contrasts can make a difference, especially for dementia patients and those with limited vision. Consider adding herbs to side dishes, sauces to your main dish, vibrant fresh fruits to desserts, or even a dollop of whip cream with a drizzle of caramel. Be mindful of the table setting; add a colorful placemat and set the silverware on a neat napkin. Make use of nice plastic golbets and a beautiful centerpiece to dress up mealtime.
CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER
Well Informed is Well Equipped – Educate yourself on the condition, stages and effects of the diagnosis associated with your loved one. Knowledge is power. Understand the facets of the disease that your loved one is being treated for. Inform yourself on the treatment options and care opportunities available. Consider and weigh the benefits and disadvantages between aggressive treatments and palliative care. Being a caregiver for a loved one can be exhausting physically and emotionally. Be prepared by understanding what to expect. Find local support groups and stay connected.
Take Care of Yourself – Make time to Rest and Relax. Accept help when its offered and speak up when you are having a difficult time with your workload. Even if you only plan one weekend off monthly, the time off will give you the opportunity to refresh and recharge. You can be an extraordinary caregiver when your mind, body and soul are nourished.