Providing care to those in need, whether it’s a family member or a patient in a hospital, is a difficult job, especially for those that aren’t officially trained in that capacity. However, even those caregivers that aren’t necessarily certified and licensed can offer excellent service to family members in need. As long as they embody a few specific qualities, anyone can become an exemplary caregiver. Here are the top five traits that lead to caregiver excellence, regardless of qualifications.
Many people become caregivers to elderly family members out of necessity and they may not have had time to prepare to carry out the role. Because caregiving is a challenging position to be in, especially if it is due to obligation, patience is the primary trait needed to make it all work.
If you’ve recently found yourself in the position of taking care of someone, remember that this might have come as a surprise to them as well. They also are getting used to their new needs and requirements. Practice patience as you work with them. Allow them to do as much as they can for themselves and try not to focus on how long a simple task might take them to complete. They are struggling as well, so do your best not to put pressure on them.
As you do help with tasks or activities that the person might struggle with, take your time and don’t try to rush. You’ll learn early on that simple tasks that don’t take much time for an able-bodied person will require more time and effort than you’re used to, so try not to rush things.
As you work with the patient or family member, try to practice empathy. This is the number one quality that you should exhibit as you work with the less able. If you struggle to feel empathy for a person, that’s ok; it is a skill that can be practiced, and you’ll get better at it the more you try.
If you need help, try to actively imagine yourself in the other person’s position. How would you want to be treated? What would you need to be done? How would you feel if you suddenly lost strength or mental stability? If you’re having a hard time thinking of hypotheticals, try to channel a time when you suddenly needed to rely on another person. Remember how that felt? How did other people react with you and how did that make you feel? Losing independence is hard; the more you can relate to the person you’re caring for, the easier taking care of them will be.
If you are in the role of caregiver, it is important to remember that the person you are caring for literally depends on you for much of their daily needs. From eating to bathing to getting dressed and going to the bathroom, the patient needs to know that they can rely on you. If you don’t show up when you are needed or are constantly distracted by other things, the patient will quickly learn that they can’t depend on you to be there for them. If you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to be as reliable as you need to be, it might be best to find another caretaker who can be.
Being a caregiver means that your priority is another person. You may often have to put your life, or moments of it, on hold in order to attend to their needs. Therefore, flexibility is an essential trait that you should learn as soon as possible. There will probably be times when you are called away from work or your family in order to drive to a hospital or take the person to a doctor’s appointment. There is no set schedule when it comes to caregiving, especially if the person is elderly or in poor health. Being willing to move your schedule around and not stick to your plans as rigidly as you might like is imperative to good care.