Qualities of an Awesome Caregiver

Having been a professional caregiver for 35 years, I found myself thinking on what it is about me or any caregiver that makes us great caregivers.
In all my years of work in this field I’ve met the great ones and I’ve met the ones who were definitely in the wrong profession.
Each of the qualities I will discuss can be broken down into separate blog posts of their own. And I will be posting in the future on many of these qualities.
Today’s post may read a bit like a list; and essentially that is what it is. But we will delve into each item on the list in upcoming posts.
Note: I will refer to the person needing care as the patient, be it a family member or a client.
Compassion would have to rank at the top of qualities of a caregiver. As a family caregiver or a professional, one must have a true heart for the person needing help. This is easier when the person is a family member, but most certainly necessary for the professional caregiver as well. Kindness, caring, and love are a must! And on some days this will be difficult because the patient/client will be having a bad day (either physically or emotionally), and will make your day a little more challenging.
Respect for the patient is a must. Respect them as a fellow human being who happens to need help at this time in his/her life. Respect the person for who they were before they became ill, as well as who they are now. Most of my clients were elderly and had a lifetime of experiences, a wealth of knowledge, and wonderful stories to tell. If the patient is 85 years old they need to be treated as such; to be treated as a 5 year old is insulting.
An Ability to see the circumstances through the patient’s eyes. This means really getting to know your patient and their likes and dislikes. Try to feel what it must feel like to wake up in pain every day. Try to feel what it must feel like to have dementia and know that the short-term memory is slowing disappearing. It’s all about Empathy.
Patience is a necessity. It is also something that a caregiver learns by practicing it. When I started caregiving in my 20’s, I was not nearly as patient as I am now.
Be available to the patient. There will be many instances when the patient has certain needs that must be taken care of immediately. For example, trips to the ER, running out to pick up a new medication, a last-minute stop at the grocery store, and my list here could go on. This will often involve putting the patient’s needs before your own. After all, who loves trips to the ER at 2:00 AM? But the goal here is to make sure that the patient’s needs are always met. When this goal is met, then the caregiver is providing the best quality of life for the patient as is possible.
Self-care for the caregiver. I cannot stress enough the importance of this one topic. A caregiver must take care of herself/himself before she/he can take care of anyone else. Know when you need to take a break; know when to bring on extra help. More often than not, more than one caregiver per patient is necessary. As a caregiver, recognize your own needs and feelings. There will be times when the caregiver feels helpless to help the patient; acknowledge that. There will be times when the caregiver feels sad or somewhat depressed, particularly when they are dealing with an “end of life” situation. Reach out for help; get the support you need to continue to do the great job you are doing!
Humor is so important in a caregiving position. Not only does a good sense of humor cheer up the patient, but it cheers the caregiver as well. Try to find humor in even the smallest of things. It will make a huge difference in how the day flows for both you and your patient.
Treat the patient as you would treat family. If the patient is already family, then great. But I found that when I treated my patients as though they were my own family members, I then had a vested interest in their well-being. If you end up to stay with a patient long enough, they do actually become a part of the family. I had a patient for 19 years, another for 17 years; those people were family to me. But regardless of the length of time, try to treat a patient as you would your own family member. That will ensure them the best of care!
That is my brief list for today. I could add to this and probably write a book, which I may do one day. But for the present, that is my Caregiving 101 class.
Go out and make it a great day!


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