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Caregiving Etiquette: Ten Dos and Don'ts

Jul 23, 2008
Moving through the caregiving world with grace and ease is no simple skill. However, having good manners will carry you a long way.As a caregiver we spend our day interacting with family members, friends, and everyone on the Care Team.

Common sense tells you that the people you are closest to warrant an extra measure of consideration. It takes good manners to sustain the love and respect between caregiver and care-receiver.

Dos

1. Encourage family members and friends to show respect and deference to the care-receiver. For example, the care-receiver's visitors should be treated politely as honored guests.

Noise from the TV, radio, etc., should be kept to a minimum. The care-receiver's rest hour should be respected. Telephone messages should be carefully taken, and mail given to him/her unopened.

2. Preserve the care-receiver's feelings of independence. It is important that the care-receiver have control of her/his own money-as long as she/he is capable of managing it.

3. Use your imagination and put yourself in the care-receiver' shoes. Be understanding and find a way to harness your frustrations.

4. Focus on the care-receiver's needs and not your own. Talk to your parent. Try to understand how he/she sees it.

5. Let go of unreasonable hopes. Recognize that your parent won't or can't change.

6. Express warmth and concern toward the care-receiver. This is especially important when the care-receiver has a poor self-image and many feelings of inferiority. A good caregiver must provide reassurance.

7. Be a good listener. Many times the care-receiver may simply want you to listen.

8. Smile a lot. Be a good friend and companion.

9. Keep confidences. Avoid repeating matters that will not be welcomed by others.

10. Maintain your self-composure and avoid stress. Practice your coping skills in order to maintain your composure and balance.

Don'ts

1. Don't treat your parent like a child. Even if your parent reverts to childlike behavior, he/she always needs to be treated with respect and dignity.

As the parent's dependence increases, it is natural for adult children to find themselves unable to communicate in familiar ways.

2. Don't criticize the care-receiver for occasional forgetfulness and other signs of growing older.

3. Don't take sides with other family members in disputes or arguments. It is better to be known as someone who is fair and noninterfering.

4. Don't let an angry situation become emotionally or physically abusive. Step out of the room for a cool down. Seek outside help.

5. Don't neglect the care-receiver. Make sure your parent gets to all appointments, takes medications as scheduled.

6. Don't discourage the help of others. There can never be too much help.

7. Don't assume that the care-receiver has nothing to contribute.

8. Don't compare what you are doing to what everyone else is doing. Every job in a caregiving situation is important.

9. Don't underestimate the power of touch. As people age or their illness progresses, there is less human contact. A hug, kiss or pat on the shoulder can enhance the situation.

10. Don't treat your parent/family member like an alien. When there are several persons in the room be sure to include the care-receiver in the conversation. Do not talk about him/her in the third person as if he/she wasn't in the room.

A good caregiver is genuine and cares about the dignity, welfare, and feelings of their care-receiver. Good manners are based on good character, which translates to kindness and compassion.
About the Author
Rebecca Colmer is eldercare advocate, author, speaker, publisher and caregiver. For more caregiving tools, visit Caregiving Tools
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