By Stephen Friedhoff, MD, chief clinical officer for Help at Home
Every day, thousands of seniors and their families are faced with making decisions about how to care for themselves or their loved ones. For many people, finding a solution to staying in home is the right choice, as most seniors prefer to live as independently as possible in their own home.
With the right support, aging at home is a viable solution that provides benefits and advantages versus nursing homes or assisted living facilities. For example, in-home supports greater independence at a lower cost and often with better health and quality of life outcomes–especially when the client and the caregiver have an established relationship. At home, individuals who need assistance with activities of daily living may find not just the physical assistance they need, but also the emotional and psychological support to have great days.
Finding the right match better ensures a strong and long-lasting relationship between the caregiver and the client. When the client and caregiver “click,” it enhances the caregiver’s ability to be the eyes and ears of the client. This helps to identify issues that can predict and reduce avoidable adverse incidents in the home such as falls, medication errors, loneliness, etc. All of these are known risks for hospital admissions, institutionalization and even increased risk for disability and death.
How do you choose the right caregiver who can help your loved one live happily in their homes and have great days? Here are five important qualities to look for in a caregiver to help ensure the match is right, and to enhance the relationship between your loved one and the person who provides care:
Care should be provided in a way that the patient feels like a partner in the process. Clients respond best when their caregiver genuinely understands and acknowledges their fears and concerns. Genuine compassion and empathy also strongly influence patient engagement and satisfaction.
- A Good Listener
A caregiver who listens to understand creates a sense of trust between client and caregiver. A caregiver who listens shows a client that their voice matters – that caregiver is also in a unique position to learn more from the individual they serve, while gaining their trust in the process. They may be the first person to know that the client feels tired, has recently fallen or perhaps that they aren’t taking a new medication because it makes them feel poorly. That level of openness and trust enables the caregiver to be one of the client’s best advocates.
A skilled caregiver can balance a commitment to a client’s care plan and support of the individual in their own journey to well-being. A caregiver has a unique perspective that supplements the client’s family in some instances. Often, family members struggle with deeply established family dynamics, which even when well-intended, can interfere with supporting the client when new challenges arise that affect mobility, accessibility, safety, and hygiene. An understanding caregiver can introduce a fresh approach that supports all parties involved.
Keen, non-judgmental observation is an important skillset for a high-quality caregiver. An observant caregiver can provide awareness to the client’s loved ones about safety and health concerns in the environment. They can also discern subtle changes in mood, mobility, or appetite that help detect more concerning/substantive issues early to allow timely interventions.
Social interaction is fundamental to good health. People with multiple health care challenges are more likely to be socially isolated and lonely, which are strongly associated with poor health outcomes. A companion in the form of a caregiver is an ideal way to interrupt that pattern. A skilled caregiver can help an individual enjoy a great meal, a fun board game, a shared conversation, or a walk in the park. And help the client look forward to the next visit.
It’s important for individuals and their families to have high expectations for their caregiver. Be sure to look for these five qualities in the person you trust with your care.
Dr. Stephen Friedhoff is chief clinical officer at Help at Home. He previously served as enterprise chief clinical officer and in other leadership roles for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Before that, he was a practicing family medicine physician.
For more information, visit Help at Home.
[Source: Help at Home]