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Becoming a Better Caregiver With Help From Actors

Posted By Sally Abrahms On February 26, 2014 @ 11:27 am In Bulletin Today,Caregiving | Comments Disabled

Actors teach dementia and Parkinson's family caregivers to do a better job [1]

Actor pretending to have dementia

Training medical students to do a better job by using actors to play patients is not new. But at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center [2], actors are faking dementia [3] and Parkinson’s [4] disease to help family caregivers be more effective — and that’s downright novel.

Last month, 16 caregiver spouses gathered at the hospital’s simulation center to boost their communication skills with a loved one. These husbands and wives were dealing with challenging behaviors and wanted help solving real-life issues. In the process, the group also learned what it’s like to be the one impaired.

Each participant was videotaped in a pretend scenario with an actor (made up to look the part) who refused to get dressed, say, or was exceptionally negative. After the role-playing, the actors and fellow caregivers offered feedback on the caregiver’s body language and interaction — what worked and what didn’t. “Family caregivers are often thrust into this role of providing medical care without medical training,” says Justin Montgomery, a clinical nurse and nurse practitioner at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Aging Resource Center [5].

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One caregiver in the two-session program was Myra Ferguson, whose husband has Parkinson’s. While she has had experience with the disease — her father also had it — caregiver boot camp reinforced her skills.

Ferguson was asked to play the sister of a patient/actor with Parkinson’s who didn’t want to put on a sweater or take her medicine. “My job was to encourage my ‘sister’ and tell her she could do it,” says Ferguson.  The feedback was positive — and useful. “I saw that I could be gentle and patient,” Ferguson says. “My colleagues liked that I used humor and made jokes to turn things around.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock plans another round of caregiving sessions this spring and hopes to have more in the future. The training program is part of a federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration [7].  “I was feeling really alone and lost before the boot camp, but it was like a support group for me,” says Ferguson. “It was also wonderful that I was learning to be a better caregiver.”

Photo by Charlotte Albright [8] for Vermont Public Radio [9]

Sally Abrahms [10] covers boomer and senior caregiving, housing and work. Follow her on Facebook [11] and Twitter [12].

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Article printed from AARP: http://blog.aarp.org

URL to article: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/02/26/becoming-a-better-caregiver-with-help-from-actors/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/vpr-albright-cookson.jpg

[2] Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center: http://digital.vpr.net/post/dartmouth-hitchcock-actors-fake-dementia-train-caregivers

[3] dementia: http://blog.aarp.org/tag/dementia/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[4] Parkinson’s: http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/parkinsons?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG

[5] Aging Resource Center: http://patients.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/aging_resource_center.html

[6] >> Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter: http://www.aarp.org/online-community/people/subscribeFromEmail.action?id=19061&intcmp=ILC-EMAIL-SUB-HLTH

[7] Health Resources and Services Administration: http://www.hrsa.gov/index.html

[8] Charlotte Albright: http://digital.vpr.net/people/charlotte-albright

[9] Vermont Public Radio: http://www.vpr.net

[10] Sally Abrahms: http://www.sallyabrahms.com

[11] Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.abrahms

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[14] Image: http://brain.aarp.org/?intcmp=AE-CONT-BHQ-REL-BL

[15] Living With Dementia and Caregivers: So Many Unmet Needs: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/02/20/living-with-dementia-and-caregivers-so-many-unmet-needs/?intcmp=AE-ENDART1-BL-REL

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