The exponential rise in the elderly population globally has bestowed a new dimension to the task of caretakers. The caretaker may be a family member, a neighbour, a friend, a nurse or healthcare professional. Yet, this role poses several challenging propositions and responsibilities. That is demanding as a caretaker is always expected to capable and skilled in the long-run to meet the expectations irrespective of the dependence level of the seniors.
The caretakers make a substantial impact on the patients or elders they are taking care of. These elders may be living in their own homes, assisted living facilities, senior communities or other care facilities. The functions of caretakers may be broadly listed as follows –
- Assist elders in doing personal care activities
- Closely observe their health symptoms and seek medical help if required
- Manage the medication schedules, diet restrictions and exercise regimes
- Provide emotional and moral support
- Help in housekeeping chores
- Handle different mental behaviours including wandering, stress, hallucinations, mood swings and aggression
- Coordinate with physicians, therapists, healthcare providers and insurance companies
The relationship between the caretakers and the elderly must be a long-lasting and meaningful one. However, this relationship can get difficult and fragile particularly if they have to handle patients with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Caretakers are likely to get stressed fast and lose their patience and temper easily. That can negatively impact the health of the senior and even demoralize them.
It is important to develop and sustain a healthy relationship between the elders and the caretakers in spite of the toughest circumstances. Doing so will ensure that quality care services are rendered and the healing process is not hampered.
Let us explore what are the desirable skills that caretakers must possess and how their relationship with the elderly can be improved.
Desirable Skills of Caretakers
- Making effective communication by conversing meaningfully, listening carefully, respecting the personal space of seniors and avoiding confrontations and arguments.
- Showing sufficient empathy for the senior being cared for by having a good understanding, compassion and having the right perspectives.
- Having enormous patience to prioritize and uphold the elderly person’s needs without being condescending and getting mentally disturbed.
- Exhibiting positivity to create a pleasant and optimistic atmosphere for the seniors so that they may inculcate the same feeling and be cheerful rather than grumpy.
- Showing keen observation skills to understand both verbal and non-verbal cues from elders and also comprehend their difficulties proactively.
- Displaying appropriate body language by using a judicious combination of communication and observation to help seniors convey their feelings openly.
Steps for building a Meaningful Relationship
- Seeking help when required without hesitation – There may be several confusing, tedious and emotionally draining circumstances during the caretaking process. A vital factor that can be beneficial in such situations is transparency which can be achieved through clear-cut communication. Both the caretaker and seniors must not hesitate to seek help when it is necessary. That builds a trustful bond and even aids in understanding new demands and clarifying concerns.
- Showing compassion and evading frustration – Often elderly who are injured or severely disabled may not have complete self-control over their brain functioning and other capacities like speech, motor skills and memory retention. This can cause a fractured and strained relationship. Hence, caretakers should exercise sufficient compassion towards seniors to build excellent rapport and understanding.
- Being calm and patient – There can be several instances when seniors cannot adhere to rules of good behaviour and can even act dangerously as in case of brain injury or loss of vital organ functioning. They may also be unable to take balanced decisions and exhibit appropriate responses to stimulus. Caretakers must be empathetic and optimistic in such situations as seniors may not be under control of their actions and mind.
- Exercising encouragement – Encouraging elders can positively influence their morale and motivate them to be as independent as possible. It also boosts self-esteem and confidence thereby making the caretaking relationship complete.
- Practicing and implementing active listening skills – Active listening helps to build better understanding and communication pathways. It also makes the elders feel important and secure and avoids isolation and depression. Additionally, by doing this, caretakers can also gather potential warning signs if any to prevent catastrophe.
- Having complete involvement and considering the senior’s likes – Caretakers must make a conscious and sincere effort to understand and involve seniors in their favourite pastimes and activities. This promotes positive behaviour in elderly people and decreases the feeling of distress. When seniors feel involved, they feel strong and capable.
- Taking and giving respect – Caretakers must show a deep respect towards elders, their families, personal preferences and belongings. This creates a feeling of relaxation and comfort in older people and they feel respected, safe and cared for. They will in turn respect and obey the carer. Constant respect also increases better communication and promotes the bonding between the concerned giver and taker.
Thus good communication, mutual respect, understanding and compassion are integral for building a robust relationship between the caretakers and the elderly.