Take Care of Professional Caregivers
Paid Workers Can Be Essential to Your Loved One's Well-Being
Paid caregivers come in many forms. They may be nurses, certified nurse's assistants, home health aides, relatives, friends, neighbors, grandchildren, or others. They may work a few hours a day or week, or they may live-in. They may work days, nights, or around the clock.
Whatever the arrangements you have made with them, paid caregivers are essential to the well-being of the seniors for whom they work. Often we assume that since they are paid, and since many of them are professionals in the field and/or have many years of experience, they do not experience stress and frustration. This, however, is far from the truth.
Caregiving can be a hard job and a stressful job, no matter who does it. Continuity and stability, however, are extremely important to seniors and to the people who care about them. Most older people find in difficult to bring strangers into their home and pay them to do the things they once could do independently. They need time to get to know and trust these caregivers, to teach them how they like things done, to learn to rely on them. Yet all too often these caregivers suffer burnout, quit, and then the senior must start over again with a new stranger.
How can you help prevent burnout in the caregivers that you hire? Here are some simple suggestions. While they won't work for everybody, in most situations they will help a lot.
Make sure caregivers know the senior as a person. Encourage the senior to talk about himself. Tell caregivers about likes and dislikes, including food, music, noise, and smells. Encourage a dialogue between the senior and the caregivers about what the senior can realistically do for himself and where he needs assistance. Encourage the senior to share some of his history; about work, family, ethnic origins, and customs. If the senior cannot communicate this, have a family member or friend do it.
Treat caregivers with respect. Caregivers do a very important job, taking care of someone who is important to you and others. It is hard work and it is respectable work.
Help caregivers feel comfortable in the elder's home. When providing caregiving in someone else's home it is often difficult for caregivers to find a place that is "their own." Provide a place where caregivers can keep a few personal belongings. Keep food on hand that they enjoy. Make provisions that allow them some privacy, especially if they are providing live-in care.
Make caregivers feel appreciated. Sometimes the seniors they are caring for can't show appreciation. They may be unable to communicate, or they may be so angry or depressed about their need for help that they take it out on others. Then it is the family's job to express that appreciation. Little tokens of appreciation go a long way. If you bring over a special treat for the senior, share some. Is it a special holiday? Remember the caregiver, too.
Keep caregivers informed. When there is information they should have, make sure they are kept in the loop. You are a caregiving team. Make sure paid caregivers feel like part of that team.
Paid caregivers need respite, too. Be sure they know you are aware of their needs for rest, for sleep. Are they working around the clock? Does the senior keep them up at night? Do they have families of their own who need them? Lend a hand occasionally if you can … pick up a few items at the store, sit with the senior for an hour, or bring over a prepared dish or meal.
Paid caregivers are vitally important. When a senior or family member has searched for, interviewed, and hired somebody they like and trust to do a good job, it is in everybody's best interest for that person to be satisfied with the job and working conditions, and to stay on for as long as needed.
Many families tell stories about beloved caregivers who stayed with a dependent older person through many stages, including the end of the elder's life, providing warmth and comfort and familiarity when it was needed the most. A little attention to the above suggestions can help make this a reality for the older people you care for.