Author Shares Insights on Caring for Those with Dementia

Michele Thomas, EVP of Osborn Home Care, hosted author and health care consultant Kelly McCarthy on the popular WGCH (1490 am) radio show, “Good Living with Michele Thomas.”

Author shares tips on caring for those with dementia

Ms. McCarthy has been a senior health professional for over 20 years. A board-certified dementia educator for the National Institute for Dementia Education (NIDE), she is the author of the book, Brass Ring Memories, Encouraging stories using practical methodologies to help caregivers reach for their goals in Alzheimer’s and dementia Care.

Ms. McCarthy shared strategies for families who are caring for a loved one with dementia. A former home health aide, she has often witnessed high stress levels among care givers. She emphasized that knowing when and how to get assistance is important to the long-term health and well-being of all involved. “It is so important for care givers to have time to rest and recharge themselves,” she said. “Caring for a loved one with dementia is a marathon, not a sprint, and the conditions are constantly changing.”

To Know Them Well is to Care for them Better

Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Thomas discussed how the strong relationships develop when the caregiver takes the time to get to know the patient and his or her family. She used the analogy of an iceberg, where the largest portion of the mass is unseen beneath the water.

“It is crucial when caring for people with dementia to know what they did before their cognition began to decline,” Ms. McCarthy explained. Caregivers should ask the family about the clients’ professional and personal interests, relationships, hobbies – what brought them joy. These points of reference can be used to redirect a patient during a period of confusion.

‘Brass Rings’ and ‘Peacock Moments’

Using the metaphor of catching the brass ring on an old-fashioned carousel, Ms. McCarthy advised creating achievable goals for both the patient and the caregiver. While a ‘brass ring’ for a caregiver might be getting their loved one through the shower in the morning, a person with dementia might feel more empowered by watching a cardinal at the birdfeeder; the shower could happen in the afternoon.

Ms. McCarthy conjured up the image of a proud male peacock who displays his beautiful feathers:  “Everyone deserves an opportunity to shine. With this disease, people are robbed of their pride, beauty, and confidence. Instead of chiding them for failure to remember a fact from the past, or a simple daily task, give them moments of pride.”  Using a ‘peacock moment’ can be an effective way to engage a person in discussing a time or topic that makes them feel at ease.

Michele Thomas agreed: “It’s important to bring back their sense of identity – if only for that moment.”

A Qualified Assessment is Essential

Dementia is a progressive condition that can be a symptom of any one of approximately 100 diseases. Ms. McCarthy advised getting the patient accustomed to having a caregiver for short periods of time at first before they need a longer arrangement.

Osborn Home Care provides a professional, complimentary in-home consultations to assess the current situation and help families envision the home experience as the disease progresses. Specially-trained caregivers are available for four-hour shifts as needed.

Some long term care insurance goes into effect after a number of days paid for by the individual or family.  Having an aide start at four hours a day will use up that deductible more quickly with less out-of-pocket cost than using a longer shift.

Relationships Connect Past to Present

Ms. McCarthy remembered when, as a child, her father took her to different nursing homes to visit the residents there. “Older people love spending time with younger people,” she said. “Now families are spread all over the place and those with dementia need a sense of home no matter where they are,” said Ms. McCarthy.

When adult children choose to care for a loved one with this condition, they are giving an invaluable gift, but one that come with a heavy burden. “Say ‘yes’ when someone offers help,” said Ms. McCarthy.  “Learn to live in the moment and cherish what you have.”

Learn More

To learn more about care in the home for families struggling with Dementia or other age-related conditions, contact Osborn Home Care:  914-925-8221 (Westchester County) or 203-641-7683 (Fairfield County) or visit www.osbornhomecare.org.

“Good Living with Michele Thomas airs every other Tuesday from 9:30-10:00 am on WGCH (1490 am). To listen to a full broadcast of her interview with Kelly McCarthy, visit www.wgch.com, click on “Good Living” and link to the March 5, 2019 episode.

The Osborn is a private, non-profit continuum of care community that offers Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing, Short-term Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation. For more information, or to schedule a tour, contact Georgia Woodbine (914-925-8243) or gwoodbine@theosborn.org.

Osborn Home Care provides home care services in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. For more information, call 914-925-8221 (Westchester) or 203-641-7683 (Fairfield).

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