How to be a great companion to your client

When you hear the word Caregiver, we tend to only think about the practical requirements of the job such as making sure your client is medically well, support their day to day activities, and that their physical well-being is maintained. There is another key aspect that we want to cover, which is providing psychological support and companionship. Being a part time or full-time caregiver gives you the opportunity to form a bond with your client, today we're sharing tips on how to be the best companion to your clients.

The Importance of Empathy

One of the most important skills you can develop as a caregiver is empathy. This will allow you to not only give your client the physical support that they need, but also the emotional support. You can validate your client's feelings, for example sharing with them that you understand they are tired and frustrated that they cannot perform an activity as they used to. A simple phrase like “I can see why you are frustrated. I would be too,” can go a long way towards showing that you understand their feelings.

This is also important for your mental well-being as a caregiver. Care giving can be challenging at times, and if you take it personally whenever your client has a bad day, it can become tiring. Instead of feeling like your client is being difficult or disrespectful, try to put yourself in their shoes and see the difficulties that they deal with daily. This makes the difference between an incompatible relationship and one in which you are a team.

Make the client feel heard

Another key skill is listening and making sure that your client feels heard. People with disabilities often have their own thoughts and opinions overlooked. They may have experienced family members or professionals speaking for them when it was unwanted. This worsens a feeling of being ignored and can feel demeaning. Even if you disagree with your client you can still listen and show that you understand how they are feeling.

To better your listening skills you can practice active listening, in which you take time and absorb everything that you are told without interrupting or correcting. You can use indicators like nodding and eye contact, to show that you are focused on them while they are talking. In cases where your client may be suffering from severe psychological symptoms like memory loss, it is still possible to listen to what they say and do your best to understand their perspective.

Respecting your client's agency

No one likes being told what to do, and that is no different for your clients. Of course, there are times when you as the caregiver might need to take charge, for example if your client is someone with dementia who doesn't want to take their medication. In this case you would need to make sure that they follow their doctor's advice for the sake of their own long-term health. However, you can and should allow free choice wherever possible over smaller matters such as what to eat for lunch, or what clothes they would like to wear that day.

Allowing your client to make these decisions for themselves reinforces their feeling of independence and shows that you respect them as an individual. It can be easy to slip into the habit of thinking you as the caregiver are in charge after all you are responsible for their well-being. It can therefore seem easier if you make all the decisions about what you both do and when.

Try to keep some flexibility over your schedule and activities when your client has a strong preference. For example, it is true that it is important to have a regular sleep schedule, and that people will feel better if they wake up at the same time each day. However, if on occasion the client would like to sleep in later than usual and you have no pressing appointments, there is no reason not to allow this.

Become a part of your client's life

As someone in daily contact with your client, you are ideally placed to improve their overall quality of day to day living. Daily life can become stagnant or repetitive for people with severe disabilities, especially if it is difficult for them to leave the house. Although routine is important, you can spice up days by engaging in activities together and trying out new things. If you can help your client get out, then you should take them to parks, gardens, historical monuments, and other such locations for some fresh air and a change of scenery. If not, then you can play games, work on puzzles, and do crafts. These activities can be a new experience for you as well as your client, and they help promote happiness and well-being.

Finally, you can get to know the people in your client's life: such as their family, friends, and doctors. When you know the people your client regularly interacts with, it will help them to build a sense of community and feel less isolated. In addition, having a relationship with these people is beneficial for your client's medical care as they can warn you if they've noticed that your client has been having problems.

The human element is everything

Ultimately, what guides your success as a caregiver is your ability to empathize with your patient. You may not have lived a day in their shoes, but you should try to imagine doing so whenever you can. In addition to adequate healthcare, we all have a common need for meaningful human interaction. Try to extend a compassionate ear; speak and act with kindness even in challenging situations. Do everything you can to foster independence, but don’t neglect that you have a responsibility to be present in your patient’s life.

Effective caregivers can appreciate the profound nature of their role. Understanding that care entails more than simple dispensation of medication and tending to creature comforts is critical to building a patient relationship of mutual respect and trust.

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