Personal Chemistry between Caregivers and Care Recipients

Allowing someone to come into your home is not always easy.  Each of us has that special chemistry that makes us like one person or not particularly care to be around another.  When the burden of care giving is added to this equation, often the skill and urgency of care giving is not adequately balanced with how well the caregiver interacts with the care recipient.

This is often seen when a relative provides care to their loved one.  The relative is now in a different role by being both the relative and now the care provider.  Since care giving amongst family members is usually not taught, but born out of love and concern, it is not uncommon for the caregiver to find that the relative may find them too controlling, especially if the person they are caring for used to be in control of all of their affairs.

So how do you avoid this?  One of the methods I teach our caregivers at CaraVita HomeCare is to communicate with the person you are caring for as if you were their best friend.  If your best friend wanted your help they would ask.  However also if you knew your best friend needed your help, but were too proud to ask, you would know them as a person and know how to persuade them best and also how not to approach them.

Often times the ability for new family caregivers or hired caregivers to step back and look at how the person would best be convinced, not told or asked to participate is lacking.  We are all wired the way we are and even with age or dementia our base personality is there.  It is good to try the Best Friends approach and learn what motivates stresses, pleases, relaxes and displeases those we provide for care. We need to know if the person you are caring for is an in charge person, a person who likes to be with people and help or someone who rarely gets help.  It is also good to learn   how they view their homes, their rituals and their need for control and assistance so you can gear your approach to providing loving care in manner that is consistent with what you learn about the care recipient.

The key to making a caregiver/care recipient relationship work is in knowing the person’s Life Story especially as it relates to who they are, how they express themselves and their self identity. You will rarely get a person who was an executive and in charge of his/her affairs to do anything you tell them.  However, if you know they like to be in charge you can find a way to ask by knowing what is important to them first and then asking, “How can you help? Or “what do we do next?”  Allowing them to be in charge is important and you will find with trust they will allow you to do more and more for them as long as they feel they are in control.

In the next issue I will provide some more examples of how to use this technique for working with clients even those with dementia.

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