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Cultivating Empathy as a Caregiver

Learn to be a more empathetic family caregiver with these tips.

If you ask parents, educators and researchers what are the most important traits to encourage in a child’s development, you would undoubtedly receive a variety of responses, but two of the top responses would likely be kindness and empathy. Yet one study reported that less than 2% of our interactions include a “sincere acknowledgement of the other.”

One of the more heartbreaking calls we receive at Nightingale Homecare is when a caregiver calls to request our service, stating that he or she is failing to feel empathy toward a loved one in need – often the result of “caregiver burnout.”

Empathy is an especially important skill for caregivers. Studies have shown that caregiver empathy plays a critical role in forging a strong patient-caregiver relationship while developing a deep level of rapport and trust. Practiced empathy also plays an important role in increasing patient treatment adherence and reducing accidents. Improving your empathy and kindness can also have huge positive effects on every other relationship!

Empathy Defined

Most people would define empathy as the ability to have a sense of understanding and compassion for another person, while being able to sense what the other person is experiencing; i.e., “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” According to author Daniel Goleman, who wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, empathy is:

  1. Understanding the emotional makeup of a person, and
  2. Treating that person according to his or her emotional reactions

Treating people with empathy and responding to their emotions includes high levels of compassion and tolerance. Fortunately, there are tools for practicing this response towards others.

Active Listening

One of the key elements to conveying empathy and compassion toward another human being is to actively listen.

The steps are as follows:

  • Concentrate on not speaking while the other person is speaking
  • Pay attention to the words and emotion
  • Look directly into the person’s eyes while he or she is speaking
  • Listen, do not be thinking of preparing a reply
  • Pay attention to the person’s behaviors and body language
  • Let the person know you are listening; for example, shaking your head or squeezing his or her hand in reassurance
  • When the person stops speaking, try to paraphrase or translate what you heard and reflect on this
  • Try to recognize the individual’s feelings; for example, “You sound upset and frustrated”

Some other key elements to keep in mind while actively listening are:

  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not change the subject
  • Do not voice disapproval

Controlling the Urge to Help

During active listening, it’s important to control your urge to jump in and help or offer advice while the person is expressing feelings and emotions. Simply be present in the conversation. It is a difficult urge to control, as most of us responding to an upset person give advice, words of encouragement or comfort. While well-intentioned, these responses interfere with the person talking because our verbalizations result from our thinking about how to help and what the person’s words mean to us, rather than thinking about what the person’s words mean to him or her.

Controlling the Urge to Talk

Research on conversations has found that the person not talking usually starts talking about nine-tenths of a second after the other person stops. Developing the ability to wait, listen, and encourage the other to talk without interrupting is a critical skill. It can be developed by intentional awareness and with practice. Being more aware of opportunities to switch from talking to listening expands your consciousness and choice, which will help increase your flexibility and ease in using empathy effectively.

Can Empathy Be Faked?

It may be necessary while you are caregiving to act empathetically to achieve a positive outcome, even when you feel apathetic toward a loved one. When caring for a difficult loved one, you will still need to act empathetic in order to establish the rapport necessary to encourage the delivery of care. What is interesting with this approach is that often you will begin to feel true empathy toward a difficult loved one as a result of “acting” empathetic. The old adage “fake it till you make it” rings true.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the meantime, along with your empathy practice, throw in some random acts of kindness. This will help develop your empathy skills and you will begin to notice the world is a little better because of it, and the people around you will begin to model your kindness. It’s infectious!

Here are some fun activities that you can do to celebrate kindness:

  • Compliment the first three people you talk to
  • Write a hand-written note to a friend
  • Say good morning to the person next to you on the elevator(bus/subway/street)
  • Spend 10 minutes picking up litter in a park or your neighborhood
  • Place uplifting notes in library books, on restroom mirrors, on someone’s locker or computer screen
  • Hold up inspiring signs during rush hour
  • Leave a generous tip
  • Send flowers to a friend

If you run out of kindness ideas, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has lots of them on their website.

Empathy is one of the primary building blocks of social intelligence. Often, stress, self-absorption, lack of time and caregiver burnout can kill efforts to practice empathy. Knowing what your barriers are to showing empathy and exploring ways to overcome them can help you develop this much-needed skill that is vital to caring for a loved one in need.

And know that Nightingale Homecare’s compassionate and highly skilled providers of home care in Paradise Valley and the surrounding area are always on hand to help with the professional respite care that allows family members to take as much or as little time as desired for self-care – enabling you to return to caring for your loved one refreshed and renewed. Call us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

Is Your Senior Loved One Struggling in These 5 Areas? If So, Home Care Can Help!

senior caregiver

Find out if your senior loved one can benefit from an in-home senior caregiver from Nightingale Homecare.

As your loved one ages, there may come a time when you question if he or she may benefit from the assistance of an in-home senior caregiver.  It will be important for you to be observant to the warning signs that care may be needed, as seniors are often hesitant to raise the subject of home care. Initiating home care services, however, will not only help maximize your loved one’s independence at home, it will also help him or her to maintain safety. Keep on the alert for the following indicators that your loved one may be in need of home care services:

  • Physical Changes: A decline in physical health can increase the risk of your loved one falling or suffering other serious injury. Look for changes such as difficulty walking, maintaining balance and unsteadiness. If your loved one appears to be in a frail condition, it can be dangerous for the senior to do even the simplest tasks, so home care may be necessary.
  • Inattention to Personal Hygiene: Those individuals who neglect personal hygiene may have a strong body odor, unkempt or unclean hair, obvious inattention to oral care or soiled clothing. While often elderly individuals would like to keep clean, it may have become too difficult to complete the daily tasks to do so. Having in-home care ensures that your loved one can safely maintain a regular hygiene schedule, which improves health and wellbeing.
  • Lack of Nourishment: Your loved one may have lost the ability to regularly prepare food at mealtimes due to lack of energy or other physical conditions. Getting to the grocery store to purchase fresh, healthy foods can be a challenge. You may notice the refrigerator and cupboards may not be stocked, or there may be many items that have passed their expiration date. Not eating properly can lead to lack of nourishment and dehydration, which causes cognitive issues, depression and other health concerns. In-home assistance can provide your loved one with help grocery shopping and preparing meals as well as providing a companion to sit down with at mealtimes, which will help make eating more appealing.
  • Inability to Manage Medications: Taking the prescribed dosage of medicine is essential to maintaining health, especially for elderly individuals with chronic or ongoing medical issues. Many times, seniors are prescribed a number of different medications with different dosage schedules. Prescriptions and dosages can easily become mixed up, which can lead to missing or overdosing on medications. When this happens, severe health problems can occur. In-home care ensures that your loved one stays on his or her prescribed medication schedule.
  • Lack of Household Upkeep: When visiting with your loved one, look for things such as stacks of dirty dishes and laundry, overflowing trashcans and appliances that have been left turned on. If the living spaces are dirty and more cluttered than the person would normally allow, this is a sign some extra help may be needed to keep up with the demands of managing a home. Home care assistance will ensure that your loved one’s living spaces are regularly cleaned and clutter-free.

If you notice any signs that your elder loved one may be having a hard time completing daily activities, including those not listed above, the help of an in-home senior caregiver could be the answer. Not only will this make your loved one’s life a lot easier, it will also bring you peace of mind knowing your loved one is well taken care of.

Take the first step in improving quality of life for your senior loved one by contacting Nightingale Homecare to request a free in-home consultation or to ask any questions about our professional in-home care services for seniors. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more and to see if our services are available in your area!

Family Caregivers: Make Mini-Vacations One of Your Resolutions This Year!

senior caregivers

From enjoying a night out with friends to going for a walk in the woods, find out why mini-vacations are beneficial for family caregivers.

Making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition, but for many of us, keeping those resolutions can be a challenge. If better self-care is one of your New Year’s resolutions, and you’re a caregiver, it’s important not to let this particular goal slide. Being a family caregiver is a stressful job, and self-care is vital for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. With the support of Phoenix, AZ home care services, family caregivers can have plenty of mini-vacations to help make 2019 a healthier and happier year.

What’s a mini-vacation, you ask? For those with multiple obligations – caregiving, kids, and a fulltime job, to name just a few – and very little time to travel, mini-vacations can be a lifeline to some much needed rest and relaxation. If you’re in need of some inspiration for a mini-vacation from your caregiving duties, the senior caregivers at Nightingale Homecare have compiled the following list:

  1. Get a massage: As we’ve said, caregiving can be stressful, and often people carry that stress in their necks, shoulders, and backs. What better way to get some me-time and relief than booking a massage at a local day spa?
  2. Go for a hike: Spending time outside in nature can lead to some significant health benefits. In fact, going for a walk in the woods has been shown to improve short term memory, reduce blood pressure, eliminate fatigue, and combat anxiety and depression. Choose your favorite local park or hiking trail and spend the day just enjoying nature.
  3. Pick up a once-loved activity: Whether it’s knitting, playing guitar, or painting, returning to an activity you once loved can be healing. Consider taking a day or a weekend to drag out your arts and crafts supplies or dust off an old instrument and start playing again.
  4. Treat yourself (and perhaps a date) to a new restaurant: You may not be able to travel to Italy at the moment, but you can try out that new Italian place everyone’s raving about! Take a friend or loved one with you for some good food and conversation.
  5. Enjoy a show: A dark, quiet movie theater is always a good way to relax, but for something a little different, get tickets to a live performance. Whether it’s a concert from a band you love or a play at your local community theater, being part of the action can help you remember to embrace life outside of your caregiving, work, and family obligations.

Making time for ourselves is difficult today, especially for family caregivers. However, self-care is an important part of our health. If you are caring for a loved one and need respite care, contact the Phoenix, AZ home care experts at Nightingale Homecare. We can give you the time you need to rest and enjoy life while ensuring your loved one is safe, happy, and healthy.

Posted in Blog, Caregiving, Family Caregivers on January 9th, 2019 · Comments Off on Family Caregivers: Make Mini-Vacations One of Your Resolutions This Year!

Eliminate Holiday Stress for Seniors with Tips from Nightingale Homecare

Scottsdale home care

Reduce holiday stress for seniors with these tips.

With the onset of the holiday season, many people find themselves suffering from anxiety and stress, and that applies to older adults as well. Before the holidays, it will be important for your elder loved one to evaluate coping skills and take stock of holiday expectations to ensure they are realistic. When people dread the holidays, it can often be because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. Remind your loved one to keep his or her normal routine, and follow these tips from the home care team at Nightingale Homecare to reduce holiday stress for seniors.

Financial Pressures

Financial issues can cause stress for the elderly on a fixed budget, even without the pressure of buying gifts for the holidays. The belief that they must purchase gifts for everyone can over-burden the elderly. Help your loved one set a spending limit and choose affordable, meaningful gifts. It’s also helpful to have a conversation with your loved one’s family and friends to set expectations and relieve this pressure for everyone. Some families choose to donate to a worthy organization, or spend time volunteering to bring the joy of the season to others less fortunate. This will give the holidays a greater meaning for all family members.

Time Pressures and Self-Care

Reinforce for your loved one that his or her life and routine shouldn’t be put on pause because of the holidays. Self-care is a potent remedy for stress, and the main ingredient in our overall wellbeing. Many elderly find comfort and stress-reduction in routine self-care measures. Set expectations in advance for holiday gatherings, prioritize the invitations and assist your elder loved one in planning for only those activities that bring joy and meaning. Continue to reinforce that your loved one should not neglect the need for exercise, a healthy diet, getting sufficient rest, and other self-care measures.

Dealing with Loss During the Holidays

Many of our elder loved ones feel lonely during the holidays, as in previous years they may have celebrated with a spouse or other loved ones who have since passed. Encourage the senior to express those feelings and convey your understanding if he or she chooses to forgo activities that may result in feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Practice Mindfulness

When your elder loved one feels stressed, encourage him or her to pause for a moment and discern what is happening within in that moment. Allow your loved one to observe his or her internal experience without judgement. Practicing mindfulness is a way to lessen the gap between the stressed-out version of ourselves and who we are when functioning at our optimal level. Since our thoughts so greatly impact our emotions and behaviors, this shift can play a significant role in decreasing stress. As the saying goes, “What you think, you become.”

Seek Help and Support

Encourage your loved one to share his or her feeling about the holidays. This can help with setting realistic expectations and talking through stressors. Feeling the support from family and friends can be extremely helpful in eliminating stress and loneliness, especially over the holidays. When our elder loved ones are exhibiting signs of profound stress, sadness or loneliness, therapy can help.

Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality at home care Phoenix and the surrounding area has to offer, is also on hand to help alleviate holiday stress for seniors with customized home care solutions, allowing for the restored peace and enjoyment they deserve. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

The Elderly Mental Health Concern We’d Rather Not Think About: Senior Suicide

senior home care Phoenix  son with senior father looking depressed

Learn the signs of senior suicide and how to help.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of gender, background or age.However, while the elderly account for just 13% of the population, they account for nearly 16% of all suicides. The statistics are shocking, especially knowing the elderly are the fastest growing segment of our population, making this elderly mental health concern – senior suicide – a public health priority.

Caucasian men aged 65 to 84 are at an even higher risk, accounting for 14.9 out of every 100,000 suicide deaths – and the number rises even higher in men over aged 85. It is estimated that suicide deaths in the elderly may be under-reported by over 40%.

These figures do not include the “silent suicides” – deaths from self-starvation, dehydration, accidents and overdoses. The elderly also have a higher than average rate of completing a suicide, as they are often deaths by firearms, hanging and drowning. And, there is a higher incidence of double suicide involving a spouse among the elderly population.

Senior suicide is often the result of an untreated elderly mental health condition. Although common, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.Health care providers often report that the elderly have an exceedingly difficult time in talking with others, especially mental health professionals, about their feelings or challenges. This is largely due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues and makes missed detection the biggest contributor in the high suicide rates among the elderly.

Those at Risk

It is very difficult to identify individuals at risk for suicide, even for professionals. However, there are some risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Being a white male over the age of 65
  • Prolonged, chronic or terminal illness
  • Pain, especially if pain is severe, chronic
  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse and/or dependence
  • Financial difficulties
  • Recent loss of a spouse, loved one, or pet
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical, social and emotional Isolation/loneliness
  • Loss of role or stature in family or community
  • Recent change in living situation or employment status or productive activities

Warning Signs

The following are common warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:

  • Crying and sad mood; typical signs of depression
  • Weight loss and poor appetite
  • Feeling trapped in a situation and unable to see a way out
  • Statements about death and suicide
  • Statements about being a burden
  • Reading material about death and suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
  • Disruption of sleep patterns (insomnia or over-sleeping)
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increased alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Sudden interest in firearms
  • Withdrawal of social interactions or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to complete or revise a will

How to Help

As many as 50% to 75% of elders considering suicide will give someone a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say something, and not everyone who threatens suicide will make an attempt, though every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. Remaining aware of the risk factors and warning signs and talking openly to your loved one about your concerns are critical in preventing elder suicide.

It is also important to identify the mental health professionals in the community who can provide assistance. Remember, you never have to be alone in seeking help for your loved one, and if you are unsure whether your loved one is immediately at risk for suicide, get help by taking the individual to the nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

One great resource is the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line for elder adults in crisis: 800-971-0016. Their trained professionals are available to support seniors who are struggling with depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. The Veteran’s Crisis Line is also available toll-free 24 hours a day for senior veterans and their families to receive counselling and support: 800-273-8255.

At Nightingale Homecare, the top providers of senior home care Phoenix families trust, we offer a program devoted to elderly mental health and safety: Transitions. Our team of experts (nurses, social workers, and therapists) can provide an assessment to determine if depression, anxiety, coping skills and other emotional concerns are in place, and determine what resources would be most beneficial. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 any time to learn more.

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