August 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am
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Making the effort can pay off when caring for elders

by Dorian Martin

Recently I’ve been reminded that it’s a small community of health care providers who work with elders, and little things that caregivers do can make a big difference in ways that we never would have guessed. Let me give you an example that emerged recently, where caregiving efforts had unexpected results.

Mom’s health

Event 1: I served as my mother’s advocate at a skilled nursing home from 2005 to 2007. I made a point of being very visible, often changing the times I visited so I got to meet the various staff who worked the different shifts. While I was nicely demanding when need be, I also made sure that Dad and I periodically did things to thank the staff (such as providing coupons so the staff could get a meal delivered from a local restaurant). I also tried to make sure that all the staff working the various shifts were able to enjoy these treats.

Event 2: A month after Mom’s death in 2007, I decided to participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I have continued to do so every year since and volunteered on the coordinating committee in 2008 and 2009. (I’ve written about my mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and my decision to join the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in other blog posts.)

Dad’s turn

Event 3: Dad’s primary care physician closed his practice in 2009, forcing Dad to look for a new doctor. I instantly thought of Dr. H., who had been recognized for his good work during the 2008 Alzheimer’s walk, and I encouraged Dad to make an appointment. However, Dad and I were somewhat taken aback during that initial appointment when Dr. H. started the conversation with asking how we were able to see him since he was no longer taking new patients. I explained about how I had heard everyone voice their respect for him during the committee work for the Alzheimer’s walk and had suggested that Dad try to get him as a doctor. Dr. H. finished the check-up without saying anything. Finally at the end of the appointment, Dr. H said he would take Dad on as a patient. I give part of the credit for that agreement to my work with the Alzheimer’s walk.

Event 4: Fast forward to late June 2013 when Dad had to be hospitalized for several health issues. After some discussions, I finally convinced Dad that he would be better served by going to a rehab center than coming directly home. I also mentioned that I had spoken to Dr. H., who had mentioned a specific center. Less than two hours later, Dad was transported to that facility. One of the first people he met was one of the nursing staff, who recognized him from when she cared for Mom on the night shift at the nursing home six years earlier. During Dad’s month-long stay in rehab, that nurse has gone the extra mile to help him out.

Putting in the effort

Based on these experiences, I encourage caregivers to realize that health care professionals who work with elders are part of a small community. Therefore, little acts of kindness, visibility and volunteering of time could pay unexpected dividends for both the elder and the caregiver.

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