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  • Writer's pictureBy April Sage

My Simple Tips for Connection - Don’t Let the Moments Pass By

“Express gratitude for the greatness in small things.” - Richie Norton

We are taught at an early age to be thankful. To express our gratitude, as a form of good manners, by saying thank you. We teach our children to practice thankfulness in the same way.

Many of us are incredibly busy, especially during this time of year. Most days I run at breakneck speeds from dusk until dawn trying to check tasks off the list. Whether mentally or manually, we’re all trying to keep track of multiple things. Some of us are also trying to meet the needs of others. How often do we pause to reflect on what “thankful” means, or what it looks like?

I like to send a little note of thankfulness to others. The other day I was pouring through pictures for a celebration of life, and I ran across picture after picture of people I am thankful for. These beautifully documented moments gave me pause to reflect on each event and the memories I shared them with. I captured the photo with a picture and sent them to a few people in my life with a note, “I saw this, and I love you. I really love you. Thank you.” In these moments of thankfulness, I am reminded to pause, breathe, and be in the moment of gratitude.

When we don’t connect with people for a long time, or our relationships aren’t where we would like them to be, you might wonder what would come of a little message. If you have the inkling to reach out, I encourage you to try it. Reach out, send a text or a letter. Whether it’s opened, ignored, or the reaction isn’t what you hoped for, the message is received. Feel good about your attempt, and your bravery to connect, and rest knowing you are putting yourself out there, even if someone else feels it’s not enough.

How often does something trigger a memory, and we consider picking up the phone, but we don’t? We tell ourselves that person is probably busy, or it’s been too long, or “I’ll call when I have more time to catch up”. Don’t let these moments pass you by. I speak from experience. It makes my day to hear a friendly voice with a positive message. I feel good that they called me. Those calls seem extra precious these days.

In this season we are full steam ahead for the holidays. For many of our loved ones this is a challenging time. Consider putting your defensive mechanisms aside and sharing a thankful message. If not in person, at least in a note. Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to see through personality differences, to reflect on what is important and recognize that time is not on our side.

The tragedy for the people I meet is that most will not get better. Our work helps to preserve the gift of the health they currently have and the physical abilities they enjoy. Families are desperately trying to hold on to the current baseline of those they love, and we all work to preserve this.

Whether your loved one has been touched by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, brain trauma, a stroke or any other physical limitation, here are a few tips for caring for others and improving their well-being. These simple general suggestions center around peace, getting rest, and being thoughtful as we connect.

  • Be Positive. Keep your voice and tone as natural as possible, even if you become agitated by the actions or words of the person receiving care. It is normal for your loved one to express frustration and “acts of control”. Though it may seem personal, it’s important to remember that your loved one is different now. They may not even resemble the person you always knew. Try using touch with a soft voice to provide a level of reassurance and affection. This can deescalate a misunderstanding or taper increased frustration. We don’t always realize what our facial expressions are presenting. So be thoughtful about those too. Tone, posture, and facial responses can go a long way to increasing personal connection.

  • Ask for your loved one’s attention before asking a question. Speak slowly with simple words and phrases. Consider if they have a hard time seeing or hearing on one side or the other. You might need to repeat yourself. That is ok. Changes in cognition make reason and speed of comprehension a significant hurdle. Ask “yes” or “no” questions if need be. Don’t give too many choices, and certainly don’t offer alternatives if there are none. Excessive choices and unclear alternatives will only create frustration for you both. You may want to consider written or technology-based communication options. I recently learned of an app from the Apple store called “Speakibly.” It’s designed for nonverbal people. I was searching for a way my client could share his needs and feelings. After his second stroke, he was left with “Yes” and “Oh my” for his response, but his cognition is still pretty good. It was a magical way to give him his voice back and provide a connection with less confusion.

  • Acknowledge feelings. Regardless of what we are going through, or what we don’t want to deal with, it is important that we validate their, and our, expressed feelings. If they are sad, angry, or upset, don’t ignore it. Let them know that you understand and want to work with them. Helpful phrases can go a long way, including: “I can see you are frustrated,” or “I was watching you try to do that. Would you mind if I helped?” I even ask if they want me to hug them. As much as human touch is a huge part of calm and love in action, some people do not prefer touch. It’s not comforting for them. Always ask first.

Tips For Taking Care of Yourself

  • Ask for help You are loved. Friends, family, church, or other groups you might belong to want to help. Let them.

  • Look for caregiver support. There are groups, both in-person and online, for caregivers. Some you can submit a question and get a reply. Others are full-fledged online zoom groups. Do what feels comfortable for you and your situation.

  • Pick out a respite care option. You might have everything under control, but you might need an occasional break. A staycation, or maybe a week of sleeping in. Make sure that you create a backup plan for care

  • Get out of the house. Consider adult day centers to allow you to get out of the house to go shopping, and to enjoy time with your friends and peers. As a bonus, the new scenery many times can also help your loved on sleep more soundly.

For more ideas on how to connect this holiday season, give me a call. I work with you and your family to create a customized action plan that is personally tailored to meet the unique needs of your loved ones. My mission is to provide consultative, vetted solutions that take as many personal factors into consideration as possible. I seek to give support in the most crucial times, at any age, and for any need.

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