Here’s what not to do when you care for adults and seniors.
Providing professional care for an adult or senior can be extremely difficult. But it can also be extremely rewarding. Being a caretaker gives you the opportunity to make a major impact on someone’s life, and to be a source of support for their family. This opportunity comes with great responsibility.
Donna Moyer, co-founder and CEO of Preferred HealthStaff, says, “There are so many things a caregiver needs to do while helping someone in their home that what not to do is often overlooked.”
Luckily, we’re here to point out 7 things that you should always avoid while on the job.
- Don’t Steal
This may seem obvious, but Mimi Lewis, a senior service social worker and former home aide, says that it’s a “big fear” for many seniors.
- Don’t Be on Your Phone
Moyer says, “In an age where nearly everyone has immediate access to technology, such as cell phones, we can become detached from social interaction. When with a client, be present and attentive. Caregivers should focus their complete attention on the client.”
- Don’t Offer Additional Services Without a Contract
It’s only natural that you’ll want to help your client as much as possible. But providing services without a clear contract that defines hours and payment means entering a legal and ethical quagmire. Even if it’s something as simple as having your cousin mow the lawn, put the terms of agreement down in writing.
Check out this sample adult and senior care contract.
- Don’t Cut Your Client out of the Loop
“Never exclude anyone from their own care decisions,” says Janette Foley, administrator of dementia services at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services. Choices such as what they want to wear, what they want to eat, what activities to participate in should always be given.
Foley says that seniors “should be given simple choices — not overwhelmed by too many options, but always given a choice. Never rush — give your residents enough time to respond to questions, make decisions and respond to any directives given.”
She also adds not to force clients to do something, “unless it involves life or death, or jeopardizing the person’s safety.” If a client refuses a request, “respect that decision. You can try again later with a different approach, have a coworker attempt or discuss with your supervisor.”
- Don’t Make Them Feel Ashamed
Sometimes you may be asked to do something you find uncomfortable of distasteful. But, Mimi Lewis says, “don’t gag or make a shocked face. This shames your client!”
“People hire caregivers to help with some of the most intimate tasks,” Lewis explains. “Work on keeping calm and respectful facial expressions and body signals no matter what!”
- Don’t Be Stubborn
Lewis says that it’s important to “Show your client that you are able and willing to learn.” This includes maintaining clear and constant communication with your client and their family, to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated.
Janette Foley points out that getting to know your client and developing a good relationship is a process that happens over time. Be patient—with your client, and with yourself.
- Don’t Violate Your Own Boundaries
The same way it’s important to know what your client expects of you, it’s also important to know what you expect from yourself. Knowing what you can and can’t do is crucial to providing proper care.
Remember that for many adults and seniors having a caregiver can be difficult. Often, they are giving up independence that they’ve maintained for most of their lives. It’s extremely important to always be respectful, to be sensitive to the fact that you are helping your clients through some of their most private and intimate moments, and not to violate their privacy.
Caregiving is a career that requires compassion and empathy. As Donna Moyer says, “Avoid negativity. Be a blessing and not a burden. Caregivers should be focused on a client’s health, but there is more to that than just physical condition. Attitude and emotional well-being are a part of that as well.”
Building a career as a caretaker takes a lot of hard work, but with these seven tips in mind, both you and your clients can develop a meaningful and rewarding client-caregiver relationship.