Reconnecting to the past can provide dignity and needed comfort to an elderly person with dementia
Let’s talk about aging
Getting older is inevitable but it’s not often discussed around the dinner table. Long before I started CT Help at Home, my father-in-law developed dementia. Unfortunately, at that time, my husband and I didn’t have a clue how to help him. We really tried but it seemed as if we were making his life more difficult rather than happier and easier.
For the next four years, until he passed, we learned many valuable lessons that lead me to start CT Help at Home.
My best takeaway is this:
Love and compassion are essential when caring for an elderly parent, but they are only half of the answer. My father-in-law‘s condition required much more than emotional support. He also needed big, bold, outside-the-box solutions. He needed us to come up with ideas completely in-line with his personality, his lifestyle, his hobbies, and his passions. He needed care that was just for him!
When someone asks what I’m about, I usually tell them the simple stuff: I’m a mother of three, a nurse, the founder of a home care agency, and that I really love helping people! That’s all true, but I think what they really want to know is what motivates me to work in such a highly charged and emotional field. It’s why I feel so passionate about working with the elderly.
I’ll tell you a bit more about me in a minute, but first, I’m going to guess that you’re reading this because you have a parent or a loved one that may soon need some extra care. I get it. My father-in-law is gone but my own parents are getting older and I worry about them sometimes too.
But worrying gets us nowhere. Choosing the right caregiver, one with the right combination of passion, compassion, and creative ability, is a huge part of the answer. I love the searching for the right person and making that connection — and that’s why I love what I do!
Matching caregivers with your loved ones is my passion
My background, like most everyone’s, comes with its own unique set of beliefs, traditions, rules, and values. I was raised Catholic in a big Italian family and we are known for being outwardly passionate about almost everything.
That said, I really love it when my clients and caregivers bring their own persuasions, cultures, and religious traditions to the table. Some of my best matches are made when caregivers remain true to themselves while taking enormous care that their clients can celebrate their own, important traditions.
If I were allowed only one goal, it would be that our clients and caregivers become family to each other. Everyone wants to be loved, appreciated, and to feel at home. Making sure that my caregivers are kind, wise, and open-minded raises the chances of a successful match 10 times more likely. Matching a client with the perfect home caregiver gives me incredible joy.
Thinking outside-the-box for our clients
Most caregivers don’t have an RN, like me, as a boss. So, when one of my employees calls me in the middle of the night with a medical question, I’ll know the answer or get back to them quickly! But having been a nurse in many different kinds of hospitals, my expertise is not limited to just physical problems. An elderly person’s mind can also be locked in pain or confusion. Solutions to help someone with memory loss or dementia takes patience and creativity.
One of my favorite stories explains this well:
Not long ago, we were about to begin care for a man with severe dementia who would not sleep at night. He had been an engineer, and even though he had stopped working years ago, he was still worried that he would not get to his morning meeting on time. At first, his family had tried to explain that it wasn’t real, that he didn’t have to be anywhere, but he still wouldn’t sleep.
So I went shopping! I bought him a nice, big briefcase. I also found a bunch of engineer’s drawings tightly rolled up in rubber bands. That night, we packed up his case with some papers and the drawings and put it by his bed. Explaining that he was all set to go and would not miss his morning meeting, he finally slept peacefully. Best of all, when morning came, his meeting was no longer a concern. Packing the case became his ritual and the problem was solved while preserving this man’s powerful sense of dignity.
For me, this man’s desire to do what he loves, even when he’s no longer able, explains so much about human nature. I am reminded that we are all precious no matter what our age, and that we deserve to be cherished until the end of our days. Helping people like him is my passion in a nutshell. Hiring and training caregivers to think-outside-the-box is the most rewarding part of my day. That’s what I do — and I just decided that I will explain how I do it in some future blog.
Until then, if you are looking into professional and compassionate home care for a loved one, please remember that I am always here to help you think through your options. Even if you are still a long ways off, it’s better to do this research now and be ready when the time comes, than to be scrambling around looking for answers under pressure.
Feel free to give me a call for a free home care assessment. I would happily share my experiences and thoughts to help you find some peace of mind.
MaryAnn Ciambriello, BSN
Founder, CT Help at Home