Do you speak Alzheimer's? You do, if you are an at-home caregiver or a professional provider in a long-term setting. No matter your position, it takes a TEAM approach to provide Championship-level care to individuals with Alzheimer's or Dementia.
Consider yourself a Coach because that's what you are as a family caregiver of a memory-impaired person. Right now, you make the rules and the game plan. You are the focal point of your at-home care team. You can't do it alone though; so surround yourself with support players needed to help you execute the game plan.
So let's look at what it takes to make a TEAM.
What do the Chicago Bulls, New York Yankees and Green Bay Packers have in common? All three of these franchises have set records in their respective sports for multiple Championships.
In the 1990s, the Bulls permanently placed their name in the record books by winning three-consecutive Championships not once, but twice, in the decade. The Bulls were six-time champions in a mere ten-year period.
The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series Championships and 40 American League pennants. Both of these massive accomplishments are Major league records.
The Green Bay Packers of the National Football league have won 13 National Championship games and four Super Bowl titles. Like the Bulls, they too have won three-consecutive championships twice in franchise history: The only team in NFL history to accomplish this milestone.
When analyzing these organizations to find secrets to their substantial success, commonalities emerge that unite them respectively in the record books. To have consistent championship-level success, these teams share some similarities whether on a sports team or as a memory-care provider.
• Strong leadership. A coach with a defined game plan and the ability to oversee the nuances of executing the game plan.
• Strong players. All of these teams certainly had stand-out stars that shined brighter than others on their team. Each team still had to work in concert with each other to execute the plan on their journey to multiple championships. Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Brett Favre are Hall of Fame players, but they couldn't win the championships alone. They needed a surrounding cast of players who played a role in the overall team success as well.
• Strong work ethic. The ability to overcome, overachieve and deliver the effort, even when faced with adversity. Championship-level teams often are playing injured, fatigued and mentally exhausted as they strive for their professional pinnacle.
Doctors, family members, neighbors, the pharmacist, your pastor and a whole cast of characters are integral to your care-giving success, especially when your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Too often, family caregivers attempt to provide 100 percent of the care 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, being the sole care provider 100 percent of the time does not lead to a championship level of care. You may think that you are the only one who can provide the care, but indeed, you are diminishing the overall success of the game plan that may play out over many years.
Providing care is exhausting. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Michael Jordan, the standout superstar of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s was capable of scoring 50 points a game; however, if the other team scored 51, then Michael's valiant efforts were for nothing. Even Michael Jordan needed the support of his teammates to score points too and play defense against the other team to keep them from scoring. It took a team of players who excelled in their roles to bring home six championships in ten years.
As the primary care provider (coach & superstar) of your at-home care-giving team, you are no good to your loved one if you are sick, tired, unmotivated, uninspired and overwhelmed. You need to build your team, utilize their talents and execute the game plan as you strive to provide championship-level care for an Alzheimer's patient.
In a professional setting, the executive leadership is imperative to the overall success of the team's ability to provide care. When the Executive Director or corporate leadership (Coaches) doesn't have a clear vision or a clear game plan, the team's chances of success are diminished.
When the team isn't aware of the game plan or worse yet, isn't given the tools and training for success, there is limited chance for championship-quality care.
The Coach must be present. The Coach needs to set the rules and hold their team accountable for executing the overall plan. The Coach needs to train, teach, mentor and lead by example.
Meanwhile, the players on the professional care-giving team need to be solid and capable. Not everyone on the team can be a Derek Jeter or Brett Favre caliber player. What's the key? The team must be cohesive and work together in concert as opposed to fragmented and working against each other. "That's not my job" is not championship-level-care language.
In a long-term setting, everyone in the building is a part of the care-giving team. Along with the frontline care staff, the housekeepers, front desk greeter, bus driver, sales staff, business director and food service personnel are all imperative to the overall success of the organization. These folks require the proper training in dementia care and communication.
For example, on a championship level care team, the housekeepers would be trained to be aware of changes in the resident's environment that they may discover while conducting their duties. Is the once-tidy room, now a disheveled mess? Is the person hoarding and hiding objects? Do incontinence issues exist where none were before? A housekeeper may observe these hints and clues. The Coach needs to empower that team player to have a voice and alert other members of the team when they notice a drastic change.
In a long-term setting, everyone must retain an awareness of their role in the care-providing process. All the responsibility for giving care can't fall solely on the shoulders of the frontline staff. Much like Michael Jordan, they can't win the game by themselves. They need the support of their fellow teammates across the board to operate at a championship level.
Being a champion takes a lot of hard work. It takes long hours of practice and a never-say-quit attitude. The Chicago Bulls, New York Yankees and Green Bay Packers all have the awards and medals to show for their efforts. Unfortunately, care providers of loved ones with some form of memory impairment seldom get awards, but they do usually show their scars over time from the heavy load they bear.
Whether you provide care at home or in a professional setting, your championship-level care will be reflected in the eyes of those you serve. They will be content, honored and respected. Now that's Championship caliber care.