Capturing the Moment

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By Online Dementia JournalOctober 15th, 2021

Capturing the Moment

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by Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, SFT, SFN, SSC, NBFE,

PAC Certified Independent Consultant

One of my most popular motivational presentations takes the listener through the behind-the-scenes activities and training leading up to a World Competition in Powerlifting. For accomplished strength athletes, working backwards, the process begins a year before with at least five multi-hour strength training and aerobic sessions every week, strict nutrition plans, and a commitment to participate in a specific weight class. Like an athlete training for competition, everything we do now with and for people living with dementia (PLwD), whether intentional or not, is practice for the future. Planning and preparation are essential for care partners to make the most important things happen and even the best laid plans can devolve into entropy. To be the best, a true champion of care, it is not simply about doing things because they’ve always been done that way. It’s about finding what works in the moment that makes a positive difference for the present and the future to capture the moment for the person living with dementia.

The year includes a few smaller events with the cycle and athletic performance culminating in nine lifts: three squats, three bench presses, and three deadlifts, all at maximum ability and all in the same day. Each lift takes place on a platform where the lifter performs individually, but not alone, in front of about 300 spectators. The lifter is surround by three judges, one at the head and on each side two feet away, scrutinizing every aspect of body position and movement of the barbell. The head, hands, feet, and buttocks cannot change position on the bar or bench once the lift has started. There can be no downward travel of the bar and certain aspects of each lift, such as the hip joint dropping just below the knee for the squat or the arms locking out at the top of a bench press, must be performed at specific points during each movement. There are at least two spotters to assist with the set-up, hand off, and return of the barbell and weights, and for safety. Just beyond the spotlight of this circle are the scorekeepers, announcer, camera technicians, expediters, coaches, and athletes in the cue. When everything is ready, the announcer states that the bar is loaded and the lifter has one minute to enter the platform, get in ideal position, and complete the lift. Once the lift is completed, the lifter then has one more minute to report to the scoring table the amount of weight to be lifted on the next attempt. Depending on the number of athletes in the cue, the lifter will repeat this process again, usually with an increase in the amount of weight to be lifted, in as little as five minutes, or as long as an hour. This state of readiness is maintained throughout the day. This extensive preparation by the lifter and event set-up by sport partners is given meaning with one goal in mind. To lift more weight than the competition. A 60-second opportunity to capture the moment.

In the same way, the entire care team with a clear goal, or set of goals, along with planning and preparation, can capture the moment(s) with PLwD. Early in my competitive career, the one minute on the platform was a blur, passing quickly and without clarity. Eventually, through practice, my performance was refined. Refining for me involves holding onto what works, letting go of what doesn’t work, and to the best of my ability, being able to see every second, give it purpose, and accomplish the goal, or produce pre-defined results like world records. Eventually, with years and minutes of practice, every second on the lifting platform was mastered and the one minute was more than enough time to complete an excellent lift. In the process, my athletic experience now encompassed nearly every scenario that might take place on the platform. As a seasoned lifter, most of my successes involve a delicate balance of being true to myself and the foundation of training, while relying on experience for the flexibility to accommodate the nuances of each situation.

For people living with dementia and care partners, whether minutes pass quickly in a blur or slowly and clearly, preparation and practice is defined by the unique needs of the person living with dementia. The PLwD is the center of the care services platform, performing individually, but not alone in capturing the moment(s).

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