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Caregivers As Servant Leaders


A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way ~ John C. Maxwell

Just recently I have come across a new meaning for family Caregivers, one that I have learned while finishing my master’s degree in Leadership and Communication at Gonzaga University and that is the connection caregivers have to Servant Leadership.

Robert Greenleaf is known as the founder of Servant Leadership and once said: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve; to serve first. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual tiles-1424714_1920power drive or to acquire material possessions.”   While  Servant Leadership focus is on Business, Managers and Work Place Culture, I see a connection to Caregivers as Servant Leaders  because of our role to serve first, to advocate, to be the voice for those who could not speak, to put ourselves second.

Some of the characteristics of a work-place culture driven by Servant Leadership is that staff is fully engaged, feels a strong commitment to the cause, find purpose and have passion. Organizations who propose a culture of Servant Leaders are mindful of the whole, empower their employees to be connected and contributing.  Stephen Covey was the “Greeenleaf” of leadership training for the military back in the 90’s,  In Greenleaf (2002), Stephen Covey stated that, “The deepest part of human nature is that which urges people—each one of us—to rise above our present circumstances and to transcend our common nature. If you can appeal to it, you tap into a whole new source of human motivation.”

I see quite a bit of philosophy entwined between Servant Leadership and being a family caregiver. Caregivers are commitment to the cause, find purpose and have passion to care.  Caregivers are mindful of their caree, while understanding that their caree needs to feel empowered, loved, connected and contributing.  Because of the innate ability of the caregiver to think beyond self, caregiving and Servant Leadership goes hand-in-hand.

Organizations who commit to the philosophy of Servant Leadership will certainly understand the special needs of working family caregivers. These same organizations will be leaders in helping the working family caregiver reduce conflicts when an emergency arise and they have to choose between going to work, or staying home to care for their caree. Employers who understand their bottom-line and return on investment is vested in how they treat their most important customer, their employee, lead by example and reap all the  benefits of having a work-place culture that promotes open dialogue and passion with employees.

You can’t put a price tag on employee morale, or can you?

We are all Servant Leaders in training, and our training in Servant Leadership is ongoing, it never stops. Servant Leadership is about relationships.   Even after Caregiving has ended for me, I am still in training, learning how to care for myself while being present to my family, friends and co-workers.  Life After Caregiving is about relationships, too.  I see the connection to Servant Leadership and Caregiving, do you?

Oh…what did being a family caregiver mean to me? It meant the world! Because in the end, just as in the beginning of our caregiving journey, we were fortunate to have some of the most meaningful conversations with each other, while spending every second, minute, hour, day, month and year together.

 

 

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5 Tips for Talking With a Person Who Has Alzheimer’s


“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today we welcome award winning author Marie Marley to The Purple Jacket.

Yesterday afternoon I walked into Mary’s spacious room. Mary is a woman who has few visitors and who I’ve volunteered to spend a little time with every week. I greeted her, complimented her on her beautiful turquoise sweater and shook her hand.

Then I sat down at her little table that was overflowing with books, photographs, the newspaper and other items she wants to keep close at hand. I started off by picking up a small framed photo of Mary with her husband and three children — two sons and a daughter.

“Tell me about your daughter,” I said, using an open-ended question because they have no right or wrong answers. That’s a tip I picked up from The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care by Virginia Bell and David Troxell.

“Oh, her name is Connie,” she told me. “She has four children — two boys and two girls.”

She continued by giving me several details about Connie and her family. I then picked up a photograph of Mary and her twin sister, Bernice, and she told me about how they took piano lessons together when they were children. After a few minutes, I asked her if her daughter ever played a musical instrument.

“I don’t have a daughter,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” I countered, picking up the family photo again and holding it out for her to see. “You just told me you have a daughter. Here she is.”

Mary’s face fell and she said very quietly, “I guess I do have a daughter.”

I immediately felt sorry for her embarrassment and was disgusted with myself for having pointed out her mistake. I realized I’d just broken one of the cardinal rules for interacting with a person who has dementia. I’d just read it in The Best Friend’s Approach that very morning: “Let the person save face.”

When relating to a person with Alzheimer’s there are many guidelines to follow. I’m going to discuss five basic ones here: 1) Don’t tell them they are wrong about something, 2) Don’t argue with them, 3) Don’t ask if they remember something, 4) Don’t remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead and 5) Don’t bring up topics that may upset them.

Don’t Tell Them They’re Wrong About Something: To let the person save face, it’s best not to contradict or correct them if they say something wrong. There’s usually no good reason to do that. If they’re alert enough, they’ll realize they made a mistake and feel bad about it. Even if they don’t understand their error, correcting them may embarrass or otherwise be unpleasant for them.

Don’t Argue With the Person: It’s never a good idea to argue with a person who has dementia. First of all, you can’t win. And second, it will probably upset them or even make them angry. I learned a long time ago, when caring for my beloved Romanian soul mate, Ed, the best thing to do is simply change the subject — preferably to something pleasant that will immediately catch their attention.

Don’t Ask if They Remember Something: When talking with a person who has Alzheimer’s, it’s so tempting to ask them if they remember some person or event. “What did you have for lunch?” “What did you do this morning?” “Do you remember that we had candy bars when I visited last week?” “This is David. Do you remember him?” Of course they may not remember. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have a diagnosis of dementia. It could embarrass or frustrate them if they don’t remember. It’s better to say, “I remember that we had candy the last time I was here. It was delicious.”

Don’t Remind the Person that a Loved One Is Dead: It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to believe their deceased spouse, parent or other loved one is still alive. They may be confused or feel hurt that the person doesn’t come to visit. If you inform them that the person is dead, they might not believe it and become angry with you. If they do believe you, they’ll probably be very upset by the news. What’s more, they’re likely to soon forget what you said and go back to believing their loved one is still alive. An exception to this guideline is if they ask you if the person is gone. Then it’s wise to give them an honest answer, even if they will soon forget it, and then go on to some other topic.

Don’t Bring up Other Topics That May Upset Them: There’s no reason to bring up topics you know may upset your loved one. If you don’t see eye-to eye on politics, for example, don’t even bring it up. It may just start an argument, which goes against the second guideline above. You won’t prevail and it’s just likely to cause them anger and/or frustration.

So there you go. A few guidelines for visiting. I hope these will be helpful to you in visiting your loved one and enriching the time you have together.

unnamedMarie Marley is the award-winning author of Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy and co-author (with Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

 

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Love In The Land Of Dementia


Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

I will be the first one to admit that my caregiving journey did not include the special trails and tribulations when caring for someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s.   For many families, a diagnosis of dementia is an ending. For Deborah Shouse, it was a beginning, “My mother taught me how to celebrate and appreciate what we have right now.” Through her mother’s dementia, Deborah discovered compassion, deepening love, and increased connection with her mother and her family.

Deborah Shouse is an author and dementia advocate. Deborah knows first hand that finding the connection with a love one afflicted with dementia is a challenge millions of people face. Too often, people living with dementia are entertained instead of engaged.  In this episode of “Healing Ties” Deborah talks about the differences between Dementia and Alzheimer’s while sharing her love and passion for those who care for someone with this insidious diagnosis.

Listen in and learn how Deborah is creating “Healing Ties” all around us by finding love in the land of dementia.

2016-12-22-3Love in the Land of Dementia offers hope to family members, friends, and care partners of people who are living with memory loss. Strong, fluid organization and tender writing distinguish this purposeful and compelling read, which is filled with practical suggestions, compassionate support, and unexpected insights.   Visit Deborah on line at Dementia Journeys 

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Filed under Alzheimers, Caregiving, Dementia