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What are some important elements of caregiving?

Anne Fabiny
Geriatric Medicine
Every caregiver experiences times when it's easy to be patient and loving and periods when that doesn't seem remotely possible. Sketching out what you consider to be the important elements of good caregiving can remind you of your goals and underscore the importance of all you do. The following points may help guide you in creating your own list.
  • Caring acts. Consider, too, how the recipient defines caring -- it may be a willingness to listen, a hug or kiss, or a favorite shared meal. Leave the door open for reciprocation. Many people accept care more willingly if they can return the gesture in some way.
  • Consideration. The wish to be treated considerately doesn't change at any age or stage of life. Aim to respond to the person, not just the illness or disability.
  • Respect. One challenging aspect of caregiving is offering advice or help while allowing the person to be as self-sufficient as possible. Offering too much assistance can undercut self-esteem, independence, and autonomy. Whenever possible, encourage the person you care for to continue making decisions and engaging in productive tasks. Make it a goal to remind yourself that the person you are caring for is an accomplished adult and address the person with the respect you would show any other adult.
  • Honesty. It's tough to impart difficult news, such as a dismal medical diagnosis, a request that a parent stop driving, or the need to consider long-term care arrangements. Yet softening the blow by shading the truth may compound the original problem and is disrespectful to the person involved. Sometimes it's necessary to set forth a painful truth and simply acknowledge the way both parties feel about it.
  • Foresight. No one can predict the future, but you may be able to catch a glimpse of what's coming around the corner instead of scrambling to resolve each full-blown crisis. This can alleviate stress and provide sufficient time to carefully weigh options.
  • Warmth. Warmth is in the delivery, rather than the act itself. It announces its presence in the way you listen to the hundredth rendition of a story, cuddle up to watch a well-loved movie together, or simply sit and hold a hand.
  • Compassion and connection. It can be easy to lose your connection with the person you're caring for when you're tired and overwhelmed and he or she is feeling angry and unappreciative. Try to step back and acknowledge difficult feelings, be mindful of the suffering of the other person, and offer compassion.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.