How one smart cookie demonstrates 7 tricks to smoothe communication, when offering tea.
10:30 sharp. Green cup with the cracked glaze. Half teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon Equal. That’s how Miss Johnson takes her tea every morning.
When someone suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, there are a million potential obstacles that can turn simple daily rituals like this one into a real challenge for caregivers.
I thought it would be helpful to look at the ins and outs of caregiving through the lens of a daily ritual, to keep something as harmless as morning tea from growing into a monumental exercise in frustration.
Gale Storm, a nurse and manager of education for home health aides at Partners in Care, where I work, offers this compassionate rendition of how a caregiver might smoothly and successfully begin the daily tea ritual:
Miss Johnson [name changed], I’ve been with you for two weeks as your home health aide.
I’m Sandy. You remember.
I notice you like your tea at 10:30, in this green cup. I think I can get the sugar-and-Equal amounts right. Is that how you’d like it this morning?
Tucked into this simple exchange (which very few of us in the crossfire of caregiving will ever get perfect) are seven tricks of the trade.
Sometimes the other person needs time to think … You don’t have to fill all the silences.
1. Emphasize familiarity.
I’m Sandy, I visit you every day… Take every opportunity to reorient the client or loved one to person, place and time. This breeds familiarity and a sense of safety, paramount to a person with dementia. Even with a family member, a dementia patient benefits from simple reminders.
2. Be observant.
In the conversation about Miss Johnson’s tea, the aide introduced the morning ritual by saying, “I notice.” Because familiarity can soften the agitation of dementia, successful caregiving depends on careful observation. Observe favorite foods so you can maintain a successful menu. By the same token, observe whether the person you’re caring for prefers variety in day-to-day meals.