We welcome back guest writer Trevor McDonald to The Purple Jacket
Isn’t it always nice when you encounter someone who takes their job seriously? You could be checking out at Target or ordering from the drive-thru at Starbucks, but if the employee you encounter goes above and beyond, it can make your entire day. This goes tenfold for caregivers.
Taking your job seriously as a caregiver means caring for your patient or loved one as you would care for yourself.
If you strive to achieve caregiving excellence, you probably exhibit these six characteristics:
1. A strong sense of empathy
Oftentimes, it seems as though caregiving takes about 110% of your energy. If you’re not careful, it can consume you completely. Whenever you feel like you’re about to break, try not to follow those thoughts. Instead, think about what the other person is experiencing. This sort of reflection is likely something you often do, but it is especially helpful in the difficult times.
Let’s say your patient or loved one is having a bad day. She feels awful and is in the worst of moods. You’re doing everything you can to make her more comfortable, but all she can do is yell and snap at you. This is a great time to remind yourself of the importance of empathy. How would you feel if you were in her shoes? Although it’s easy to get lost in the laundry list of things we deal with, the person you care for is dealing with a great deal also. They are likely dealing with loss of bodily function, depression, loss of mental capacity, and grief. Put yourself in her shoes as often as possible to maintain a strong sense of empathy.
When someone needs a caregiver, it’s usually because their life depends on the care. If you show up late or skip days, this could mean the difference between life and death. This isn’t something to take lightly. Be punctual, dependable and consistent with your care.
3. Unwavering patience
It’s never really okay to take your problems out on someone else, but when you’re a caregiver, it’s really unacceptable. This means that you have to maintain your patience even when you’re having a rough day. Stress-management techniques can help you maintain your patience (and personal sanity). Try meditating on your breaks or starting a yoga routine in the morning. Breathing techniques can also help you calm down in the moment.
4. Emotional stability
Let’s face the facts; when your patient or loved one has a bad day, so do you. You don’t like seeing anyone struggle, and you especially hate to see someone you’ve grown close to having a rough time. It’s heartbreaking. But one of our jobs as caregivers is to remain strong.
Your strength is one of the many gifts you’ll give your patient or loved one through this difficult time. As difficult as things may get, you must do your best to shield them from your grief. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should act heartless, but it’s better if you can keep an upbeat tone. Sadness begets sadness, and that’s not what we want for them or us. The best caregivers are emotionally strong.
If you’ve been on this job for more than a week, you probably know the importance of being flexible. Schedules are important in caregiving, but it’s also important to roll with the punches. Your patient or loved one’s needs may change on a daily or hourly basis. It’s up to you to respond and help keep them safe and healthy.
Caregiving is not an easy job. But you must remember that someone is counting on you. There may be times when walking away is the best for both of you, but this should never be the goal. You are signing up to help this person through the most difficult time of his or her life. If at all possible, stick with it until the end.
This may also mean facing unique challenges throughout each day. Your daily tasks may include things like bathing this person, dressing wounds and giving medication. And there are nuances to each task that cannot be ignored. For example, it’s up to you to keep an eye on this person’s prescription medications. This is especially important with addictive prescriptions because prescription pill addiction is a growing problem in the elderly.
When you commit to doing this job, you’re committing to handle every detail for the long haul. You know in your heart if you have what it takes to be an excellent caregiver. And even if you think you don’t, you might surprise yourself. Still, if you feel you’re falling short of these characteristics, it may be time to spend a few more moments nurturing yourself. After all, if you don’t take care of you, who will take care of them?
author bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.