Use a Strengths Based Approach
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Inspired Senior Care. My name is Leslie Fuller and today’s topic we are going to discuss what a strengths-based approach means. In life we all have different skills. We all have different strengths. Some of them are large, and some of them may only be known to us and may not be observed by other people. But those strengths are what give us confidence and what give us a sense of ourselves and oftentimes a sense of purpose. So when you are supporting someone who is living with dementia, it is so important to really dig deep and identify what those skills are of that individual, because we need to help them celebrate those skills and find ways to display them. When somebody is having a really bad day, if all we focus on is their bad day and what’s going negatively, how are we going to find a way to work out of that and help them to a better place?
If you are supporting someone who is struggling with anxiety or they feel lost or sad, you need to have a list of tools in your back pocket of helping them to identify what they can do well and providing them opportunity to do that. If they have a nurturing spirit and are very good at comforting other people, find ways for them to be with other people, maybe introduce them to somebody else who needs a friend for the day and have the two of them sit together. Being a nurturer is a skillset. Not everybody can do that, right? Help them find ways to use that skill.
If they’ve always been a doer, they’ve always wanted to be in the middle of things and help people get things done, find opportunities for them to do that. When I was an executive director, I had a gentleman who’d been a finance manager. I would invite him to my office every day and would share with him the reports I was working on, or the projects I was doing. I would ask for his advice. It was so meaningful for him to genuinely share his thoughts. Don’t get this confused with pretending to include them or ‘making do’. Make it a genuine exchange of ideas.
Skills can include a variety of things – whistling can be considered a skill. I had an experience when I was in a community and there was a woman who was really having a tough day, nothing seemed to be going right. And one of the staff members looked at her, made eye contact with her first and then said, “Hey, Mary” and started whistling. She stopped, grinned, and whistled back at him and then he whistled back at her. They had this beautiful exchange. You could see that difficult time that she was having melt away because he found a way to connect with her. And it was truly something she was very good at and enjoyed doing. Afterwards, I asked him, “Wow, this is really great. How did you figure that out?” He said, “Well, I’m just whistling one day. And she started whistling. It’s just kind of our personal thing”. And I said, “This can’t just be your personal thing. This is such a gift to her. Let everyone else know. Give her that opportunity regularly.” And it doesn’t just have to be if somebody’s having a bad day. For her, whistling was something she was good at. She thoroughly enjoyed and it helped her connect with people. Find ways to do it every day.
Other skill sets could be anything from helping to set the table to holding a door open for you. Even if you’re walking down the hall and engaging with someone, that’s a skill set. It’s something they can do, and they can do well. Invite them to come with you say, “Can I get you to carry this for me? I really could use some help.” Give them an opportunity to feel needed emotionally, intellectually, physically, or spiritually. Do that for yourself as well. I guarantee that each one of your are very good at many different things. Find ways to build those into your day because I guarantee, if you’re having a bad day, if you give yourself the opportunity to do something that you’re good at, and that benefits you and maybe others around you, you will feel better.