Caring for a loved one is a huge responsibility, but it shouldn’t be regarded as a burden. There are a number of valuable skills a caregiver should remember when providing care, because their loved one is a human being, and not merely the sum of their illnesses.
Preserve their dignity. A sick person still wants to retain as much dignity as possible. Of course, this will largely depend on the extent of their incapacitation. If they need to be showered, dressed and assisted in the bathroom, they are still entitled to be respected because these things are very personal and normally private.
The caregiver should listen to, and respect the wishes of, the patient as much as possible. After all, it is that person’s life to live as they see fit. The caregiver is there to simply help with that goal.
Get the loved one involved. Even if a person is physically incapacitated in some way, he or she can often make many decisions for his or her self. Choosing what food to eat, what clothes to wear, when to go to bed and get up and many other decisions can still be made by the loved one. The caregiver is there to help the person do the things he/she can’t, or would be too hard to do on their own.
Encourage independence. A caregiver needs to know when to offer assistance and when to let the patient do something on their own. Independence is something that everybody craves and fights for, because relinquishing any part of that independence is like letting go of a part of the person’s former life.
It doesn’t matter if the loved one takes three or four times longer to do something the caregiver could do much faster and easier; the caregiver should actively encourage them to do it. Such things may include: planning meals, cooking, paying bills and many other tasks that most people take for granted.
Act as an advocate. A caregiver may know more about their charge’s medical history and what regular appointments and specialists the person has to see. The patient may not be able to communicate easily, so the caregiver can become the mouthpiece and ask doctors questions on behalf of the patient.
Seek help. Caregivers are often so used to providing care to their loved ones that they forget to seek help for themselves. It’s impossible to provide care 24/7. The caregiver needs to sleep, do things outside of the home and even have a holiday to get away and relax for a while. This is essential, because caregiving can be very stressful.
Support avenues. The caregiver needs to find avenues of support. The first place to turn to is other family members. However, friends may also be able to help. There are caregiving groups, council resources, the local church and many other places to turn to for assistance with some aspects of the overall caregiving service.
This list barely scrapes the surface of what it means to be a caregiver. It’s certainly not a role entered into lightly. If possible, the role should be shared between two or more people, thus allowing the caregiver to get some regular respite.