I have had relatively good experiences with almost all of caregivers and I have maintained some great friendships. I’m very happy with my caregiving situation. Like many people, I hate the training process so my goal is to find someone for long term care. As a quadriplegic, I need help with things I would much rather be able to do alone, but that’s not possible. I require help mostly in the mornings and a little at night. Once I’ve posted my ad on Craigslist, the interviews begin. Choosing the right caregiver is just as important as maintaining a healthy relationship with one.
Over the years I’ve learned I have preferences. When hiring I make sure they have transportation and they do not live far. Next, I prefer fit women in their 20’s with no children. The personality is more important than their experience, and in fact, I prefer them to have next to no experience. That way they learn my routine and not try and tell me how to do it. If all they have done is take care of elderly patients, I don’t hire them because their expectation is to sit and hang out.
When I interview I pay attention to how fast they walk and talk because that speaks to how quickly they work. If they are late no matter how awesome they are, they aren’t getting hired. Trust me when I say it’s worth the time to check Instagram and Facebook. Once I almost hired a young girl, but checked her Facebook to see nothing but complaints about life and how sad she was all the time. Once I’ve chosen a caregiver, it’s up to me to maintain a good relationship.
”Remember that you set the tone, you’re the boss.”
1. Have Realistic Expectations
Caregivers are humans 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 they are 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 girls have a set schedule, but I allow them to trade whenever and I have a couple of people that can cover. Knowing 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’ll be willing to get up early or hurry that day to get them out.
3. Communicate Effectively
Now this doesn’t just mean stating clearly what it is you’re wanting, it includes the way you deliver your requests. For example, with one caregiver she preferred and responded better to a direct tone and me spouting off multiple requests. Another would have hated that, I had to ask for one or two things at a time and provide more detailed requests with a softer delivery. That was fine because she was totally worth it. Keep in mind she didn’t express that to me, it was me that noticed it and adjusted my method of communication to be more effective.
4. Keep it Physical
No, not what you’re thinking. Caregivers are there to offer you physical care, not be your therapist and you’re not there to 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 OK to be upset and sad sometimes? Hell yeah, but more than 3 times a week to get a therapist.
5. Don’t Abuse Kindness
Sure, some caregivers don’t want to work, but there are the those that are pleasers. Don’t take advantage of the pleasers who can’t say no, caregivers need downtime. If your caregiver goes out of the way to go above and beyond, be sure to reward that. Obviously, words of affirmation are most important, but also having your caregiver’s favorite drinks or snacks shows you’re concerned about them as well and it strengthens the relationship. Does it have to be that? No, but doing a little something for a good caregiver goes a long way.
6. Be Kind
Just keep in mind that caregivers are people, not slaves. I can’t even count the many times I’ve seen disabled people be rude to their caregivers. I understand being disabled can 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 people 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.
That’s not all…
There’s so much more than just six elements that lead to a successful patient/caregiver relationship. The patient (aka the boss) truly is responsible for the work environments and the relationships that follow hiring.
What I’m saying overall is think about how you treat those caring for you, and choose to be kind. Your relationships will flourish. Beyond that, establish healthy boundaries. When I was younger and less assertive I had a caregiver that would bring her two kids 3 times a week or more. I finally let her go, but I needed her so I said yes even though they would come and destroy my house. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need anyone in particular, I just need someone. There are LOTS of wonderful caregivers out there. Therefore, I’m not really stuck with anyone.
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