Successful Visiting With The Frail Elderly


Below are some helpful hints to apply when visiting a frail senior who is home bound or living in a nursing home.

      To you, the visit may be something that you must fit into your busy day.  To the senior, with little outside stimulation, the visit is possibly something they look forward to all week.  Even if it is only a fifteen minute visit, try to make it a quality visit.  Turn off your cell phone, shut out the world outside, give the senior your full attention and be prepared to listen attentively.

     Set the stage.  Pull up a chair so that you are close and at eye level with your senior.  Ask open-ended questions to get them to talk, such as, what do you think about ……?, what is new and different around here?  Seniors are often talked to but not listened to.  This may make them feel that they are not important or have little value.  Validate them by listening and giving them your full attention.

     A technique which can help communications is to look into the other person’s eyes when you are talking to them and to look at their mouth when they are talking.

     Run out of conversational topics?  Trying to keep the conversation going when there is nothing more to say can be exhausting for both parties.  Just be honest and say, that is all the news I have for now, why don’t we just sit quietly together.   If possible, make physical contact.  Perhaps, hold the senior’s hand.  Quiet togetherness can be a very satisfying experience and can build meaningful memories.  Talking is not the only form of Communication.


Hiring a Caregiver

Thinking about hiring a caregiver directly to save the cost of a full service In-Home Care agency?  This do it yourself approach can have unpleasant consequences, but at least decide on and follow a formal procedure to protect yourself and your loved one.

Always do a complete background check, including a drug testing.  There are some wonderful, dedicated caregivers who really care about the elderly and are completely trustworthy but there are also unscrupulous people seeking to work with the elderly whose real intent is financial exploitation.  Some are capable of neglect and physical abuse.  Don’t take chances.  Always interview a potential caregiver twice.  Attitudes or inconsistencies can emerge in the second interview that do not show up in one interview.  Ask a trusted friend to sit in on the interviews.  The perspective of another observer can often be very helpful.  Asking the applicant open ended questions that can’t be answered by a “Yes or No” can be very revealing. Example: “Can you tell me why you like working with the elderly”, or “What don’t you like about working with seniors.”

Have the applicant sign a general release form to give you permission to make inquiries about their background.  References, credit history and driving records can be very revealing.  Be business-like and don’t hesitate to ask personal questions.  The person being interviewed is probably going to be alone, unsupervised with your loved one for many hours. To protect you and your senior be cautious and diligent.

Pricing of In-Home Care

When shopping for In-Home Care, beware the agency that quotes an unusually low price. Dependable, professional caregivers are in high demand and expect a fair wage. If an agency is billing at a very low rate, it is questionable what kind of caregivers they can provide. It is not unknown for an agency to offer services at a very low cost, but then find a reason to increase the agreed rate very shortly after your services start. This is a bait and switch technique. Most agencies follow ethical business practices, but it is wise to get a written confirmation that the agreed upon services and rates will not increase for six months. A recognized agency with high standards will have no difficulty accepting such an agreement.

Talking to someone who has Alzheimers

Don’t expect the person with dementia to remember. Avoid saying “Don’t you remember?” It will only make the person feel stressed and make the problem worse.

Don’t argue with a person suffering from dementia or expect rational responses. Accept the reality that the person is not capable of logical thinking. He or she is not in control, the disease is. You wouldn’t expect a person with a broken leg to have normal movement of their leg. Don’t expect the person with dementia to behave and think in a normal manner. Adjust your expectations.

Try not to talk down to persons with dementia. Remember all of their achievements when they were well and give them the respect they deserve.

Above all, try to be patient, kind and understanding. Think about how you would like to be treated if you had dementia?

Communicating and Caring for an Alzheimer’s A.D. Patient

Alzheimer’s (A.D.) is an irreversible, degenerative disease for which, at this time, there is no cure. A person with A.D. appears physically normal, often leading to others having unrealistic expectations of them. Actions of people with A.D. are controlled by their illness, rational thinking and behavior is not always possible. Patience and understanding is needed from their caretakers. Remember the 3 C’s! create a Calm, Caring and Consistent environment.

Communicating and Caring for an A.D. Patient

 ·        Don’t expect them to behave consistently or rationally

·        Don’t expect correct answers to your questions

·        Don’t expect them to follow complicated directions

·        Don’t expect them to remember names, places, or names of things

·        Don’t provide choices (he or she will likely become stressed or agitated)

·        Don’t get impatient when asked the same question over and over again.

     Try to redirect their attention.

·        Don’t raise your voice

·        Don’t talk too much or too fast

·        Don’t argue with the person or expect a reasoned response

·        Don’t take it personally when they are uncooperative or hostile.

      The illness is controlling the behavior

·        Don’t take them where there is a lot of noise or activity

·        Don’t take the person into unfamiliar situations

·        Don’t talk about them in front of him/her or laugh at their behavior

Remember: A.D. causes people to change daily, hourly, or even by the minute. They are not in control of their behavior, the illness is.