Annie Jacobsen is a Dementia care coach with CarePartners Living who helps families learn to communicate more effectively with those afflicted with dementia. She helps people find what capacities remain with a senior afflicted by dementia, to find connections where they can still be made. We rely on sound so much, but brain changes often affect language first, and sometimes their vision range lessens. Jacobsen describes how to optimize the five senses — sound, sight, touch, smell and taste — to improve communication.
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The following is a podcast from a qualified senior care provider part on the answers for elders radio show. And Welcome back to answers for alders radio everyone, and I am here with Annie Jacobson, who is a dementia care coach. And Annie, I know you’ve been with the show before one other time and I’m so glad to have you back. Thank you, as we’re talking about healthcare in the month of February and I am really excited to have you back because we obviously so many families right now are dealing with I know that. I think the latest statistics out there is a hundred and fifty thousand residents in the state of Washington, yeah, are afflicted with Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia, and yet and they’re being cared for by close to half a million family caregivers out there. And you are an amazing dementia care coach that can help families be more effective in their communication as they, you know, as seniors or those with dementia, start to lose their faculties, and I’m still glad you’re here to talk to us today about how to do that better. So welcome to the show. Annie. Thank you. I’m thrilled to be back. I’m glad you’re here to so fill us in about communication. Well, one of the things with communication is we have our family history that can trigger us. So becoming aware of that. But the biggest part I try and look at is I’m not going to become a family therapist. That’s not right. Roll no, but helping people understand what capacities are still there, actually looking at scans of the brain and the regions that are still firing. Sure smaller, but there where we need to focus. And obviously with the you know, the whole condition of dementia. Obviously that’s depends on different people. I’m so sometimes your long term memories always there, you know, and that’s kind of the last to go. Yep, but you know, there might be some paranoia with some some there might be some hallucinations with others. I mean tell us a little bit about how that develops. Usually, yeah, different forms of dimensions it it early. Diagnosis is a big priority. Right. One of the things families and individuals themselves notice most often is something with memory. There are things like a stroke where a region of the brain is shown and that can be very specific, but sometimes you don’t know. Oh, is this frontal temporal lobe? Is this Louis? Is this what’s happening? So those early diagnosis can help you know what type of cognitive cognitive change is going on for your loved one. Sure, and dementia’s basically that two or more regions of the brain are dying right. So if you can know which parts are no longer there. And one of the things that were so apt to use all the time that I may have mentioned previously is language. Yeah, and language is very often one of the regions in many forms of dementia to lose the ability. Early on. People have word salad. They maybe talkers, but it’s complete word salad making no sense. There may be people who are just struggling to find the right word. A very passionate thing. That was totally my mom all, bless her heart, very compassionate early on, if you know somebody you love is having cognitive decline, you ask them would you like me if you have trouble finding a word? Do you want me to fill in the word or do you want me to hang back and wait? Yeah, because that’s as different a nine and day. There’s no right answer. That’s a very personal thing. My father has some changes in some days he has trouble finding the word and he would rather I give him time. Hm. And that was my mom. She would tell me, don’t you know, let me think it, let me do this, and it’s like okay, mom, and and sometimes I would get impatient and that’s not good either. But then there’s the other person who says, Oh, please fill it and I’m embarrassed sitting here looking for the word. Yeah, so that’s a very compasionate way of family member can look at okay, how do how do I be here with you? Yeah, during this good point. So tell us a little bit about you talk about that there’s five senses to maximize, and I you know that we want to talk up a little bit about that today. Just give me a basic overview of what those are. Certainly, you you’ve got sound, site, touch and then, as far as the amount of information we get from it, you go to smell and then taste. But the language, the sound, is something we rely on so immensely and with general aging and with the the brain changes, that’s often one of the ones that’s lost. First Mirroring is incredibly valuable however, if you come up to somebody who has Alzheimer’s, their vision range is about the reach of their fingertips and maybe as wide as a couple feet in front of them. So they’ve got a very small range of vision. So what do people do? They come and they lean right into your face and go hi, and that can be terrifying. Yeah, so there’s ways that you physically get yourself visually present for somebody that can be comforting, not fearful to them. Good Point. One of the things with touch is there’s there’s ways that palm to palm can be a very comforting gesture and their ways you can approach, show your hand if they reach their hand out. There’s some rhythm in their old rittery right. It’s saying, Oh, here’s a social norm and they can move into that and you can physically begin to move them with some specific alignments. You get your elbow in the Crook of their elbow and it gives them some support and comfort physically for walking as well. It’s a is, it’s a very secure feeling posture. These are the kind of physical things with touch I and teach a family and then remembering that salt and sweet or what they’re going to go for, because those of the the tastes that are still there in their mouth. So really looking at all five of the senses, and my favorite is the the music, melodic memory. When you people can still get that, simmerson dementia, it’s a powerful tool. Even rhythm, when you’re trying to get somebody out of a chair, if you start to hum a familiar tune, you can get their body moving. Yes, versus say and get up, get up, get up, Uh Huh. Yeah. And you know, Annie, you bring up so many amazing, you know, revelations because because I think about you know, we as a community will go through and we’ll think, you know, well, mom, I just going to be myself. And sometimes we all, as a family, need to make some shifts in our communication when we have a loved one with dementia, and that is something I think that’s so valuable of what you’re bringing. So we are talking everyone to Annie Jacobson, and Annie, you are a dements dementia care coach. Tell us a little bit about how you work with families. So the way I work with families is the preference is to be in person in the home, the primary residence of the individual with dementia being in the familiar surroundings and not an artificial environment or trying to navigate all this over the phone. Is the preference in that we come in and we identify. Okay, what’s one place where you’re struggling? We’re views like it’s really challenging. Great, let’s look at how we’re approaching that and you kind of take a holistic view of that in living environment, the family. And so if a family called you, you’d come in and you’d want to probably meet with all the main players. Right. Is that correct? Ideally, unless the person with a cognitive change is just overwhelmed by that. Sure, sometimes I’ve met some players in a coffee shop and in a couple people at the house. So the people know who I am and how right, coach, right, pardon me, but yes, the people that are involved in the process every moment really matters, and so looking at how am I approaching this person is going to make the whole day go different. That’s that’s something that you need to be in person, facetoface with, and often a sun comes and cares on Tuesdays and somebody else on frank if we can get the whole system together. That sertain idea. So you’ve talked about trainings that you do tell me about a little bit about training programs that you have? Well, I’m working on a program with a group of EMT’s right now that are actually first responders saying when we go in, we don’t know how best to communicate with somebody with the Menia. So I’m talking to them about language being very likely gone, in some of the logic sequence is gone, but how they can use visual queuing, touch, repetition and them to get them to lift their left arm or whatever it may be that they need. I’ve facilitated round table discussions for families looking at moving into memory care or already living in memory care, where I can be there to kind of back up or bring in resources as needed. But the families are such a wealth of information for one another. Doing some caregiver trainings where it’s that care agencies absolutely and everybody gets into this work because of their heart. Sometimes it is exhausting and you wind up being so focused on the task. I bring people back to being about the person because even if these are the the items you need to check off today, if you don’t intend to where that person is in that moment, things are going to be a bigger battle than need be. Right and you actually save yourself time in the long run if you can have things work more smoothly. If they don’t really wake up well till ten. All right, let’s figure out how we’re going to work with that right, right little variables, being person centric rather than tasks. And I think one of the things in doing a training like you do with a family is it’s also helpful for the family to work together. I think one of the things that happens if, especially if mom or dad were the matriarch or Patrick and the family, you know you’ve got this shift in the balance of the dynamic of the family and so you know oftentimes siblings aren’t on the same page, they aren’t, you know, together kind of thing, and so having the ability to kind of come together, to bring people together in some sort of a formality environment where you can kind of understand the dynamic of the family. I’m sure that’s a big part of it, isn’t it? The dynamon Dama got. The family’s a huge player in it and every nobody’s wrong, maybe right. People have some more innate skill than others, but where people are emotionally with. They talked about living green. When you have somebody with the Menscha, you’re watching this person fade away who you’ve always loved. Everybody’s going to deal with that differently, and so a big part of my training is how are we being kind to ourselves? How are we starting with our baseline so that we can be engaged in the most positive way? So for this other person, solutely. And the other thing is, I’m going to just tag onto that because I was used to be try to be so accurate with doctors and nurses. When my mom would say, you know, like a skilled from one to ten, you know, where’s your pain level? It was always a for even though she was in pain, you know. So that was her her thinking. And I’d say, Mom, you know dad, it Dada, and it was great because the nurse took me to his side and she goes Susan. The truth at this point in their life is pretty much irrelevant and I that was a big freeing to me that I didn’t feel like I had to be the one that had to hold it all together and make sure that all the facts were straight, and that was a huge you know, responsibility that I felt on my shoulders. They talk about reality requirement. Yes, yes, so Annie. How do we reach you? Phone is great. Two Thousand and six six, one, seven, six, six eight three, or my website, probably as best. Jacobson, Jacobsen dcccom. And you have a promotion. You’re saying about two families. If they reach out to you, you will actually provide a training for them for three. Certainly. Yeah, I’d be happy to for two families that reach out to me attending one of the trainings that I have coming up in the coming months. Or we can discuss variables for your specific situation well with that is great. is so wonderful that you offer that service and thank you again for being on the show. Thank you for the show. 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Suzanne Newman, host of the Answers for Elders radio show and podcast, proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne embarked on a 6-year-journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. Answers for Elders provides education, help, and support to families, caregivers, and seniors across the country who are experiencing their own unique journey within the complicated world of Eldercare. Each week, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including health & wellness, life changes, living options, money, law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.