Senior Center

5 Essential Traits of Caregivers

By Jan Bolder - March 3, 2014

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Being a caregiver can be a tough job sometimes, as it means encompassing a role that’s constantly shifting. What a caregiver is today may not be the same tomorrow if the senior’s needs change, and it’s up to the caregiver to find unique solutions to keep on their toes.

1. Compassion

Being able to understand and tend to a senior’s needs requires a great deal of compassion; otherwise, the role of caregiver is transformed into babysitter. Caregivers create an emotional bond between themselves and seniors to further enhance comfort and quality of life, such as sharing personal stories, developing consistency, and easing the senior’s suffering through a variety of means. Smart, or seasoned, caregivers also know it’s important to practice self-compassion to avoid “compassion fatigue”, the situation where the senior’s suffering crosses blurred lines and becomes the caregiver’s own. Make sure to set emotional boundaries that prevent this, yet still maintain a fruitful relationship.

2. Flexibility

No two seniors are alike, so no two approaches should be either. Some seniors are energetic livewires who enjoy tackling as much as possible, while others prefer to take each day at a more relaxed pace and focus on the small things. Using flexibility is a key way caregivers tailor their approach to each senior based on their needs, not what they think the senior needs.

3. Reliability

For many seniors, the presence of a caregiver in their lives may be the only constant in a world of appearing and disappearing aches, pains, medications, and conditions. Others still may require a great deal of physical assistance with daily activities, and caregivers who can become a steady presence in seniors’ lives are greatly valued. Often, caregivers work with seniors who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and the difference between a steady approach and an unpredictable one can mean great anxiety for the senior.

4. Patience

Each senior moves at their own pace, and what separates good caregivers from those who may want to rethink their line of work is patience. As well, add in other ailments like a stroke, dementia or decreased vision to physical disrepair, and caregivers need to take things a bit more slowly and understand the senior isn’t doing this on purpose. It can be difficult to not hurry along a slow dresser or hide frustration at the same question being constantly repeated, but caregivers find a way.

5. Honesty

This trait doesn’t just mean honesty in the most straightforward sense, but also honesty with oneself and the senior. Honest caregivers understand their duties, are straightforward with what they can and can’t do, account for their time, take responsibility for the locations in which they work, and incorporate respect and integrity into everything. It also means caregivers are truthful about booking time off and showing up when they say they will. It’s hard to be an efficient caregiver without honesty, especially with live-in caregivers.

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