When the time comes for a family to move their loved one into an assisted living center or hire a caregiving service to provide in-home care, there are many factors to be considered. Cost, location, services provided, and staffing are all important factors in deciding who will be responsible for the care and well-being of their loved one. Their deepest hope is that the caregivers will have their loved one’s best interests in mind.
As a caregiver, it’s your responsibility to provide peace of mind for the family through trust, honesty, and respect. These attributes only come through reputation, action, and demonstration and, without them, you risk losing your clients and your livelihood. It sounds extreme, but providing these things is rather easy, and each time you exhibit them, your job will become easier and—above all—more fulfilling.
Trust must be established between you and your client’s family. Without trust, every decision you make and every action you take will be second-guessed and analyzed. Your client’s family will feel a need to involve themselves more than they should have to, causing stress and discomfort for both them and you.
You will not advance further in your career if clients and families (and, thus, employers) cannot put their full faith in you at all times. You’re not caring for their home while they are away; you are caring for their flesh and blood, or a special friend. A house and the possessions inside can be replaced, but a loved one is one of a kind.
With trust, you give the family a sense of peace that will allow them to focus on other areas in their lives. Establish trust by involving the family at every step. Keep them informed daily (or as often as they request, if possible). Family involvement and openness goes a long way toward establishing trust between caregiver and clients.
Knowing that their loved one is being watched and cared for without compromise is a huge comfort, and involving them in that care as often as possible will only add to the cushion of that comfort.
Encourage family visits
David Stifter, writing for Concierge Care, emphasizes that “(f)amily members should be encouraged to visit the senior’s home at any time to see how care is going, how their senior loved one is doing, and to see how a caregiver is maintaining the home and assisting with your aging family member. This is important for the family member to establish trust in the caregiver and also gives an opportunity to have any important discussions with the caregiver.”
Honesty is key
Going hand in hand with trust is honesty. No matter what the news or the possible repercussions, the old adage “honesty is the best policy” rings true. But according to AgingCare.com, “73% of family caregivers admit to lying to the person they're caring for (43% on a regular, weekly basis),” and “half who admit to lying believe it is justified because it either makes their own life easier, or it’s for the elderly family member’s ‘own good.’”
What you see is what you get
When one tells the truth, there is no “story” to remember, and there is no need to backtrack or cover up. When dealing with the care of seniors, honesty is imperative. For instance, if a family expects X for their loved one, but their family member is only capable of Y, this must be disseminated from the start. Otherwise, the family has expectations that will not be met, and they will be—rightfully so—upset.
Also, be upfront and open about what kind of care you can provide and what the client needs. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver, and never give deceptive information. Everything your client needs and will receive should be expressed up front. No surprises, unless they’re good ones.
Finally, establishing respect is imperative. You will not always see eye to eye with your client’s family, but at all times you should give them the respect they deserve. After all, you work for them, not the other way around.
Staying calm and direct will benefit everyone in the long run. Use a tone of voice and language that encourages discussion, not shouting or accusing. Be open and willing to compromise as long as the integrity of the care provided is kept intact.
You must also respect your client. Providing them with the dignity and respect they deserve is paramount. Having to have others help you is enough stress. Giving a person in need their humanity will ease their burden. According to the study Casework: A Competency-Based Approach, “… clients treated with respect will be more likely to freely discuss difficult topics, explore their own contributions, and involve themselves in a cooperative effort to achieve desired service outcomes.”
Trust, honesty, and respect are imperative components in any successful caregiver/client relationship, whether it’s with the patient’s family, or the patient, or both. Practicing these values will enable you to provide the best care possible for the senior, and it will allow the senior’s loved ones to rest easy knowing that their family member is in good hands.
About the author
Gary Simmons is a Certified Senior Advisor and Case Manager for A Hand to Hold. He strives to make the home care experience a better one for seniors and their families. Gary lives in Atlanta, GA with his family and loves taking Disney vacations with them.