Those of you who are volunteer caregivers for loved ones know that there’s no more demanding job in the world; and, while you’re obviously not doing it for money, it’s important to get some recognition once in a while! It also can be tough to work solo with little opportunity for collaboration or comparing notes on best practices. So we thought we’d offer up qualities we’ve seen in effective caregivers, and hope you’ll recognize qualities about yourself, while perhaps being inspired by some others.
So what makes an effective caregiver?
Patience: This can be the toughest quality to maintain, given the often-unrelenting demands of care-giving. Patience can take practice and involves self-discipline and digging deep, particularly when nerves are frayed from little sleep. Keeping frustration at arm’s length with one eye on the fact that there will always be a break in the action is key, as is knowing when to step away to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
A Sense of Humor: A healthy sense of detachment is critical to avoiding caregiver burnout, and often involves being able to see the humor in things and have a good laugh! Keeping a light touch also works to alleviate dad’s stress level and improve his overall sense of well-being.
Knowing When and How to Ask for Help: The most capable caregivers might be amazing multi-taskers, but they know when to delegate. They resist the urge to water down a request (“no problem if you can’t help”) and match the “ask” to the talents of a particular person. So if it’s helping with meal prep, for example, they might approach a family member who loves to cook and ask them to commit to a certain number of meals. Most people on the sidelines are happy to help but sometimes need to be told what needs to get done. Effective caregivers recognize that and leverage it, to everyone’s benefit.
Going with the Flow: Care-giving is anything but predictable; mom’s favorite food one day might turn her stomach the next time you serve it. Learning to be flexible and roll with the changes goes a long way towards avoiding frustration and burnout, as well as helping mom not feel guilty about something she can’t help.