Respect For The Caregiver
by AAA T.L.C., on Oct 2, 2020 4:04:52 PM
Whether a family member or friend is providing care or an agency, such as AAA T.L.C. Health Care, is involved, it is very important to treat the individual providing care with courtesy and respect.
At times, without meaning any disrespect, we may say things to a caregiver that are, in fact, disrespectful. No one intends to be offensive, but sometimes a better understanding of the caregiver’s perspective can make a huge difference in how they view their work and whether they feel valued and valuable.
The following are guidelines to consider when communicating with the caregiver(s) caring for your family member or close friend (each of these considers two scenarios: One in which the caregiver is a family member or friend and the other when the caregiver is provided through an agency):
When you say ”you should do” it can make the caregiver feel judged and raise doubt about the quality of the care (s)he is providing. It can also make the caregiver feel unappreciated and resentful.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider praising the work the caregiver is doing, offer to brainstorm new approaches to make the caregiving easier, and consider providing some relief caregiving.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, consider praising the work (s)he is doing and dialogue about approaches that you might be aware of that have been successful in caring for the individual in the past.
When you say “I would do it differently”, it is actually saying that you believe the caregiver is not doing a good job and can create a defensive response. It also implies that there is only one way to accomplish something.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider acknowledging the challenges of providing care, and let the caregiver know that you are available if (s)he would like to explore additional ways to provide care.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, consider offering insight into the person receiving care so that the caregiver has a better sense of what motivates the person and may, in turn, make the caregiving more efficient and effective.
When you say “I can’t handle seeing him/her that way or the changes are too hard for me”, it can give others the sense that the impact of the illness is mostly on you rather than on the individual who requires assistance.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider acknowledging that it is difficult for you, but focus more on the impact on the person who is ill as well as others who are also challenged by a relative or friend’s illness. It is important to remember that others are also impacted by this.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, remember that the caregiver is there for the individual and not for you. If you focus too much on the impact the illness is having on you, it can, inadvertently, divert the caregiver’s attention away from the individual requiring assistance.
When you say “you look tired and need to care for yourself”, you are in a sense preaching to the choir – caregivers know they are often working long hours with little free time for themselves.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider offering a brief respite or providing a “home-cooked” meal to take some responsibility off the individual’s shoulders.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, acknowledge the challenges of providing care, appreciate the efforts being made on behalf of your friend or relative, and ask if they’d like you to speak with the agency about a temporary relief caregiver.
When you say “I just couldn’t do what you’re doing”, it could be interpreted to mean that what you do is more important or valuable than what the caregiver is doing and that you are, unintentionally, demeaning the caregiver’s work. While you may think it is acknowledging the hard work, there is an implicit sense that it is “beneath” you.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider acknowledging the difficulty in being a caregiver and how (s)he has had to rearrange his/her life to provide the care. Also consider being available to provide relief caregiving.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, consider acknowledging how appreciative you are of the care being provided, and praise the caregiver for ensuring that your friend or relative’s needs are being so well met.
When you say “you are a saint” or “your reward will be in heaven”, you fail to acknowledge the commitment being made now, or that we are not deserving in the present.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider thanking them routinely for their work and offer to provide relief so that they can attend to personal needs or desires that may have been ignored.
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, consider acknowledging your appreciation for their work on behalf of your friend or relative. Depending on how much time they provide care, a small gift (e.g., gift card) might be both appropriate and appreciated.
When you say “let me know how I can help”, it puts the burden on the caregiver to ask for help – something that might be difficult for someone to actually do.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider offering specifics (e.g., “I’ll come by tomorrow afternoon so you can have some free time” or “I’ll take care of the errands this week”).
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, offer a brief respite or provide transportation for your friend or relative’s medical appointment, to allow the caregiver a short break.
When you say “isn’t caring for aging adults just like raising children”, you minimize the responsibilities (and differences) of these two very different populations. The needs of adults, even those who require significant caregiving, are not the same as those of children and it can create the impression that it is appropriate to treat adults as if they were children.
o Instead, if the caregiver is a friend or relative, consider acknowledging the care and respect they are providing without making comparisons. Note how they are preserving the dignity of the individual(s).
o Instead, if the caregiver is an agency employee, acknowledge how (s)he is caring for and treating the individual(s) with respect and dignity and how much that is appreciated.
Some of the information contained in this piece originally appeared in an AARP Publication written by Amy Goyer