January has been an exciting time for Tender Heart as we welcome in the New Year. As we learned in trivia this month, January is named for the Roman God, Janus, who focuses on all things past & future. We’ve been doing just that this month; looking back with gratitude and looking forward with excitement for things to come!
Reflection over what’s been accomplished, specifically with our group members, is both rewarding and inspiring. One group member in particular, Susie (name changed for confidentiality), has worked hard to reach her mental health goals with Tender Heart. When first attending Tender Heart sessions, Susie struggled with low self-esteem. She often became tearful and told Tender Heart staff that she could not participate because “I’m just an old lady and I can’t make anything.” She often looked at others’ work and identified things she felt they had done better than her. When asked to participate in group discussions, Susie often got nervous and chose to speak only to Tender Heart staff instead.
Susie also struggled with overwhelming anxiety, often growing nervous about why she was living in a facility, when she would see her family again and if she was doing the right thing. Her anxiety was made worse by the experience of dementia, as she often struggled to remember information given to her to reduce this anxiety. Often, soon after Susie was comforted and her anxiety was alleviated, she would forget what had been discussed and her anxiety would increase again.
Staff see this combination of anxiety and dementia often and it can be a vicious cycle for group members. Without dementia, those experiencing anxiety can learn coping skills, recall sources of strength and work on cognitively adjusting their thoughts. With dementia, these abilities can be affected and treatment has to be completed in a different way.
Anxiety-provoking situations that can be especially difficult in those with dementia and anxiety include:
- Moving to a new facility, home or living situation
- Starting a new routine or an interruption in a typical routine
- New people, or failing to recall people that they’ve met before
- Having a difficult time understanding things they may have been able to understand previously
However, while working with Tender Heart, Susie’s mental health has seen dramatic improvement. She has increased her engagement in group activities, working towards complete independence and decreasing the amount of negative self-talk. Susie has started to not only recall anxiety coping skills but engage in them on her own, without needing prompting or reminding from staff. In a recent group, we made New Year’s goals where group members chose one word they wanted to focus on. Susie’s goal was “confidence” and she shared that she felt like she hadn’t been as confident during a lot of her life. Staff members are so proud of Susie’s work towards providing herself encouragement and self-love, and are looking forward to seeing how well Susie does in the 2020.
Tender Heart welcomed St. Francis Home of Saginaw to our Saginaw team this month! We are so excited to work with new group members and help them meet their mental health goals this year.
We are blessed to have another year of serving group members, communities,and happy to have you along for the ride. Happy New Year!