Caregiving is a rewarding opportunity, whether it’s for a loved elderly or as a career. It’s a personal and human experience that brings us closer to another person, ensuring they get the care they need.
But, by nature, many people consider it a stressful and thankless job. Often, the caregivers don’t receive the fair amount of appreciation they deserve for their hard work. Nonetheless, many caregivers and caregiver supporters consider caregiving as a rewarding career choice that has a direct impact on the lives of others.
Considering the current scenario, it is fair to say that caregiving is enriching and challenging at the same time. Thus, agencies and the elderly in 2023 must focus on appreciating caregivers and taking measures to prevent burnout.
To shed some light on the same, we interviewed a home care industry expert to bring her perspective on the current scenario of caregiving to light.
Who Did We Interview?
Donna Thomson is a caregiver, author, and educator. She is the mother of two grown children, one of who has severe cerebral palsy and medical complexity. Donna also cared for her mother, who lived with dementia until she passed away in the summer of 2018 at the age of 96.
Donna is the co-author (with Dr. Zachary White) of The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation of Loved One to Caregiver and author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving. Donna is a co-designer and co-instructor of The Family Engagement in Research Course and the Leadership Academy. She also facilitates the Caregiving Essentials Course, all at McMaster University.
Let’s get started with knowing what our expert thinks of the home care industry:
Hiring a caregiver for a loved one who is elderly involves building trust and a good communication plan. It also works best consistently, so having a core team loyal to your family is worth every effort.
What has worked in our family in building trust is that first, I show or demonstrate to a caregiver what is required. Then I watch them perform the care and offer further direction. Later, I moved into the next room and told them they could call on me to ask questions anytime. Finally, I would leave the house, ensuring the caregiver had my phone number.
All of these steps, of course, would include the input of my elder (in my case, my Mom). But I also make sure that I have time for a private debrief (especially as we get to know one another) at the end of the shift because sometimes my mother lacks insight into her care needs. For ongoing communication, we had a diary on Mom’s side table in which each caregiver recorded how Mom was feeling, what she ate, and how the shift went generally.
All caregivers and case managers had my telephone number and knew to call me if Mom had any health concerns.
When hiring a caregiver, all these little things ensure that your loved one is cared for.
Maintaining the independence and dignity of care receivers is key to success in home care. I like the expression, “My mother doesn’t live in your workplace, you work in her home.”
Respecting the culture and preferences of someone with care needs begins at the front door. Does the person prefer you to enter quietly, or would they prefer a loud knock? Clues about how to support independence and dignity will be in family photos, furniture arrangements, and style preferences. Asking “how can I help?” is a good way to put the care receiver in control, and if others are present, ensure that offering support is done discreetly in order to preserve dignity.
Preventing burnout and managing a work/life balance is a major challenge for both paid and unpaid caregivers. One way to become aware of possibilities for help and support is by completing an Atlas Care Map, where drawing a care map is free and only requires a pencil and paper and instructions.
Drawing your caring life can offer valuable insights into what is working and where changes can be made to ease the burden of care.
Technology is the best friend of long-distance caregivers. Alarms for medication, fall alerts, and even GPS monitoring in the case of elders who might wander can keep our loved ones safe and give caregivers peace of mind. Another way to use technology is to set up a communication plan with an elder’s neighbor or someone who is local to them and can be a companion or emergency contact.
At first, caregiving can feel like driving in a foreign country without a road map. But others who have driven those roads before will be our best guides.
I advise new caregivers to find a support group and someone in that group with whom they feel a natural affinity. Mentors in caregiving are worth their weight in gold and can be found in local face-to-face or online support groups. If you are unsure which group to join, try out a few and decide which one feels like “home.” If you are unsure how to engage or what to say, choose one question to ask every week, even if it’s to ask for some support. There is a fantastic community of supportive and generous caregivers out there.
Overall, caregiving takes a lot of work. However, there are numerous reasons why it remains a rewarding job. A caregiver’s journey consists of a combination of various lows and highs.
Our expert, Donna, believes there are days when the responsibilities of being a caregiver can be exhausting and overwhelming. Still, there are also days when they’re fun and fulfilling. All you need to know is that caregiving can make a difference in someone’s life.
We hope you found this expert Q&A as insightful as we did and had something to take away from.
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