Our Certified Nursing Assistants need care and abundant validation. They are on the front lines with patients more than anyone else – morning, noon and night. Recently one of these caregivers explained that patients often complain to her about other caregivers, saying – “So and so doesn’t do much for me.” (We all know what that means.)
I had noticed that this CNA practices reciprocal caregiving. She often prepares herself for her patient visits by wearing bright colors and very pleasing make-up. She is walking proof of the fact that colors carry their own vibrations. Bright colors can wake up the brain and stimulate brain activity. They help dementia patients who have been sidelined in wheelchairs break out of the “inactivity coma.”
A playful game can also help two people get in touch with each other’s energy and movement. “The Finger Dance” created by Arthur Hull, the Father of the Drum Circle, in “Drum Circle Spirit: Facilitating Human Potential through Rhythm” can be added to hand massages and music sessions.
“May I have this dance?” I ask. Martin’s blue eyes brighten. He is laughing aloud when I stand in front of him and lightly touch his index finger to my index finger dancing with him. He leads then suddenly fakes exhaustion by collapsing his head and shoulders and dropping his hands into his lap with a loud sigh. Soon he is alert and ready for more. He turns to Sarah seated beside him in a wheelchair to continue finger dancing with a new partner.
To finger dance with a partner: Touch your partner’s index finger with your index finger and make casual paths in the air while the person’s finger follows yours. Take turns, leading and following. Close your eyes and finger dance.
You may be meeting an elder for the first time as a dependent human being. The value of hospice home care is that the caregivers go to meet people in the context of their whole lifetime and life style. There are usually pictures of loved ones, food and drinks offered and shared – significant clues about the whole spectrum of a person’s existence. Some caregivers say they are walking on hallowed ground when they get to care for people in their own traditions at home outside the clinical setting. Look for clues that help you relate and communicate – stories, hobbies and reminiscences about both the living and those who have gone before us. You can do something for yourself and others.
By Julia Soto Lebentritt. Owner of Spontaneous Care Communications and Reciprocal Caregiving Trainings, and author of As Long as You Sing, I’ll Dance: The bond not the burden – the blessing not the burn-out of caregiving to be published in May 2012. She is a Bereavement Facilitator at the Community Hospice and can be contacted at [email protected]