C.A.R.E. Caregiving Tips

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Bob and Anna have spent countless hours helping with caretaking duties related to Anna's mother, in addition to caring for two elderly neighbors. They have been the people who were the first responders to the late night call for help, and have also directed a professional caregiver in providing assistance. Their wealth of experience informs this series of blogs, which focuses on the qualities needed in a professional caregiver. Bob and Anna’s acronym for these necessary attributes: TRULY LOVING CARE.

    The previous three blogs have provided an introduction to Bob and Anna, as well as covered the words represented in TRULY and LOVING. Last, but not least, are the characteristics represented by the word CARE.
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    So without any more fanfare, let me share the rest of Bob and Anna’s list.

    C stands for communication. The professional caregiver must know how to clearly communicate to a variety of stakeholders: the loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease, the family, the medical community, neighbors, friends, etc. Each of these stakeholders will have different communication needs. The loved one wants the communication to indicate safety and security-- this communication may also be very simplistic. The medical community is looking for a synopsis and analysis of medical issues and key details about the loved one’s condition. The family wants the latest description of not only the loved one’s health, but also of their emotional condition. All of these reports demand different communication skills. And the professional caregiver also will have to know how to communicate bad news so that the information is understood (and not lost in a sea of emotional reactions).

    A stands for animals. Anna believes that outstanding professional caregivers have a good relationship with all living things (which includes not only the two-legged variety, but also the four-legged variety). Furthermore, she believes that animals (especially dogs) can sense the core values of people. I have to agree at some level because my dog, Zoe, has a sixth sense about people. She will warmly greet people who tend to have a caring attitude, and avoid people who are self-aggrandizing.

    The other reason that Anna believes that professional caregivers interact well with animals is that these “family members” can be such a calming influence on people with Alzheimer’s. For instance, Bob and Anna’s neighbor, who recently passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease, had a beloved cocker spaniel, and also enjoyed taking care of Bob and Anna’s chocolate lab. The professional caretakers who worked with the neighbor embraced the animals as much as they did the neighbor, realizing that the dogs could ease some of the neighbor’s trauma as the disease progressed.

    R stands for references. No matter what kind of characteristics the professional caretaker displays in a one-to-one conversation, the proof is in the pudding. Check the references. Ask previous clients how the professional caretaker interacted with the loved one who had Alzheimer’s. Ask how the professional caretaker worked with family and medical personnel. Ask how the professional caretaker handled emergencies. In other words, ask all the nosy questions to make sure that you want to welcome this professional caretaker into your life – and more importantly, into your loved one’s life.

  • E stands for empathy. Again, Anna and Bob have alluded to this idea throughout these few blogs, but they wanted to say it again. A great professional caretaker has empathy. That person can anticipate what the loved one and the family are going through, what is needed, and what can be done to make life easier for everyone. The great professional caregiver also knows that in the case of Alzheimer’s Disease, not all news about the loved one will be good. The great professional caregiver can empathetically help the family and the loved one work through the grieving process as the disease progressively robs the loved one’s mind from them in front of everyone’s eyes.
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    I think Bob and Anna have provided a good beginning list of qualities to think about in hiring a professional caretaker. These qualities also are ones to look for in staff members who work in retirement communities, assisted living communities, and nursing homes. And these qualities are worth aspiring to, in situations where a family member is the lone person taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease.

    What qualities have we missed? Please share the characteristics of the ideal professional caregiver on the discussion boards.

Published On: August 10, 2006