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It Takes a Team to Care

Posted Feb 05 2012 8:16pm
Providing Championship level care to individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia takes a TEAM approach.

By Ellen Belk
Alzheimer's Reading Room

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 1990’s 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, massive accomplishments are Major league records.

The Green Bay Packers, of the National Football league, have won 13 National Championship games and four Superbowl 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.

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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.

  • Strong leadership. A coach with a defined game-plan and the ability to oversee the nuances of executing the game-plan.
  • Strong players. Although all of these teams certainly had stand-out stars that shone 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.

Providing Championship level care to individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia takes a TEAM approach. Whether you are an at-home care giver or professional provider in a long-term setting, it Takes a Team, to Care.

As a family caregiver, consider yourself the Coach. You are the person who needs to establish the rules and the game plan. As the Coach, you are the focal point of your at-home care team, but you also need to surround yourself with supporting players that can help you execute the game plan. Doctors, family members, neighbors, the pharmacist, your pastor and a whole cast of characters are integral to your care giving success.

Too often, family caregivers attempt to provide 100% of the care 100% of the time. Unfortunately, being the sole care provider 100% 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.

Care providing is exhausting. Its 24 hours a day seven days a week and 365 days a year. Michael Jordan, the standout superstar of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990’s 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.

In a professional setting the Executive Leadership is imperative to the overall success of the teams’ ability to provide care. When the Executive Director / Corporate leadership (Coach’s) don’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 to be successful there is no chance for championship quality care.

The Coach needs to 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. The key is the team needs to be cohesive and work together in concert as opposed to being 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 need to have 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? Are there incontinence issues, when there weren’t any before? These are hints and clues that a housekeeper may observe. The Coach needs to empower that team player to have a voice and to alert other members of the team when they notice a drastic change.

In a long term setting everyone needs to be aware of their role in the care providing process. All the responsibility for providing 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.

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. And, that’s Championship caliber care.



Ellen Belk is President of Keep In Mind™ and creator of Memory Magz™. Since 2001, Belk has specialized in developing programming for the memory impaired. A mature musician concert band, an intergenerational Senior Prom and a Fine Art appreciation program are amongst her professional highlights. Memory Magz™ are ‘magazine style’ picture publications with full page vibrant images purposefully designed for people with cognitive decline and/or developmental disabilities. As a public speaker, Belk engages the audience with her inter-active style and witty story telling. www.keepinmindinc.com .


More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Ellen Belk, the Alzheimer's Reading Room


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