When you become a caregiver you need to get your eyes checked – regularly! Caregiving is a crash course in sensory experience. In our immersion into the caregiver career, we are subject to new smells, tastes, touch, sounds and certainly new sights; not all of which are appealing or desired. Tumbling into the caregiving journey may well begin with energy, but sinks into exhaustion from such sensory overload. While our person is seeing the world with crossed wires, we are being asked to fine tune our sensory inputs.
“You can observe a lot by watching.” Yogi Berra
As caregivers, we need to carefully watch what is happening as we go from somewhere to somewhere else. It is vitally important to pay special attention to patterns of behavior, the ways in which our persons use their body, and the manner of their communication (not just speaking!). The stuff of what we observe becomes vital information for meaningful diagnosis by medical professionals. Personally, I learned to keep a journal because there was so much to note, and my own mind was significantly cluttered by the ordinary of life. It helped me not only to keep accurate notes, but to sift through and shake out priorities.
Our brains do a marvelous job of screening inputs, so that in the ordinary time we do not have to deal with what we commonly regard as trivia. Most of us are extraordinarily capable of screening out sensory inputs that distract us from our goals. Now, as caregivers we have to recalibrate our sensory intake mechanisms to not let things fly by us. We need a crash course in learning to once again bring intention to attention. I am currently reading a book named On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz which is a social commentary on that same loss of quality in human observation.
In Savvy Caregiver Training, we work hard trying to instill in our caregivers a “clinical” detachment that fosters quality attention to environments and stimuli that affect our persons and their behaviors. This is difficult preciously because we are intimately tied to our person in bonds of affection that make it easy to “overlook” deviations from the norm, or what we are sure are minor discrepancies. In addition, it is difficult to learn to see again with fresh and open senses because our brains have worked so amazingly hard otherwise. It requires practice, practice and more practice. I do not win kind regard when I give out “homework” at Savvy Training, even though my goal is to motivate caregivers to engage in the tough work of recalibrating their senses.
Try your own experiment. For two hours today, carefully observe, what your person is doing; add up the various elements in their environment, watch their capabilities as carefully as you do their disability and then consider how these circumstances combine to produce the behavior they are doing. This is not some new calculus; it is simply the fine art of observation that is elemental to effective caregiving.
You are welcome to contact me with further questions. You are invited to join a Savvy Caregiver Training. Check us out at www.agingresources.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SavvyCaregiverNorthCentralFlorida.