SOMEWHERE OUT THERE
Somewhere out there, there is someone who needs:
A touch of your hand.
A kind word.
A whisper of appreciation.
Something to eat.
A place out of the cold.
A pair of warm socks.
To be remembered.
Even that will do.
As you live your life from this moment to next,
Please think about those whose paths you cross.
Even if they stand right in front of you,
Take one little step that can,
Make all the difference, in the world.
Susan Le Page Simmons
Counseling and Educating Caregivers Regarding Dementia
melissa n., M.A., CCC-SLP
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association reports that there are approximately thirty-seven percent of Speech Pathologists working in health care settings, with many of these SLPs employed at long-term care facilities. A vast majority of the residents receiving skilled Speech services in long term care facilities have deficits that are due, at least in part, to dementia. Cognitive-linguistic deficits and dysphagia related to dementia can be difficult for family members and friends of residents to understand, and at times, difficult for them to accept. There have been, in my thirteen years of being in the field of Speech Pathology, innumerable times that I have heard a spouse or child of a resident that I am working with say, “Oh, he’s sharp as a tack still” or “She doesn’t have any trouble with her memory, why is she getting Speech Therapy?” Counseling and educating the families and friends of residents regarding dementia is an integral aspect of our role in treating residents with dementia. The most vital components when educating loved ones about a patient’s evaluation results, status, and plan of care is respect and compassion. Admitting that someone that has been an integral part of your world has deficits that impact his or her safety and independence is difficult, to say the least.
I remembered a quote recently that I need to remind myself of when I am on the jobsite, especially. “Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.” We must remind ourselves to present information in small increments, allowing caregivers to process and respond, allowing them to adjust to the idea of what having a spouse or parent with dementia truly means. Supplying resources either in written form or websites for reference can be extremely helpful. Speech Pathologists should be aware of support groups available in the area that loved ones can attend, allowing the caregiver to receive support from peers and not just educational information from professionals. Listenening is the most valuable tool that I have found for providing individualized, patient-centered care for patients with dementia. It is often that I have found myself explaining that within a familiar, routine environment, residents with mild dementia can function fairly well. Many children are unaware of their mother or father’s decline, due to living at a distance or seeing the parent within his or her familiar environment and things seemingly “going well.” The recognition that support is needed in order for the resident to be safe and at the highest achievable level of independence can take time for a caregiver, but with patience, guidance, and compassion, we Speech Pathologists can make the process less painful.