Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Helping New Clients Adjust to Having a Caregiver for the First Time

The need for a caregiver is a life-changing event for most people. Sometimes this is caused by an unexpected event, like a fall resulting in a fracture, or it may be the expected gradual decline of old age.

The client may or may not have dementia. They may have a family caregiver who needs occasional respite, and this will be the first time they are having a “stranger” assisting them. At-home senior care can range from companion care to medical care by an RN. Whatever the situation, the goal is to have this first time be as comfortable and stress-free as possible for the new client.
Success or failure is greatly influenced by how much preparation and communication exists between all persons involved. Here are some ways that this will be a smooth transition from total independence to accepting some amount of assistance.

1. Clearly determine the role of the caregiver. What type of assistance is needed? Will the caregiver need to assist with personal care? Will meal preparation be needed? A realistic evaluation of the client’s abilities and weaknesses needs to be made. Families are not always able to make this assessment, so the assistance of professionals can be invaluable. Also consult with the client’s doctor for any medical complications that need to be addressed.

2. Determine the client’s previous experience with accepting help. Have they had professional cleaning help in the past? Have they used Meals on Wheels? Has someone been hired to mow the grass or shovel the snow? The use of any outside help gives the client a frame of reference for accepting help from the caregiver.

3. Determine if there is a family caregiver. Some clients have trouble accepting the help from a professional caregiver instead of a family member. It helps if they know this is temporary, and that their family member is returning. The client may or may not recognize the family caregiver’s need to have personal time away from the client to “recharge their batteries.” Perhaps presenting this new professional senior caregiver as a way for the family caregiver to enjoy their time away and not have to worry about the client will be easier for the client to accept.

4. Patience is key. This will probably be an anxiety-provoking experience for the client, especially if they are afflicted with Alzheimer’s. If possible, the first visit of the at-home senior care provider should be made while the family caregiver is at home also. Present the professional caregiver as helping the family caregiver out, so she can complete a task like working on her tax return. It may help the client to accept this stranger into their home if the help is for the other family member.

5. The caregiver should treat the client with respect. Ask the client how they want to be addressed. Do they prefer Mrs. Smith, or do they want you to use their first name? Avoid the use of terms of endearment like Honey or Sweetie unless the person seems to be open to it—but definitely not on the first day.

6. Allow the client to make appropriate decisions. Don’t say ”I’m making cereal for your breakfast.” Rather, ask if they would like cereal or pancakes. Give them the ability to be the “boss” in their own home whenever you can.

7. Try different approaches, especially if the client has dementia. If the client is resisting doing necessary tasks, maybe a sense of humor will help, or reasoning with them, or referring to the family caregiver or even their physician. If you say the doctor wants them to take this medicine, etc, they may be more inclined to take it. Change the point of reference to something more appealing. For instance, change showering into spa day, and include polishing nails and extra time to pamper the client.

8. Take suggestions. The family of the client should suggest some activities for the caregiver to share with the client. If mom likes to bake, have a box of brownie mix available for them to make. If Dad likes sports, have the game on for them to enjoy together along with typical snacks. Make a list of activities the client enjoys doing. Then the caregiver can use the list to suggest things for them to do while they are at the home together.

9. Follow the same schedule. Make sure the at home senior care provider knows the client’s usual schedule. Maintaining the routine can prevent stress and anxiety for the senior, especially if they have dementia. On the other hand, if they like to sleep-in mornings or stay up late at night, this would be a good time to indulge either.

10. Share a smile. Last, whenever caring for someone in their home, put a smile on your face. Whether you are a professional senior caregiver or the family caregiver, look like you want to be there with them and that you enjoy their company. The positive upbeat attitude you project will start off your beginning relationship with the client in a positive way.

Hopefully, each time a caregiver comes to the home, it will be easier for the senior person to accept and even enjoy the experience. Professional senior care providers will always try to have the same caregiver come to the home, so a trusting relationship can be developed.
However, if the client doesn’t feel comfortable with a certain caregiver, don’t be afraid to ask to try someone else. If at all possible, try to determine what it is about the caregiver that they don’t like. It can be as simple as some people like a more energetic, active personality and another may prefer a more quiet, calm personality. The agency will always try to match the client with the right caregiver for them.

The more often the senior has a caregiver experience, the sooner the senior caregiver will be more comfortable with the client and the client will become more comfortable with the caregiver. In time, they could become friends, and the client will look forward to the caregiver’s visits.


Author Bio: Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.