Are You Cut Out to Care for an Elderly Parent?

Written on February 28, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Sometimes the role of caregiver is one we plan to take on. Other times, it’s unexpectedly thrust upon us when a family member falls ill or can no longer care for herself. It’s a noble endeavor, but not one we’re all good at. Take our quiz to test your skills and read what guest blogger Molly Carpenter, a caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care and author of Confidence to Care, says are the four secrets of what it takes to excel.

Just as a good teacher must be extraordinarily patient and an artist has to channel deep creativity, there are a few characteristics every caregiver needs to care compassionately and effectively for others. Knowing what it takes to be a strong caregiver will allow you to decide if you are the best person for the job–or if you need to look for support. Here are a few things to consider.

Temperament. Do you handle unexpected changes well? Are you able to adjust calmly when others are uncooperative? No? That’s perfectly okay. Patience, empathy and flexibility are some of the most difficult personality traits to cultivate, but they’re also the most important for successful caregiving.

Being a caregiver means giving selflessly, always taking the high road, having a solution-focused attitude and constantly maintaining positive body language. It might take some time to get comfortable embracing these traits. Or you may realize that you can best support your loved one by staying true to your original role, whether that is daughter or granddaughter, and enlisting the help of a professional caregiver.

Training. No matter your natural predisposition for being a caregiver, there are many aspects of eldercare that nobody innately understands. The many physical and mental difficulties people face as they age are challenging and require unique ways to address them. A variety of training classes exist to help you improve your understanding of the caregiving process. Explore what resources are available for family caregivers in your area or look online.

Time. Caregiving is a 24/7 job because even when you aren’t with the person you’re caring for, you’re thinking of them. Having the ability to manage emotions is critical, as is giving yourself breaks to recharge. You’re a better caregiver if you are rested, physically and mentally. The most successful caregivers take time for themselves. This may mean bringing in someone to help periodically so you can get a much-needed break.

Trustworthiness. A good caregiver is honest and accountable. You can create the strongest relationship with the person for whom you are caring by showing him or her that you can be trusted and relied upon in every situation. Trust is built over time, so if you are bringing in someone new to care for a loved one, provide an opportunity for the trust between your loved one and that person to grow. Time can be invaluable to the development of a rewarding caring relationship.

What are some important lessons you’ve learned as a caregiver? Post a comment and share below. 

Molly Carpenter, MA, is an author, speaker, trainer and family caregiver. She currently works at Home Instead Senior Care, where she is part of a team devoted to providing resources and training to Home Instead’s 65,000 CAREGivers™. Carpenter was instrumental in developing a person-centered approach to Alzheimer’s care that has since been adopted globally by the company. She is the author of Confidence to Care, an essential handbook to help caregivers provide the best care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. All profits from Confidence to Care go to the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation and are distributed to dementia-related organizations and causes.

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6 Comments

6 Responses to “Are You Cut Out to Care for an Elderly Parent?”

  1. I was a STNA and worked as a home healthcare aide and it takes way more than what is listed above to be a caregiver. Patience, I think, is the number one requirement.I have seen patients abused by their caregivers, especially by a family member because of the enormity of the responsibility of caring for someone 24/7. I have also seen abuse by caregivers in a group home. Whatever road you decide to take, if doing it yourself, don’t wait til you’re overburdened to get help and if you decide to hire another caregiver, be absolutely positive they are the right one. Be suspicious of every bruise, every scratch, and watch for signs of distress from the patient when they are around the caregiver.

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