Guest Columns

Advice from a daughter to caregivers

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Marilyn Gerkin
Marilyn Gerkin

Editor's Note: Marilyn Gerkin's mother was in a skilled nursing facility for eight years, leading her to write a letter about the good and bad parts of the experience.

Dear Long-Term Care Staff,

After watching my mother, who had Parkinson's and dementia, live in a facility for eight years, I've learned and seen the good and bad of long-term care. While every person is different, here are some of my thoughts about how to better serve residents.

The room is about the extent of the resident's world now. Even though they are no longer able to speak, that does not mean they can't hear. Please say what you are going to do and do not yell or raise your voice. Hearing is usually the last thing to go. Just because you are old doesn't always mean you are hard of hearing.

As people age they tend to get cold easier, so please don't have the air conditioner blowing directly on them.

When you bring food or beverages, they may not be able to reach it. Take the time to offer a few sips of water throughout the day. The elderly eat slowly, so when they stop to rest that may not mean they don't want any more to eat.

Sometimes the elderly lean over or slump in their chair or bed. They don't have the strength to reposition and we don't want to risk a fall. So if they look uncomfortable, they probably are.  

It's important to try to keep skin soft: Remember to touch and use lotion. Comb or brush a resident's hair: Male or female, they still want to look the best they can. If there are fingerprints on their glasses or their eyelids get stuck together, please wipe them off.  

Looking out the window may be the only form of entertainment, so face them in that direction. In their youth they probably loved to go outside. How wonderful it would be to go outside and get a breath of fresh air. A change of scenery is like a mini vacation!

They use to be young and energetic like you. Thanks for your care to help make this stage of their life as enjoyable as possible.  

Warmly,

Daughter Marilyn Gerkin


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