Acting as a caregiver to a loved one can be a very fulfilling experience, but may also be one of the hardest times in one’s life. The challenges faced are unlike any other, and you may find that honing or discovering new skills will help as you juggle your daily responsibilities along with your new caregiving role.
Becoming a caregiver to a loved one is a role many of us will experience in our lifetimes. Keeping the right attitude will make all the difference in making it a pleasant experience for all concerned.
Communicate: Communication is the key to any good relationship. Make sure you are clear in your communication with your loved one, and that you listen, as well. It’s also important to keep other family members in the loop, so they understand the circumstances and can help if needed.
Keep Your Composure: Most new caregivers are thrust into situations that they have never been in, and this can often be uncomfortable as both you and your loved one get used to your new roles. It is important to keep calm and remain practical, providing care and caring in such a way as maintain your loved one’s dignity.
Be Creative: Creativity is important in many different ways as a caregiver. Things like painting, gardening, and music can help build a much needed bond between caregiver and dependent. Creativity will also help when things are not so easy, helping you to find unique ways to encourage your loved one to eat, bathe or perform other essential tasks.
Be Dependable: People receiving care rely on the person giving them assistance day in and out. It’s difficult to lose the feeling of independence and no longer be able to do basic tasks for yourself. Knowing you can be counted on to be there for whatever is needed will give your loved one a sense of safety and relief.
Be Flexible: Routines are helpful, but all too often health situations can change instantly. Caregivers must be flexible with schedules and open to change, where possible, because change will inevitably happen. The quicker you as a caregiver can adapt to a new situation, the better it will be for everyone involved.
Maintain Your Sense of Humor: Maintaining a sense of humor is a great way to get through some tough and challenging situations. Laughter is the best medicine, and finding humor in a difficult situation will help both of you adjust.
Be Patient: Dependents tend to get frustrated easily, and may express this in different ways. It is important for you to have patience and not show your own frustrations. Take a minute to compose yourself, and tackle the situation again.
Be Practical: Having a realistic outlook about a health situation is important while caregiving. There is always room to hope for the best, but as a caregiver you also a need to understand the limitations of your loved one. It is always good to encourage independence, but be practical in what you expect from your loved one, and be prepared to change expectations depending on their condition at any given time.
Take Care of Yourself: Understand your own limitations with time and emotional stress, and ask for help when you need it. Sometimes just a day’s respite can recharge you and help you come back ready to fulfill your responsibilities again. Remember, being a good caregiver begins with caring for yourself.
Number 1: Make a Promise to Be Patient
Patience is a virtue for a reason; it’s darn near impossible to achieve it; but it’s one you actively strive to reach. The capacity to tolerate without becoming annoyed can make you a better caregiver and a better person overall. Be slow to react when mom criticizes your relationships; walk outside for a breath of fresh air when a tense situation develops. Make allowances for each other’s faults and with time and grace, you’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company.
Number 2: Find Your Sense of Humor – We all have it!
There are more trials in a caregiver’s week than what you’d probably find in a legal court house. The point is that to become a better caregiver you’ll need to find ways to see humor in life’s testing moments. If you can laugh more and not take yourself (and situations you don’t have control over) so seriously, you’ll also allow your loved one to relax under difficult times. As the proverb says…“A relaxed attitude lengthens life….”
Number 3: Do the Unexpected to Get a Smile
Do the unexpected and make it your goal to get your loved one smiling. It requires a small sacrifice, but there is typically a “pretty good return” on this investment.
Tips: Plan a visit to mom’s or dad’s home or assisted living residence. Give mom a random compliment about her hair, complexion or outfit. Offer to paint her nails if she’d like. Bring along Dad’s favorite snack or a poster of his favorite sports team to hang on his door. Do a Sudoku puzzle together and compete to see who can finish first.
Number 4: Share an Activity Together
It’s amazing how often you spend time together without actually connecting. Do something you’ll both enjoy and connect with each other. Go out for lunch at your favorite diner, see the sunset, enjoy an afternoon at the park, watch some funny family videos or a drama series and simply relax in each other’s presence. It is often these moments that become the most treasured memories.
Number 5: Listen and Make Eye Contact
Listening is an art. It’s at the core of any good relationship and it takes a lot of practice. Make it a habit to really listen to your loved one when they express their needs and wants. It can be one of the best ways to make dad or mom feel special. And just like listening, making eye contact is a good habit to develop as a caregiver. It shows trust and demonstrates your effort to truly engage with your loved one.
Number 6: Give a Hug or a Pat on the Back
If you really want to brighten your loved one’s day, give them a hug, a reassuring pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek, or a squeeze of the hands. It’s such a warm way of making their troubles go away (at least for a moment).