Deal or Deal Breaker?

Dandelions, daffodils and dreary days.  Each of these images recalls a sensory experience recorded in my primal memory.  Each impacted my life in a particular way from early childhood.  As a child growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, dandelions were summer flowers that played at my feet as I swung high in the sky on my rope and board swing.  I picked them for my mother, and made them into chains.   They remind me of good simple warm times . . . even when my mind is not really at work.  It’s a primal sensory memory.

Likewise daffodils are harbingers of spring.  They arrive after the worst of winter has passed.  Sunny yellow little trumpets.  Both of these yellow flowers are responsible for yellow being a favorite color.  Bright, warm, promising. 

Both dispel the negative drop of a dreary day.  Gray skies signal doom for me. Add rain and it’s a cool day in a MD autumn.  Add sleet and it is a cold day in a MD winter.

Even though I may be in FL where dreary days are “once in a blue moon”, my reaction will be one of a native MD’er who knows it will be dreary “forever”.   If my cognitive abilities are diminished, my sensory preferences coupled with my personality will dominate. As an individual whose personality is stronger on the feeling side, dreary feels depressing.  My actions may illustrate this more vividly than someone who has a personality that was less feeling-based. 

          For years in healthcare we were trained to recognize the “3 D’s”, Delirium, Dementia and Dehydration.  Symptoms like dementia and delirium are common in older adults suffering from dehydration.  Couple that with a propensity to be dehydrated . . .  many older people are hospitalized for dehydration and resulting Urinary Tract Infections.   Quality elder care providers know the value of offering frequent hydration opportunities. 

How much more effective would it be to offer beverages preferred by the individual?   Are cold or hot beverages preferred? 

Person-centered care focuses on the individual and responds to his/her sensory preferences.Each of the “Three D’s” can be addressed through the individual’s sensory preferences.  Re-directing an irate individual struggling with delirium requires a gentle and intuitive understanding of the individual’s preferences.  Sensory preferences are a big deal.  Offer the wrong solution to a person with delirium:  Deal Breaker.

 If you are caring for a loved one, how are you representing their sensory choices?

As a caregiver, how are you honoring your sensory preferences?  What action or item would make the day less dreary?

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

1 thought on “Deal or Deal Breaker?

  1. Knowing a person’s sensory preferences ARE a big deal. For care partners, I ask: how do you know the Elder’s preferences? Thanks for this blog, Cate!

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