Amy Goyer has taken care of her mom, dad, and sister all at the same time. She is the real deal, a sandwich generation caregiver. Amy is author of the book: “Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving”. She also hosts the AARP Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook.
Amy and I had a strong connection ever since we met in Hawaii during pre-Covid days. Last week, we finally had a chance to videochat with her caregivers group. We decided to talk about a particularly important topic: dignity. Why dignity? Because it’s one thing to take care of a person’s daily needs. But it becomes much more meaningful when we help an older person feel that life is worth living. Providing dignity makes an enormous difference.
Together, we discussed three pillars of dignity.
Empathy: Frail patients can struggle with feelings of anxiety, worthlessness, or depression. These emotions are not helpful, but they are human. It’s worse when people feel that no one understands or sympathizes with them.
Identity: Doctors take care of people, not just diseases. In the same way, caregivers take care of people, not a set of tasks. It’s easy, but not good, for a frail person to end up feeling like a “thing” to be taken care of.
Autonomy: We all want a say in our own lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving a person a choice.
Amy shared real-life examples to illustrate these pillars. One of the things we discussed was “baby talk”. It’s well-meaning but is it dignified?
WATCH Amy Goyer, AARP's Family and Caregiving Expert and moderator of the AARP Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook, and I (Dr. Warren Wong, a Clinical Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine) as we discuss family caregiving and geriatric medicine. We discuss how to preserve dignity for those we care for, how to evaluate whether it's safe for a loved one to remain at home alone, how to communicate with your loved one's doctors, how to deal with disagreements about a loved one's care among family members, and more!
You must join the Facebook group to watch the video. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aarpfamilycaregivers (you will be prompted to join the group; if you have trouble finding the video after joining the group, go to the "Featured" tab on the Group's page and you'll find it there).
PS: I say it over and over again: There's no one more important than the caregiver in the daily life of a frail person.