One of the things I’ve learned from psychologists and from life experience – I can’t change other people no matter how much I want to, no matter how much better it would be for both of us. That’s as true for my husband as it is for older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And it’s true for you too. I can’t change you with this blog.
As I read the postings of caregivers on various Facebook or LinkedIn groups, this theme keeps coming up. Caregivers want their ‘patient’ to calm down, take a bath, eat their meal, stop yelling or arguing. I want to say to each one of them – I know how you feel. I’ve been there. Yes, taking a bath is important, eating a meal is necessary, having a calm working environment is more pleasant BUT that is the caregivers’ need and not necessarily the need of the older adult. Older adults have needs too and often those needs have priority over the needs of the caregiver. When there is conflict, both parties feel angry and frustrated.
An example: John is an 87-year-old man who lives alone and is proud of his independence. For the past 10 years his memory has been going but he doesn’t admit it. Instead, he blames it on those around him. John enjoyed his work, teaching primary school for over 35 years. He resented being pushed into retirement. Then he tried to pursue volunteering at a school. After a few years, he was not called upon to volunteer and he continues to call the school each week asking them if they need a volunteer.
He has a caregiver who comes in each day to assist. The caregiver has arrived and wants John to take his morning medication. John wants to call the school. If the caregiver doesn’t recognize John’s need to be useful, acknowledge that he was an excellent teacher (need for esteem) and help John feel worthwhile, there will be conflict.
In order to really help the older adult, a caregiver has to first recognize the difference between her needs and those of the other person. A validating caregiver consciously puts aside her need, thoughts and feelings by centering. She then focuses carefully on the other person, observing what is going on and calibrating herself to the emotions she observe. Then she explores the needs of the other person with respect, integrity and helping the other to feel worthwhile. It is only by resolving the other person’s need that we caregivers can reach our goals.
VTI offers training in these tools based on the needs of the caregiver. Our next virtual Family Caregiver Course (FCC) begins on August 7th and we are thrilled to have Validation teacher Krissy Wuerdeman leading the class! Join us to learn how she is using the Validation method, a person-centered and holistic approach, to connect and communicate with her clients. This course is geared to the needs of family members who are caring for relatives both at home and in long-term care. Register today at: https://vfvalidation.org/product/family-caregiver-course-2/
By: Vicki de Klerk-Rubin, VTI Executive Director
The Validation Training Institute (VTI) is a non-profit organization that advances knowledge, values, education and research rooted in the Validation method. The objective is to nurture respect, dignity and well-being in the lives of older adults experiencing age-related cognitive decline and their caregivers. Our vision for the future is that every older adult experiencing age-related cognitive decline, and their caregiver, can feel the joy and love of meaningful communication.