When my mother came home from rehab, we hired a caregiver to come in. Though, we lived together and I worked from home, Mom needed a little extra help than I was able to give. The professional eldercare provider who came in to help was great. However, she was also just a bit over-involved in our family interactions. Though she was kind and friendly, she lost her focus on coming into our home to help and support my mother.After our professional eldercare provider became comfortable, her work ethic slacked quite a bit. Having both worked and trained on in-home visitation for parent educators, I know how easy it is to allow yourself to become pulled in and lose your professional edge.
Caring for people no matter their age often comes from a place of compassion. Yet, being professional is also required.
Compassion is about interactions with the person being cared for and their family. Keep in mind this person has lived their whole life independently. The fact that a caregiver has been hired shows, in some respects, that the elder is now limited or needs complete 24/7 assistance. In addition, family members are also understandably shaken, because these services are needed. Being friendly, courteous, and attentive to the needs of the client can ease the tension and concerns families have in the situation.
Offering the Appropriate Amount of Compassion
Being a compassionate and professional eldercare provider requires four aspects of care.
- Pay close attention to the needs of the client. Sick and elderly people are sometimes not able to effectively communicate. Keeping your focus on not only their words, but their body language and facial expressions makes a big difference in being able to recognize and meet their needs.
- Be supportive in giving help where it's needed. Make sure to always ask if help is needed. Work hard to ensure that doubt about the client's abilities is not present in your tone.
- Be courteous. Use please and thank you. As a worker in the client's home, it is important to be courteous and respectful. They may say “Make yourself at home,” however staying in the role you were hired for will not allow you to lay on their couch drinking a soda.
- Be friendly to family members. Whether living in the home or not, relatives have a relationship with the client. Part of your role is to lay a smooth road for visitors. If the client is feeling extra ill or moody help family members transition into a visit. Be professional and helpful in ways in which the role calls to be handled.
There is a danger when a caregiver is in someone’s home on a regular basis of becoming too involved in their family life. Every person involved with in-home visitation struggles with this at some point or another. The more comfortable a person becomes, the easier it is to slip professionally. The problem with this is that the caregiver's role is not to be a friend, but to provide a service. Avoid becoming over-involved by keeping in mind that the client hired a professional caregiver for his/her expertise.
In business, there are two types of consumers: clients and customers. Clients purchase your expertise, whereas customers purchase general goods and services. Thinking in this context, the person and the family that you are there to help are your clients. As such, they deserve a professional eldercare provider, not a new best friend.
How to be a Professional Eldercare Provider
Being professional does not mean being stiff or formal. It means your main focus is on the job at hand and on always getting it done well. A professional eldercare provider presents herself in the following ways.
- Focus on your job responsibilities. After coming into the home with a pleasant greeting, it is important to have friendly and pleasant interactions. However, the main role is to offer assistance as needed. Meeting all of the client's needs should be a priority at all times.
- Use proper language and a respectful tone when interacting with clients. People often treat the elderly as if they are children. However, they are adults who deserve to be treated as such. Setting this example of respect and courtesy encourages others to follow your example.
- Ask and answer questions based on your knowledge and experience. You have been hired to offer support for the client and their family. When it comes to dealing with issues, you are the expert in the area, so be willing to answer questions. In addition, ask questions. The more questions you ask, the easier it will be to meet the needs of your client.
- Maintain a professional role in the home by keeping the client's personal life separate. Try to avoid deep conversations about personal matters which are not related to the job. There can be a fine line between being pleasant and becoming a confidant. The former crosses a line, which should not be allowed.
When providing in-home services you will develop a certain comfort level with your clients. It should be both expected and welcomed. The key to being a compassionate, professional eldercare provider is to also maintain a demeanor that always remembers your client needs your expertise above all else. Keep in mind your primary role is to provide just that.