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Colleen Kavanaugh of The Longest Dance Says Learning New Dance Steps Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3...

Hello to the Top-Notch Teams community! My name is Colleen Kavanaugh and I am a Certified Caregiving Consultant. For ten years I cared for my parents (and my three children, partner and career). My parents had had cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and while I knew nothing about any of these illnesses at the time, I did know that I would do the best I was able. I learned a ton and swore that once my parents died that I would NEVER have anything to do with the world of elder care. Until… I realized how deeply those ten years shaped me into the person I am today.

The fact that I survived means YOU can survive. I promise and I swear. Literally. I promise you will survive this with support from others. And I swear that it be so challenging at times that you will want to swear, and then at other times you will think it will kill you.

It won’t.

Allow me during National Assisted Living Week to share a few things I had to learn the hard way. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would take every single piece of my advice. But I can’t. The fact that I am here reliving any of this, as a part of my new career, should prove just how insane the experience made me. I cannot live with the idea that anyone else should have to go through what I went through.

In the upcoming posts, you’ll see the word “caree”. It is a short hand to replace “loved one”, “parent”, “elderly relative” and “care recipient”.

Knowledge is power. And sharing our experiences empowers all of us.

And, just for Top-Notch Teams readers I am offering a consulting special. Contact me on my website or through an email and mention “Ignite My Caregiving Experience” for 2 complimentary 50-minute one-on-one sessions. I look forward to continuing the conversation and the opportunity to become a part of your caregiving team.

Ready? Let’s go!

Learning New Dance Steps, It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Creating Dynamite Connections with Your Aging Parent or Loved One

By: Colleen Kavanaugh, CCC

If you are caring for an aging parent or relative, you may be in need of a few new dance steps. When things like mobility, vision, and hearing can be on the decline with older loved ones, sometimes the activities you once enjoyed together need to be revamped.

Also, in all honesty, visits can be dull and emotionally draining. Did I just admit that? Yes. I am not one to sugarcoat things. Caregiving is challenging. But good intentions can make a world of difference in our overall experience.

Having some go-to things to do will not only make the visit more enjoyable for your caree, but will enable you to create memories in which to look back upon warmly.

Let’s take a fresh look at ways you can create dynamic connections with your elderly parent or loved one during a new phase of their life.

Ways to Connect During Visits

No one ever wished they did more busy work with another person that they miss. By consciously choosing to make time during your visit to truly visit with your caree, you will add a meaningful layer to your caregiving experience. Everyone wants to feel loved and spending time with another person is the simple way to show that love.

Brag a Bit

Before your visit, upload recent photos from your phone onto your larger screened tablet or laptop. Bring the tablet along and show your loved one what you’ve been up to since your last visit. You can also share old family photos or images of far away destinations.

Leave the Phone Alone

Keep your smartphone in your pocket. Make the most of your time together by being together and focus on the conversation. Show them how important they are to you by not looking for something “more important” on your phone.

Fun and Games

Have a particular project or activity that the two of you do together. This activity could be working on a simple handyman’s project, sipping tea, playing a game of Scrabble, or completing a puzzle.


As much as you and your caree love one another, they will still enjoy seeing new faces from time to time. Not only does this give you a break, but it also allows others to have a chance to make memories with your caree.

Take Them Up On It

So when you hear the phrase, “Let me know if I can do anything!” from family and friends, that is your cue to make them an offer they hopefully won’t refuse. Make a habit to look for times in each upcoming month when you can ask someone to pop in for a visit or to provide a ride somewhere.

Bright Ideas

Have a few suggestions ready to offer to concerned family and friends. Often, they are well intentioned but unsure of what they could do for your caree. Providing them with some choices is a great way for them to self-select what they are comfortable doing.

The “Swap and Run”

Practice doing the “swap and run”, a technique I often utilized with great results during parties. Say you are with a large group of people at a party or family event. When you are with your caree and someone comes over and begins chatting away, take the moment to step out into the rest of the room by saying, “Oh, Sally, Dad would love to hear all about your trip to Antarctica! Would you mind if I grab some food and say hello to Beth over there? I’ll be right back.” And just like that, you can circulate the party for a bit, and your caree doesn’t feel like you are babysitting them any longer.


Ever think to yourself, “I wish I could hear my grandmother sing that song again”? Document the stories of your caree for yourself and future generations. We have incredible ease in which to capture moments and stay connected, let’s use them.

Enlist the Younger Generation

Have the grandkids, nieces and nephews come and interview your caree. They can be as formal or as fun as they would like. No fancy equipment is needed. If you have a smartphone, you can record videos.

Get Social

Consider involving the entire family, no matter how far away everyone may be living. Start a private Facebook group for your extended tribe. Use this space to keep connected by posting photos and even personal video messages. Even if your caree isn’t able to participate online, you will have a consolidated place from which to spread the news and photos of what everyone is doing.


1. Set the intention for a calm and connected visit.

2. Engage your caree and remove distractions.

3. Speak slowly and simply.

4. Offer visual choices when you are able.

5. Be patient.

6. Give simple step-by-step instructions.

7. Distract and redirect if they become upset.

8. Focus on the feelings they are expressing if the words aren’t making sense.

9. Reminisce about the good old days, not about what happened yesterday.

10. Bring your sense of humor. Laughter is always good for everyone.

#thelongestdance #colleenkavanaugh #certifiedcaregivingconsultant #youvegotthis #nationalassistedlivingweek #keepconnected #caree #learningnewdancesteps #easyasonetwothree #waystoconnectwithpeoplewhohavedementia

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