Being a caregiver is not for everyone. The responsibilities such as bathing, dressing, feeding and overseeing the safety, physical and emotional needs of another person can be exhausting. Sounds a bit like parenting doesn’t it? Being a parent is one type of caregiving, but there are other types such as a professional who makes a living at it, or a family member, or a friend who are dedicated to help another. No matter what type of caregiver a person may be, there are common and important traits needed to perform caregiving duties successfully.
I was raised to be a caregiver. My parents gave care to their own parents and friends besides caring for their children. I learned from their example. However, I didn’t understand how hard it can be. I want to be clear that I don’t think less of anyone who hires a professional caregiver or caregiving facility as long as they don’t abandon their loved one. I know in some situations hiring a professional is the best and may be the only solution. I acknowledge that some are not physically, mentally, or emotionally able to care for another. By knowing the traits of a caregiver you can recognize if it’s for you and if it’s not, this information will help you find a great caregiver for your loved one.
- Empathy. Helps identify vulnerable, scared, confused and uncomfortable feelings. By understanding, you can calm those fears and create a sense of trust. A personal understanding and connection is vital to giving care.
- Compassion. Provides the energy and drive needed to sustain you through difficult tasks or while working with a difficult individual. It also gives you a voice of encouragement and the ability to calm and reassure.
- Patience. People being cared for take longer than usual to complete simple tasks or routines. Understanding the limitations of those you care for can help reduce tension in the environment. Good caregivers recognize capabilities and encourage self-sufficiency while still providing necessary levels of care and attention. Having realistic expectations about what an individual is capable of can help you provide the appropriate care. Sometimes their lack of ability can lead to frustration and lashing out. You must be able to separate yourself from potential anger and resentment and not take the situation personally. Being patient means you understand there may be changes in plans or things don’t move as quickly as you’d hope for. Also, hearing the same old story or question multiple times can become stressful. Knowing when and how to appropriately “take a moment” to prevent losing patience is essential.
- Attentiveness. It is important to be aware of the needs and the changes that are taking place. Being attentive means being a good listener and noticing when there are emotional or physical changes in the person. It’s a bonus to have a creative mind that can and come up with inventive ways to deal with problem situations or overcome resistance.
- Composure. Caregivers often deal with bodily fluids, wound care, bathing and grooming tasks. A good caregiver does not shy away from delicate situations and works to help retain a sense of dignity. Many tasks associated with providing personal care are unpleasant for the caregiver and recipient alike. It can completely change the dynamics of the relationship with a spouse or son/daughter taking on parental tasks. Handling stressful or uncomfortable situations with confidence and grace is an important skill for caregivers. Also, knowing when humor is or is not appropriate helps. A good caregiver doesn’t chide or shame regardless of age or circumstance.
- Compromise. In a home or facility care setting, caregivers are bound to encounter other family members with differing ideas on how best to care for a loved one. Conflicts are inevitable. Sometimes you have to compromise to diffuse tense situations. It’s important to thoughtfully focus on what’s needed most to manage disagreements in an effective and positive way.
Being responsible for the care and well-being of another is a highly committed role and is also rewarding.