Because I have always specialized in providing live-in caregivers, my focus has been as much on personality and character as on their skill set. When it comes to evaluating a caregiver, I look for qualities that can't be learned in a nursing class: compassion, understanding, patience, etc.
While it is important to match the caregiver's skills with the client's needs, it is also vital to make sure they are "compatible". In a previous blog, I gave the example of caregivers who have either a "take charge" or "take orders" personality. A caregiver not only needs to have the right skill set, but how they perform their duties is equally important to insure long-term success of the home care placement.
For the temp/part-time caregiver, skill set is probably more important than their personality. But even then, I would submit that for the client's comfort and peace of mind, compatibility is necessary too.
Caregivers are always providing some type of companionship regardless of how busy they might be with other duties. While cooking, cleaning, driving, and personal care may be required, who is doing it and their attitude (hopefully friendly and upbeat) makes all the difference. A smile goes a long way!
Families run the gamut for how much they want to participate in their loved one’s life as the end nears. During my initial home visit, I specifically ask families how much contact they want from the caregivers who are taking care of their loved one.
I hear everything from “don’t bother us, that’s what we’re paying you to do” to “call me every day with an update”. Most times though, it is somewhere in between. I also encourage family members to make unannounced visits to check up on the caregiver. I also do this and have the caregivers keep daily “nursing notes” so visitors can read about how the patient is doing.
We make no judgment about the level of family involvement and try to accommodate their wishes.
At a minimum, someone usually needs to pay the bills every so often unless a payroll company or fiduciary is hired. Most other responsibilities can be outsourced or handled by the caregiver or myself. Toward the very end, some families contact hospice for help. They specialize in “palliative care” which means keeping the patient as pain-free and comfortable as possible. Hospice provides a team of professionals who interact with those involved in the home care in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.
In conclusion, family’s can be as involved as they wish. Those who serve seniors need to be aware how difficult it can be not only for the ailing senior, but for those around them who have their own set of needs, emotional and otherwise. Caregivers need to understand their job is to support and assist family members as well as their patient.
This month I’d like to address the caregiver’s ability and willingness to work with others. It might be other caregivers, family members, visiting nurses or other professionals there to help the client.
In January I talked about a caregiver who can “take charge” of the situation. I spoke about it in a positive way that gives everyone peace of mind. However, like everything else, balance is needed or it can be taken too far. Power struggles are not uncommon. What do I mean?
No one should be indispensible. Yes, if a client has more than one caregiver they will most likely have a “favorite” that they’d like to be there all the time. However, I have seen caregivers say and do things that are detrimental, that foster premature dependence. Perhaps the caregiver thinks this tactic will give them more job security. Perhaps it is not even done consciously or intentionally. In any event, this is the opposite of our goal to maximize a client’s independence and quality of life. Most are not benefitted by being waited on “hand and foot”.
So just a “heads up” to make sure your caregiver can cooperate with others and be the team player you need to have the system you have in place function optimally. One of my roles after making a caregiver placement is to see that things run smoothly and to intervene if they don’t. A skilled professional can spot a small problem before it becomes a big one.
Share comments here if you have questions or other topics of interest that you would like me to focus on.
Chris Christel, Author
Chris Christel, a pioneer in geriatric care, founded Christel's Home Care Agency in 1985. Chris has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and a wealth of knowledge in the field of home care.