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Making an Impact

Posted on by Molly Kitching

In the Making an Impact series, clients and services are featured to expand awareness of the wide array of help available at JFS and to ensure donors understand exactly what their dollars do: the lives they touch, and the difference they make throughout the community. Client names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.

This story comes from JFS Dementia Coach Olivia Tise, MSW, LGSW, who was recently contacted by Susan for more information on dementia coaching. Susan needed help. Between her mother Barbara’s progressing Alzheimer’s and her father John’s exhaustion trying to care for Barbara, Susan was out of solutions and energy. She loved her parents of course, but the situation had become unmanageable.

An initial assessment meeting was set that included Olivia, Susan, and both parents. Priority goals emerged from the meeting including increased disease education for John and Susan; identifying communication strategies between John and Barbara; discussing strategies and techniques surrounding bathing and toileting; providing information on respite options; and self-care for John.

During the meeting, it became clear that troublesome family dynamics between John and Susan were complicating the situation. As John tried to answer a question, Susan would jump in and answer on his behalf or disagree with his answer. In return, John would be dismissive of much of the information and opinions Susan shared. Barbara was present for the meeting, but due to the progression of the disease, she had little insight to her illness and had difficulty following the conversation.

At the end of the initial session, Olivia asked John if he would be willing to meet one-on-one her. During the meeting, John said that learning about some of the community resources available was helpful, but he repeatedly mentioned how much it meant to him to have a professional involved in the process. He felt his concerns and needs were truly being heard. “I know I’m getting old and my health is declining,” said John, “but I still want to be heard.” He described his daughter as well-meaning, but felt she didn’t value his opinion or ideas or trust his experience.

Using topic sheets from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Family Caregiving Alliance, and information from Resources for Educating Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH) notebook, John worked with Olivia to create an action plan of next steps.

Because the dementia coaching program is grant funded, Olivia was able to continue to work with the family at no charge to not only identify strategies, but actually implement them. Additionally, she was able to continue to help John and Susan identify and overcome the negative behaviors that were comprising their communication.

After a clear plan of action was developed and the communication missteps were addressed, John and Susan were in complete agreement that their original concern was still paramount: Barbara’s well-being.

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