November 3, 2015
Professional caregivers have a lot to say about what makes a great caregiver. Surprisingly, their advice has little to do with skills like bathing and dressing a person. Instead, the most important caregiving skills are interpersonal skills, according to professional caregivers. Read their best advice for how to be a better caregiver.
1. Respect the senior’s knowledge and abilities
“Clients are not children We do not need to train them. ‘Very helpful’ is the attitude. They know what is going on and I do not, within their personal world and history.” – Joyce, Home Instead® CAREGiverSM
When caring for a senior with dementia or general cognitive decline, it can be tempting to try to “teach” them how to do things like hold a fork or bathe themselves. However, a person with cognitive issues generally is not capable of learning or retaining new things; their goal is to maintain the abilities they still have.
Your intentions may be good in trying to help a senior recover lost skills, but the result may be frustration or anger. Instead of trying to “teach” clients how to perform certain activities, do it the way they ask you to (keeping safety in mind, of course). When you do things the client’s way, you validate them on an emotional level, and that may lead to trust and cooperation.
2. Be patient and flexible
“Try different things. If one doesn’t work, something else will. It’s often the little things that turn into something big.” – June Lawing, 2015 Mary Steibel CAREGiver of the YearSM
There is no single “right” way to do anything. If you keep this thought top-of-mind, you can stay flexible and experiment with multiple approaches until you find one that works with the senior entrusted to your care. Remember, your client’s rejection of a particular technique is not a rejection of you, as a person. Flexibility helps you keep your ego out of the situation and might lead to better care for your client.
3. Commit to a relationship
“Building a relationship takes a bit of time and effort, but the rewards are immense. Listen intently to what your senior has to say. Knowing how their world worked and how they related to it can help you reach them on a deeper level and gain trust.” – Debra, Home Instead CAREGiver
When you build interpersonal relationships with clients, you can learn what matters most to them and anticipate their needs. There are many ways to foster a relationship with your client: ask to look at old family photos together, take note of which books, television programs or games they enjoy, observe how they respond to stressors. And don’t forget to share something about yourself, too. Trust is a two-way street.
4. Foster respect and positivity
“Always respect them. Find a positive to point out. Let them know you noticed.” – Joyce, Home Instead CAREGiver
Many seniors say they feel “invisible” in older age. They may be less able to go out in public due to physical or cognitive decline, and when they do go out they may feel ignored.
You can ease these blows to self-esteem by cultivating a respectful and genuinely caring relationship. Be observant to changes in the senior and his or her environment. Compliment little things, such as an item of clothing or flowers sprouting in the garden. Calling these small things to your client’s attention conveys your care and concern for them.
Professional caregivers should be competent in the skills required to provide assistance with activities of daily living. But cultivating your interpersonal skills can foster a trusting relationship that takes your caregiving to the next level.
From your experience as a senior care professional, what advice would you add to this list? Leave a comment below to help others learn from your wisdom!
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