”Remember that you set the tone, you’re the boss.”
1. Have Realistic Expectations
Caregivers are human and they make mistakes like the rest of us, and because of that, you must have realistic expectations. It’s easy to be critical, but challenge yourself to encourage as much as you criticize. Sure, caregivers are getting paid, but remember that they’re there to keep you alive, not be your punching bag. If you have a caregiver that is constantly failing to meet your expectations, get a new caregiver. Ultimately, your main concern should be your personal happiness.
2. Be Considerate
I’m not talking about giving them grace if they’re late, I’m talking about their work schedule and flexibility. My two caregivers have a set schedule, but I allow them to trade shifts if I have a few people that can cover. Recognizing that your caregiver has a life, and being sensitive to that, will lead to a happier employee. If I know they have something they want to go to, I’m willing to get up early or hurry that day to get them out sooner.
3. Communicate Effectively
Now this doesn’t mean just clearly stating what you want, it includes the way you deliver your requests. For example, one of my caregivers preferred and responded better to me spouting off multiple requests and a direct tone. Another caregiver I had hated that, so I had to ask for one or two things at a time and provide more detailed requests with a softer delivery. That was fine by me because she was totally worth it. Keep in mind that she didn’t express any of this to me, it was up to me to notice it and adjust my method of communication to be more effective.
4. Keep it Physical
Caregivers are there to provide you with physical care, not to be your therapist, or have you be theirs. Being sad or upset all the time does nobody any good, and when that’s the usual tone, the work environment gets more and more negative. Remember: you set the tone. Is it ok to be sad and upset sometimes? Of course, but if it’s more than 3 times a week, it might be time to get a therapist.
5. Don’t Abuse Kindness
Sure, some caregivers don’t want to work, but there are also those that are people pleasers. Don’t take advantage of the pleasers who can’t say no, caregivers need downtime too. If your caregiver goes out of the way to go above and beyond, be sure to reward them. Obviously, words of affirmation are most important, but also having your caregiver’s favorite drinks or snacks shows you care about them and it strengthens the relationship. Does it have to be drinks and snacks? No, but doing a little something for a good caregiver goes a long way.
6. Be Kind
Always keep in mind that caregivers are people, not personal slaves. I can’t even count the times I’ve seen disabled people being rude to their caregivers. I understand being disabled can be frustrating and infuriating at times, but that doesn’t give you permission to treat your employees terribly. If your caregiving situation sucks, the odds are you’ve hired the wrong person or you’re creating a hostile environment. For those of you that can’t choose your caregiver, it’s that much more important for you to set a positive tone.
There’s so much more than just six elements that lead to a successful patient/caregiver relationship. The patient (a.k.a. the boss) is truly responsible for the work environment and relationship that follows hiring.
Overall what I’m saying is to think about how you treat those caring for you, and choose to be kind. Your relationship will flourish. Beyond that, establish healthy boundaries. When I was younger and less assertive, I had a caregiver that would bring her two kids to work more than three times a week. I needed her so I allowed it, even though they would come and destroy my house. I finally let her go, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t need anyone in particular, I just need someone. There are TONS of wonderful caregivers out there, so don’t ever feel that you’re stuck with someone.
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