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How Can I Be an Effective Caregiver? – The Caring Generation®
From:
Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Denver, CO
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

 

The Caring Generation® – Episode 120, January 12, 2022, On this episode caregiving expert, Pamela D Wilson answers the question, how can I be an effective caregiver? Effectiveness is a result of translating everyday experiences to wisdom. Gain tips to care for aging parents and loved ones in this podcast version of Pamela’s Livestream caregiver event How to Find Wisdom in Daily Life Experiences.

Have a question?  Follow and connect with Pamela on her social media channels of Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or complete the caregiver survey on her website.

To listen to the caregiving podcast, click on the round yellow play button below. To download the show so that you can listen anywhere and share it with family, friends, and groups, click on the button (the fourth black button from the left) below that looks like a down arrow. Click the heart to go to Pamela’s Spreaker podcast page to like and follow the show. You can also add the podcast app to your cellphone on Apple, Google, and other favorite podcast sites.

Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.

How Can I Be an Effective Caregiver?

Caregivers ask: how can I be an effective caregiver? How much time each day do you spend doing versus thinking?

My experience is that caregivers are constantly doing. Being constantly busy, making no time to think or plan can result in burnout, resentment, anxiety, and potentially making mistakes when caring for a loved one.

Today, we’re here to think about how daily experiences translate to wisdom so that you can be an effective caregiver.

  • Make good decisions – whether personal or at work
  • Improve relationships
  • Manage emotions on days when nothing seems to be going your way

Pamela’s Livestream Events Will Be Translated to Podcasts of The Caring Generation®

If you’re joining The Caring Generation for the first time, I’m Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. We’re doing something a little different this week.

Caregiver livestream eventsThis week’s show is an audio version of my Livestream broadcast called “Finding Wisdom in Our Daily Life Experiences.”

This program was initially streamed online and live on all my social media channels – Linked In, Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube.

Livestreams are a little bit like watching a television show, but you’re watching on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or another device.

If you missed the online virtual Livestream broadcast, you could watch it by visiting my YouTube Channel Pamela D Wilson Caregiving Expert, and looking for the playlist “Past Live Streams.”

Otherwise, stay with me to listen to an audio version of the Livestream where viewers have the opportunity to participate and interact with me through the chat feature. One Caring Generation podcast each month will be linked to a Livestream event.

I encourage you to join me for a Livestream caregiver event. The dates will be announced on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and  Instagram several days in advance. Follow me on any of these social media channels to receive the latest updates.

How to Find Wisdom in Daily Live Experiences

Every day we wake up intending to do our best. But how many of us wake up and ask, what will I learn today? How can I be an effective caregiver?

I want to share four ideas for you to consider. These ideas apply to everyone  — whether you work in healthcare, sales, finance, law, real estate, manufacturing, the service industry, or a full-time family or professional caregiver or retired. You will find wisdom in the experiences you’re about to hear.

A little about me in case you are a new listener. For most of my professional life 20+ years, I’ve been a care manager supporting family caregivers, aging and disabled adults and working with healthcare providers plus a professional fiduciary — being the legally responsible person for health or money acting as a court-appointed guardian, medical and financial power trustee and so on.

My experience is authentic – not fake or built on a single experience or limited to formal education, book smarts, or theory. My goal is to reach and support caregivers and aging adults worldwide through my website pameladwilson.com, this podcast, my Livestream caregiver events, speaking, education, and my other work.

Don’t Take What You See, Hear, and Experience at Face Value

How can I be an effective caregiver? One answer is to gain wisdom. Wisdom comes from being considerate, empathetic, and compassionate with others and ourselves. Interactions or situations are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Perception can be faulty.

I’m purposely using the word perception because perception is not always reality, as you may learn. Add to this thought, personal biases, beliefs, culture, education, and experience that can distort what you see, hear, and experience.

How often do you question the factual basis of what you hear, see, or experience? Consider questioning what you hear, see, and experience more often if you do not.

Don’t take everything at face value because you’re in a rush. If you do, you are more likely to make mistakes. Instead, find people you trust to bounce ideas off and ask about things where you lack experience.

1 Consideration, empathy, and compassion

Let’s talk about consideration, empathy, and compassion. I managed health and daily care for adults with developmental disabilities, chronic diseases, and cognitive disabilities – like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and brain injuries. Plus, I supported their family caregivers with my knowledge and practical experience.

Seeking to understand the life experiences of others is essential to being an effective caregiver and a compassionate person. Let me share a couple of examples.

I had clients for whom I was a court-appointed guardian who were 50 years old with the mental ability of a 6-year-old. So the challenge was looking at a person who, by all appearances, looked to be 50-years.

I communicated with a six-year-old who was frozen in their ability to learn because of a mental disability. The contradiction between age and cognitive ability required extra consideration, empathy, compassion, and patience.

Like many of you who care for a developmentally disabled family member or a loved one with memory loss, I could not allow my perception of age to affect the level of my verbal communication, which had to be near a first-grade level.

Adjusting to the needs of others

how to be an effective caregiverSome clients were brilliant but with poor social skills that challenged my level of empathy, compassion, and patience. Others had photographic memories that resulted in others misinterpreting their abilities or actions.

Imagine an eight-year-old parroting an extremely complex conversation heard on television or the radio but unable to comprehend the meaning of the words.

I spent a lot of time questioning the meaning of words my clients used to determine if they understood the implications or consequences of statements made. In these situations, I  was the one who had to adjust my thinking and my responses because my clients could not.

Let’s relate the question of how can I be an effective caregiver to adult children or spouses caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a brain injury. Adult children look at their parents—corporate executives, airline pilots, professionals of all backgrounds, or mothers who ran the household.

They visually see mom or dad as they were and struggle to accept that parents have a cognitive issue that eventually results in child-like behaviors. Some children tell me, “mom or dad are purposely forgetting or trying to make me mad.”

Balancing perception with reality

Expand your perception to realize that persons with dementia or memory loss lack the mental ability to purposely plan actions to irritate you. Gaps in thinking and reasoning, called executive function, occur due to the diagnosis.

How can I be an effective caregiver? It’s the caregiver who has to adjust thinking, responses, and behaviors. A person diagnosed with memory cannot. Becoming more compassionate, empathic, and considerate in everyday activities is the path for how can I be an effective caregiver

It’s easy to overlook these qualities when we only consider ourselves and not the life situations of others. Judging from the outside is easy. It is impossible to understand another person’s life experiences unless we walk in their shoes, sleep in their beds, and live in their bodies and minds day in and day out.

The wisdom gained from experience recognizes that gaps exist between what we see and what happens underneath or behind the scenes. Then, take steps to understand the foundation of the gaps to adjust and accommodate to work together to arrive at positive solutions.

2 Regulating emotions

Gaining experience and wisdom to learn how to regulate emotions is another support for becoming an effective caregiver. When you realize that the problem may not always be the problem, you are steps ahead in solving the issue.

Think about this. How many people immediately react? How quickly do people jump to conclusions, make assumptions about the intentions of others or respond negatively without pausing to ask questions or think through a situation?

Do you know people who have emotional triggers? For example, waiting in line or hearing someone sigh that results in a negative reaction of impatience or anger.

Then, the phone rings. Caller ID shows that it’s a person you dread talking with. Do you answer or wait until you are in the right mood to return the call and have that conversation?

You can manage emotional triggers when you realize the foundation of your response and know that you, not others, control your emotions. Let me share two stories where choosing to be kind or be the bigger person has positive results.

Random acts of kindness

how to be a good caregiverHere’s a personal story. I was driving to my office one morning and heard a clicking. I pulled over and noticed a piece of metal in my tire. I went to the tire shop nearby to have the tire repaired. It was almost lunchtime, so I drove to a nearby sandwich shop.

It was still a little early. I was third in a line that grew with people behind me extending to the door. It took a long time to help the first person in line, so being curious, I started to eavesdrop.

The person at the cash register was a young man. I heard the clerk say, “that card doesn’t work.” So he gave her another card, and still no luck. He was wearing a backpack with a sleeping bag tied underneath.

The man walked away from the cash register without his sandwich. When he approached me in line, I looked at him and asked, “how much was the sandwich?” He said, “$10.” I said, “walk with me. I’ll pay for it.”

I gave the money to the cashier, who appeared relieved. Can you imagine how many times cashiers at sandwich shops or the grocery store have to respond to people who cannot pay for their purchases? This can’t feel good. It’s probably embarrassing for everyone involved.

After paying, I watched the man take his sandwich and a drink cup to the soda fountain. Then, I returned to the line to order my sandwich.

The person making my sandwich commented, “about the nice lady being kind,” as if to explain why the line was at a standstill to all of the people behind me who had no idea what was going on but who were clearly getting impatient.

Transfer frustration into appreciation

The young man was waiting for me at the door as I walked out. He said thank you and had tears in his eyes. I responded with a simple,” you’re welcome. Everybody has a hard day every now and then.”

I didn’t need to know any more about him. Whether he was homeless or having trouble with his parents or a wife, that wasn’t for me to take on.

I had the opportunity to do something nice for another person to counteract the frustration I felt about making time to deal with a nail in my tire. I appreciated that I had a car and a tire to repair, and, on this day, I wasn’t worried about how I would pay for food or where I would sleep that night.

On the topic of waiting in line, a suggestion for when you go somewhere you may have to wait, always take something with you to read or to occupy your time. It makes waiting not all that bad.

Turning around rejection

Here’s one more personal story about having the experience to understand how big picture challenges result in snags and what to do about it. My mother-in-law had a couple of falls earlier this year and ended up in the hospital with hip and vertebrae fractures.

I spoke to my husband about MIL needing more care versus continuing to live alone. That wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have with his mom because previous mentions of the concern didn’t go very well.

However, there were many reasons to have the conversation again and move MIL to assisted living. As you might imagine, MIL blamed her daughter-in-law (me) for wanting to put her away. Fortunately, my husband didn’t allow that conversation to go very far and focused on the facts of her health and multiple falls resulting from poor decisions.

If you’re married, don’t allow the care of your parents to come between your marriage. It’s marriage first, elderly parents and children second.

Change is a big deal

While adult children might think of assisted living as just a move. It’s more than a move.

It’s a big deal with a log of moving parts. Imagine having to change doctors, move furniture, adjust to different routines, and make new friends. In the mind of an aging parent, any change can mean losing more control over daily activities.

When you involve other people, like assisted living community staff, communication can go off track. We had a moving day scheduled.

Out of the blue, the assisted living administrator emailed my husband and said that MIL was being rejected. “They couldn’t meet her needs.”

My husband had a meltdown. I told him I’d work out whatever the issue was. After all, this had been my day job for 20 years. I knew whatever the problem was it was likely workable.

I picked up the phone and called the administrator to request a conference call with her and her staff to understand their concerns. All said and done we learned that there was a miscommunication between the assisted living staff.

Separate note: In case you’re not aware care communities don’t want residents or their families who might become a problem. Due to the miscommunication that occurred between their staff they viewed my MIL’s needs as a problem when the issue was actually on their side.

Passing the olive branch

caregiver appreciationThe assisted living administrator could have picked up the phone to call and speak to my husband but she didn’t. Rather she sent an email to take a defensive position, hoping we’d disappear.

How many times do we talk to someone and receive only half of the story or read an email and go off the deep end without investigating what’s going on? If you find yourself in this type of situation, be the bigger person and seek a solution.

Don’t let fear of conflict make you hesitate from getting the help you want for yourself or a loved one. Staff at care communities are burned out. They are underappreciated, short-staffed, and work with very challenging family situations.

For example, CNAs who have to bathe ten clients in a day – none of whom want to participate. Or medication techs who have a short window of providing medications on time who encounter clients who refuse to take their medications.

The simplest miscommunication can set off a train wreck of reactions. As a family member, it’s important to be calm, rely on the facts, and initiate conversations to move situations forward and resolve conflict.

Another lesson for how can I be an effective caregiver? Gaining wisdom by living through hardships, adversity, experiencing growing pains, practicing positivity, and being appreciative.

3 How Do We Make This Work

Many people today, feel like we live in a world divided. It’s us versus them instead of asking, how do we make this work?

Instead, we give up too easily or are closed-minded about the effort it might take to work through a problem. People judge others they don’t know.

Think solutions instead of problems. Seek the facts before believing that people don’t want to help or work with you. I have had more than 20 Years of care management experience working with doctors, hospital staff, insurance companies.

Family members get frustrated because they don’t understand the constraints that other people work under. How can they when healthcare providers rarely have time for explanations or education.

For example, health insurance customer service reps are told to get the customer off the line as soon as possible so they can get to the next person. Small details like a missing date, incorrect billing address, wrong diagnosis code can result in claims being denied. If you’ve ever tried to resolve an insurance claim denial you know it can take months.

What you need is someone on the other end to tell you what the problem is so that it can be resolved. But, they have to be patient enough to investigate and discover the problem.

My suggestion, call when you have plenty of time—like a couple of hours. This way you can be in the right mindset to not allow the customer service rep to hang up the phone but to continue searching for a way to help you.

Working through differences

how can I be an effective caregiverLet’s talk politics for a moment because differences in this area are apparent the minute you watch the news. The reality is that people are not all that different.

Most want the same things—including people from different political parties. It’s my opinion that the news twists stories to get people all emotional.

The lesson from this is to not believe everything you hear. Investigate and discover the facts.

Caregivers want care for their parents, yet don’t realize the doctor has 15 minutes due to insurance restrictions. Realize that you may have to put in more time to get care for a loved one. This includes scheduling multiple appointments. You may also have to accept that your priorities don’t match what your parents want.

Being persistent is a way to be effective in caregiving situations. Make sure you understand the issues at hand before making a potentially bad decision or saying something you might regret.

Here’s an example of social proof. To see what I’m explaining you’ll want to visit the show transcript. Here you’ll find a link to a social media post with a link to a  CBS news feed about border wall funding.

People seeing the post immediately began commenting and giving their opinions positive and negative. More interesting is that few people, except for me, clicked on the link to read the article before giving their opinions.

The article link had nothing to do about the border wall. Instead, the link was to an article about Third Graders reacting to the Holocaust. Seeing is believing.

What does this tell us? People react without investigating or looking for supporting information or facts. In my opinion, reacting without investigating the news or any information supports division.

What will you do differently so that you are part of the solution and not of the problem? Ask yourself how do I make this work? What information do I need?

Stop thinking that other people are problems because they are different or think differently. Ignore the headlines or the chatter. A little research and fact-finding go a long way to supporting common sense and good decision-making.

4 – Life is a long game, be willing to consider all perspectives

Caregivers ask me, “how do I perform at work when I have so many family distractions – children, parents, etc?” This is a great question.

Think about time in blocks or compartments. Realize that there are blips in time when you can focus on one thing at a time.

For example, no one likes the dentist. You have to have a tooth pulled. Getting a tooth pulled will take an hour.

If your appointment is at 1 pm by 2 pm it will be over. Doing something for an hour may be a challenge but an hour isn’t an eternity.

For example, I’m here with you today. At the moment I am creating this show you are the most important people in my world.

Look at life from a long-term perspective. Wake up every day realizing you have an opportunity to learn.

Resist the temptation to want everything now. Failure and delays can be a learning experience and a blessing in disguise.

We don’t get everything we want or even when we want it

Another example. How many of you notice that it can take much longer than you thought to accomplish a goal? That’s wisdom.

One more story, the last for today, I promise. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working full time. There were times when I asked myself if that “little piece of paper” was worth all of this effort and the trade-offs I was making in my life.

At the time I was working for a company where if I wanted to advance, a master’s degree was a requirement.  You might be in a similar situation.

It wasn’t until after I got into these programs and attended a class that I realized the difference. The classes were at a different level.

I met students who were in upper management positions at companies I admired. People I would never have had the opportunity be able to meet outside of a classroom environment. I learned from them.

It can be easy to have a closed mind about the work or the effort it might take to achieve a goal. You might see someone who makes something look easy and not know that it took 5, 10, or 15 years of hard work to make it look easy.

How Can I Be an Effective Caregiver?

  • Be considerate, empathetic, and compassionate even when you don’t feel like it
  • Balance emotions by looking at the facts
  • Realize that what you think is the problem isn’t always the problem
  • Listen and learn from different points of view
  • Avoid thinking we versus them instead ask how do we make this work
  • Have a long-term view of life – experience results in wisdom
  • Ups and downs, challenges, and obstacles result in wisdom that you can’t get any other way
  • Last but not least, be willing to think positive things about other people. Have a positive mindset regardless of how others or the world might want to drag you down to their level.

One of my favorite bosses, Thad Mikols, once said to me, “if you get down in the mud to play with others, you lose. Life is much easier when you take the high road.” Words I remember to this day from someone willing to share their experience and their wisdom.

Thanks for joining me today. Have a great day and a great week until we are here together again.

Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.

©2022 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

   Check Out Podcast Replays of The Caring Generation® Radio Program for Caregivers and Aging Adults HERE

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA is an international caregiver subject matter expert, advocate, and speaker. More than 20 years of experience as a direct service provider in the roles of a court-appointed guardian, power of attorney, and care manager led to programs supporting family caregivers and aging adults who want to be proactive about health, well-being, and caregiving. Wilson provides online and on-site education and caregiver support for caregivers, consumer groups, and corporations worldwide. She may be reached at +1 303-810-1816 or through her website.

 

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