Finding Common Ground with a Caregiver
Taking care of a loved one is hard, and doing it without help can severely impact the health and happiness of everyone involved. Hiring a professional can actually be quite helpful, especially a live-in caregiver. If your loved one lives on their own, hiring a caregiver can give you peace of mind while preserving the comfort and familiarity of home.
Still, bringing a caregiver into your loved one’s life requires an adjustment period. Remember that this person is a stranger, lacking the familiarity with your loved one that you’ve cultivated throughout your life. While professional caregivers are experts in their fields, they can often lack the context needed to connect with their charges. That’s where you come in.
Contrary to what you may think, hiring a live-in caregiver is the beginning of a collaboration. While they can take over most of the day-to-day care duties, you’ll still need to take on an active role in the care of your loved one as well. Here’s how to work together with your loved one’s live-in caregiver or any other health professional that has become a significant part of your life.
Handling the Introductions
Bringing a caregiver into your loved one’s life is a big transition: you’re bringing a stranger into your home. That is why introducing the caregiver and your loved one is such a critical part of the process.
Part of the reason for choosing a live-in caregiver over an assisted living facility is preserving the comforts of home. Before you begin, speak with your loved one and make a list of their preferences: recipes, snacks, TV shows and films, music, even how they prefer their space to be organized. Since caregivers aren’t psychic, compiling all of this information into an accessible place is critical. Consider making a binder or notebook and leaving it somewhere visible and accessible.
While working on this, you should also begin working on emotional context. Write down some favorite memories you have with your loved one or facts about their personality and history that might not come across from a preference list. Important dates, like birthdays, or anniversaries of a partner’s passing, should also be recorded. The goal here is to give the caregiver an idea of who their charge is as a person: something which is especially important if your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s.
How do I build a relationship with a caregiver?
If possible, let your loved one handle the initial tour once you bring a caregiver into the home. Have them show the caregiver around, pointing out details and sharing their thoughts and feelings. This will help establish an early connection and give your caregiver access to information you may have missed.
You should also set up an avenue of communication with your caregiver. Many may prefer simple texts for quick updates, but scheduling phone or video calls can help boost engagement and keep you in the loop on changes to your loved one’s care.
When working with any healthcare professional, it’s essential to trust them. You know more about your loved ones than they do, but remember that they have also undergone extensive training and vetting. This is especially true for caregivers hired through home health agencies.
Caregivers aren’t cooks or maids: they’re healthcare professionals trained to monitor your loved one’s health and improve their quality of life. Listen to them when they have concerns, and take their advice and recommendations into consideration. If you constantly question their every decision or ignore their advice, you’ll build a layer of resentment that can impact the quality of care.
Caring for the Caregiver
If an in-home caregiver is going to be a part of your loved one’s life, they will become an extension of your family. This is especially true in a shared living situation, but considering the caregiver’s needs is essential, even if your loved one lives on their own.
Ensure your caregiver has access to a comfortable, personal space in your home: once they’re free to decorate and manage as they see fit. This will be where they live for the foreseeable future, so ensuring comfort and independence is critical.
You should also respect your caregiver’s time, even if they live with your loved one. Professional caregivers have lives outside of work, just like anyone else. They won’t always be available to help, and even those able to jump in at a moment’s notice might struggle with the disruption to their lives. Make sure to communicate your loved one’s schedule with your caregiver, alerting them to any changes as quickly as possible. If you’re sharing care duties with an at-home caregiver, show up from respite breaks on time, and inform the caregiver if you are running late.
You also can’t expect a caregiver to be ready and active 24/7: it’s both unfeasible and unhealthy. Arrange a plan and communicate it with your loved one’s caregiver to avoid ambiguity. If you hire a caregiver from a home care agency, they’ll likely set up a shift system, allowing your at-home caregiver time to recharge. If hiring privately, however, you’ll need to establish a plan. Many people choose to take on a portion of the caregiving duties themselves, stepping in during the evenings or weekends. If that isn’t feasible, services like adult daycares and respite care can provide you and your loved one’s caregiver with much-needed rest.
You can include the caregiver in family events, such as holidays and celebrations. Even something as simple as a thank you card can go a long way.
What about other healthcare professionals?
Even if your loved one doesn’t have a live-in caregiver, many of the principles above apply to anyone working with your loved one for an extended period of time: doctors, nurses, staff at assisted living facilities, and even family members you enlist to help with care. While making sure they have their room might not be necessary, the core ideas still apply:
- Gather as much information on your loved one’s preferences and conditions as possible and communicate them.
- Allow your loved ones to establish a rapport on their own.
- Respect the caregiver’s expertise and advice, take action when asked, and step back when not needed.
- Respect the caregiver’s time, clearly communicate your schedules, show up to appointments on time, and give them plenty of time to rest.
- Remember small gestures, like holiday cards and thank-you notes, to help them feel appreciated.
Building a solid relationship with an elder caregiver can be challenging. Still, regardless of whether they’re a new resident of your home, a visiting nurse, or your family doctor, it’s worth putting in the effort to ensure your loved one remains happy and comfortable.