Home > Caregivers, Communication, Long-term care > A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust

One of the things that I’ve always felt very strongly about, in my work with residents of long-term care facilities, is the need of establishing a relationship of trust.  Working as a speech/language pathologist, I often have to do things with (and to) my patients that are of a very personal nature — whether they have dementia or not.  This can include encouraging the patient to engage in some very personal recollections, or helping a woman deal with a husband that can no longer remember her name.  Or helping to feed a patient some food that may not look particularly appetizing, because it has been run through a blender.  Or putting my hands in her mouth to perform treatments designed to help her swallow better.  Or any number of other things.

I like to spend a little time getting to know the residents of a facility, on a more personal level.  I try to know everyone’s first name, although I won’t use it unless I’m given permission.  I like to say hello to those folks I pass in the hallways, and perhaps exchange a few pleasant words if time permits.  If possible, I help to serve meals in the dining room, making sure to see if a person would like to have his meat cut up, or complimenting her on her new blouse.  And I try to take advantage of little opportunities, as they arise during the day, to establish a pleasant relationship with these people.

Of course, doing these things makes the day go a little easier.  But there is another advantage to be seen here.  And that was illustrated very well today.

One of the things that I typically do on Monday morning is to talk to the nursing staff and find out what went on over the weekend.  Were there any new admissions that I need to check on, or did one of our long-term residents have a problem that I nee to look into?  This morning I heard that one of our long-term residents had gone out with friends over the weekend, and experienced a choking spell.  When I spoke to my department head about it, we both became a little nervous, as this woman has always been rather reclusive, and reluctant about participating in therapy.  And I wondered how I would convince her to let me work with her.

Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t hard at all.  Occasionally, I have brought my little dog in to visit the residents.  And this little woman has enjoyed these visits tremendously, talking about them for days afterward.  Every time I see her, she asks about my dog.  And so, when I sat down next to her and drew her into a conversation about her weekend.  And she was the one who brought up her choking spell.  I was able to lead her into a discussion of previous swallowing difficulties, that she had never revealed to anyone, and she agreed to allow me to help her figure out what was going wrong and how to treat the problem.

And all because of a smile and a visit from a little dog.

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