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One of Monarch’s contributing caregivers offers helpful and practical advice in the list below. No matter where you are on your journey, you will find valuable tips here. Or, perhaps you will feel validated because you’ve already put some or all of these tips into your brand of caregiving. Either way, it’s a worthwhile read that could give both you and your loved one a lift.

Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned from Visiting Long-Term Care Residents:

1. This is the resident’s new home. Make it look like one by adding a familiar picture from home, or by adding a colourful throw on the bed, etc. Soften the look of a sterile hospital room.

2. Never talk over the resident’s head. Conversations with nurses or primary caregivers should always include the resident, even if only through eye contact if he or she is no longer verbal.

3. Visit as often as you can. I see too many families who do only their Christmas/Easter duty because “mother doesn’t even know we’re here.”

4. Don’t just sit in the room. Join in on activities, bask in the warmth of the sun room in winter, the garden in summer, and share a muffin.

5. Keep tabs on the resident’s wardrobe. Sizes change and designs cause problems in dressing. For example, front-buttoning sweaters are easier than pullovers. Both men and women want to look nice.

6. Encourage independence. The PCW recently said “Mr. Ryan needs a bigger waist size because we can no longer button the top button on his trousers.” Mr. Ryan said, “No new trousers; I can go to the bathroom alone, if I only have to undo the belt. Can no longer do buttons.”

7. See that radio stations and television channels are selected. Controlling a complicated channel-changer is a daunting task. (If you are an engineer, design a simpler one even for me at home.)

8. Handle mood swings in stride. It is not easy being dependent 24/7 and it is not easy being cheerful 24/7.

9. Remember that the residence only provides water, food and shelter. You provide the resources for your loved one to retain at least a modicum of dignity.

10. Remember that your loved one is still him/herself. Regardless of how damaging the progress of age and/or disease is, “Alice” Is still in there, and appreciative of your every gift.

These guidelines offer some peace of mind. Keeping them in mind, and putting them into practice will help you to know that you’re doing everything you can to provide your loved one with what he or she needs physically, mentally and emotionally. You may feel a sense of order when so much else is beyond your control.

Monarch invites you to share what you have gleaned from your own personal experience. What advice would you offer caregivers about how to care for their loved ones, their loved one’s partner, or even themselves?

Contributed by Bob P, Son-in-law