February 25th, 2011 at 5:38 am
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Home health aides creating meaningful visits

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Many families have hired private caregivers to assist with the care of a loved one. Many of these caregivers create interesting activities while others appreciate some suggestions and input.

Many years ago, I met a home health aide who was the caregiver for an older man with significant swallowing problems. The family and aide commented several times during our sessions that both the husband and his wife said very little most of the day. The son felt that his father had lost interest in doing many things because of his hearing problems for decades and more recent visual changes. The client’s wife had been diagnosed with mild dementia and some suggestions were provided for word games with cues that could be done with both of them. Many emphasized their long-term memory while others required some thinking and problem solving skills. Supplying the caregiver with some appropriate word games was all that was needed. She did an excellent job making it a fun activity. Her clients looked forward to their own version of a word game show after breakfast every day. In a follow-up conversation the home health aide shared that she was now creating her own materials and reading part of the paper and Bible to them. It was very rewarding to see how providing someone with the basic ideas created a more challenging and interesting job for this home health aide while enhancing the quality of life of her clients.

One of my patients was in an independent living setting and had some increased difficulty after a hospitalization for pneumonia. The daughter came to stay with her mother for the first week but lived out of a state and needed to get back to work. Her mother was receiving speech therapy for some cognitive and memory concerns and the plan was to assess her progress and update her daughter in a few weeks. She felt it might be necessary to move her mother to an assisted living level of care. With some suggestions from the daughter and my input, we were able to create some meaningful tasks for the aide who was hired to come in every day for 4 hours.

It is often the day to day needs that provide opportunities for meaningful visits, perhaps over a period of time. The aide worked on making a shopping list that provided my patient with ideas of things she usually needed from the store. Her vision had recently changed as a well as her handwriting so she had a hard time reading what she jotted down. This checklist came in handy more than once. Her aide also recopied the phone list of friends and immediately family on one page in large print for easier reference since her personal address book was harder to read with years of additions and corrections. This woman became more comfortable with the aide and a few weeks later had her writing her thank you notes she dictated. They got a good laugh out of the role reversal since my patient used to be the one taking dictation at a job she had for more than 3 decades. For additional ideas, refer to Creating Time Well Spent: Enhancing Your Visits with Older Adults

“How rare and wonderful is that flash in the moment when we realize we have discovered a friend.” William Rotsler

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