Caregiving with Grace and Dignity

Each morning I walk my dog. I live in town, so every day I try to take a new route towards a different neighborhood to keep myself from getting too bored. One thing that always strikes me whether I’m strolling by the large mansions by the river or small duplexes by my house is the sense of pride people have in their homes. I love to see how people decorate for the holidays, landscape in a certain way, or personalize everything from their welcome mat to the mailbox. This sense of pride in one’s home very easily translates into pride for oneself. As our loved ones age and we are struggling to take care of them, sometimes we unknowingly lose sight of that pride as we transition into the role of caregiver.

Helping an aging loved one keep their dignity be a tricky idea when we are helping them to dress or go to the bathroom, but it can be even more difficult when the loved one has dementia and we’re unsure what they might understand. Here are a few easy tricks to remember.

- Involve the Individual: I recently attended a panel discussion where a man was diagnosed with dementia. He said one of the most frustrating things to him was that almost everyone would ask his wife how he was doing when he was standing right there! He said ask ME how I’m doing, approach ME when you see me. He couldn’t be more right whether it’s about how someone feels, treatment plans, or what to make for dinner, involve the individual as much as possible.

- Respect Privacy: It happens. We are in a hurry and barge in the bathroom to get them moving faster and out the door on time for an appointment. Consider taking an extra second to knock first. Ask them if you can come in before you enter. Try referring to their adult diapers as underwear instead. These things can help seniors maintain some control and dignity.

- Find their Joy: Just like I love walking through the neighborhood and seeing those homes, try to help keep their sense of pride. Maybe they loved a particular sports team, so make sure they are decked out in the team shirt and hat on game days so they can show their team spirit, even if it’s only to you. Ladies oftentimes like their hair and maybe nails done. Even if someone can no longer get to the salon, you can take an extra few minutes to make them feel their best.

These may seem like simple things to us, but they can go a long way in helping someone age gracefully.

People often joke that we come into this world and leave in the same way, but is that really true? Sure, as we age, we all need a little more direction and help, but our seniors have a lifetime of experiences and deserve our dignity and respect.

If you need additional help understanding the resources available, please feel free to reach out to the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resource Center for a listing of services available in your community. Please call our toll-free Call Center at 1-800-753-8827 or email me at mbottorf2016@gmail.com.

[Bottorf is the PA Lead Link Coordinator for the Aging and Disability Resource Center. She covers nine counties, including Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia and Montour. She can be contacted at mbottorf2016@gmail.com.]

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Statewide information at: PA Link to Community Care                                                    PA Link Helpline: (800) 753 - 8827