A professional caregiver can become like a member of the family over time as they provide meaningful home care services when someone might be at their most vulnerable. However, they likely start out as a stranger to not only the person who is receiving care but also that person’s family.
Here are five ways to break the ice and get to know your caregiver better so that caregiving becomes familiar and builds a stronger relationship.
1. Ask them how they became a caregiver. Often people get into the caregiving business after caring for a loved one at one home and seeing the profound impact of one-on-one care for someone who is recovering from a surgery, living with the symptoms of a chronic condition, or just adjusting to changing abilities with age. This might spark a conversation about any informal caregiving experience you had or different jobs you had in life. The key to building any lasting relationship is sharing so if they seem shy, take the first step and talk about any caregiving experiences of your own.
2. Find out about their skills. While Homewatch CareGivers University provides training for all caregivers, and many caregivers also receiving certification as CNAs (certified nursing assistants), there can be areas of expertise. Feel free to ask if they have done any meal preparation before, if that’s something you or your loved one might need. Or, ask if they have experience in caring for someone with a specific condition such as dementia or Parkinson’s or diabetes or something else. Caregivers may attend to many clients for short visits or work with just one client each day over a few years, so backgrounds and experience will vary.
3. Do they have hobbies? Everyone has something they are interested in outside of what they get paid to do, even if it’s a favorite TV show they watch regularly or talking with a relative at a predictable day and time. Care can be a two-way street with one person receiving and one person giving, but it is best when each person is contributing. Maybe you both love antique cars and go to a local museum or car show and share knowledge with one another? Or, you like the same TV show and watch it together or discuss the latest plot points and characters? These commonalities are a way to develop a bond outside of the tasks they are they to perform.
4. What information goes in the plan of care? A plan of care is a record of the tasks completed as well as details about someone’s preferences—such as, prefers to shower in the morning or doesn’t like to take medications with milk—so that their care can be customized as needs change. With the person-directed approach to care, it can be helpful to know how often this information is updated as it might inform how much or how little care is needed. Home care services evolve with needs—and preferences—so when the caregiver can be open about what notes they are sharing, it strengthens the back-and-forth of this dynamic.
5. How do you handle challenges? The thing is, in the best cases, care is there to help prevent emergencies but life happens. Does your caregiver have basic CPR training? What are their emergency procedures? If you or a loved one is living with a condition in which there are challenges with swallowing, for example, is this something that the caregiver can handle or will it cause them too much stress to effectively be of help? Since each person is unique, this means that the caregivers have their own strengths and weaknesses when they come work.
Good communication is key to most relationships and caregiving is a combination of both professional and personal. Check out these ideas for ways to ask questions that derive more than the usual yes or no or just, “Fine, thanks.”
And know that while sometimes there is a perfectly-trained caregiver, they may not be a good fit so ask if you can meet someone else. Look for those soft traits such as common interests or similar backgrounds that can overcome differences in age or gender.