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Seniors & Care Facilities

Work with Seniors and with Persons with Disabilities

Many of the Capacitar practices can be adapted and used with seniors and with persons having different kinds of disabilities. Tai Chi is excellent for problems with balance. It can also be done with a person seated in a wheelchair or using a walker. The person receives all of the benefits of improved circulation, lowering of blood pressure, etc. The acupressure points in particular are excellent for everyone. Fingerholds help with anxiety or grief. Hand massage can be done on oneself. For the person with arthritic hands this can be of great help to improve circulation and flexibility. Just suggest that they go lightly in doing the massage. With amputees and phantom limbs, the massage can be very helpful to relieve pain and tension around the tissues. Always use the principle that if pain or discomfort develops, stop doing the bodywork or the practice. Or do it lightly. Or visualize that you are doing it to receive the benefits.

Use of Practices at a Care Facility with Alzheimer Patients
Barbara Brown, RN, Wisconsin

My name is Barb Brown, and I would like to share with you the beginning of my journey in the world of self-help healing practices. Besides going back to school for a degree in Health Psychology, I am the mother of four teenagers, and I work as an RN Unit Manager at a long term care and rehab facility.

On my unit, we take care of Alzheimer's patients at the wandering stage of the disease. These people can become agitated and difficult to care for as the confusion progresses. Frequently the yelling and lashing out behaviors are treated with medications. Giving an antipsychotic medication can be helpful when disruptive behaviors could cause harm to the person, or those around them. But the cost of these medications, combined with the amount of work related to treating the many side effects, made me wonder what else could be done.

As a healthcare team, we feel we always have to be doing something to the residents to be doing our job. Through Capacitar, I began learning about self help healing practices, and informally began sharing some of the techniques with my direct care staff. It was a gradual process, but eventually the staff began to realize that being with a resident was just as important as doing something to a resident.

My first task was to convince myself that self-help healing practices could work with the Alzheimer patient. I would sit with a resident and perform a hand massage, or stand with them and gently rub their shoulders or back. I brought scented oils and played music for relaxing. By slowing down and being present with the people, the staff and I were slowly learning what was making a certain person combative, and helping them work with that need, rather than imposing our wants onto that person.

I must admit that I was hesitant to bring these principles to a healthcare facility. The contemporary medical model of healthcare tends to focus on the body and mind, and reference to spirituality brought comments about religion in the workplace. I needed to adapt the words used in the teaching of these principles in order to respect the many different religious backgrounds of my staff. Everyone understood the importance of stress reduction techniques, and as medical workers, we could see the physiological outcome that occurs when biochemical reactions take place from blocked energy.

There are 11 units at the county facility where I work, and word spread quickly. My unit had a significant reduction in psychiatric drug use, and staff turnover rates significantly reduced. The staff felt empowered, and enjoyed massaging the hands of the frail patients in their care. A spontaneous break into basic Tai Chi movements with pacing residents could stop a fight between residents, and bring a smile to staff faces. Spending time with a dying resident and their family would be a little less painful while holding the grief finger, and the middle finger was seen being held at times by staff as they began learning how to speak the truth as opposed to holding frustrations inside.

Administration encouraged me to in service the rest of the facility. To date, I have had over 400 nurses, therapists, aides, kitchen staff, and maintenance workers attend the workshops. Many people are inquiring about continuing programs, and a few of us are practicing Tai Chi at break time. Three coworkers so far have commented about the great anxiety reducer, thought field therapy, helping them to quit smoking, finally. "I was amazed the other night, while out with old friends who smoke, I consciously paid attention to my feelings, and noted that I didn't really want a cigarette." This comment was from a woman who had been addicted to smoking for over 20 years.

Some day, I would like to obtain actual statistics on the reduction of behaviors and calming medications that are needed since the staff has been using these techniques. For right now, anecdotes will have to do. Power struggles between staff have also greatly reduced. The staff are not just being told to "change your attitude" or to "relax" but have now been taught real physical ways to calm themselves. Staff, who feel they have love and control over their own lives, tend not to want to try and control others. One participant from one of the in services I held commented that "if anything, these practices help you even more to understand that we cannot control what happens around us, only our reaction to it, and we can choose how to react."

Over the last couple of weeks I have been spending less time teaching, and more time watching what is happening. My mother used to tell me " good parents work themselves out of a job." I am watching my children become responsible young adults right in front of my eyes, and my staff no longer seem to need me for solving their problems, as they have become stronger, and able now to make decisions for themselves. They have become more confident in their relationships with each other, and can be honest with each other when there is a concern or problem to be solved. I am coming to the realization that my work at this facility may soon be coming to a close. I have always known deep in my heart that institutional nursing is not where I belong for the rest of my life. Caring for people is what I enjoy doing, but the current healthcare system tends to not look at the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. This may be changing, and I am curious if I may have a role in helping to bring about that change. Capacitar has taught me physical ways to deal with emotional anxiety, but it has also allowed me to see the true connections we have between each other, and the need to be there for each other.

I am watching, and waiting to see what exciting things can happen now. I have done a retreat at my hometown church, teaching Capacitar techniques, and I have done 2-hour workshops with the high school catechism programs at the church. In May, I will be doing a workshop for the general public at the Artistry in my hometown, and who knows what in the future? Finally in my life I can truly see that WE are the instruments for God's peace, and each of us have a gift to offer. It is so much fun to participate in this journey of discovering what our gift is. It can be frightening at times to step out of the comfort zone and risk being judged, or scoffed at. I have been told to be careful with the "New Age" thinking. I'm not sure what I have to be careful with, but it is too late for that. I can never go back to believing our bodies are machines that need to be fixed by mechanics. I will continue to grow, to learn, to share with others, for we are all one. We say that in our religions, let's live life like it's true.