The Most Valuable Skill For Caregivers

As a caregiver , its important to know your client’s needs, and what type of care they require. Your agency’s job is to match your skills to the client’s needs appropriately. But the most valuable skill you can bring with you is LISTENING.

Familiarize yourself with the background information about your client. Get to know them as a person, not just a patient. If your client is verbal, engage them in  conversation. Ask questions about their life. Encourage them to talk about their memories, feelings, and opinions.

And as they talk, listen to them. Many elderly people have amazing life stories. They may feel intimidated by current events and our swiftly-changing world; however, your genuine interest in their life will bring confidence. After all, they are familiar with the subject.

Let’s talk about active listening:

1. Make eye contact, not to make the client feel like you are staring, but that you are interested in what they are saying.

2. Lean toward them a little. This body language communicates attentiveness. Be aware of any nonverbal messages you may be accidentally sending.

3. Respond to what they say, always encouraging them to continue. Do not share your opinions or experiences.  This conversation is not about you. If you start telling your story, that will close down your client’s communication. Remember… it’s not about you.

4. Do not let your mind wander to chores you need to do, or anywhere else. Keep your focus on your client. Be patient if they struggle with words. Get a feel for when to help them and when not. Let them tell their story in their way. The dishes or making the bed can be done later. You are providing the invaluable service of companionship. That is more important to your client’s well being.

5. Let them take as long as it takes to talk. If they wander around subjects, do not bring them back to point. If they begin to show frustration because they realize they have forgotten what they were saying, then is the time to ask an open-ended question relevant to the topic. Without telling them what they were saying, you can bring them gently back on course with a good question.

As dementia onsets, short term memory loss precedes the long term. Many of these people can clearly remember something from their distant past much more vividly than what happened an hour or less ago. Encouraging your client to talk about these events in their life may improve their memory functions at times.

Your life will be enriched as you help your clients communicate. You will learn a lot from them.

Just a word about nonverbal clients. They communicate too, often agitated because people, even caregivers, don’t understand them. A key part of active listening is watching them for nonverbal clues. And careful and patient observation of nonverbal clients will teach you how to understand what they are trying to communicate


True Victory

What a strange game this life is. When you think of a “game”, certain concepts would naturally seem included.

For example, isn’t the object of a game usually to win? This suggests competition, and a desire to be number one. While some may live their lives like that, they are in for a lot of grief and strife. And at the end of their life, they will discover that there can only be ONE number one, and they are not the One! It shouldn’t be this way for Christians though. We are commanded to put God first, striving only to please Him. On the next priority level in a Christian’s life is… others! We are to esteem others better than ourselves. This is the living proof that we are being re-created in the image of our Lord Jesus. Christ said that the love we have for others would be the identification tag of His followers. We’re not in a competition against others. We are in a race toward the prize of fulfilling the calling God has for each of us.

I saw the most wonderful commercial on TV that still draws tender tears from me as I think about it now. The setting was a stadium (about the size of a suburban high school’s track stadium). You saw a young man running in a race. Flash to what was obviously his proud parents in the crowd. He was leading the pack. Suddenly, he stumbled and fell to the ground. As you saw the concerned parents, the boy did not get up immediately. When the other runners came up to him, they all stopped. Then you were able to see that they were “special needs kids” (i.e. Downs Syndrome). They gathered around the fallen runner and helped him to his feet. Then, arms around each other, all of the runners crossed the finish line together. The words on the screen were something like: “A True Victory!” Wow! Isn’t that beautiful?

Everyone should live their lives that way, but especially Christians!

Games have set rules. If you cheat, you are penalized, disqualified, and lose. This life has conflicting rules. The world is so diverse, filled with people who devise their own moralities. We live in a world where its becoming unacceptable to say someone is not playing by the rules. The world worships the Individual’s right to make up their own rules; and don’t dare challenge someone about their choices.

Religion takes the rules God has established and adds their own agendas. It’s a powerful weapon in the hands of people who desire to control others. One group says you have to act or even dress a certain way. Another group may have a different interpretation of the very same Scripture. What makes these standards so dangerous is that each group presents it as “God’s laws”. Judaizers!

A lawyer asked Jesus which was the “first” (primary, most important) commandment of God. Why would he ask that specifically? Maybe because he knew that he was unable to keep the hundreds of “God’s laws” their faith required. But, if he knew what was the most important commandment to God, he could make certain he didn’t break that one. The Lord told the lawyer (and us) to love God with all that you have and all of your being, and love everyone else as you love yourself. Jesus said that was all of the sum of the law. If you obeyed those two rules, then you are obedient to God.

Of course, the two and greatest commandment (no, that’s not a typo!) are really one, and entirely too rich and deep in meaning to address in a short article like this. Let’s really encapsulate: Love. So the rules to this “game of life”, as set by the game designer are simple: LOVE. Simple, right?

Or is it?

Cancer Research

The primary purpose for cancer research is to understand the causes. With this knowledge, we can develop measures for prevention, ways of earlier diagnosis, new treatments, and maybe even cures.

Unfortunately, most of the information available about cancer research is written by doctors and scientists, for doctors and scientists. The technical jargon can be confusing. This article’s goal is to give some information on the subject, in more common language.

The most common cancer treatments are:
Surgery- The goal is to completely remove all cancerous tissue, with minimal damage or removal of healthy tissue.
Radiation- This therapy stops growth of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy- Powerful drugs poison the cancer cells. Unfortunately, radiation and chemotherapy destroy the body’s immune system.
Hormone Therapy- Certain hormones have been found to help the immune system fight the cancerous cells.
Immunotherapy- Some of the newest treatments boost the immune system, and even give it specific target cells to attack. If detected early enough, there are reports of this treatment stopping further growth of cancerous cells.

Since the mid- 1990’s, clinical cancer research has mainly focused on biotechnology, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy. These are treatments that alter the body’s functions on a genetic level, programming the immune system to identify certain genes that produce mutated cells, which can become tumors. Once identified, the mutated genes are destroyed by a boosted and programmed immune system.

Oncongenomics is the study to find new types of oncogenes (cancer genes) and tumor suppressor genes. The Cancer Genome Project in 2004 said “a central aim of cancer research has been to identify the mutated genes that are causally implicated in oncogenesis (cancer genes).” They tested 350 different types of tumors, and found 130,000 mutations in 3,000 genes, mostly in tumor suppressor genes. This particular study suggests that perhaps a majority of cancerous tumors are developed by mutation of the genes that are supposed to keep them from growing. In the latter stages, tumors can become resistant to cancer treatments, perhaps because the tumor suppressors are mostly either mutated or destroyed.

Research focusing on causes have isolated cells, called endothelial progenitor cells, which are manufactured in bone marrow. They leave the marrow, entering the bloodstream, and seem important in the development of tumors and the supportive vessel growth. Destruction of the endothelial progenitor cells while they are still in the bone marrow dramatically decreases the growth of tumors.

Most funding for cancer research comes from large institutions and corporations. These funding organizations prefer low-risk small increments of advancements. They often resist innovation that may provide radically new and better treatments, possibly even cures.

For the individual, these are the best ways to decrease risk of cancer:
(1) Eat healthy- There are volumes of information available on this subject. There are some research findings that certain foods or nutrients reduce the risks of cancer.
(2) Be active- This improves overall health and gets the body functioning the way it should.
(3) Get screened- You can’t diagnose yourself. See a doctor regularly. Get checked.
(4) Don’t smoke- There is actually inconsistent research results regarding a definitive link between cigarette smoking and cancer. However, this destructive and addictive substance has no health benefits and increased risks of many health problems. So, why take the chance?

Cancer research is the only way we can fight this killer.