Years of working with caregivers in and out of our home, have been an eye-opening experience for me. It does not take very long to determine if the hired caregiver has a genuine concern for the patient, or whether their interest in the paycheck at the end of the day.
We have been blessed through the years with some terrific workers whose tender compassionate demeanor helped us through very difficult years. Most would go beyond the expected to care for their patient and relieve any stress her family members may have.
This was not always the case. On one occasion, I came home to find two aides giving my mother a bath. Mother was sitting on her commode with nothing over her and staring helplessly at the door. One aide was washing her back and the other her legs; each scrubbing hard on her tender skin. They were talking loudly between themselves, not even acknowledging Mother as they worked.
Needless to say, I was not happy! It had to be God that kept me from making matters worse by screaming at them to quit. Instead, it seemed my first words should be addressed to my helpless little mother.
“Mommy, you sure are getting a lot of attention today. Does that bath feel good?” She managed a frail grin as she looked at the two of them with disdain.
“Maybe they could be a little easier on you; would that be a good thing?” Big nod!
I smiled at the workers and politely asked them to please handle her more gently and visit with her and not each other. As I said, God had to be in control; I had wanted to retaliate. As it happened, the women apologized and took special care of Mother the rest of their shift.
Whether you are a hired caregiver or a relative or friend helping care for someone, I think these seven suggestions will prove helpful. They have been good reminders to me through the years as I find myself falling back into old habits.
1. Don’t bring your troubles into that home. They need you to be happy so don’t add to their load. This is a particular caution to relatives who may feel a need to share the latest information about other family members. If it’s not positive and uplifting news, it would be better left for a later time.
2. Remember you are invading the privacy of that family. Respect their home and its contents. You are not there to tour the house; you are there to care for the patient.
3. Care for that person as you would want someone to care for your parent or child. This includes protecting their personal privacy as well. In the story I shared, Mother would have been much more comfortable with a towel or wrap over her body as she sat there.
4. Remember, no matter how difficult the client, he/she is still a person. Respect and value the individual as a person and, as much as possible, consider their actions and reactions separately.
5. Learn the basic, technical aspects of the care needed and then adjust to the personal needs of your client.
6. Find out the name your client uses and use it. The client will respond better to names they are familiar with. People are more comfortable with others who know them by name.
If you are a caregiver reading this (whether hired, volunteer or family), I want you to know I have the highest respect and admiration for you. Often caring for others is a thankless job. It is hard work and demanding. It is also rewarding and needed. I thank God for you and pray often for those who care for others.
It was Jesus that taught us in the beginning to love one another. Thanks for loving others enough to care.